Holiness, Mission and the Cross

“Awake, O Sword, against My Shepherd, against the man who is close to Me!” declares the LORD Almighty.  “Strike the Shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn My hand against the little ones.  In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one third will be left in it.  This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold.  They will call on My Name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’””

                                                                                                                                                                Zechariah 13:7-9

                It never ceases to amaze me whenever I explore the depth of the message of the prophetic Scriptures that they bring out in great detail the missionary purposes of the LORD God Almighty.  Mark J. Boda, in his commentary on Haggai and Zechariah, writes in reference to Zechariah 14 words which provide direction to our reflections on the end of the thirteenth chapter as well.

Zechariah 14 speaks to the Church today, first as a revelation of God’s work inaugurated in and through Christ.  In that way it has enduring relevance to us today as we celebrate this work, but also as we take to heart the way this passage shaped this community’s vision of God’s design for them in this world (a holy community for the nations) and the way it ministered to the community of God in its time (offering hope as well as warning). (Boda, Mark J. The NIV Application Commentary, Haggai and Zechariah, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2004, p. 533)

                Boda goes on to explore two key related concepts which come out of this prophesy.  These are holiness and mission.  To be redeemed in Christ is to be set on a pathway to sanctification.  Such a life of increasing Christ likeness cannot be lived apart from a vision for mission in this sin ruined world.  Holiness and mission are so closely linked that we cannot really have the one without the other.  This reality is one which every Christian tradition affirms.  The abiding fruit of our salvation seems to be an increasing burden for, and involvement in mission.  One example of this is C. H. Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle with its Sunday Schools, Orphanages, and numerous other organizations for the proclamation of the Gospel of Christ.

This is something to be more fully explored in a study the fourteenth chapter of Zechariah.  Today we need to reflect a little more carefully on the message of 13:7-9.  In the past we have looked at this passage reflecting upon the command of God to strike down His Shepherd.  We noted that this event which will be of redemptive importance is not an accident or a tragedy it is in fact the decree of God meaning that it is God’s method of bringing his grace to a lost world.  Salvation is in fact God’s doing.  It enters into this world in personal terms, through God’s only begotten Son.  It brings about a confrontation in which our sin is exposed and judged in the Cross.  It takes the cross to bring about the purpose of God for us.

Zechariah also tells us here that God’s missionary purpose advances through to crisis created by the cross.  John Miller writes,

“Through the years I have learned to dislike Church conflicts and personality clashes with intensity, but I have slowly learned that the Kingdom of Christ can only grow through conflicts.”(Miller, C. John, outgrowing the Ingrown Church, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1999, p. 114)

Earlier in his book Miller paraphrased Johannes Blauw in a moving passage dealing with the impact of this Gospel in our experience.

“Blauw notes that the purpose of this revelation of the divine glory is to confront the world’s darkness with the gospel.  I would add that this is a head-on confrontation between the world and the deeds (“the praises”) of God.  They are produced by the Holy Spirit’s application of the gospel to the lives of sinners.  The divine glory is the difference between the former deeds of these who were once deeply stained sinners “living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing, and detestable idolatry” and their deeds now that they have become the holy people of God.  This glory shines into the world’s darkness as a confronting power, and more of the world’s unwashed are saved as their consciences are stirred by seeing the renewed lives of God’s people.” (Miller, p. 46)

                Zechariah tells us that the cross will lead either to judgement on those who refuse to repent or a crisis leading to faith in God’s Redeemer causing God’s people to repent and to renew the covenant relationship with God that they have been called to.  This is the wonderful news that the gospel proclaims to us today.  How have you responded to it?