An Advent reflection for Friday, December 1st by Rev. Amy Oxendale-Imig
Lectionary reading 12/1/2023: Psalm 80:1-7, 17-19; Zechariah 14:1-9; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-18
Selected passage for reflection: Zechariah 14:1-9
Zechariah 14:1-9 NIV
A day of the Lord is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls.
I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city. Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
On that day there will be neither sunlight nor cold, frosty darkness. It will be a unique day—a day known only to the Lord—with no distinction between day and night. When evening comes, there will be light.
On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it east to the Dead Sea and half of it west to the Mediterranean Sea, in summer and in winter.
The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.
Did you read the passage? I mean, did you READ it? If so, then you, like me, most likely don’t understand it and wish to avoid it. Am I right?
I don’t like the idea of God allowing violence intentionally. I really don’t like that it specifically mentions women being raped. I’d rather not have to wrestle with what this does to my image and understanding of who God is.
Here are some things to note: Zechariah wrote this around 520 BC and is giving a prophecy of the future. But we don’t know when. He is speaking to the people of Judah and mentions specific places. We don’t know if this is literal or metaphorical.
When the scripture passage is confusing and uncomfortable, why not just avoid it altogether? Well, because it is part of the living Word of God and that alone gives it value. We can’t just pick and choose what we want to understand from God’s Word if we truly want to understand Him.
So here is what is sticking out to me as I sit with this passage.
Ultimately God wins. Not just for Jerusalem and Judah but for the whole world. But before I focus on that I want to point out verse 2. It gives the specifics of the coming destruction. In it, three things are attacked - Jerusalem, their houses, their women.
Jerusalem was their pride and joy. It was the city that held the Temple of God. It was the ultimate place to worship God. It was the center of their cultural identity as God’s people. It was a symbol of power and strength.
Their homes represent their possessions. All they own, their food, their shelter and place of belonging.
Their women represent their people, their families, their offspring, their legacy, their loves.
All of that taken away means a complete loss of identity and purpose. Then God comes in his glory and saves the day. But notice he doesn't restore what has been lost or destroyed. He doesn’t fill it with what they have created to provide purpose and definition to their lives. Instead God fills that void with something better. He fills it with himself and all the good of his creation - light, water, life.
God allows what defines his people to be destroyed and he replaces it with himself.
Does this replace my uncertainty and dislike for this passage? Not necessarily. But it gives me something to think about and to work on.
According to this scripture, God doesn't seem interested in ultimately providing what is familiar that we can depend on; like power, culture, homes, community. I’m not saying he doesn’t provide those or doesn’t value those. We see many times in scripture where he does.
What I am saying - what this passage seems to be emphasizing - is that it is ultimately God and God alone that we need. God in all his might, with all his beautiful light and life-giving water. God and God alone.
One King. One Lord. One name.
As we enter this season of Advent, I invite you to ask this question with me. “What do I let define me?” Don’t focus on labeling it good/bad, right/wrong. Definitely don’t shame yourself for it. Just name it, name them.
Hold those things loosely before you this Advent as you sit in a posture of waiting. If you feel ready, in the coming weeks, offer those things to God and see what he does.
I can’t say what he’ll do, but I do trust that it will be good. For ultimately all falls short compared to God. Everything he creates, including you, is so beautiful, that I fully trust all he continues to create with our offerings will be beautiful too.
God of Creation, King of the Earth,
Help me see clearly what it is that I let define me. As I name it and sit with it, help me know what to do with it. If I give it to you, can I trust you?
Help me to trust you. Help me to see your beauty and goodness even amid the pain and darkness.
I seek to rest in you, knowing you are the one King, one Lord, and one Name.
About the Author
Ordained in the ECC, Amy lives in Western NC with her husband, Steve, kids Kira (9m) and Nathan (2.5yrs), and dog Samson. Amy ministers to college students through the CCO. Her passion is to help others worship Jesus with their whole lives. Amy is happiest when she is creating with coffee in hand.