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Thursday, July 2, 2020
Today’s Scripture Reading | Zechariah 9:9–12
Rejoice greatly, O daughter Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious is he, humble and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. He will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.
Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. (NRSV)
Reading this section of Zechariah immediately launches me into visions of Handel’s Messiah or Palm Sunday. This is much easier than unpacking the passage outside Advent and Lent. Taken out of that context this passage is one big ball of cognitive dissonance for me. The shocking combination of phrases does not make sense: king and donkey; triumphant and humble; command and peace; prisoner and hope. These combinations do not go together.
I’ll set aside the king-donkey combination, because that doesn’t seem to have application in my suburban, office-worker life. The other odd pairings challenge me individually and as a part of the community. What does it take for us to be successful and yet approach people with a spirit of humility? Can I be a prisoner of hope? Does that mean I won’t walk out on hope when things are dismal? Is it possible to command peace? Commanding peace feels a lot like when I force my kids to get along. It doesn’t really work. I can command they keep their hands to themselves and use kind words. I can command their actions but not attitudes. Maybe Zechariah knew that actions are the precursor to attitudes. Perhaps Zechariah was shocking us into a different way of acting and, eventually, into a different way of believing.
I find that when I have cognitive dissonance around a passage of the Bible, I should probably stop and let it marinate for a bit. It’s easier to move on to something more pleasant, like a performance of the Messiah. Scripture calls me to different actions even when they are a precursor to my attitudes. When things don’t make sense, I probably need to do some work on how my ways are out of alignment with God’s.
God, my ways are not your ways. Soften my heart and guide my actions so that becomes a little less true. Amen.
Written by Andrea Denney, Executive Director of Operational Ministries
Reflection and Prayer © Fourth Presbyterian Church
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