Morning Musing: Zechariah 14:20-21

“On that day, the words HOLY TO THE LORD will be on the bells of the horses. The pots in the house of the Lord will be like the sprinkling basins before the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah will be holy to the Lord of Armies. All who sacrifice will come to use the pots to cook in. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of Armies.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever bought a dinner plate for kids before? What is one thing they all tend to have in common besides being brightly colored? They’re divided. The standard plates we’ve been using for our boys for years have four distinct sections–one for whatever the main dish is and three side dish spots. The nice thing about these kinds of plates is that nothing has to touch. One food is separated entirely from another even though they share the same plate. Grown-up plates aren’t like this. We understand (right?!?) that food can mix and touch and that’s okay. A meal may have different parts, but it’s all one meal and sometimes the best flavors come when things you wouldn’t naturally put together intermingle in beautiful ways. Now here’s the trick: Life works the same way. Let me explain why.

One more stop here in Zechariah. I was going to wrap up yesterday, but I just couldn’t let this last thing go overlooked. In the second half of chapter 14 here, Zechariah is describing the scene following the Lord’s victory over the enemies of His people. The whole world will be submitted to Him, recognizing His power and glory even if only begrudgingly. His sovereignty will be absolute. The one thing to keep in mind here is that we need to read this through the lens of Christ and John’s vision of the end in Revelation. That must be our interpretive lens lest the imagery here give birth to some ideas that don’t seem consistent with a New Testament ethic.

The final two verses, though, set their sights on the people of Israel and what life will be like for them. The last part is referring to the people purified from all sin. This doesn’t literally mean that there will be no Canaanites in the sense that a particular nationality will somehow be excluded from the temple. Rather, Canaanites represent those who are opposed to the ways and rule of the Lord. For the rest of the section here, the imagery Zechariah describes is utterly common. It feels odd. This is God’s great victory of His enemies and the scene ends with a description of the kind of pots the people will use for cooking. What gives?

Look closely here. He’s talking about cooking pots–like you have under your counter in your kitchen–and also the utensils in the temple. Everyone understood that the utensils and pots in the temple were holy. They had been consecrated for temple use. You couldn’t use those for regular cooking. You and I could never have them in our houses without making them impure by our lack of holiness. The reverse was also true. The stuff you used to cook with at home could never be used in the temple. It wasn’t holy and only things that were holy could be used in the temple. And yet, Zechariah is saying here that they are going to be interchangeable when the kingdom comes. What gives?

Come back with me to dinner plates. Many of us live our lives like they are a child’s dinner plate. There is one plate, yes, but several different compartments to make sure nothing touches. We have our work life and our home life and our church life and our play life and so on and so forth. That way we can be one way in one segment and a different way in another segment and there’s no real problem. Those are the rules for that segment and the rules for this segment are different.

The result of this is that we compartmentalize our lives. This makes it easier to deal with issues in times and places when we feel equipped to face them, but it can also lead to wild inconsistencies. We sing the Lord’s praises while at church in that side dish compartment, but curse like a sailor at work when we are in that different compartment. It’s like the rules have changed entirely. And then we go home and behave in yet a different way. It feels safe and neat, but heaven help us if something bleeds from one segment to another when we aren’t looking.

The reality is that it’s a mess waiting to happen. The reality is that our lives are a unified whole and our efforts to pretend otherwise only set us up for a great crash when reality’s walls come caving back in on us.

What Zechariah is pointing to here is that a day is coming when this childish–and often sinful–pretending will be a thing of the past. We will grow up and learn to live our lives as the unified wholes our God designed them to be.

There is no such thing as a divide between the sacred and the secular. Behaving one way in church-type settings and another way in work or play settings just means we don’t understand the kind of claim Jesus makes on our lives. He doesn’t want a piece, He wants the whole thing. And, if we don’t give Him the whole thing, He really doesn’t have any of it.

If you’re ashamed of the way you behave when you’re not in church, the answer is not to draw sharper lines between one segment and the other, it is to strive for a greater consistency with the Holy Spirit’s help. That starts with being transparent about your faults and failings when you’re not at church. On the church’s part, we have to make sure we are creating a community that is safe for broken people to be broken together and move toward wholeness together.

This can and in fact will get messy when we get started on the project, but the end result is a life that is easier to live. We don’t have to remember which set of rules we’re supposed to be using at any given time. And, like with the wonderful and wonderfully unexpected flavors that come from mixing different foods together for the first time, letting our lives be one rather than many can result in many different new delights as we see the ways one part can play into another part such that both are better together than either was on its own.

This unity is what God designed us for and is working us toward experiencing in Christ. Let’s join the effort and start eliminating segments. Don’t be segmented. Be whole. You’ll be glad you did.

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