“‘Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription upon it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. In that day each of you will invite his neighbour to sit under his vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.”
In taking a closer look at the third chapter of the Old Testament book of the Prophet Zechariah further treasure is revealed to us. This chapter, which is right in the middle of the series of night visions that were given to Zechariah, gives us the central, redemptive message of redemption which was revealed to this post-exilic prophet. Through His Messiah, who is pointed to by the High Priest, God is going to remove the sin of His people in one day. Looking ahead we know that this prophetic word was fulfilled in the cross of the Lord Jesus Christ. At Calvary, in the sacrificial death of the Lord Jesus Christ, God dealt with, and removed all of our sin. Romans 5:8 the Apostle Paul tells us that “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” What great love God has given to us. We are simply called to receive it. It has been given to us in Christ simply based upon the unconditional love of God.
God’s great act of love given to us in Christ is astounding in its impact upon our lives. It meets us in our brokenness, while we are rejecting Him, and offers us reconciliation, even though we do not deserve it. No wonder the Lord immediately begins to speak through Zechariah about the celebration which breaks out when such sacrificial love is given and received. The picture points back to the celebration that took place at the end of the Day of Atonement, when all of the events of the day were winding down people would invite others to join in a great celebration which broke out in response to God’s grace.
Perhaps the best picture of this celebration that we have is the reception we join in after a wedding ceremony. A marriage Biblically is a picture of the relation between Christ and the Church. Biblical marriage is an unconditional covenant relationship designed to point us to the love and commitment between Christ and His bride, the Church. We, the church, are recipients of His love, not because of our worthiness, but simply because of His character as a gracious God. He loves us based upon who He is. This is powerfully illustrated for us in a story relayed by the New Tribes Mission on their Facebook page.
“The verbs for a particular African language consistently end in one of three vowels,” Dennis Farthing writes from the NTM Missionary Training Center. He shares a translation story that a missionary recently shared with him.
“Almost every verb ends in i, a, and u. But the word for ‘love’ was only found with i and a. Why no u?” this missionary wondered.
Dennis says the Bible translation team included the most influential leaders in the local community.
In an effort to truly understand the concept of “love” in this African language, the missionary began to question them.
“Could you dvi your wife?”
“Yes,” they answered, “that would mean that the wife had been loved, but the love was gone.”
“Could you dva your wife?”
“Yes,” they responded, “that kind of love depends on the wife’s actions. She would be loved as long as she remained faithful and cared for her husband well.”
“Could you dvu your wife?”
Everyone in the room laughed.
“Of course not!” they replied. “If you said that, you would have to keep loving your wife no matter what she did, even if she never got you water and never made you meals. Even if she committed adultery, you would have to just keep on loving her. No, we would never say dvu. It just doesn’t exist.”
The missionary sat quietly for a while, thinking about John 3:16, and then he asked, “Could God dvu people?”
Dennis writes that there was complete silence for three or four minutes; then tears started to trickle down the weathered faces of the elderly men of the tribe.
Finally they responded, “Do you know what this would mean? This would mean that God kept loving us over and over, while all that time we rejected His great love. He would be compelled to love us, even though we have sinned more than any people.”
The missionary noted that changing one simple vowel changed the meaning from “I love you based on what you do and who you are,” to “I love you, based on who I am. I love you because of me and not because of you.”
“God encoded the story of His unconditional love right into this African language. For centuries, the little word was there—unused but available, grammatically correct and quite understandable.”
Such is the astounding nature of the love that God has given us in Christ. No wonder we celebrate.