Precept: Studying the Book of Zechariah
The Precept class has just completed their study on the book of Zechariah. Veronica Lee and Jan Lai introduce and reflect on the study.
Veronica Lee introduces us to the book of Zechariah and the Precept inductive method
We studied the book of Zechariah in seven lessons. Zechariah is a book on prophecy and it may seem difficult to many of us to read or even do a study on, as it is filled with visions and oracles. Yet it is the Word of God for us to read, study and understand. This is an exciting book that shows God in action through history.
The prophet’s name, Zechariah, means the LORD remembers. The theme of the book is: “Return to Me so that I may return to you.” It reveals the intense compassion of God to His people despite repeated sins committed by them and that His covenant with them will stand forever. The promised deliverance after 70 years of captivity by the Babylonians was fulfilled in the time of Zechariah and their return with the completion of the rebuilding of the temple foreshadowed the coming of the Messiah. The book shows the sovereignty of God in history, over people and nations in the past, present and future.
The Precept inductive method enables us to study systematically and inductively. The main requirement is to slow down, observe and look at what Scripture says, it being the primary source of information. Observation involves the 5Ws (who, what, when, where and why) and 1H (how). After careful observation together with investigating cross references, i.e. letting Scripture interpret Scripture, the last step is application. This requires an objective mind for discovery. Word study tools and Bible dictionary are used to get a better understanding of the cultural and historical context. Commentaries and other books are referred to after thoroughly examining the biblical text.
There is homework of about an hour each day for five days every week. On Saturdays we meet as a group to discuss the lesson for the week followed by a video lecture to be watched after the lesson on your own.
This is one of the effective ways of studying the books in the Bible as there is time allocated for personal study and reflection, as well as coming together as a group to encourage one another to learn with a keen spirit of wanting to know more. Moreover, listening to insights shared makes one aware that you are not alone in this joyful discovery. This way of Bible study becomes a shared responsibility for the members and the facilitators and each needs to do her part.
Jan Lai shares two key takeaways from their study
A lot of us will agree there is much in the prophecy books of Old Testament that makes studying these more difficult than other books. My first attempt with the Precept class was the book of Isaiah, and what a start it was—if I had any lack of confidence in studying prophecy it was magnified a hundred times in that attempt.
Yet, along the way, I stuck with asking the 5W1H (who, what, when, where, what, how), looked up cross references, read and re-read the Scripture passages. It is the Percept method of pray-read-discuss-contemplate-pray many times over.
Continuing in the same vein, we just finished the study of the book of Zechariah. I would like to share a couple of takeaways:
1. The heart of the matter
“Say to all the people of the land and to the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months these seventy years, was it actually for Me that you fasted?”
The Percept homework led us to discover the historical setting and God’s response, why the people wondered if they needed to continue fasting, in fact, why were they fasting in the fifth and seventh months during the 70 years? This led to reading passages in 2 Kings 25.
In Leviticus 16, the only fast the Lord commanded was the Day of Atonement (tenth day in the seventh month). The word “fast” is not expressly used but the association with the word “humble”—a humbling of their souls before the Lord (Lev 16:31). With this in mind, we re-examined Zechariah 7:5—why did God ask them about their heart and to examine their intention. Were they really obedient? Were their souls truly humbled?
In addition, the homework guided us to do a word study/definition of fast/fasting—is fasting merely an abstinence of food to the body and a test of willpower? (Now you are wondering if you can abstain from that yummy roti-prata!) What is the biblical purpose of fasting? Can we achieve the same end without keeping away from food?
2. Not all studying is intense
Discovering how Scripture is written can sometime lead to a deeper insight into His Word. I discovered the Chiastic Structure when looking up commentaries as additional reading to studying Zechariah—this is not part of the Percept method, but a writing structure.
Also known as a “ring structure”, a chiastic structure is sometimes described as two halves of a mirror in reverse order, so everything comes full circle. It can be represented as A-B-C-D-C1-B1-A1, an example is Zechariah 7-8:
Source: Biblical Blueprint by Phillip G Kayser
There are other examples (hint: the recording of the eight visions of Zechariah), so have some fun reading and discovering the structure for yourself!
The Percept method is only a method to study the Bible, there are others which are equally effective. We can discover the teachings but our hearts need to be willing to be taught and our lives transformed. Otherwise, everything stays in the head while the heart remains hard.
The Precept class at GBC is a ladies-only Bible study group using the Precept inductive method. We welcome ladies of all ages! The class is currently taking a break in June and will resume their study of the three epistles of John in July. If you are interested, feel free to contact Yoke Meng at email@example.com.
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