Book Review: Longing for God in an Age of Discouragement by Bryan Gregory
Longing for God in an Age of Discouragement: The Gospel According to Zechariah by Bryan R. Gregory
This commentary is part of THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO THE OLD TESTAMENT series put out by P&R. In the forward the aims of the series are stated:
• To lay out the pervasiveness of the revelation of Christ in the Old Testament.
• To promote a Christ-centered reading of the Old Testament.
• To encourage Christ-centered preaching and teaching from the Old Testament.
Bryan R. Gregory’s commentary on Zechariah certainly satisfies these aims.
Gregory sets the book of Zechariah in its historical context and gives the overall structure and themes before working through the prophet’s fourteen chapters. At 217 pages of commentary (264 with endnotes, bibliography for further reading, and scripture index), this book reads very easily and is not at all intimidating. It is not overly technical but easily accessible. Gregory is careful to accomplish the goals of the series in maintaining fidelity to the text while always showing Christ from the text. He closes each chapter with a section connecting the point of the text to the believer today. He does this not in a crass, inappropriate, formulaic way, but rather he shows the relevance of the believer to the point of the text (not vice versa). For example, in discussion of the vision of the high priest in chapter 3, Gregory points out that the glorious exchange of vestments is the great exchange of the believer’s guilt for Christ’s perfect righteousness. The high priesthood of Joshua in Zechariah is climactically embodied in the person and work of Jesus, the great high priest (Heb 9.11-28) (81). This is further shown in that the newly clean believer is granted access to the presence of God. There are also several questions for further reflection at the end of each chapter.
The first of four sections entitled “Part One: An Age of Discouragement” gives the historical and literary contexts and then the contemporary context for believers today. Gregory shows this by pointing out that like the post-exilic remnant who returned to rebuild, we too are discouraged and have reason to lack hope and optimism (13). He ends by asking great questions about why the church is in the state it is and does not progress (14), and then points out that we, like the remnant, need to look to and rely on the One who is faithful to His promises and worthy to be trusted.
Part two, “The Night Visions,” takes the visions one at a time looking at the Peace, Justice, Presence, Righteousness, Purpose, Authority, and Victory of God. Part three, “Epilogue to the Night Visions,” examine Zechariah 6.9-8.23. Part four, “The Apocalyptic Visions,” closes out Gregory’s work.
I had three quibbles with this book. First, endnotes are used instead of footnotes. The only thing worse than overly laborious footnotes are endnotes. Having to read two texts simultaneously (the book and the footnotes) is bad enough, but at least they are on the same page. Endnotes necessitate two bookmarks and constant flipping back and forth—Adler would not be pleased.
The second quibble was the complete absence of reference to or interaction with Meredith Kline’s Glory in Our Midst. Many good sources were referenced, but to keep the reader from Kline’s masterful grasp of the language and structure of Zechariah is to keep the star quarterback out of the game or lecture on the history of rock guitar and not mention Eddie Van Halen. I know Kline can at times be difficult to digest, but his work on Zechariah is pure gold, if not solely for his discussion of Zechariah’s structure and the identifications of the characters. Any interaction would have been appreciated because Gregory is clearly academically rigorous and a competent scholar with a pastor’s heart, the tone of which comes through.
The third quibble is that this book sometimes lacked depth. One example occurs when Gregory exhorts regarding charitableness needed by the church on the whole and points to American Presbyterianism as an example of what results from a lack of this virtue referring to the many splits. The problem is when he describes them as “needless divisions” (27) which surely they all were not. Other examples are the flattening out of the fullness of characters in the first vision (37) and thus missing the glorious contrast between those who are enemies of God and those who are His people. And finally a missed opportunity occurs when, after a worthy assessment of the measuring line and its meaning, no mention is made of the measuring of New Jerusalem in Revelation 21.
On the whole, though, Gregory is fantastic at unfolding the text and appropriately showing Jesus promised, prefigured, and patterned from Zechariah.
Christ is the conquering rider on the red horse who defeats all of His and our enemies. He promises to be with His people. He clothes them with His pure robes of righteousness while taking their filthy garments of defilement on Himself. The city He promises is not a refurbished former land, but a glorious everlasting city where He is their light, leader and Lord. All this and more shines through from Zechariah in Gregory’s work. I heartily recommend this commentary to all. It is not technical or linguistically focused. It is very rich, redemptive historical, and theologically permeated with the Gospel, and so it is ideal for the layman and the pastor.
In short, this is a commentary that really does display “the Gospel According to the Old Testament." It draws the reader to Christ showing how He fulfills the promises of the prophecy, provides the victory for His people, and satisfies the demands that they fail to fulfill, and is Immanuel, God with them—the Wall of Fire around them and the Glory in their midst.
Reviewed by Tony Garbarino, MDiv Candidate