Serve without fear (Lk 1:74-1:75)

“Grant that we,

Being rescued

From the hands

Of our enemies,

Might serve God

Without fear

In holiness

And righteousness

Before him

All our days.”

 

ἀφόβως ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν ῥυσθέντας λατρεύειν αὐτῷ

ἐν ὁσιότητι καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ πάσαις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἡμῶν.

 

Next Zechariah, via Luke, turned to the present day.  He wanted to be rescued or saved (ῥυσθέντας) from the hands of his enemies (ἐκ χειρὸς ἐχθρῶν).  Thus, he might serve God (λατρεύειν αὐτῷ) without fear (ἀφόβως) in holiness (ἐν ὁσιότητι) and righteousness (καὶ δικαιοσύνῃ) before God (ἐνώπιον αὐτοῦ) all the days of his life (πάσαις ταῖς ἡμέραις ἡμῶν).  Zachariah wanted to continue to worship the Lord, God, correctly during his whole life.

Lessons from divine judgment (Wis 12:19-12:22)

“Through such works,

You have taught your people.

The righteous man must be kind.

You filled your children with good hope.

Because you give repentance for sins.

If you punish with such great care,

If you punish with such great indulgence,

The enemies of your servants,

As well as those deserving of death,

You grant them time to give up their wickedness.

You grant them the opportunity to give up their wickedness.

With what strictness

You have judged your children.

Our ancestors gave oaths.

They gave covenants full of good promises!

While chastening us,

You scourge our enemies

Ten thousand times more.

Thus when we judge,

We may meditate upon your goodness.

When we are judged,

We may expect mercy.”

We have to learn something from the actions of God. We learn that the righteous person (τὸν δίκαιον) must be kind (φιλάνθρωπον), just like God. We need to have hope for repentance (μετάνοιαν) just like our sons or children (τοὺς υἱούς σου), when we punish them with care and indulgence. Our enemies deserve death, but we should grant them an opportunity in a time and place (χρόνους καὶ τόπον) to give up their wickedness, just like our children. Our ancestors gave oaths, promises, and covenants. Thus God punishes us, but he punishes our enemies 10,000 times more. When we judge others, we should remember the goodness of God. When we are judged, we expect mercy (ἔλεος).

Sanballat and friends plot against Nehemiah (Neh 6:1-6:9)

“It was reported to Sanballat, Tobiah, Geshem the Arab, and to the rest of our enemies that I had built the wall. There was no gap left in it, although up to that time I had not set up the doors in the gates. Sanballat and Geshem sent to me. ‘Come and let us meet together in one of the villages in the plain of Ono.’ But they intended to do me harm. I sent messengers to them, saying. ‘I am doing a great work. I cannot come down. Why should the work stop while I leave it to come down to you?’ They sent to me this message four times. Each time I answered them in the same manner. In the same way Sanballat for the fifth time sent his servant to me with an open letter in his hand. In it was written. ‘It is reported among the nations, and Geshem also says it, that you and the Jews intend to rebel. That is why you are building the wall. According to this report, you wish to become their king. You have also set up prophets in Jerusalem concerning you who say. ‘There is a king in Judah.’ Now it will be reported to the king according to these words. So come, therefore! Let us confer together.’ Then I sent to him, saying. ‘No such things as you say, has been done. You are inventing them out of your own mind.’ They all wanted to frighten us. They were thinking. ‘Their hands will drop from the work. It will not be done. But now, O God, strengthen my hands.’”

Once again, we pick up on the intrigues of Sanballat and Tobiah that we saw earlier in chapter 4. Geshem, the Arab, also was in chapter 2 of this work. This time they intended to do more than mock the Jews in Jerusalem. They knew that there were no more gaps in the wall, even though not all the doors on the gates were complete. They invited Nehemiah to the plains of Odo to harm him. 4 different times they tried to persuade him to come to Odo. Each time, Nehemiah said no. On the 5th time, they said that building the wall was like an act of rebellion. They thought that Nehemiah wanted to be the king of Judah. Nehemiah responded that they were inventing things out of their own minds. They just wanted to frighten him. They thought that the Jerusalem Jews would drop from the work, which did not happen. Nehemiah ended with a prayer to God to strengthen his hands.