Archive for the ‘Zechariah’ Category

End Times; New Beginnings

Posted: November 16, 2017 in Uncategorized, Zechariah

Zechariah 13-14, “End Times & New Beginnings”

 

One of my favorite works of fiction is JRR Tolkien’s, “The Lord of the Rings.”  As most people know from the movies, the massive book is split into three main parts, the third and final installment being “The Return of the King.”  In it, the final major battle against the enemy is fought and won, and one of the main characters assumes his rightful place as king – a position which was always his, but never taken.  Tolkien made it a point not to write allegories, but it is difficult not to see at least some parallels with the Biblical narrative regarding Christ.  There will come a day when a final battle is fought, the identity of the King of kings will be revealed to His people, and He will sit enthroned over all the nations of the world as King during a perfect reign.  The difference of course, is that this isn’t fiction: it’s prophetic reality.

This is what is addressed in the final chapters of Zechariah.  The King is promised to return, and He is promised to reign over all the earth.  We are to worship Him & look for His arrival!

 By way of context, remember that Zechariah is writing as a post-exilic prophet.  A remnant of the Jewish people were back in the land after 70 long years of Babylonian captivity, and although they were experiencing a bit of success, it was still a far cry from the years of true independence the nation had under David and his sons.  God did promise to strengthen the people for the trials they currently faced, which was the reason they were able to begin rebuilding the temple.  God wanted them to have a place to worship Him in the current day, and He made it possible for them to do so.  He also gave them the promise of a Son of David yet to come, who would reign in glory in the future.

 In the meantime, there were still trials to come: terrible desolations for Israel, and they would need to maintain their trust in God that He would be good to His word, bringing them back into the land, reestablishing the nation.  At some point, the people would be given over to a false shepherd (Antichrist, who will make a covenant with the Jewish people for 7 years, per Daniel 9:27), and all the nations of the world will unite together to fight against Jerusalem and Israel.  It would be at this point that the Jews finally come to faith, seeing Jesus in truth as their Messiah whom they rejected & pierced/killed at the cross.

 What happens next?  That’s where Chapters 13-14 pick up.  The people repent, the Messiah returns, the nations are conquered, and Jesus will rule the world.  For a remnant people currently living in relative obscurity under the reign of the Persians, this is a glorious promise of hope.  Whatever it was they faced in the present day, they could hold on.  Their King would soon return – they needed to look for His coming, and worship Him.  (So do we!)

 

Zechariah 13 – National repentance and faith

  • Idolatry forsaken (13:1-6)

1 “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.

  1. Notice the direct tie to the end of Ch 12: “In that day…” This is the day in which the Jews finally see Jesus as the one whom they pierced.  This is the day of their national & familial mourning, each family in turn, coming to repentance and faith in Christ.  In that day, there is to be a cleansing spring.  It’s another picture of renewal and revival.  The promise of 1 John 1:9 speaks of cleansing and forgiveness when we confess our sins to God through Jesus, and the same promise is made available to the Jews.

 

2 “It shall be in that day,” says the LORD of hosts, “that I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, and they shall no longer be remembered. I will also cause the prophets and the unclean spirit to depart from the land.

  1. No more idols – No more demons – No more false prophets. All of these things will finally be “cut off” from God’s people by God Himself.  This is part of the cleansing process.  They come to faith, and He cleans them up.
    1. This is how any of us are cleansed! We can’t clean up our own lives, and then come to Jesus; we come to Jesus first & He cleanses us. 

 

3 It shall come to pass that if anyone still prophesies, then his father and mother who begot him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, because you have spoken lies in the name of the LORD.’ And his father and mother who begot him shall thrust him through when he prophesies.

  1. False prophets are to be punished…even by their own families. A person’s parent will “thrust him through” = the same word used of Jesus, as the one “whom they pierced.” (12:10)
  2. Objection: “Seems kind of harsh!” Perhaps – perhaps not.  This isn’t very different than the original instruction given by Moses to the nation.  Apostates, false prophets, and even unrepentant rebellious sons were to be punished by the people, even by members of their own families. (Lev 23:15-16, Deut 21:18-21)  Why?  Because God is that holy!  His name and character are to be revered among His people.  To tolerate a little blasphemy is to open the floodgates to more. …
    1. Question: So are we to punish false prophets through death?   We live under a different dispensation.  We are the Church; not Israel.  Even so, we ought not to take God’s name lightly…
  3. This sort of severity in punishment will have its intended effect. 4…

 

4 “And it shall be in that day that every prophet will be ashamed of his vision when he prophesies; they will not wear a robe of coarse hair to deceive. 5 But he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a farmer; for a man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.’

  1. Due to the danger, false prophets won’t want to be known as false prophets!
  2. There’s a bit of a question here as to whether the false prophets simply go underground and still try to deceive, or whether they actually repent from their evil deeds. By & large, most scholars believe that the false prophets go underground, denying their identities, not prophesying loudly in public.  Zechariah actually doesn’t say their motivation for hiding; he only describes their method of hiding.  It’s possible that they come to at least an extent of repentance, distancing themselves as far as possible from their sins of the past.
  3. Whatever their motivation, one issue Zechariah never states is their attitudes toward God. Do they stop their false prophecy because of the danger to their lives, or do they stop because they truly come to a conviction of sin & faith in God?  The difference there makes all of the difference in the world.
    1. A cessation of sin is good, but it’s insufficient. We want people to stop sinning, but just because they stopped sinning (overtly) doesn’t mean that they’re saved.  Whatever people do with their actions, they still need to surrender themselves to Jesus!

 

6 And one will say to him, ‘What are these wounds between your arms?’ Then he will answer, ‘Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends.’

  1. The interpretation of vs. 6 depends entirely upon the interpretation of one little word: “” Who’s the “him”?  It could be a reference to the false prophets of vss. 4-5, which would fit the immediate preceding context – or it could be a reference to the ultimate true Prophet, the Lord Jesus, which would fit the immediate following context.
    1. For the false prophets, the “wounds” would likely be a reference to ritual idolatrous cutting, as the prophets of Baal did during their showdown with Elijah. (1 Kings 18)
    2. For the Lord Jesus, the “wounds” would refer to the nail scars in His hands & feet. “Between your arms” = literally, “Between your hands.” (Though the phrase could possibly be a euphemism to refer to a person’s back or overall body.)
  2. Which is it? The majority of scholars believe it to be a reference to the false prophets.  Instead of boasting about his idolatrous prophecies, the future false prophet would try to cover it up with lies, saying he received his wounds innocently – thus (hopefully, for him) preserving his life.
  3. Whatever interpretation is correct, this much is true: God is victorious. False prophecy ceases, while the truth and holiness of God is made known.  There is coming a day when there will be revival among the Jewish people, when they truly care about the holiness of God.  The day they see Jesus for who He is, is the day they will finally reject false prophecy once and for all.
    1. We pray that this would be sooner, rather than later!
    2. We pray that we would care just as much about God’s holiness & truth today!

 

  • Results from the smitten Shepherd (13:7-9)

7 “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.

  1. There does seem to be a break at this point from the earlier part of the chapter (it either comes at vs. 6 or after vs. 6). It was the end of Ch 12 that prophesied the Jews seeing the one who had been pierced for them; at this point the chronology goes back to the piercing.  Just as the false shepherd of Ch 11 would have a sword against him (11:17), so would the true Shepherd sent by God.  And notice who specifically commands the sword: God, “the LORD of hosts.”  God is sovereign over all things: He’s sovereign over the sufferings of the Jews, and sovereign over the sufferings of His Son.  This is all a part of His perfect plan.  “It pleased the Lord to bruise Him…” (Isa 53:10)  If God the Father had not willed the Son to suffer and die, it would not have happened.
    1. But praise God He did! As awful as it is that Jesus suffered the way He did under the sword of the Lord – that the Good Shepherd of God needed to be struck for the sins of His sheep – if He hadn’t done it, we could not be saved!  The sufferings of the Son of God are our only hope for salvation.  Someone needed to pay the price of sin – someone needed to satisfy the wrath of God.  We can’t do it…not apart from an eternity spent in hell.  So Jesus did it in our place.  The Father struck His sword against His Son, the Shepherd, and as a result, we can be saved!
  2. Notice also how the Shepherd is described: “the Man who is My Companion.” Scholars note that the word used for “companion” is used only one other book in the Scripture (Lev 6:2, 18:20), at which point it refers to a near neighbor – one who dwells side-by-side with the Hebrew.  The overall idea is one of equality.  The Hebrew wasn’t to sin against his neighbor, because his neighbor was like himself.  Here in Zech 13:7, the Shepherd is described as God’s neighbor: someone like Himself.  IOW, it is a statement saying that the Son is on equal terms with the Father – it’s an affirmation of the deity of Christ.
    1. This only underscores the awesome mercies of God in sending Jesus for us!
  3. What happens after the Shepherd is struck? His sheep scatter.  Jesus specifically noted the fulfillment of the second part of vs. 7 on the night of the Last Supper. Matthew 26:31–32, “(31) Then Jesus said to them, “All of you will be made to stumble because of Me this night, for it is written: ‘I will strike the Shepherd, And the sheep of the flock will be scattered.’ (32) But after I have been raised, I will go before you to Galilee.””  The disciples would be scattered, but they wouldn’t be hopeless.
  4. Question: When God turns His hand, does He do so against the disciples on the night that they scatter away from their Friend – or does He do so against the nation of Israel as a whole for their rejection of the Messiah? Perhaps there is an element of both, although the nation is certainly in view as the prophecy continues.  8…

 

8 And it shall come to pass in all the land,” Says the LORD, “That two-thirds in it shall be cut off and die, But one-third shall be left in it: 9 I will bring the one-third through the fire, Will refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them. I will say, ‘This is My people’; And each one will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’ ”

  1. Although this was perhaps foreshadowed in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD, it is unlikely that 70AD was the fulfillment. This prophecy speaks far more to the Great Tribulation – a period known as the day of “Jacob’s trouble.”  The 7 years of tribulation does not only include sufferings for the world; it includes sufferings for the specific nation of Israel.  The book of Revelation tells us clearly that 144,000 Jews will be sealed on their foreheads as belonging to God, unable to be killed…but there is no such promise for anyone beyond that.  A great multitude of people that cannot be counted will die as martyrs during the Great Tribulation, that that crowd will include people from every nation: Gentile and Jew. (Rev 7)
  2. Why would God allow such suffering? We cannot know all of His infinite reasoning, but apparently some of it will be for refining.  The Jewish nation as a people even today are being refined by God.  Though they belong to God in name, they still rebel against Him in practice because they still reject His Son.  Yet one day, things will change.  The final portion of the nation will see Jesus in truth, having been refined by God, and they will call upon the name of God, being answered by God.  Their covenant with the Almighty will be renewed, and they will once again be His true people.
    1. Does God allow suffering in our lives? Yes – for many reasons, to be sure, some of which cannot be known.  But no doubt some of the trials God allows are for our good.  They refine us – purify us – help us reflect the holiness of God as we begin to shine like gold.
    2. There’s no question that at some point, God will refine us. The question is: how will we respond during that refinement?
  3. For the Jews, when will the bulk of their refinement come? During the Day of the LORD.  Ch 14…

 

Zechariah 14 – 2nd Coming and Kingdom

  • The Day of the LORD (14:1-15); Tribulation & 2nd Coming (14:1-9)

1 Behold, the day of the LORD is coming, And your spoil will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem; The city shall be taken, The houses rifled, And the women ravished. Half of the city shall go into captivity, But the remnant of the people shall not be cut off from the city.

  1. Remember: God has already promised an ultimate victory for His people. He’s promised them a day when God will dwell among them, and the people will live in peace and security.  Zechariah 8:3–5, “(3) “Thus says the LORD: ‘I will return to Zion, And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain.’ (4) “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Old men and old women shall again sit In the streets of Jerusalem, Each one with his staff in his hand Because of great age. (5) The streets of the city Shall be full of boys and girls Playing in its streets.’”  It’s truly important to keep that in mind as Ch 14 begins.  The days of peace are coming, but they will not come immediately.  Future trials have already been hinted & prophesied, and now they are described in dreadful gory detail.  There is coming a day truly dark before the dawn, as things for Jerusalem get about as bad as they can possibly get.  The nations gather, the city is taken, the homes are plundered, and the people (especially the women) are violated.  It is a time of true awfulness – such as will have never have existed to that point in history.  (Exactly as Jesus described it to His disciples, Mt 24:21)
  2. This is the lead-up to the infamous battle of Armageddon, in which all the nations of the world will have armies led by Antichrist, attempting to exterminate Israel and do battle against the Lord Jesus. Things will indeed be terrible for the Jews and for all those who remain faithful to the Lord Jesus.  They will be persecuted right up to the moment of the Lord’s Jesus return.  But that’s the best part: He will return!  And when He does, it will be glorious! 

 

3 Then the LORD will go forth And fight against those nations, As He fights in the day of battle. 4 And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south.

  1. Who fights on behalf of the people of God? None other than the Son of God! “Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations.”  The Lord Jesus will defend His own!
    1. He will do it then, and He does it today! He fights our battles!
  2. Not only will Jesus fight the battle of Armageddon, He will make quite the entrance when He arrives! The book of Revelation describes His return to earth for the battle: Revelation 19:11–13, “(11) Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. (12) His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. (13) He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God.”  It goes on to describe His accompanying armies (us!), and the sword that proceeds out from His mouth.  It will truly be amazing!
  3. So we know the fact of His return – we also know the place of His return: the Mount of Olives. When Jesus does come back, He apparently dismounts His horse on the Mount of Olives, at which point a massive earthquake will take place as the mountain literally splits in two from east-to-west.  Question: How do we know this will be a literal split?  Because that’s exactly what the Bible says.  There’s simply no reason for people to attempt to explain this away through spiritual metaphor other than the fact that they don’t like what the Bible has to say about the matter.  There’s zero reason to assume that this is anything other than a literal prophecy.  Is it supernatural?  Yes…but so is the 2nd Coming of Jesus!  How could we expect the 2nd Coming of the Son of God to be anything other that supernatural?  It’s absolutely no problem for God to split a mountain in two at the arrival of His Son.  After all, if He could part the Red Sea for Moses & the Hebrews, surely He can part a mountain for Jesus!
    1. Whatever the debates surrounding Christ’s return, every Christian can rejoice in the fact that Jesus will return! He’s coming back…maranatha!
  4. When Jesus arrives, He will arrive at just the right time for His people. 5…

 

5 Then you shall flee through My mountain valley, For the mountain valley shall reach to Azal. Yes, you shall flee As you fled from the earthquake In the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Thus the LORD my God will come, And all the saints with You. 6 It shall come to pass in that day That there will be no light; The lights will diminish. 7 It shall be one day Which is known to the LORD Neither day nor night. But at evening time it shall happen That it will be light.

  1. The chronology at this point gets a little sketchy. This could possibly describe a flight of the Jews & and Tribulation saints just prior to Jesus’ coming (Mt 24:16, Rev 12:14), or it could describe an escape for the Jews at Jesus’ coming.  When the Mount of Olives splits, it forms a large valley (vs. 4), and contextually, that seems to be the valley referenced here.  In this case, it provides a way of escape for the Jews in which they can flee from the battle (as short as it may be once Jesus arrives).
  2. Overall, the whole idea is one of a glorious arrival. King Jesus returns in a massive display of supernatural power, and His beloved people are miraculously protected from the dangers of their enemies.  For the world, the whole earth is darkened, but the light of Jesus beats back the darkness.
    1. Our Jesus is victorious! He is the conqueror!

 

8 And in that day it shall be— That living waters shall flow from Jerusalem, Half of them toward the eastern sea And half of them toward the western sea; In both summer and winter it shall occur. 9 And the LORD shall be King over all the earth. In that day it shall be “The LORD is one,” And His name one.

  1. For students of the Bible, the description of living waters flowing from Jerusalem should sound familiar, as that’s the same basic description of the millennial Jerusalem as given in the book of Ezekiel. Describing a river that originates from the temple & flows outward, this is a river that gives life.  Ezekiel 47:8–9, “(8) Then he said to me: “This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. (9) And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.”  Of course, the life given by the waters only serve to picture the life given by Jesus!  He gives the true living water, and those who drink of the waters He gives never thirst again.
    1. As an aside, it is simultaneously wonderful and unsurprising that Scripture is supported by Scripture. It just underscores the fact that it’s all ultimately the same Author!
  2. The best part about that time isn’t the life-giving water; it’s the King in Jerusalem. The King of the Jews is also “King over all the earth.
  3. Who is this King? None other than the Lord YHWH Himself!  When Jesus sits enthroned in Jerusalem, there will be no question of His equality with God, for He shares the same name as God.  (Deut 6:4)

 

  • Results from the battle (14:10-15)

10 All the land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place from Benjamin’s Gate to the place of the First Gate and the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s winepresses. 11 The people shall dwell in it; And no longer shall there be utter destruction, But Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.

  1. More than the waters changing, the whole topography of the landscape changes. Israel is a land of many hills and mountains (one of which just described in vs. 4), but the southern part of the land will change after Jesus’ arrival.  Isaiah wrote (and was quoted by John the Baptist) that Israel would be prepared for the arrival of the Lord with the valleys being exalted and the hills made low, as the glory of the Lord was revealed. (Isa 40:3-5)  What figuratively spoke of the preparation ministry of John the Baptist is potentially fulfilled literally at Jesus’ return.  When the Son of God comes in glory, the very earth itself will move in response!
  2. Of course, for Zechariah’s original readers, what would have caught their attention was the promise of Jerusalem’s perpetual, eternal safety. For all the trials & tribulations they faced in the past, there was coming a day when they would face it no longer.  The presence of the Lord Jesus among them guaranteed their safety.
  3. Some of the other results of the battle come in the form of a flashback. If the Jews would have guaranteed safety, what became of their enemies?  Horrific punishment.  12…

 

12 And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will strike all the people who fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, Their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, And their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths.

  1. Although it’s impossible to say with certainty, the plague described from Zechariah sounds a lot like the resulting destruction from a nuclear bomb.
  2. Does it have to be a nuclear weapon? Absolutely not.  This is a plague that comes from the Lord God.  The arrival of His Holy presence is enough to (literally) melt the hearts of men.  The armies that foolishly believe they can do battle against the Lord Jesus will sadly find out otherwise.

 

13 It shall come to pass in that day That a great panic from the LORD will be among them. Everyone will seize the hand of his neighbor, And raise his hand against his neighbor’s hand; 14 Judah also will fight at Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the surrounding nations Shall be gathered together: Gold, silver, and apparel in great abundance. 15 Such also shall be the plague On the horse and the mule, On the camel and the donkey, And on all the cattle that will be in those camps. So shall this plague be.

  1. The plague will be so awful that it will send the nations into a panic, apparently causing them to fight against one another. Just as in the days of Hezekiah and Sennacherib when the Angel of God destroyed the Assyrians, leaving their wealth on the battlefield for easy plunder, so will it be after the battle of Armageddon.  The Jews that earlier fled into the mountains will come out to the spoils of victory left by those destroyed by God.
  2. The bottom line here is that at the final battle, there are clear losers and a clear Winner. We want to be found on the right side of the battle lines!
  3. What happens after the battle? The Millennial Kingdom begins, which Zechariah goes on to describe…

 

  • Millennial worship (14:16-21)

16 And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

  1. Who would be “left of all the nations”? Anyone who didn’t fight in the armies.  Those who survive the years of the Great Tribulation, and additionally survive the resulting judgment of the sheep & goats (the judgment of the nations, Mt 25:32) will enter into the Millennial Kingdom with the Jews, though they will not necessarily be a part of God’s people.  It will be a period of enforced worship throughout the world, as King Jesus rules with a rod of iron.  Psalm 2:8–9, “(8) Ask of Me, and I will give You The nations for Your inheritance, And the ends of the earth for Your possession. (9) You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”  Why enforced?  Because it will serve as a testimony to history as to what life will be like without the excuse of “If only Jesus were here.”  At the end of the Millennial Kingdom, people will still rebel against Him, even though things had been perfect & according to the Law for 1000 years.  That’s just the nature of mankind. 
    1. This is how bad we need a Savior! Even when our human circumstances are as perfect as can possibly be, we still sin. 
  2. During this time, the nations of the world will partake in the same feasts as the kingdom of Israel, including the Feast of Tabernacles. If they refuse, there will be consequences…

 

17 And it shall be that whichever of the families of the earth do not come up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, on them there will be no rain. 18 If the family of Egypt will not come up and enter in, they shall have no rain; they shall receive the plague with which the LORD strikes the nations who do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. 19 This shall be the punishment of Egypt and the punishment of all the nations that do not come up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles.

  1. Those who don’t worship God will receive no rain. Even the nations that don’t necessarily rely on rain for crops (as with Egypt), will still face punishment for refusing to worship God.
  2. Why the Feast of Tabernacles? The original feast not only celebrated a harvest, but celebrated God’s provision for Israel throughout the 40 years of wandering through the wilderness.  The Millennial Kingdom is the perfect fulfillment of it all, as Israel will be resting in the personal provision of Christ Jesus for their every need.
  3. How good will it be for Israel? Very good!  20…

 

20 In that day “HOLINESS TO THE LORD” shall be engraved on the bells of the horses. The pots in the LORD’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. 21 Yes, every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be holiness to the LORD of hosts. Everyone who sacrifices shall come and take them and cook in them. In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.

  1. As unholy and defiled as Israel had been throughout their history, there will finally come a day when all of their reproach is rolled away. Everyone and everything among Israel will be dedicated to the Lord, and exist in holy purity.  It will be Israel, as Israel was always meant to be.  Truly, it will be a glorious day!

 

Conclusion:

Imagine for a moment being a Jew among the remnant of Jerusalem, hearing these final words of Zechariah.  You’ve been struggling to build the new temple, constantly worried about the renewed threats surrounding your city, wondering how things would proceed.  You’ve been assured of God’s blessing upon your nation, even tasting a bit of it in practice with the new temple.  But the question would be nagging at you: would Israel ever truly be restored?  Would the former days ever be seen again?

 Yes & no.  Yes, there will be glory days, but no, they won’t be as they were before…they will be better!  As bad as the days will be in the years to come, there is coming a day when God Himself will dwell among His people, and they will forever be in in His presence, protection, and provision.  For a Jew, constantly facing the threat of extermination, that would have been a welcome promise indeed!  That was a day for which they would long!

 May it be no different with us!  King Jesus will return, of that we can be sure.  Yes, He is in heaven for now (though among us today), and yes, we face trials and tribulations today – but we have a sure promise.  Just as the Jews look forward to the presence of their Messiah among them, we also look forward to the presence of our Jesus.  Only for us, it’s better!  We not only have the promise of heaven, but we have the guarantee of being with Him at His 2nd Coming.  We will see all of these events unfold with our own eyes, seeing the glory of God revealed.

 Christian, hold fast to the promises of Christ!  Choose to worship our King!  He has come once, and He is coming again!

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Zechariah 11-12, “Rejected Shepherd; Pierced King”

It’s the classic question: “There’s good news and bad news, which do you want first?”  The version we choose might vary by the day, but quite often, that’s just how life goes.  There’s something good & something bad, but both are necessary to hear.

Whatever order we hear the news, it’s always better to have the good play out at the end, and that’s exactly the way it was for the Jews and Zechariah.  There was both bad and good on the way, but at least things wouldn’t end poorly…it would be wonderful, all to the glory of God.

Remember the context: Zechariah is one of the post-exilic prophets, writing on the heels of Haggai to the newly freed former captives of Babylon.  Jerusalem now had a contingent of Jews living there, and they were starting to rebuild their lives & culture as they rebuilt the temple of God.  It had taken them a while to get going with the process of reconstruction, but after receiving much encouragement through Haggai & Zechariah, they had finally gotten started.  Now in-progress, more oracles come to Zechariah for the people, and God reminds them of why they had experienced His judgment originally, as well as reminding them of the glorious future that awaited them.  There was a restored kingdom & Davidic King in their future, as well as promised victory over their enemies – they just needed to walk in humility and sincere worship in the present.  God’s promise to them was that He would walk among them, and He would ensure that His ultimate plan for them would come to pass…His word could be trusted.

All of that sounds like fantastic news, and it is!  Yet the book doesn’t end there.  The future was not entirely rosy for Israel, as they would once again fall into rebellion.  Historically speaking, we can pinpoint exactly when it happened: at the rejection of Jesus as their Messiah.  Would that terrible sin go unanswered by God?  Certainly not – there would be awful consequences that resulted.  The nation would experience terrible destruction, seemingly being cast away by God, turned over to their sin.  That’s the bad news.

The good news that it wouldn’t be the end.  Though Jesus was initially rejected as their Messiah, one day, He will be seen in faith as their King.  When Jesus comes back, all Israel will see Him for who He is, and all Israel will be saved.  That’s the good news.

Thus Zechariah 11 & 12.  The bad news and good news is shared: the Good Shepherd will be rejected, but the Pierced King will be welcomed.  The first day has already come to pass; we pray for the second to come soon!

Zechariah 11

  • Lament for destruction (11:1-3)

1 Open your doors, O Lebanon, That fire may devour your cedars. 2 Wail, O cypress, for the cedar has fallen, Because the mighty trees are ruined. Wail, O oaks of Bashan, For the thick forest has come down.

  • Poetic section opens the chapter.  The lands, trees, and forests surrounding Israel are to be destroyed.  Lebanon = the north, Bashan = northeast, Jordan (vs. 3) = north/south fertile river bank & basin.  If this is framed-out, it seems to surround the entire land of Israel.
  • The obvious question is: why the wailing?  What is the cause for the destruction & mourning?  The answer lies with which context is the reference for the prophecy/lament.  Does it belong with the end of Ch. 10, with the picture of the Lord moving through the lands surrounding the Mediterranean on behalf of Israel & their defense – or does it belong with the rest of Ch. 11 which speaks of a future destruction of Israel?  Arguments could be made for either position, but considering the “wailing shepherds” of vs. 3 in conjunction with the wailing trees of vs. 2, it seems better to interpret this in light of the other prophecies concerning shepherds found in the rest of Ch. 11. 
  • So why the wailing?  Because there is a destruction coming over the whole land.  God promises a mighty, victorious Israel in Ch. 10 – an Israel strengthened and protected by Almighty God.  But before that Israel is seen, another Israel will exist: one that is once more in rebellion against God, and facing another judgment.  Thus all the land laments what is yet to come. 
  • In vss. 1-2, the forests lament; in vs. 3, it is the shepherds…

3 There is the sound of wailing shepherds! For their glory is in ruins. There is the sound of roaring lions! For the pride of the Jordan is in ruins.

  • Shepherds mourn their lost flocks, presumably eaten by lions.  They lost their “glory.”  Glory = magnificence/cloak.  Their sheep were their coverings – their pride.  Whatever happened, they were now ruined as all was lost.
  • None of this speaks well of Israel.  For all of the glorious things God promised in the future, there was also more tragedy and judgment that awaited.  It is detailed out in the drama of the next several verses.
  • Drama of the shepherds (11:4-17)  The slaughter of God’s flock (11:4-6)

4 Thus says the LORD my God, “Feed the flock for slaughter, 5 whose owners slaughter them and feel no guilt; those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, for I am rich’; and their shepherds do not pity them.

  • It can be called a “drama” for the way God has Zechariah act later on.  For now, God gives instructions to fatten up the sheep – get them ready “for slaughter.
  • Why?  Because it’s the same way the current owners/shepherds of the land act towards their sheep.  They care nothing for their flocks; they are only interested in selfish profit.
    • How sad it is when a shepherd has no pity/compassion for the sheep with which he has been entrusted!
  • Because this is how the nation would choose to act, God would respond in kind.  Vs. 6…

6 For I will no longer pity the inhabitants of the land,” says the LORD. “But indeed I will give everyone into his neighbor’s hand and into the hand of his king. They shall attack the land, and I will not deliver them from their hand.”

  • If the shepherd and sheep of God were content to be fattened for the slaughter, then so be it.  God would “no longer pity the inhabitants” of Israel, and declared that He would “not deliver them” from their neighboring enemies.   In essence, God promised to give Israel over to her sin.
  • God has done the same thing with the nations as a whole.  His goodness and love and existence has been evidenced through all of creation, yet mankind chooses to ignore the testimony.  Instead of worshipping the Almighty God, we worship the things He has created, or even worse, ourselves.  Thus God has given mankind over to sin & death.  (Rom 1)
    • Is there hope of deliverance?  Not if we look to ourselves.  But absolutely, when we look to Christ!
  • All of this sets up the drama that God has Zechariah act out for Israel.  Israel would reject God’s true shepherd, thus earning their judgment & slaughter – and that will be graphically portrayed by the prophet.  Vs. 7…
  • Broken staves and dismissed shepherds (11:7-14)

7 So I fed the flock for slaughter, in particular the poor of the flock. I took for myself two staffs: the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bonds; and I fed the flock.

  • Notice the 1st person “I” – this is Zechariah.  He plays the part of the chief shepherd, one who is despised by the nation.
  • His shepherding is not only seen in his work of feeding, but in the two staves he holds: “Beauty & Bonds.”  The interpretation of the names will be given later in the chapter.  Each staff serves a different purpose, related to the names.
  • As the chief shepherd, he has the right to fire those under him, and that’s exactly what he does…

8 I dismissed the three shepherds in one month. My soul loathed them, and their soul also abhorred me.

  • As to the identity of the “three shepherds,” this is a subject of much debate.  Commentaries note that there are upwards to forty different interpretations, ranging from general descriptions to specific references of literal kings of the past.  Considering that Zechariah is giving prophecy dealing with the future, it seems that past kings of Israel and Judah can be ruled out, thus this is most likely speaking of something more general: perhaps the categories of prophets, priests, and kings – or elders, scribes, and priests.
  • Whoever they are, they are “dismissed” by God via Zechariah in the period of “one month.”  Whatever this judgment was, it happened quickly.  They “abhorred” the shepherd that had been given to them, and thus God’s judgment was upon them.

9 Then I said, “I will not feed you. Let what is dying die, and what is perishing perish. Let those that are left eat each other’s flesh.” 10 And I took my staff, Beauty, and cut it in two, that I might break the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. 11 So it was broken on that day. Thus the poor of the flock, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD.

  • When the first staff is broken, it shows that the flock had fallen out of favor with God.  The name “Beauty” or “Favor/Grace” was symbolic of the covenant the people had with the Lord as their Shepherd.  Once they rejected Him, He turned them over to the natural consequences.  No longer would He feed them or care for them – instead, He would let them collapse under the weight of their own sin.
  • Question: When was this historically fulfilled?  Most likely, in 70AD when the Romans destroyed Jerusalem, and during the following years when Jews were driven out of their homeland once again.  They had rejected Jesus as their Messiah, and they faced the terrible consequences of abandonment by God and removal of His covenant protections over them.
  • With the covenant broken, the relationship between shepherd & flock was dissolved, thus Zechariah asks for his severance.  Vs. 12…

12 Then I said to them, “If it is agreeable to you, give me my wages; and if not, refrain.” So they weighed out for my wages thirty pieces of silver. 13 And the LORD said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the LORD for the potter.

  • There’s no small irony in the description of the “princely price.”  This was the price for a slave, and thus a pittance in comparison to what this shepherd was worth to Israel.  They had despised him, and showed their lack of gratitude with the “thirty pieces of silver.”  Zechariah took the worthless money, and threw it into the temple “for the potter.
  • What would seem to be a totally bizarre prophecy on its own found its absolute literal fulfillment in Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  [Matthew 27:3-8] Matthew specifically shows this prophecy fulfilled, as he combines it with a prophecy from Jeremiah 19 regarding a potter’s field: Matthew 27:9–10, "(9) Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying, “And they took the thirty pieces of silver, the value of Him who was priced, whom they of the children of Israel priced, (10) and gave them for the potter’s field, as the LORD directed me.”"  What perhaps seemed obscure or bizarre to the original readers came literally true, exactly as the prophets wrote.  Notice the detail in Zechariah’s prophecy:
    • It is 30 pieces; not 29 – not 31.
    • It is silver; not gold or copper.
    • It is thrown; not placed in the temple.
    • It is thrown into the house of the Lord; not kept for profit, or placed anywhere else.
    • It was used to purchase a field; not used for temple supplies or for the poor.
    • The field had belonged to the potter; not any other occupation.
    • This is incredible detail!  How much can God’s word be trusted?  Down to the letter!
  • So we know ultimately, this is fulfilled in Jesus.  For the time being, it is acted out by Zechariah, as he prefigures it all.  Put it all together so far: as the chief shepherd, he was hated by the other shepherds, and by the flock.  The covenant relationship was broken, and he was rejected.  What comes next?  The final dissolution of their relationship. Vs. 14…

14 Then I cut in two my other staff, Bonds, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.

  • Earlier, the staff of “Beauty/Favor” was broken, symbolizing the broken covenant.  Now, the staff “Bonds/Union” is broken, which is specifically interpreted as the broken “brotherhood between Judah and Israel.”  Basically, this is a prophecy of how the reunited nation would be dissolved.
  • Keep the historical context in mind.  When Zechariah wrote, he was writing to a Jewish people only recently restored to the land of Israel after decades of Babylonian captivity.  Many prophecies had already been given of the restoration of the kingdom with a Davidic king ruling on the throne of Jerusalem.  For the Jews listening to/reading Zechariah, at this point, they probably would have assumed that they would proceed directly from their state now to the restored kingdom.  Instead, God tells them that they would once again be scattered.  They were in the land for now, but there would come a future day when they would be dispersed once more, the physical ties between south & north kingdoms being broken.
    • Did this happen?  Yes – again, after the wars with the Romans.  Between the siege of Jerusalem and the battles that followed, the Jews were dispersed throughout the Roman Empire.  Will it remain that way?  No.  There are too many other prophecies that remain of a restored Jewish kingdom, with many of them being given in Zechariah’s own writings.  This was to be a temporary scattering – one of which can be seen as being reversed even in our own present day!
  • So the righteous shepherd has been rejected, and the bonds of brotherhood broken.  There is yet another trial for Israel in the future through an evil leader yet to arise.  Vs. 15…
  • The worthless shepherd (11:15-17)

15 And the LORD said to me, “Next, take for yourself the implements of a foolish shepherd. 16 For indeed I will raise up a shepherd in the land who will not care for those who are cut off, nor seek the young, nor heal those that are broken, nor feed those that still stand. But he will eat the flesh of the fat and tear their hooves in pieces.

  • To describe this person as a “foolish shepherd” is not to call him stupid, but evil.  He is wicked, uncaring for the sheep, even going so far as to brutally kill them for his own purpose.

17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd, Who leaves the flock! A sword shall be against his arm And against his right eye; His arm shall completely wither, And his right eye shall be totally blinded.”

  • The nation may have been turned over to this worthless shepherd for a time, but not forever.  Judgment would come to him as well, his strength and sight eventually taken away from him.
  • Who is this “worthless shepherd”?  Again, there is much debate, but it seems likely this is a reference to Antichrist.  Revelation 13:3-4 tells us how Antichrist will suffer a seemingly fatal wound, only to recover and be embraced by the world.  This is perhaps in reference to that event.
  • The good news is that this worthless shepherd will be soundly defeated.  When?  At the 2nd coming of the Good Shepherd, when Jesus comes in power and glory as the King of kings.  That is exactly what is described through the rest of the book…

Zechariah 12

  • The final message to Israel (12-14)  Prologue (12:1)

1 The burden of the word of the LORD against Israel. Thus says the LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him:

  • As the final series of prophecies opens, God is introduced in His power, might, and glory as the Creator God.  What follows might sound impossible to some, but nothing is impossible for the all-powerful God.  He created the heavens & earth, gives life to all men & women – there is no doubt that whatever He proclaims, He can bring to pass.
    • Never forget the power of the God we worship!
  • Although this is a new series of prophecies, the fact that it comes on the heels of Ch. 11 is surely no accident.  If Ch. 11 spoke of the rejection of the Messiah in His 1st Coming and the rise of Antichrist, Ch. 12 goes on to speak of the defeat of Antichrist and his armies, as well as the reception of Jesus as the Messiah at His 2nd Coming.  Ch. 12 is a perfect answer to Ch. 11. 
  • Jerusalem’s deliverance (12:2-9)  Besieged (12:2-3)

2 “Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. 3 And it shall happen in that day that I will make Jerusalem a very heavy stone for all peoples; all who would heave it away will surely be cut in pieces, though all nations of the earth are gathered against it.

  • Jerusalem will be a temptation to the nations for conquest – but it will be the place where the wine of God’s judgment will be poured out upon the world.  Though the nations of the world will try to harm God’s people, they will find they only harm themselves as God protects those whom He loves.  He may have removed His covenant protection from them for a time, but not for eternity.  God’s promises and gifts are irrevocable (Rom 11:29), and He will protect His people according to His word.  Though the nations rise up against Israel, He will act on their behalf.
  • BTW – note how “all nations of the earth are gathered against” Jerusalem.  Although that may be thought of as hyperbole, it seems more likely to be literal.  In the present day, the nation of Israel has very few allies around the world.  During the days of the Great Tribulation, she will have none.  What this means for the United States is unknown – either this nation will not exist, or it will have joined with the rest of the world in its opposition to Israel & to God, and it will thus face the same judgment as the rest of the world.
    • What does that mean for us?  (1) As born-again Christians, we will have been raptured by that point, and we will physically be with Jesus, citizens of His kingdom. (2) It means that we cannot trust that a national historical Christianity will continue into the future.  We’ve got a limited time to reach our fellow Americans with the gospel of Christ, so we’d better get to work!
  • How will the nations be cut to pieces as they war against Jerusalem?  God tells us…
  • The battle (12:4-6)

4 In that day,” says the LORD, “I will strike every horse with confusion, and its rider with madness; I will open My eyes on the house of Judah, and will strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5 And the governors of Judah shall say in their heart, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in the LORD of hosts, their God.’

  • God will supernaturally protect His people bringing supernatural confusion upon the enemies of Israel.   Although we should not make one-to-one connection, there is to be a striking parallel between the description of this battle & that of Gog/Magog in the book of Ezekiel.  There too, a confederacy of nations comes against Jerusalem, only to be supernaturally thwarted by the intervention of Almighty God. (Eze 38-39)  As to the battle in Zechariah, it seems to be more likely a reference to the battle of Armageddon.  Either way, it certainly underscores how God will not allow His people to be destroyed.  He will act with supernatural wonders on their behalf.
  • Why?  Because He is a God of grace!  As God strikes Israel’s enemies with blindness, He opens His own eyes upon His people, looking on them with the grace and beautiful favor (“Beauty”) that was once broken/removed.  IOW, He gives them grace…
  • And this grace is recognized by the people!  The “governors of Judah” seemingly come to faith, recognizing the work of God among them. …

6 In that day I will make the governors of Judah like a firepan in the woodpile, and like a fiery torch in the sheaves; they shall devour all the surrounding peoples on the right hand and on the left, but Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place—Jerusalem.

  • The day of battle will be fierce & fiery!  Like a blazing torch being waved among pine straw, so will Jerusalem overpower and overwhelm their enemies.  Those who attempt to force the people of Jerusalem from their city will be soundly defeated, and the Jews will forever dwell in a Jewish Jerusalem.
  • The victory (12:7-9)

7 “The LORD will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall not become greater than that of Judah.

  • Why Judah before Jerusalem?  It emphasizes that the victory does not come from the military or political genius of the national leaders; it comes from the Lord God alone.
  • In addition, all Judah will be saved; not Jerusalem alone.  Again, remember the historical context of Zechariah.  He was writing to a Jewish people restored to Jerusalem – there wasn’t exactly a lot of activity happening among other formerly Jewish cities at the time.  By saving the “tents of Judah first,” God emphasizes that this victory will belong with all of the Jewish people throughout the land; not in a singular city.
  • Again, this is a supernaturally-given victory.  Vs. 8…

8 In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; the one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them. 9 It shall be in that day that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.

  • In that day,” God will strengthen His people!  The weakest among them will have the bravery of David, and “the house of David” will have even more strength – that of the “Angle of the LORD.”  And why not?  The house of David is continued by none other than the Lord Jesus Christ, who is the Angel of the Lord!  Of course, the context is more of a symbolic reference to the nation of Israel as a whole, pointing to a restored Jewish, Davidic kingdom, and yes – that nation will be strong.  God will strengthen His people, protecting them from every enemy that comes against them.
  • God always protects His people!  Objection: “I don’t feel very protected!”  If you are in Christ, you are.  For us today, in our own context, when we are protected by God, it doesn’t mean that we are exempt or immune from every trial and challenge.  Quite the opposite!  We are promised that we will face trials and tribulation.  We are guaranteed to face spiritual battles against the enemy of our soul.  But we are also guaranteed that God will never leave us nor forsake us.  Jesus will be with us until the end of the age.  We are guaranteed that we are secure in Christ, having our eternity wrapped up in Him, as we are sealed by the Holy Spirit Himself.  We are protected, for we are eternally protected in Christ!
  • Faith at the 2nd Coming (12:10-14)  Spiritual sight (12:10a)

10 “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. …

  • The faith that was hinted at in vs. 5 is seen in its fullness in vs. 10.  After millennia of blindness, finally the spiritual scales will fall from their eyes as the Jews look upon Jesus in faith, seeing Him as Lord!  Who will they see: “Me, whom they pierced.”  Manuscripts vary as to whether the pronoun is “me” or “him/the one,” but the context leaves no doubt as to the reference.  This is Jesus!  This is the One whose hands and feet were pierced by the Jews as they delivered Him over to the Romans to be crucified.
  • Yet the skeptic might object: “Wait a minute!  This doesn’t necessarily refer to Jesus.  The Hebrew for ‘pierced’ refers to being run through, perhaps with a sword or a spear.”  True, but Jesus was run through with a spear as the Romans verified His death on the cross!  Besides, the Scriptures plainly see this prophecy as being fulfilled in Christ, in direct reference to that spear.  John 19:34–37, "(34) But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out. (35) And he who has seen has testified, and his testimony is true; and he knows that he is telling the truth, so that you may believe. (36) For these things were done that the Scripture should be fulfilled, “Not one of His bones shall be broken.” (37) And again another Scripture says, “They shall look on Him whom they pierced.”"
  • Question: if this Scripture was fulfilled on the day of the crucifixion, how is it that the Jews do not yet look upon Jesus in faith?  After all, that’s the immediate context of Zechariah.  Remember that prophecy often has a dual fulfillment, and such is the case here.  The Jews did look upon the pierced Christ as He hung upon the cross, but they did not look on Him as their Christ/Messiah.  But they will.  When Jesus returns in power & glory, delivering Israel from their enemies, at that time they will see Him in faith.
  • How will their faith be made possible?  Because God will pour on them “the Spirit of grace and supplication.”  He will give them the gift of faith. … No one comes to faith in Christ simply because they had it within themselves to be saved.  Salvation is the gift of God.  Paul puts it this way: Ephesians 2:8–9, "(8) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, (9) not of works, lest anyone should boast."  Will the Jews be able to boast in the day of their salvation?  No, because the faith they receive is the gift of God when He pours His Spirit upon them.  Can we boast in our own salvation?  Certainly not, because the Holy Spirit is the One who led us to faith in Jesus, as He is the One who convicted us of sin, righteousness, and judgment. (Jn 16:8)  The Holy Spirit blows where He will, and He is the One who gave us our new birth. (Jn 3:8)  It is by His pure gift of grace that we are saved, and His gift alone.
    • Does that mean there is no place for free will & our response?  Of course not.  Unless a person repents, believing upon Jesus Christ, no one will be saved.  Our free will is most certainly involved.  But it begins with God.  When it comes to salvation, God takes the initiative.  And praise God that He does!  Otherwise, no one would be saved!
  • What will happen when the Jews finally see Jesus in faith as the pierced, crucified Messiah?  They will be stricken with grief…
  • National grief and repentance (10b-14)

… Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn. 11 In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning at Hadad Rimmon in the plain of Megiddo.

  • Why grieve?  Isn’t it a joyful thing to be saved?  Of course.  Yet it’s understandable that nation of Israel grieve as it was the nation of Israel that caused Jesus to be delivered over to the Gentiles to be tortured and put to death.  The Messiah would not have been pierced, if it was not for Israel.  Thus they will mourn their past actions, grieving over Him as the firstborn (only begotten Son) of God.
  • Interestingly, Zechariah describes this period of mourning as it was “in the plain of Megiddo,” the very place where the battle of Armageddon will be fought.  Why there?  (1) Armageddon, obviously. (2) There is precedence of the death of a beloved king on that same battlefield.  King Josiah (the one who rediscovered the Scriptures in the temple, and led a final revival in Judah) went to battle against Pharaoh Necho in the Valley of Megiddo.  There, he was pierced through with an arrow and died, and the entire nation mourned him. (2 Chr 35).  What took place with the final good king of Judah will happen once more with the ultimate Good King of Israel, Jesus.
  • The mourning is described…

12 And the land shall mourn, every family by itself: the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of Shimei by itself, and their wives by themselves;

  • At first glance, it would seem that this might be a reference to mourning and grief among the kings, prophets, priests, and even the rebellious of Israel. (David, Nathan, Levi, Shimei)  More likely, it is a reference to the royal families and priestly families.  David had a son named Nathan (of whom was born Mary, the mother of Jesus), and one of Levi’s descendants was Shimei (of the line of Gershon, same as Moses).  The idea is that the nation will grieve their sins against the true Messiah, starting with the leadership and their families.
  • Yet it will not remain only the leadership…

14 all the families that remain, every family by itself, and their wives by themselves.

  • All the families of all Israel will join in the grief.  All individuals among the Jews will come to a point of personal repentance and faith.  When Israel finally sees Jesus as the Christ, it will not happen as a blanket proclamation of grace.  No – they will be saved the same way any of us are saved: when we individually come to a realization that Jesus is the Son of God, crucified for our sin and risen from the grave.
  • We are not saved through family ties – no one goes to heaven because their mother or grandmother was a good Christian.  No one goes to heaven because there was a pastor in their family, or because people in previous generations helped plant their local church.  We are saved individually, through personal faith in Jesus.  That’s true for us, and it will be the same way with the Jews.

Conclusion:
So what do we do with this?  It’s amazing prophecy given to Jews of the 6th Century BC, but is there anything for us as 21st Century AD Christians today?  Yes!

First, we can praise God for the wonders of prophecy fulfilled.  God knew even the newly repentant Jews of post-Babylonian Jerusalem would eventually reject Him, and foresaw the betrayal of Jesus down to the tiniest detail.  He knows the beginning, the end, and everything in-between.  He is the God of all knowledge!

Second, we can praise God that Israel has the promise of coming to faith in the future, and pray that that day will come soon!  We can pray that more and more Jews in the present day will see Jesus as their Messiah, and we pray for the repentance of their nation as a whole.  (And we can get involved in sharing the gospel with them!)

Third, we can praise God that Jesus IS coming back!  There is no doubt whatsoever that the Jesus who was crucified & pierced is also risen from the dead, and will be returning in the same manner that the disciples witnessed Him ascend to heaven.  He is coming back to judge the living and the dead, and we as the church will be with Him as He does.  The day of our rapture could be at any time, and from that point the countdown to His 2nd Coming begins.  Come, Lord Jesus!

God: Defender of Israel

Posted: October 26, 2017 in Uncategorized, Zechariah

Zechariah 9-10, “God: Defender of Israel”

War movies can be exciting – especially when you know the winning outcome.  No one wants to actually be caught in a battle, and war is nothing to cheer – but when you’re watching a movie play out at home, and you’re well aware of the eventual victor, then those moments of tension along the way might be exciting, but they never breed fear.  Fear comes in real life, when the outcome is unknown.

But what if you knew the outcome of a real-life battle, even before the fight played out in real time?  That would boost your confidence!  You could move forward in hope, with the understanding that although you would face struggles and challenges along the way, at least the ultimate victory would be won.

Guess what, Christian?  We are involved in a massive spiritual war, facing battles every day.  Yet we have no question of the outcome: our Jesus is victorious!  We certainly have struggles and challenges, but we also have certainty of a Strong Savior – a Mighty Deliverer.  Whatever it is our enemy throws at us, we can hope in the deliverance and protection of our Lord & God.  And that ought to give us grand hope!

Such was the promise to the Jews during the days of Zechariah.  The people had already experienced incredible hardships.  Due to decade after decade of generational sin, Almighty God allowed His covenant people to be conquered by the Babylonians.  They experienced terrible tragedy, and were taken prisoner – removed from the land of promise to be sent to the inner belly of Babylon for 70 years.  Now, they were finally free!  A number of them had returned to their homeland, and even after experiencing some political resistance from their enemies, they had once more started work on the Jerusalem temple.  God had promised to strengthen them for the task, and He was doing it.  His presence was among them, His protection was upon them, and His promise was to be with them as their God & to send their Messiah King who would reign over them forever.

But history doesn’t stand still, and it would be quite some time before the Messiah appeared.  Although the Jews in Jerusalem lived under the government of the Persian empire, the Persians wouldn’t be there forever.  Empires would rise & fall until the day the Messiah came back & established the throne of David upon the earth.  What would happen in the meantime?  Would Israel be left alone to fend for themselves?

Not at all!  God still promised to be with them, and as proof, He gave a series of prophecies through Zechariah declaring to them their ultimate outcome.  The nation would surely face hardships, but they would not perish from the earth.  In fact, it was the opposite!  God had delivered them in the past, and He would deliver them again.  No matter what earthly empire held the most power among the nations, the Sovereign God has power over all.  God said He would restore His people as a nation, and they could trust He would do it.

God is the defender of Israel: He is their deliverer & redeemer.  Likewise, we have a Defender: the Lord Jesus.  He is our deliverer & redeemer!

Zechariah 9 – God the Deliverer

  • Delivered from enemies (9:1-8)

1 The burden of the word of the LORD— Against the land of Hadrach, And Damascus its resting place (For the eyes of men And all the tribes of Israel Are on the LORD); 2 Also against Hamath, which borders on it, And against Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise.

  • burden” = oracle.  The word lifted up.
  • Each of the cities are cities north of Israel, among the modern-day nations of Syria & Lebanon.  Hadrach & Hamath are basically districts outside of Damascus (the Syrian capital & one of the oldest continuously-inhabited cities on earth).  Tyre & Sidon are on the coast of the Mediterranean.  Why are they listed as God being “against” them?  Because as the Sovereign God, He was about to raise up Alexander the Great, whose armies would march through these areas as a part of his conquest of the then-Persian empire.

3 For Tyre built herself a tower, Heaped up silver like the dust, And gold like the mire of the streets. 4 Behold, the LORD will cast her out; He will destroy her power in the sea, And she will be devoured by fire.

  • Tyre & Sidon had been wise & strong…Tyre, especially.  Due to its location as an island just off the coast, it proved impossible for Nebuchadnezzar to conquer, even after 13 years.  They had a powerful navy & a rich economy.  By any earthly measure, they would have been considered extremely strong.
  • Yet once God determined Tyre’s time was up, they proved to be no match for the Lord.  When Alexander the Great came through, he built out the coast all the way to the island, allowing his army to cross and conquer.  Ezekiel prophesied this as well, envisioning both the sieges of Nebuchadnezzar and Alexander in one declaration. [Eze 26:10-12]
  • Question: who is doing the conquering in all of this: Alexander, or the Lord God?  The Lord!  Certainly, God used Alexander the Great as His tool of judgment, but Alexander couldn’t have done anything without the Lord God allowing him to do so.  God is sovereign over all the works of men.
  • Of course, Alexander didn’t stop in Syria & Lebanon – he kept moving south, passing through the cities of the Philistines.  Vs. 5…

5 Ashkelon shall see it and fear; Gaza also shall be very sorrowful; And Ekron, for He dried up her expectation. The king shall perish from Gaza, And Ashkelon shall not be inhabited. 6 “A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod, And I will cut off the pride of the Philistines.

  • The Philistines would also experience the judgment of God.  They were not under God’s covenant protection, so they would feel the full force of the conquering Macedonian/Greek armies of Alexander.
  • To what extent were the Philistines overwhelmed?  They would be bred out.  “A mixed race shall settle in Ashdod” – the purity of the Philistine people would be extinguished, and the race as a whole would be “cut off.
    • This has practical political applications for today.  The modern Palestinians are not related to the ancient Philistines.  The name might be the same, but that is solely due to the influence of the Romans, who renamed “Judea” as “Palestine” as a tool of humiliation, naming them after their former ancestral enemies.  The modern Palestinians are ethnically no different than the Jordanians, descending from Arab stock; not Phoenician (of whom were the Philistines).  Thus, the historical tie Jews have to the land of Israel is far older than that of the Palestinians.  (This is one reason Palestinians object so fiercely to any Jewish archaeological excavations around the Temple Mount.  They know the Jewish claim is historically correct.)
  • What implication does this have for modern evangelical Christians?  (1) We remember we worship a God who is sovereign over all nations!  (2) We remember that God’s promises to His people cannot/will not be annulled…thus we should be mindful not to work against Him!
  • Why did God choose to judge the Philistines?  Among their historical sins against Israel, they also committed sinful abominations.  Vs. 7…

7 I will take away the blood from his mouth, And the abominations from between his teeth. But he who remains, even he shall be for our God, And shall be like a leader in Judah, And Ekron like a Jebusite.

  • For all of the judgment that would be poured out on the Philistines, there’s an incredible promise as well: there was hope for conversion.  The Philistines that survived had the opportunity to receive mercy, and be absorbed among the nation of Judah.  Just as David had not destroyed the Jebusites after conquering Jerusalem, neither did the Philistines need face full extermination.  Judgment would indeed come, but the God of Righteousness is also the God of Mercy.  Even the Philistines could find refuge in the Lord.
    • Anyone can find refuge in the Lord Jesus!
  • Question: is there any historical indication that this occurred?  It’s impossible to say, as the historical record obviously isn’t comprehensive.  Keep in mind that it’s possible that this could yet be fulfilled in the Millennial Kingdom.  Although Philistines are not known to exist today, God knows who their descendants are, and He will ensure His word is true.  Just like all nations will serve Jesus in the Millennium, so will the former Philistines.
  • God’s use of Alexander’s conquests points to a marvelous work on behalf of His own people: protection.  Vs. 8…

8 I will camp around My house Because of the army, Because of him who passes by and him who returns. No more shall an oppressor pass through them, For now I have seen with My eyes.

  • Not only did God raise up a tool to come against the enemies of Israel, God also promised to personally protect His people – specifically saying “I will camp around My house.”  This would have been a marvelous word in the ears of Zechariah & others at the time!  For all that they were enduring to ensure that the Jerusalem temple would be rebuilt, no doubt it was a constant fear that it would soon be destroyed by the next empire-in-charge.  God promises that it would stand – He Himself would surround it, protecting His temple, and His city.
  • Did He?  Yes!  Although Alexander’s armies left a path of destruction in their route, Jerusalem was untouched.  Twice, the armies of Alexander passed by Jerusalem, and twice they refrained from besieging it in conquest…exactly according to the word of God given through Zechariah.
    • Keep in mind that from Zechariah’s viewpoint, this is all future prophecy.  To us, it is history, but for him & his people, it was nearly 200 years away.  Zechariah wrote during the height of the Persian empire – the military expansion of Greece was not even yet a possibility.  Yet what he wrote concerning Greece came true to the letter.
    • This is the value of studying prophecy!  What God declares in His word is true.  It has always proven true in the past, thus we know it will always prove true in the present & in the future.
  • Don’t miss the last clause of vs. 8.  Why was it that God assured Israel of His sovereign & personal protection?  Because He saw His people with His own eyes.  God looked upon them with grace.
  • The King as Deliverer (9:9-17)

9 “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey.

  • God not only saw His people and protected His people, He promised to be with His people when the Messiah came among them.  God had already proven Himself true to many of the promises He made to Israel, and He would soon prove Himself true with one more: a restored kingdom with a Davidic king.  Just as the kings of old would process into Jerusalem on a donkey, so would the future Messiah.
  • Looking back from 2500 years later (give or take!), there’s no doubt that this is a direct prophecy of Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday.  In fact, two of the four gospels (Matthew & John) specifically cite Zechariah’s prophecy as being literally fulfilled in the triumphal entry.  John 12:12–16, "(12) The next day a great multitude that had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, (13) took branches of palm trees and went out to meet Him, and cried out: “Hosanna! ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the LORD!’ The King of Israel!” (14) Then Jesus, when He had found a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written: (15) “Fear not, daughter of Zion; Behold, your King is coming, Sitting on a donkey’s colt.” (16) His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written about Him and that they had done these things to Him."  What Jesus did, He did purposefully, knowing that He was fulfilling prophecy.  This was not only to be a sign to the Jews (who would soon reject Him), but a sign to His disciples that He truly had come as King.
  • The imagery of a donkey’s colt is important – not simply from the historical aspect that kings sometimes did this in the past, but also from the aspect of humility.  Although God acts in His omnipotent power in defending His people, His Messiah did not initially appear to His own people in might and wrath.  He did not enter on a warhorse or in a battle-chariot; He entered on a donkey.  He came in meekness & humility, approaching His people in mercy & grace. That is the point of His 1st Coming…He comes with grace!
    • This is the very reason we can know the grace of Jesus & forgiveness of God – because He first came in humility.  God is glorious, but if we were expected to approach God in His glory, we’d all be lost & without hope.  We couldn’t approach Him, but He could (and did) approach us.  God the Son willingly laid His glory aside in order that He could be among us, dwell with us, identify with us, and die for us on our behalf.  Without this 1st Coming, we’d have no hope at all at His 2nd. 
  • Although Jesus has come first in humility, that’s not all we expect from Him.  He will return, and at that time, it will be in glory.  Vs. 10…

10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; The battle bow shall be cut off. He shall speak peace to the nations; His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

  • If vs. 9 speaks of Jesus’ 1st Coming, vs. 10 speaks of His 2nd.  Once more, Zechariah writes of the supernatural protection that Almighty God will give to His people, and in the process God is shown giving the King of Israel a reign that extends far beyond Israel.  The Messiah King will have a “dominion…to the ends of the earth.
  • Israel may be despised by the nations today, but that will not be the case in the future.  In Jesus’ kingdom, all attacks against Israel will be futile, and the peace of the Messiah will not only be offered to the entire earth; it will be enforced.  No one will be able to come against God’s people during that time, as they live in His perfect peace, on earth as it is in heaven.
  • Question: did these kinds of future promises offer any present-day hope for the Jews of Zechariah’s day?  Yes!  These are the assurances of ultimate victory.  This is the eventual outcome of their battles and hardships.  Whatever it was they faced in the present day, they could hold onto the promises of what was yet to come, knowing that their God would see them through.
    • Likewise for us.  This is the benefit of our heavenly hope.  We look to future promises of the rapture and heaven, not as way of wishful escapism, but for assurances of God’s love, mercy, and grace in order that we stand strong in the present.
  • Again, these promises weren’t all for the future – they had a present-day application.  Vs. 11…

11 “As for you also, Because of the blood of your covenant, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to the stronghold, You prisoners of hope. Even today I declare That I will restore double to you.

  • The “you also” is a reference to the then-present-day Jews.  They had hope for their current circumstances.  They had a covenant relationship with God, and they had the opportunity to live in the blessings of that covenant relationship.  The ultimate fulfillment of the covenant would certainly be seen in the future, but God still invited them to live in it today.  Keep in mind that although the Jews who went back to Jerusalem had started to experience God’s blessing through the rebuilding of the temple, only a small percentage of Jews had actually gone back.  Many had chosen to remain behind in Babylon, remaining in their place of captivity – “the waterless pit,” as Joseph and Jeremiah had each been placed in pits as prisons.  In essence, God called His people home.  He wanted them out of Babylon – He wanted them to experience all that He had for them in the present.
  • He wants the same for us, too!  Too many people call upon Jesus for future heaven, but live as if they’re still captive to the things of the world.

13 For I have bent Judah, My bow, Fitted the bow with Ephraim, And raised up your sons, O Zion, Against your sons, O Greece, And made you like the sword of a mighty man.”

  • Again, keep in mind that the mere mention of “Greece” is fairly incredible, considering Zechariah was nearly 200 years out from Alexander.  But the prophecy gets even better.  At this point, the word of God predicts a day when the entire nation of Israel (north & south = Ephraim & Judah) have sons that rise up against the sons of Greece and experience a military victory.  That begs the question: who are the “sons” of Greece?  In the succession of empires, there was Babylon, Persia, Greece, and eventually Rome – but in-between Greece & Rome came a period of instability in which the Greek-speaking kings in Syria (the Seleucids) fought for supremacy over the Greek-speaking kings in Egypt (the Ptolemies).  A prophetic overview of the conflict can be seen in Daniel 11.  The Seleucids & the Ptolemies could easily be described as “sons of Greece,” considering that they were Hellenists who arose directly out of the death of Alexander the Great.  With all that context in mind, there was one brief period of time during which the Jews experienced a briefly independent kingdom, throwing off the reins of their Seleucid rulers: the Maccabean revolt in 166-160BC.  This one line from Zechariah looked well over 300 years into the future, giving a precise prophecy about a restored Jewish kingdom, which is proven as historically accurate.
    • How accurate are the prophecies of God?  To the letter!

14 Then the LORD will be seen over them, And His arrow will go forth like lightning. The Lord GOD will blow the trumpet, And go with whirlwinds from the south. 15 The LORD of hosts will defend them; They shall devour and subdue with slingstones. They shall drink and roar as if with wine; They shall be filled with blood like basins, Like the corners of the altar.

  • At this point, Zechariah seems to look further into the future, all the way to the day of Jesus’ 2nd Coming and the Millennial kingdom.  Although Satan and his antichrist will attempt to destroy the nation of Israel during the Great Tribulation, they will be unsuccessful.  God will protect His people, and they will ultimately be delivered when Jesus returns in power, might, and glory.  Truly, Jesus “will be seen over them” as He rides out of heaven on His white horse, with the battle trumpets of God blowing.  The strivings of the world’s armies will be useless against Him, and the blood of His enemies will rise high – even to the height of a horse’s bridle. (Rev 14:20)
  • The enemies of Israel will be defeated, but God’s own people will be saved. Vs. 16…

16 The LORD their God will save them in that day, As the flock of His people. For they shall be like the jewels of a crown, Lifted like a banner over His land— 17 For how great is its goodness And how great its beauty! Grain shall make the young men thrive, And new wine the young women.

  • Our God saves!  He promised to deliver His people from every enemy, just as He delivers us from the enemies of death, sin, and the devil.  He saves – He saves us from our sin, even saving us from ourselves! Why?  Because His people (us!) are precious to Him, “like the jewels of a crown.
  • Interestingly, the “its” in vs. 17 could be translated “His.”  So which is it: is it the land/people that is made good & beautiful, or is it the Lord God Himself?  Yes! J  God makes them good – God is the one to bless the land & make it beautiful.  The presence of the Lord God among them makes all the difference.
    • Jesus makes us good & beautiful!  It’s not our “life-change”; it’s His presence within us that brings the change.

Zechariah 10 – God the Redeemer

  • Initial promise of refreshment (10:1)

1 Ask the LORD for rain In the time of the latter rain. The LORD will make flashing clouds; He will give them showers of rain, Grass in the field for everyone.

  • Although there’s a chapter break at this spot, there’s no real reason to see too much of a break in the flow.  God has promised to sustain His people in the present, protect them in the near future, and fully deliver them in the far future through the gift of the Messiah-King.  All of these promises are wonderful blessings, and that’s what the Jews are told to ask for. 
  • For the Jews, “rain” was a needed blessing and gift from the Lord their God.  Without rain, their agricultural economy would not survive.  Thus, God’s people were to ask Him for it.  But beyond the plain need for irrigation is the symbolic need for God’s overall blessing – and God’s people were to ask.  When did they need the blessings of God?  At all times: in the current days & in the latter days.  Thus the people could ask for rain in the time of latter rain.  And what was God’s promise?  He’d give the rain!  The land and the people would be refreshed.
    • Christian, ask for rain!  For us, it’s not so much the idea of physical blessing (although it is good & right to ask God’s daily provision) – it is the spiritual blessing we are to seek.  Ask for sincerity in worship – ask for courage to share the gospel – ask for the power and gifts of the Spirit – ask for renewal and revival within the church…ask for blessing!  Ask for the things that the Scripture tells us are on God’s heart, and the promise is that He will give it!
  • One reason Israel would need blessing in the latter days?  Because they had been failed by the leadership in the days leading up to it.  Vs. 2…
  • Redemption from false shepherds (10:2-5)

2 For the idols speak delusion; The diviners envision lies, And tell false dreams; They comfort in vain. Therefore the people wend their way like sheep; They are in trouble because there is no shepherd. 3 “My anger is kindled against the shepherds, And I will punish the goatherds. For the LORD of hosts will visit His flock, The house of Judah, And will make them as His royal horse in the battle.

  • Sheep without shepherds go astray, and when shepherds neglect their duty, this is the expected result. That’s bad enough with literal sheep – but when the sheep are the people of God, it’s far worse!  Thus God promised to rise up against the false shepherds.
    • God will punish false teachers – of that, we can be sure!
  • The bad news is for the false shepherds; the good news is for His people.  Instead of wicked men leading His flock, God Himself would visit them & do it.  Jesus is the Good Shepherd who gives His life for the sheep. (Jn 10:11)
  • Even beyond God’s role as the perfect shepherd for His people, He literally would “visit” them when He walked among “the house of Judah” in His incarnation.  Jesus would arise from this house – something which is hinted at in vs. 4…

4 From him comes the cornerstone, From him the tent peg, From him the battle bow, From him every ruler together. 5 They shall be like mighty men, Who tread down their enemies In the mire of the streets in the battle. They shall fight because the LORD is with them, And the riders on horses shall be put to shame.

  • Interestingly, translations vary on verse 4.  NKJV says “from him comes…” whereas NASB says “from them come…”  According to the Hebrew, the NKJV, ESV and others are correct – this is a singular pronoun in use.  But the idea of a singular King/Shepherd arising from the many-peopled house of Judah is entirely accurate.  David was from the tribe of Judah, and it is the tribe of Judah that produces the Messiah.  Thus the idea here is that the Messiah IS the cornerstone, the tent peg, the battle bow, and the absolute ruler.
  • To date, the Jews do not yet see Jesus in that way…but they will.  And when they do, they will “be like mighty men,” treading down their enemies.  They will become mighty because of the presence of the Lord God among them.
    • Likewise with us.  How are we made strong?  Through the grace of Jesus – by the power of God the Holy Spirit.  Apart from Him, we can do nothing, but in Him & through Him, we can do anything!
  • Redemption as a nation (10:6-12)

6 “I will strengthen the house of Judah, And I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back, Because I have mercy on them. They shall be as though I had not cast them aside; For I am the LORD their God, And I will hear them.

  • How will the nation be strengthened?  Because God chose to “have mercy on them.”  The word used for mercy would be familiar to those who knew the prophecies of Hosea (who wrote well before the Babylonian captivity).  Through Hosea, God declared that the name of His people should be “Lo-Ruhamah,” because He would not show them mercy in the outpouring of His judgment. (Hos 1:6)  At the same time, He promised that would not always be the case.  Hosea 2:23, "(23) Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth, And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; Then I will say to those who were not My people, ‘You are My people!’ And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’" The generation of Zechariah’s day was currently experiencing a partial fulfillment of this prophecy.  They were experiencing the mercy of God.  But as good as things were, God promised something even better: a total restoration as a nation – a complete outpouring of mercy as if the nation had never been cast aside at all.  Vs. 7…

7 Those of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, And their heart shall rejoice as if with wine. Yes, their children shall see it and be glad; Their heart shall rejoice in the LORD. 8 I will whistle for them and gather them, For I will redeem them; And they shall increase as they once increased.

  • Notice the different names of the tribes used in vss. 6-7: Judah, Joseph, Ephraim.  Judah is plainly a reference to the south, but Joseph & Ephraim usually refer to the north.  What is prophesied is a total restoration of a unified kingdom.  North and South would be blessed.  North and South would know the mercies of God.  ALL of God’s people throughout all the tribes of Israel would know God as their God, and would rejoice in Him.  He promised to gather them back and redeem them as His own.  He promised to purchase them away from their slavery, and cause them to be increased and blessed.
  • What an amazing God we serve!  How incredible it is that He would show such mercy to such a people!  Keep in mind that we are no more deserving than they.  We have been just as sinful & rebellious, and we didn’t even have a historic covenantal tie to the Lord God.  Jesus had zero reason to reach out to us in His mercy & grace, yet He did it anyway.  Praise God for His redemption!  Praise God for His blessing!
    • Christian, this should cause us to rejoice & be glad!

9 “I will sow them among the peoples, And they shall remember Me in far countries; They shall live, together with their children, And they shall return. 10 I will also bring them back from the land of Egypt, And gather them from Assyria. I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon, Until no more room is found for them.

  • We’ve already seen a lot of back & forth in Zechariah’s prophecies: first a word for the immediate people, then a word for future generations, etc.  The same thing happens here.  God already gathered some of the people back, and promised to gather more, even still currently inviting Jews to return. (9:12)  But there’s also a promise of a future scattering and yet another future return.  They had already been scattered once because of the Babylonian captivity, and vs. 9 speaks of another scattering/sowing of the Jews among the nations of the world.  Of course this is exactly what happened after the Romans destroyed Jerusalem in 70AD.  Once more God’s people were dispersed – scattered among the peoples. 
  • But they wouldn’t remain there.  God promised to bring the Jews back from every corner of the world: from Egypt & from Assyria (potentially literal references, but also representative of the whole).  To date, well over 3 million Jews have immigrated from around the world to Israel, nearly 30,000 in 2015 alone.  For such a small nation, those are astounding figures!  Truly, God is bringing His people back to their ancestral home.
  • How many will come back?  Ultimately…all.  During the Millennial Kingdom, every square inch of the land intended by God to be used for Israel will be used by Israel.  That includes areas currently inhabited (or then-inhabited, according to Zechariah’s time) by other nations, such as Gilead & Lebanon.  The land is God’s alone to give, and He promised to give it to His people…thus it will be done.
  • This is His work of redemption. Vs. 11…

11 He shall pass through the sea with affliction, And strike the waves of the sea: All the depths of the River shall dry up. Then the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, And the scepter of Egypt shall depart. 12 “So I will strengthen them in the LORD, And they shall walk up and down in His name,” Says the LORD.

  • As when God redeemed the Hebrews out of Egypt by parting the Red Sea – as when God brought the nation into the promised land by drying up the Jordan River – so would God act again, miraculously, on behalf of His people.  No longer would other nations rule over them – God Himself will be their Lord & King, and they will find their strength in Him.

Conclusion:
Although the fate of Israel might seem questionable to places like the United Nations, according to God, their end is secure.  God made promises to His people, and He will see them through.  They will experience the personal protection of God, be regathered by God, and finally know the Son of God as their Messiah King.  All of those promises were certain, and they could trust in God’s work of deliverance, because they could see so many other of His promises come true.  As they watched God’s prophecies fulfilled one-by-one, there would be no doubt as to their ultimate outcome.

We also know our ultimate outcome as born-again believers.  We’ve also seen Him work in our lives step-by-step.  Take a moment to consider how many ways the Lord Jesus has intervened in your life – how the Spirit has equipped you for the moment – how God the Father has shown Himself sovereign.  With all of that in mind, is there anything in the present or future we cannot trust to Him?  He is our Defender, our Protector, and our Redeemer!

Going Through the Motions

Posted: October 25, 2017 in Uncategorized, Zechariah

Zechariah 7-8, “Going Through the Motions”

Have you ever found yourself just going through the motions?  Perhaps you get into your car and start driving, when all of a sudden you realize you’re driving the wrong direction, heading into work rather than to your actual destination.  It’s just a habit you’ve gotten into, which has become a rut, and you do it without thinking about it.

The same thing can happen in our worship.  We can go through the motions, engaging in habit & ritual, without really interacting with the Living God.  We’ll pray the exact same prayer we always pray at dinner – or we’ll sing the words to familiar songs without any thought to the lyrics – or our eyes will skim over the page of our daily Bible reading without comprehension.  We may have gone through the motions of prayer, song, and Bible reading…but we didn’t actually worship.

That’s something to beware…especially those of us who have been walking with the Lord for a while.  For the new believer, everything is exciting and fresh – for the rest of us, it can easily devolve into rut and ritual.  That’s not what God desires for us!  His chief command is for us to love Him with all our heart, soul, and strength.  We are to love God will all that we are, and with everything that we have.  That’s impossible to do if we’re just going through the motions.  God desires sincere worship from us – He wants us to worship Him in spirit and truth.

That’s what God has always wanted from His people, be it in the Old Testament or the New Testament, and that is what He revealed to Zechariah as the book of prophecy continues.  Zechariah’s prophecies had begun just a couple of months after Haggai’s prophetic ministry began, and God used them both to spur on the Jews returning from Babylon to get busy with the temple reconstruction.  Because of political resistance and delays to the Jews’ initial efforts when they got things started, they became hesitant to get back to work after the air cleared.  God used Haggai and Zechariah to give them confidence and courage, reaffirming that the Jews were still His people.

That was the basic message of God’s initial revelations to Zechariah.  God freely invited His people to return to Him, as He promised to return to them in mercy and grace.  God also gave a series of dreams to Zechariah illustrating all of this, showing (among other things) God once again choosing His people for Himself – declaring that He would dwell among them as King & Protector – that He would anoint and empower the people for the work – and that He would send the future Branch of David as their ultimate King.  God promised to purify His people and dwell with them forever, and that was exactly what He would do.

What next?  Time passes, and work on the temple has begun.  A new question regarding fasting is brought to the Lord, and God gives His answer through Zechariah.  The people had indeed fasted through the years, but much of what they did was simply going through the motions.  God called them to true sincere worship, and they had good reason to do so: God’s promise of blessing & presence among them!  Eventually, they would have no reason to fast & mourn – instead, they would feast & praise God.  They would be a witness unto the world, and all the nations would when they witnessed the sincere worship of Israel.

Can our worship be a witness?  When it is sincere & not just going through the motions, absolutely!

Zechariah 7: A question of fasting

  • Setting and question (1-3)

1 Now in the fourth year of King Darius it came to pass that the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, on the fourth day of the ninth month, Chislev, 2 when the people sent Sherezer, with Regem-Melech and his men, to the house of God, to pray before the LORD, 3 and to ask the priests who were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and the prophets, saying, “Should I weep in the fifth month and fast as I have done for so many years?”

  • December 7, 518BC – nearly two years after the night visions.
  • The mention of “the house of God” in vs. 2 can be a bit confusing.  Historically, although the reconstruction of the temple seemed to finally be underway, it was not yet complete.  Yet the temple might not even be in view, as the translation could easily refer to the town of Bethel (which literally means “house of God”).  Bethel had been in the northern kingdom of Israel, but when the people resettled the land after the Babylonian captivity, the old boundaries between the northern and southern kingdom no longer applied.  NASB translates vs 2: “Now the town of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regemmelech and their men to seek the favor of the LORD,” which could possibly be more historically accurate to the situation.
  • The question was whether or not the Jews ought to continue in at least one of the non-biblical fasts, i.e., practices that developed while in Babylonian captivity.  The fast of the fifth month is Tisha B’Av, which is practiced by the Jews to commemorate national tragedy.  It is linked with the sin of the Ten Spies who refused to enter the Promised Land, but at the time was primarily in reference to the destruction of the 1st temple by the Babylonians.  (Today, Tisha B’Av recalls the destruction of both temples, as well as other tragedies such as the holocaust, and is considered to be the saddest day on the Jewish calendar.)  Bottom line, now that the Jews were no longer in captivity & seeing that the temple was in the process of reconstruction, was it still necessary for them to fast about its ruin?
  • God’s answer (4-14)  Previous fasts (4-7)

4 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,

  • This is a phrase that pops up throughout the book of Zechariah, particularly later in Chapter 8.  The prophets Haggai and Zechariah (and Malachi, to a lesser extent) repeatedly refer to God as the LORD of hosts, suggesting that it was an emphasis of God to His post-exilic people.  He wanted them to know Him not only as their covenant-keeping eternally existent God, but the all-powerful God who commanded the heavenly armies.  The One who spoke promises to His people had the authority to back up His words.  The Jews may have been without an earthly king at the time, but they still had a God who had more power and authority than all of the other rulers of the world combined! (So do we!)
  • In any case, God had an answer ready for Sherezer and Regem-Melech.  Vs. 5…

5 “Say to all the people of the land, and to the priests: ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months during those seventy years, did you really fast for Me—for Me? 6 When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?

  • For all the fasting the Jews had done over the past 70 years, they had been faithful to the practice, but they hadn’t been faithful to do it for the right reasons.  They mourned the destruction of the temple in the 5th month, and they mourned the murder of Gedeliah the governor in the 7th month (the 7th month fast apparently not being a reference to Yom Kippur), but they hadn’t done any of it for God.  They practiced religion for ritual’s sake; not out of any regard for the Lord whom they claimed to worship. (Beware of falling into the rut of ritual!)
  • God knew the difference! He still does!

7 Should you not have obeyed the words which the LORD proclaimed through the former prophets when Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous, and the South and the Lowland were inhabited?’ ”

  • Fasting without obedience to the Lord was worthless.  It didn’t draw them any closer to God, and certainly didn’t bring them back to the Promised Land any sooner.  It was an outward show of religion, without any evidence of inward heart change.  The former without the latter is meaningless.
  • Their forefathers had been given the opportunity to do things the right way, but it was wasted.
  • Meaningful worship (8-10)

8 Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, 9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. 10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.’

  • This is what the Lord had desired from His people all along!  Empty fasts didn’t mean anything; true meaningful worship came from people whose hearts were bent towards the Lord – from people who not only claimed to worship God, but who actually acted as if they knew and worshipped the one true God. All the actions of vss. 8-10 describe people acting like God acts.  These are the things on His heart, so the people of God act like their God.
  • Obedience always accompanies sincere worship – always!  Those who truly love Jesus keep His commandments. (Jn 14:21)  Those who say they love Jesus but habitually ignore His commandments, are liars. (1 Jn 2:4)  This isn’t legalism; it’s common sense.  If I say I love my wife, yet routinely turn a deaf ear to her, ignoring the things she asks & pretend she doesn’t exist, what kind of “love” is that?  Worse yet, what if I actually did the things she hates – things that repulse and cause her harm?  That can be described a lot of ways, but it certainly isn’t love!  Yet that’s the way many so-called Christians treat their relationship with Jesus.  They claim to follow Him as Lord, yet act as if He’s never spoken.  That’s not love – it’s not sincere worship.
  • Hardened hearts and judgment (11-14)

11 But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders, and stopped their ears so that they could not hear. 12 Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.

  • Their disobedience and hardness of heart brought about their judgment.  It’s not that they could claim ignorance – God made His word abundantly available to them.  It’s that they ignored God’s word.  They heard it, yet shut their ears to it.  (Easy to do… Bad habit to begin!)
  • What was the result?  YHWH of Armies acted against His own people.  The Almighty God who could have (and often did) rise up on their behalf, actually rose up against them.  The ancient Jews refused God’s word, so they experienced God’s wrath.

13 Therefore it happened, that just as He proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen,” says the LORD of hosts. 14 “But I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations which they had not known. Thus the land became desolate after them, so that no one passed through or returned; for they made the pleasant land desolate.”

  • God had scattered them, flinging them into “nations which they had not known.”  They went into Babylon, Persia, and beyond.  Simply the names of the people who brought the question from Bethel indicated how far God’s people had been flung.  These were Babylonian names, most likely given to Jewish children born during the captivity.  The people had been away for so long that they even started adopting some of the culture of their captives.
  • Why rehearse all of this again?  Think through the reasons of their fasting.  They fasted the results of their tragedy; not the cause of it.  They mourned the destruction of the temple, and the murder of their former governor, but they didn’t mourn their sin which had led to those things.  Their fasting had been because of their circumstances, not their sin – and that was the reason they wondered if their fasting could stop.  Because their circumstances had changed, why continue to mourn?
  • Part of God’s point to them was: when did you ever start?  They had never fasted for the right reasons, so why bother asking if they should stop?  They were asking about the traditions of men; not the Scripture.  Until their fasts took place in sincerity, truly seeking the heart of God, then everything else was superfluous.
  • That being said, God wasn’t disciplining His people anew.  He had a marvelous plan for them, though they would have to worship Him in truth in order to walk in it.  That’s what is listed out in Chapter 8…

Zechariah 8: Future blessing and Feasts.
Depending how you count, there are 9 messages, each set apart as a different word from YHWH of the Heavenly Armies.  Technically, we could count 11, as the same phrasing of “Thus says the LORD of hosts” is found in 7:4,9, but this does seem to be a separate, yet related, series.  Others count it as a series of 4 messages, with the first two in Ch 7, and the second two in Ch 8 (8:1,18). 

  • Message #1: Zeal for Jerusalem (1-3)

1 Again the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; With great fervor I am zealous for her.’ 3 “Thus says the LORD: ‘I will return to Zion, And dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, The Mountain of the LORD of hosts, The Holy Mountain.’

  • If this sounds familiar, it should.  God had said much of this in Chapter 1.  1:14, 1:16, 2:11
  • In the past, God had disciplined His people not because He hated them, but because He loved them.  He was zealous/jealous for their sake.
  • That zeal isn’t only demonstrated in discipline, but in future blessing.  God promised to be among His people – and this would physically take place as Jesus sits as God Incarnate and King!
  • What will happen as a result?  Jerusalem will no longer be a place of desolation (7:14).  It’s not a ghost town; it will be the “City of Truth, the Mountain of the LORD of hosts, the Holy Mountain.”  What changed?  God’s physical presence among them.  It’s holy because God is holy.  And when God is on Mount Zion, then Mount Zion is holy.
    • The same principle applies to us as Christians.  How so?  We are born of the Holy Spirit, and we are now the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Because the holy God indwells us, we are holy.
    • It’s not us; it’s Him!  He gets all of the glory!
  • What will that future look like?  That’s the next message…
  • Message #2: Jerusalem’s future of peace (4-5)

4 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Old men and old women shall again sit In the streets of Jerusalem, Each one with his staff in his hand Because of great age. 5 The streets of the city Shall be full of boys and girls Playing in its streets.’

  • Instead of mourning a city destroyed by enemy armies and susceptible to murderers, the future Jerusalem will be a city of peace.  Young and old will be able to dwell in safety, without fear of any sort.
  • Question: When has this taken place?  It hasn’t…not yet.  This didn’t describe Jerusalem during the days of Zechariah, nor during the days of Jesus and the apostles.  It doesn’t even describe Jerusalem today, being that there is constant danger of terror attacks and Palestinian rockets.  This prophecy describes a Jerusalem yet-to-come: during the Millennium.
  • Does it sound good?  Absolutely!  It sounds good to God, as well.  Message 3…
  • Message #3: Marvelous blessing (6)

6 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘If it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, Will it also be marvelous in My eyes?’ Says the LORD hosts.

  • These things would have been extraordinary in the ears of the then-current Jews.  (They still sound extraordinary to us today!)  Yet if it sounded good to them, how much better did it sound to God?  Obviously, this is not difficult for Him to perform (nothing is impossible for Him), but this is a future that pleases Him and gives Him glory.  This is what He desired for His people, and He will bring it to pass.  God can fulfill His promises, and God wants to fulfill His promises.
    • Think for a moment of the promises He’s given to us.  He delights in fulfilling His word!  It glorifies Him to do so.
  • What will be involved with this sort of marvelous, peaceful future?  A reconstituted nation of Israel.  Message 4…
  • Message #4: Israel regathered (7-8)

7 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Behold, I will save My people from the land of the east And from the land of the west; 8 I will bring them back, And they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people And I will be their God, In truth and righteousness.’

  • The “land of the east and…west” could literally be translated as “land of the rising sun and land of the setting sun.”  The idea is that God will save His people from wherever they might be on the earth – wherever the sun touches.  This is speaking of a total regathering of His people, as they are formed into a nation that worships God as “their God in truth and righteousness.
  • Again, this cannot easily refer to the generation of Zechariah.  Yes, the Jews at that time had indeed gathered back into the land, and they did worship God as their God.  Yet even that is not the fullest extent of this prophecy.  This speaks of a complete regathering, and total revival – something which was not the case even in the best days of Zechariah and Haggai.  Thus, this must still look towards the future.  The whole context of the prophecy in Ch 8 has been regarding Millennial Jerusalem, and that seems to be the case here.  Although Jews continue to return to Jerusalem even today, they still do not worship God in truth & righteousness as long as they reject Jesus.  Yet one day, they won’t.  Eventually, the blinders will be removed from their eyes & they will see Jesus as He is, “and so all Israel will be saved.” (Rom 11:26)
  • Even so, this future prophecy still had application to the Jews of Zechariah’s day (and for us).  This sort of sincere worship was God’s desire for them.  Yes, the nation would be assured of experiencing it in the future, by why wait?  Why not start today?
  • In fact, that’s the point of the next message…
  • Message #5: Be strong; trust God (9-13)

9 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Let your hands be strong, You who have been hearing in these days These words by the mouth of the prophets, Who spoke in the day the foundation was laid For the house of the LORD of hosts, That the temple might be built. 10 For before these days There were no wages for man nor any hire for beast; There was no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in; For I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor.

  • In light of the future promises, the Jews were to be “strong” and faithful in the present.  They were to hold to the promises of God.  They had heard the word of the Lord via the prophets; now they were to believe it.
  • Why?  “These days” were different.  In the past, God had truly worked against His people.  God had set them against one another, and their man-made plans were futile.  But that’s not what God was doing now.  God was in the middle of something different.  Vs. 11…

11 But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ says the LORD of hosts. 12 ‘For the seed shall be prosperous, The vine shall give its fruit, The ground shall give her increase, And the heavens shall give their dew— I will cause the remnant of this people To possess all these.

  • Before, there was strife & judgment.  Now, there would be blessing!  The Almighty God promised to bless them in the land of promise, giving them the physical provision that they needed.
  • Not only would they be blessed, but they would be a blessing.  Vs. 13…

13 And it shall come to pass That just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, So I will save you, and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, Let your hands be strong.’

  • In the past, Judah had become a curse & byword. They were humiliated among the nations of the world, and despised by all who saw them.  Yet in their restored relationship with the Lord, everything flipped.  No longer were they a curse, but a blessing.  The nations would see them, and know the work of God among them. …
    • Isn’t it amazing what God can do with our circumstances?  We may experience terrible consequences due to sin, but that doesn’t mean we’re always doomed to be known by our sin.  Those who find forgiveness in Jesus find restoration and a future.  They may not regain every single detail of what was lost, but what they do receive is wonderful!  Sometimes, their testimony of restoration is exactly what is needed to bring someone else to faith in Christ.  What a blessing they are to others around them!
  • As for the Jews, God promised them that they would be a blessing.  So what ought their response be?  Exactly what God said in vs. 9: be strong!  Don’t fear – trust God – stand firm in what God has for you.
  • And what He has is good!  Message 6…
  • Message #6: God’s determined purpose (14-17)

14 “For thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Just as I determined to punish you When your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ Says the LORD of hosts, ‘And I would not relent, 15 So again in these days I am determined to do good To Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear.

  • God was just as purposed to do good for Israel as He was to fulfill His wrath.  That’s determined!
  • God has determined to do good with you!  Not in a name-it-and-claim-it sort of way, or some false sense of “good” based on our wealth and circumstances – God has something far better in mind for us.  His plan for us is what will bring Him the most glory.  He is determined to do good!  … This is where the famous promises of Romans 8:28 speaks so loudly.  Romans 8:28–30, "(28) And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose. (29) For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (30) Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified."  Often, we read this passage & stop only with vs. 28 – but Paul had a much bigger picture in mind when he wrote this.  Does God help us in our weaknesses?  Yes!  (Rom 8:26)  The Holy Spirit prays for us, and helps us through all our circumstances.  Is God sovereign over all things?  Without question, and God knows what needs to happen in order to bring about His desired end result.  But what is the very best thing that can happen to us as born-again believers?  That we might continue to be shaped into the image of Jesus.  And God will cause all things in our lives to bring us to that point!
  • In light of all this, “do not fear.”  Why would we?  God has good in mind!
  • So the Jews are told not to fear; they are also told what to do.  Vs. 16…

16 These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; 17 Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the LORD.”

  • The things declared by God back in 7:9-10 are basically repeated here.  He reiterates that these are the things He wants from His people.
  • God’s people are supposed to act like God’s people.  God had a glorious plan for their good: their salvation…but that doesn’t mean they were to do nothing.  They were to obey, and follow their God in righteousness.  (Us too!)

A lot has been said to this point.  Chapter 7 opened with a question regarding fasts, and God pointed out that their fasts in the past were insincere and done for the wrong reasons.  Yet He had a great future in store for them, and they could walk rightly with God in anticipation of that time.  But what about the fasts themselves?  God finally gets back to that in the 7th message…

  • Message #7: Fasts to Feasts (18-19)

18 Then the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 19 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘The fast of the fourth month, The fast of the fifth, The fast of the seventh, And the fast of the tenth, Shall be joy and gladness and cheerful feasts For the house of Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.’

  • That’s a lot of fasts!  Most scholars believe that none of these were tied to the Biblical fasts detailed in Leviticus 23 and elsewhere.  These weren’t prescribed by God for the Hebrew calendar.  Instead, all these fasts were connected in some way to the fall of Jerusalem or the temple.  These were all fasts associated with their exile in Babylon.
  • The good news?  All those fasts were over!  Those fasts would turn to feasts – the mourning of the people should turn to joy.  Why?  Their relationship with God was renewed & restored!  God was doing something great among them.  More than just the future promises regarding the Millennial Kingdom; God was doing something great among them right then & there.  They could & should rejoice in God!  They should love God – love His truth, love His peace.  They had every reason in the world to worship Him, and worship Him sincerely.
    • If that could be said of the ancient post-exilic Jews, how much more can it be said of born-again Christians?  We have every reason to praise God!  Yes, we have a glorious future in heaven to which we look…but our relationship with Jesus isn’t only based on future promises.  These are things we enjoy with Him right now!
    • What things do you mourn today regarding your relationship with God?  Why mourn?  Certainly, we should be grieved over sin – but not a single born-again Christian ever need live in grief.  When confessed to God, our sin is cleansed. (1 Jn 1:9)  We are forgiven – we are set apart – we are made pure & holy.  Now we don’t live to grieve; we live to praise!  1 Peter 2:9–10, "(9) But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; (10) who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy."  Praise Him!
  • The Jews in Jerusalem wouldn’t be the only people in the world to benefit when they began to love God & His truth in sincere worship.  So would everyone else.  Message 8…
  • Message #8: Nations come to worship (20-22)

20 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Peoples shall yet come, Inhabitants of many cities; 21 The inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, “Let us continue to go and pray before the LORD, And seek the LORD of hosts. I myself will go also.” 22 Yes, many peoples and strong nations Shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, And to pray before the LORD.’

  • The cities outside of Jerusalem would come to Jerusalem.  Nations outside of Israel would come to Israel.  People from all around the world will one day see the work of God among His people (especially when the Jews finally come to faith in Jesus), and they will flock to Jerusalem to worship the LORD of hosts.  It is exactly as Paul wrote to the Philippians that every knee will bow & every tongue confess, that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:10-11)
  • Message #9: Nations come to worship, pt 2 (23)

23 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” ’ ”

  • As if simply to emphasize the point, God gives Zechariah an entirely new prophetic word saying almost exactly the same sort of idea.  The people of the world will be so amazed by the work of God that they will virtually compel the Jews to take them to Jerusalem to worship.  Amazing!  It may be difficult for us to imagine in this present day, but there is no doubt that this is exactly what will happen after Jesus returns to earth in glory and all the world knows Him to be King of kings & Lord of lords!
  • Question: Is this only for the Jews & only for the future?  Not at all.  Sincere worship is a witness to the world.  When outsiders see Christians truly worshipping God – when our lives have been visibly and undeniably transformed – when the love of Jesus is tangible upon us – when we are so transformed by God the Father & empowered by God the Holy Spirit that people cannot deny the work of Jesus among us…they cannot help but respond!  They will be like the Philippian jailer, so amazed by the miracle of God wrought on behalf of Paul and Silas, that they cry out, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30)  Jesus put it this way: Matthew 5:16, "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven."  Keep in mind that Jesus wasn’t giving a list of legalistic demands and rituals for people to keep; He was contextually speaking of a life surrendered to His gospel, completely dependent upon the grace of God & following after Christ as Lord.  When people see that, they cannot help but give glory to God.

Conclusion:
Beloved, worship sincerely!  Don’t just go through the motions of religion and legalistic lifestyles.  Who does it benefit?  It doesn’t help us – it doesn’t draw others to Christ – it certainly doesn’t please God.  But true worship – sincere worship – worship that transforms our entire lives?  That’s something that gives glory to God, and causes others to glorify Him as well.

The Jews had gotten caught up in traditions of men & virtually lost sight of sincere worship…even while they were in the middle of a grand national revival.  It’s easy to lose sight of sincerity in the middle of a religious culture.  It’s actually one of the easiest places to do so.

Let us resolve to be different!  May we continually be so amazed and overwhelmed by the love of Jesus for us, that we worship Him passionately and sincerely.  He is zealous for us – let us be zealous for Him, not giving Him lip-service, but giving ourselves as true living sacrifices for His glory.

A Night to Remember

Posted: October 18, 2017 in Uncategorized, Zechariah

Zechariah 4-6, “A Night to Remember”

What’s the weirdest dream you’ve had?  Dreams can get rather bizarre at times, to say the least!  Most dreams we cannot remember, but occasionally we have dreams we cannot forget.  Such was the case with Zechariah.  He had one very dream-filled night (if not restful), and it was a night he would never be able to forget.  His dreams were revelations from the Lord, and what he saw was amazing!  God showed the prophet His current plans for His people, affirmed His sovereignty over the world, and gave Zechariah a glimpse of the future glorious Messiah.  Most certainly, this was a night to remember!

Considering that chapter 4 begins halfway through the visions, it’s necessary to back up a bit to remember our context and what God revealed to Zechariah as the night began.  We’re given a very specific timeframe for Zechariah’s writing, with the book opening a mere 2 months after the first two prophetic oracles were given to Haggai.  This had been a time of political hesitation among the Jewish refugees.  A sizable (but relatively small) contingent of Jews had returned to the land after 70 years of Babylonian captivity, and they wasted little time going about the reconstruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  They had only just laid the foundation of the building when they encountered opposition from local enemies, and they maneuvered the Persian government to put a halt to the temple restoration (under suspicion of sedition).  Things got bogged down in red-tape (as they typically do), but eventually a new king sat on the throne of Persia, and he granted the Jews permission to restart their rebuilding.

The problem was, they hadn’t done it.  They finally had permission to rebuild the temple, but they lacked the courage.  That’s when God raised up men like Haggai and Zechariah, to help spur the leaders and people into action.  God gave the people an open invitation: if they returned to Him in repentance, He would return to them in relationship as their covenant God. (1:3). He offered them an abundance of grace and mercy, if they but followed Him as Lord (as they were meant to do.)

Around three months following that invitation, Zechariah received a series of dreams during the course of one particular night (February 15, 519BC).  In the first vision, he saw four horses: a man on a red horse, a second red horse, a sorrel/chestnut-brown horse, and a white horse.  These had been sent by God to patrol the earth, and they came back with a report that the nations of the world were at ease, even while the people in Jerusalem were on edge.  God promised to act on behalf of His people, being zealous for them, and He declared that not only would His house be built in Jerusalem, but that He would once again choose Jerusalem for His own, comforting His people.

In the second vision, Zechariah saw four horns, representing the various nations that had scattered the Jews throughout the earth.  Yet in response to the four horns were four craftsmen – instruments of God that would be used to “saw ‘em off” (whoop!), and execute God’s judgment upon them.

For the third vision, Zechariah saw a man measuring the literal dimensions of a future-Jerusalem.  It would be without walls because God Himself would dwell among them and be a wall of fire surrounding them as protection.  (Ultimately envisioning God’s relationship with Jerusalem during the Millennial Kingdom.)

During the fourth vision of the night, Zechariah saw the high priest Joshua as the subject of an argument between Satan and the Angel of the Lord (the pre-incarnate Jesus).  Jesus defended Joshua, removed his iniquity from him, and clothed him in righteousness.  What the Angel of the Lord did with Joshua was symbolic of what He would do with the entire nation, as God gave a promise of a future Davidic Branch rising up to rule over Israel and to remove her iniquity forever.

Those are wonderful promises for the nation…quite comforting for a fledgling refugee people just starting to get resettled in their home!  But the night wasn’t yet over.  God had more to show His people, so He had more dreams to impart to Zechariah.  There was a wonderful future in store for the Jews.  Not only would the present projects be completed, but the future of the nation was already established.  A glorious King & Priest would be given to the nation in times to come.  For now, the Jews simply needed to hold on.  If they were obedient now, they could trust God’s provision for the future.

Zechariah 4
* Vision of the Lampstand and Trees (4:1-14)
1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.

  1. Again, the night wasn’t yet over.  Zechariah had already been shown four dreams, but there were four more yet to come.  Although it’s almost comical to think of Zechariah dozing off in the middle of a dream, that seems to have been the case.  God had more to show His prophet, and he needed to be awake to see it.
  2. Have you ever noticed how often sleepiness hits during times of prayer or Bible study?  It’s not that we’re bored; our spirits may be willing, but our flesh is often weak.  The devil and his minions are quite skilled in the art of distraction, and he wants to do everything possible to keep our eyes off the Lord and His word.  Don’t be discouraged when you find yourself sleepy or distracted; be encouraged.  It may be that the devil found you as a threat!  Use those times as an extra incentive to seek the Lord!

2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. 3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

  1. This is quite the picture, being reminiscent of the lampstand (Menorah) in the tabernacle & temple.  Like the tabernacle Menorah, this also had seven lamps (the tabernacle version mentions six, but there are three to either side of a center lamp, making seven), but this had seven pipes leading to each of the lamps.  The reason for the difference?  Although the original lamps in the tabernacle and temple were fueled by oil, it was oil that needed constant replenishing. (Exo 27:20, Lev 24:1-4). This new lamp had an automatic fuel source.  There was a bowl on top, seemingly serving as a reservoir from which olive oil would flow to the various branches.
  2. That wasn’t all.  In addition to the lamp and bowl were “two olive trees” on either side of the lamp.  On one hand, the olive trees make sense, in that the oil used as fuel was olive oil – but on the other hand, it’s a confirmation that although this was a temple-style Menorah lamp, Zechariah was not looking inside the temple, as there were no trees in the original.  Thus this would have stood out to him as highly unusual, which is the reason he asked the question he did…

4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?” 5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”

  1. Although Zechariah’s question seems reasonable, the question of the angel is surprising.  Was Zechariah inherently supposed to understand these things? Was the angel taken aback by Zechariah’s lack of understanding?  No.  It’s a rhetorical technique, attempting to enhance the intrigue and tension.
  2. The good news is that although Zechariah didn’t yet understand what he saw, he knew that he had the opportunity to ask.  What he didn’t comprehend, he knew that God would clarify. (Likewise with us!  What we do not understand, we have the privilege to take to our teacher, the Holy Spirit.  Ask Him – seek Him through His word.  We can be sure that our God does not desire us to remain in theological confusion.)
  3. Interestingly, the angel doesn’t directly answer Zechariah’s question…at least, not yet.  First things first: the angel delivers the word of the Lord to the prophet.  The angel could have explained the symbols, but they wouldn’t have made any sense.  God had given His word as a foundation for the vision, thus His word was necessary for the right interpretation. (God’s word always comes first!  We do not rely on ecstatic experiences or emotions; we build our lives upon the all-sufficient word of God.  That’s not to say God doesn’t give us marvelous experiences, but those things are only rightly understood, when they are understood in the context of Scripture.)
  4. What was the word?  Vs. 6…

6 So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the LORD of hosts.

  1. Zechariah received a word for Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem.  Zerubbabel was a legitimate heir of David, but he was not given power and authority to lead as king.  The Jews may have been returned to their land, but they were still subject to Persia. No doubt, Zerubbabel felt rather tiny in comparison to his heritage.  Yet in God’s sight, those circumstances meant nothing.  God had a plan for Zerubbabel, and it was beyond his comprehension.
  2. What was it?  Zerubbabel was to be empowered by the Holy Spirit of God!  The reason he struggled so much in his task was because he was struggling in his own might.  He was (like so many of us) relying upon himself to do what he felt God had called him to do.  Trying to work the will of God in the power of the flesh will always be futile.  What Zerubbabel needed was the power of God…and that’s exactly what God offered to him!
  3. That’s not just Zerubbabel; that’s all of us!  Jesus promised that the Holy Spirit would give us power to live as His witnesses & disciples. (Acts 1:8). Paul commanded the Ephesian church to be continually filled with the Holy Spirit, if they were to walk worthy of the calling with which they were called. (Eph 5:18)  We need the power that only God the Holy Spirit can provide. Our works through our flesh will always struggle and fail.  God’s work through God’s power will always accomplish His end.

7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ”

  1. Zerubbabel faced incredible difficulties in the task of rebuilding the temple.  Those challenges would have seemed like impossible mountains to overcome.  Yet nothing is impossible to God!  God can do anything, and when God the Holy Spirit empowers His people, we CAN do anything that He calls us to do.
  2. Do we get the credit?  No!  God does.  This is a work of His “grace.”  Zerubbabel would be well aware that he hadn’t done anything worthy of praise.  In his own eyes, he was weak & small.  It was by the power of the Holy Spirit that these things would happen, and thus it was only by the grace of God.  (Beware that we give glory to God for the things He has done!  If it’s by HIS Spirit, then it is by HIS grace.  We can rejoice that we are used by God, but we are only the tools; He is the skilled worker.)
  3. Not only would Zerubbabel experience the grace of God in building the temple, but he would be a conduit/instrument of the grace of God to others.  They would benefit of the grace of God through the construction of the temple. They would celebrate the grace of God when they witnessed the power of the Holy Spirit in the life of Zerubbabel.  (Use the gifts!  Be filled with the Spirit!  Walk in His power, and be a witness to all.)

8 Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 9 “The hands of Zerubbabel Have laid the foundation of this temple; His hands shall also finish it. Then you will know That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.

  1. What a glorious confirmation!  What Zerubbabel would start, God would empower him to finish.  God did not plan to begin a work in the Jewish governor that He did not promise to see through to completion.  (How much more is this true regarding our salvation?  Phil 1:6)
  2. Simply the completion of the project would be a witness unto the Lord.  Finishing would be a confirmation of God’s will & work among the Jews.  The people would truly know that their covenant God had not abandoned them, for they would be able to see His active work among them, reestablishing them as a people group, giving them a tangible way in which they could worship them.  (What is our confirmation?  The resurrection!  Being born of the Spirit!  The existence of the church!)

10 For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

  1. Zerubbabel may have a small beginning with a small foundation leading a small people with small influence…but they served a big God!  There would be huge results!
  2. Don’t despise the day of small things!  Small things done for the glory of God is massive work, and leads to eternal results!
  3. Why not despise small beginnings?  Why not be discouraged by tiny things?  Because when we’re being faithful to God’s plan, He’s pleased with us!  He saw what Zerubbabel was doing, and rejoiced!

11 Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees—at the right of the lampstand and at its left?” 12 And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?” 13 Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”

  1. Zechariah repeated his question; the angel repeated his own.  Zechariah seemed to be particularly interested in the two olive trees.
  2. Now that he had the word of God, he was prepared for the answer.

14 So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.”

  1. Often, when we hear the term “anointed one,” we think of the title given to the Messiah (which is literally how it can be translated).  Yet the context here is obviously NOT the Messiah, if for no other reason, because there are two trees & thus two anointed ones; not one single person.  But there’s another reason not to think this is a reference to Jesus: the Hebrew term is NOT “Messiah.”  Literally, the Hebrew for “anointed ones” is “sons of oil.”
  2. That being the case, who among the Hebrews would have been known for their association with oil?  Which offices among Israel were anointed positions in the Old Testament?  Kings and priests.  The anointing of oil symbolized the work of the Holy Spirit upon them.
  3. Who exactly were these sons of oil?  Theories abound.  Some believe these to be the two witnesses of Revelation, most likely being Moses & Elijah.  Others believe it to be representative of the Old and New Testaments as a whole.  Contextually speaking, with the word of God regarding Zerubbabel, and the rebuilding of the temple, it is perhaps best to think of these two olive trees as Zerubbabel and Joshua.  One represents the kings; the other, the priests.  Both would be anointed by God, and empowered by the Spirit for the tasks that lay ahead of them.  — Not only would Zerubbabel have the specific promise of being empowered by God the Holy Spirit, but he could know he wouldn’t be alone.  The Spirit rested upon more than just one person among the Jews; God had a plan for all those whom He would use.  (Praise God that the Spirit is given to ALL Christians today!  May we walk in His filling & in His power!)

Zechariah 5
* Vision of the flying scroll (5:1-4)
1 Then I turned and raised my eyes, and saw there a flying scroll. 2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I answered, “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits.”

  1. A flying scroll, like a flying carpet.  We can imagine it, partially unrolled, flying through the air.  And it would have been impossible to miss, as it was a large book!  Basically 32’x16’ – some have noted that these were the same dimensions of the Holy of Holies inside the ancient tabernacle.  It’s unclear from the text if that has any relevance here, but it’s an interesting thought.
  2. Far more important than the size of the scroll is the text written upon it.  What did it say?  We’re given a bit of an excerpt in vs. 3…

3 Then he said to me, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘Every thief shall be expelled,’ according to this side of the scroll; and, ‘Every perjurer shall be expelled,’ according to that side of it.”

  1. Apparently, this was God’s word of judgment, based on the 10 Commandments, which was the basic covenant agreement between God and His people.
  2. What was read to Zechariah was stated in the negative, speaking of people who would be “expelled.”  The wicked have no access to the kingdom.

4 “I will send out the curse,” says the LORD of hosts; “It shall enter the house of the thief And the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house And consume it, with its timber and stones.”

  1. God promises to judge the wicked ones among the Jews.  “By My name.”
  2. Of course, the promise of judgment is more than to only the Jews; all who treat the name of God lightly will be judged.
  3. Bottom line: God’s covenant law is still in effect for His people.  In all their years of captivity, God’s covenant relationship with them never went void.

* Vision of the woman in a basket (5:5-11
5 Then the angel who talked with me came out and said to me, “Lift your eyes now, and see what this is that goes forth.” 6 So I asked, “What is it?” And he said, “It is a basket that is going forth.” He also said, “This is their resemblance throughout the earth: 7 Here is a lead disc lifted up, and this is a woman sitting inside the basket”;

  1. Literally, the “basket” is an ephah – a measurement of volume.  Apparently that was the size of the basket/bucket.  It was big enough to carry a person, and that’s exactly what happened.  A woman was inside, who was initially covered by a lead lid, until it was lifted up in order for the woman to be seen.
  2. Interestingly, the angel doesn’t want for Zechariah to ask any questions about whether or not he understands this.  Obviously he doesn’t…who would?! 🙂

8 then he said, “This is Wickedness!” And he thrust her down into the basket, and threw the lead cover over its mouth.

  1. The woman had a name: “Wickedness.”  She was the personification of sin – of everything that was evil among men in general, and among the Jews in particular.  The woman was seen for just a moment, and then covered again by the lead disc, unable to leave her place in the ephah-basket.
  2. Bizarre?  Sure…but a good reminder for us to read the Scripture in context.  If we were to stop here, we would be left in total confusion.  Even to quote this one vision without any context would leave us fairly bewildered.  It’s when we see the fullness of this vision within the fullness of the many visions given that night to Zechariah that some of this falls into place.  Context is key!
  3. As for the context here, the woman of Wickedness is not the only female mentioned.  There are two more.  Vs. 9…

9 Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were two women, coming with the wind in their wings; for they had wings like the wings of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and heaven.

  1. Be careful not to take the Woman as Wickedness too far.  Obviously the vision isn’t showing ALL women as bad.  There was one woman embodying Wickedness, and two other angelic women who were servants of God.
  2. How were they serving?  They had wings like that of a large bird (a stork), and they carried this ephah-basket to a different location, which set the stage for Zechariah’s next question…

10 So I said to the angel who talked with me, “Where are they carrying the basket?” 11 And he said to me, “To build a house for it in the land of Shinar; when it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base.”

  1. Shinar = Babylon. (Genesis 10:10, Nimrod; Genesis 11:2, Tower of Babel; )
  2. Put it together: Wickedness personified is trapped in a basket, and taken out of the sight of a Jerusalem prophet, headed towards the land of Babylon.  God was removing Wickedness  from His people…yet another act of the grace of God.
  3. In addition, we cannot help but see a potential parallel with Revelation 17.  There, another woman of wickedness is described: a harlot, known as Mystery Babylon.  It seems possible that the wickedness once found among God’s people is the same evil that will be found in the future Babylonian city as it rises up against Israel during the Great Tribulation.  (Certainly wickedness is not original to the Hebrews, nor found only in Babylon – but there’s definitely nothing new about sin.  The same temptations and sin that plagued Adam and Eve in the Garden still plague us today.  Thankfully, the solution is the same: the grace of God through Jesus Christ!)
  4. The book of Revelation aside, one thing is clear in the book of Zechariah: God has dealt with the sins of His people!  Earlier, He declared how He would dwell among them, but He would not do so as long as sinful wickedness was rampant.  So He removed it from them by an act of His power and grace.  (That’s the only way wickedness is ever removed: by the grace of God!  This is what Jesus has done for us.)

Zechariah 6
* Vision of the four chariots (6:1-8)
1 Then I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains, and the mountains were mountains of bronze. 2 With the first chariot were red horses, with the second chariot black horses, 3 with the third chariot white horses, and with the fourth chariot dappled horses—strong steeds.

  1. Very similar to Zechariah’s 1st vision, only then it was one rider among four horses of three colors, and here there are four chariots with four different colors of horses.  At this point, there’s a more direct correlation to Revelation 6, and the four horsemen of the Apocalypse, at least in terms of color.  The duties of the horses and chariots/riders still seem to be quite different.  (Be careful with drawing hard conclusions based on nothing but similarities in description.  Satan can appear as an angel of light, but it doesn’t make him good.  Firm Bible interpretation needs to be based on the text within its context.)

4 Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” 5 And the angel answered and said to me, “These are four spirits of heaven, who go out from their station before the Lord of all the earth.  6 The one with the black horses is going to the north country, the white are going after them, and the dappled are going toward the south country.” 7 Then the strong steeds went out, eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And He said, “Go, walk to and fro throughout the earth.” So they walked to and fro throughout the earth.

  1. As in chapter 1, these chariots were sent out by God to patrol the earth, and to work His will.  The chariots were manned by four spirits – unnamed angels of God, but no doubt His messengers and servants.
  2. Black & white went to the north.  Dappled went to the south.  No mention of where the red horses went.  We might assume to the east (considering that going west led only to the Mediterranean Sea), but the Scripture simply doesn’t tell us.
  3. What did they accomplish?  Vs. 8…

8 And He called to me, and spoke to me, saying, “See, those who go toward the north country have given rest to My Spirit in the north country.”

  1. The chariots that went north gave “rest” to God’s Spirit.  They gave quiet & calm.
  2. Perhaps indicative of the judgment of God upon Persia and other nations of the north.  The same nations that thought themselves at ease & quietly resting (1:11) are the nations that would be judged, and now God’s own Spirit would be at ease.  While God’s people were restless, so was God as their Chief Defender.  Now that their enemies were judged, God extended His calm peace to His people.  Once again, He shows Himself as their Covenant God, affirming His renewed relationship with them.

With that, the main visions end.  There’s one more revelation given to Zechariah.  It was certainly visual in nature, but it’s unclear if it was included among the eight previous dreams that occurred in a single night.

* Joshua looking to the Branch (6:9-15)
9 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: 10 “Receive the gift from the captives—from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have come from Babylon—and go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah. 11 Take the silver and gold, make an elaborate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

  1. A contingent had arrived in Jerusalem from Babylon, and they brought with them a gift of precious metals.  The command from God was for them to use those things to make a royal crown.
  2. Technically, they were commanded to make plural “crowns” – perhaps a reference to a single multi-tiered crown to be set on the head of one person.
  3. Who was the multi-crown for? “Joshua…the high priest.”  Why would the high priest receive a royal crown?  Because this Joshua typified another Joshua-to-come: Jesus!  How do we know for sure?  Verse 12…

12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the LORD; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” ’

  1. In 3:8, God already spoke of the BRANCH, whom Joshua would see.  This was the royal offshoot of the lineage of David, who was to rule over Israel as king.  If Joshua was to look upon that Branch, then Joshua himself cannot be that Branch…and he isn’t.  This Branch is a different Joshua – it is Jesus.
  2. Future Branch, future temple.  Look again at the text: “And He shall build the temple of the LORD.”  Considering that God already made it clear in Ch.6 that Zerubbabel would build the temple through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, and that the Spirit would ensure that Zerubbabel saw it through to completion, how could this Branch build the temple?  It will have to be a NEW temple: the Millennial temple.  This Person had not yet appeared (thus the label as the Branch/offshoot), but He would appear, and His work would be evident among Israel.
  3. The Branch would have majestic splendor and royal reign. “He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne.”  This is another indication this cannot refer to the then-current Joshua.  Joshua was a Levitical priest; not a Davidic king.  Joshua had no throne from which he would rule, nor did he receive any glory due only to God.  Thus, the Branch is someone different.
  4. Put it all together, and it is evident that the Branch is none other than the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.  The whole picture here is that the Branch would be both priest and king.  (Hebrews 7, Psalm 110:4, the line of Melchizedek.). This is our Jesus!  He is the King of Israel, and the King of the world.  He is the High Priest for all time, in addition to being the sin-sacrifice for all mankind.  He is all the fulfillment of all the promises of God to all the world.  He is our hope – our Savior – our Jesus!

14 “Now the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the LORD for Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah. 15 Even those from afar shall come and build the temple of the LORD. Then you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”

  1. The crown was made for Joshua, worn once, and then forever to be placed within the temple as memorial.  Why?  Again, because it wasn’t for this Joshua; it was for the next one.  It would sit as a continual memorial to remind the people to be looking for this King & Priest yet to come.
  2. This is one of the purposes of communion!  It is a memorial for what is yet to come!
  3. Interestingly, some of the names from earlier have been changed.  Speculations abound as to why – ultimately, neither Zechariah nor the angel tells us.  It’s possible that some different people are involved in the memorial, than from those who had brought the gift.  It’s also possible that some of the people can be referred to by more than one name, such as the son of Zephaniah.  Whatever the reason, these were the ones who would witness the memorial crown in the temple, and they would represent Israel in looking forward to the future Messiah-King-Priest.
  4. And the Jews wouldn’t the only ones to look forward.  “Those from afar” would be involved in building this future temple, and thus also know the God of Israel in true faith.  Gentiles would worship the Hebrew God, for the God of Israel is also the God of the entire world.  The Messiah isn’t only the King of the Jews; Jesus is the King of the Universe.  All peoples from all nations are invited to come & put their faith in Him in order to be saved.  (Even people like us!)
  5. The final word to Zechariah in regards to all of this?  Obey.  God had a glorious plan for His people, and would bring forth an incredible King-Priest in the future, but in the meantime, the Jews still had a covenant relationship with their God.  They needed to obey and serve Him.

Conclusion:
The visions and dreams may seem to us to be a bit strange…no doubt they seemed strange to Zechariah, too!  Yet what he saw was truly wonderful!  At this point his people struggled with their identity and mission.  God had brought them back into the land of Israel, but they weren’t sure what they could/should do within it.  They had encountered challenges and struggles…were they on their own?  Did God hang them out to dry?

Not at all!  God was with them, empowering them, acting on their behalf, and providing for their future.  God the Holy Spirit would strengthen Zerubbabel to complete the temple – God would continue to purify His people from sin – He would remove wickedness from their midst through His grace – He would rise up against their worldwide enemies – and His Messiah would graciously rule over them as King & Priest forever.  God had not abandoned them…not by a long shot!

Does it seem as if you’re hanging on by a thread?  Hold fast to Jesus!  Be filled and empowered by God the Holy Spirit, and trust the sure promises of God.  He knows what you’re enduring, and He has never left you or abandoned you.  Rest securely in His love and work for you.

God Remembers

Posted: November 1, 2015 in Route 66, Zechariah

Route 66: Zechariah, “God Remembers”

Do you know what it is to be forgotten?  Maybe you know what it’s like to be the last kid picked for the soccer team, or found yourself sitting alone while your supposed-ride is nowhere to be seen.  There’s that sinking feeling in our gut when we know we’ve been forgotten, and it can be difficult to shake.

Some people feel that way with God.  They look at their lives & believe God has forgotten them.  After all (they think), why would things be happening to them the way they are, if God knew about them & remembered them?  They feel alone and abandoned.  Yet the good news of the Bible is that Jesus promises that He will be with His disciples, even to the end of the age.  God promises that He will neither leave nor forsake His people.  God doesn’t forget – God remembers.

That’s the message Zechariah conveys to his own people living in the ruined city of Jerusalem.  Because of their disobedience, God sent them into 70 years of Babylonian captivity, and they had recently returned home.  Yet once they got there, they immediately experienced challenges, and it caused them to wonder what was going on.  Had God forgotten them?  Had He left them to perish?  No.  And God spoke through Zechariah to assure them that He remembered.

BACKGROUND:
At first glance, some might wonder why a book with 14 chapters is included as one of the “Minor” Prophets.  It certainly is a change from the 2-3 chapter books the Minor Prophets are known for.  A closer look, however, shows a perfect placement within the OT canon.  Zechariah and Haggai were contemporaries of one another, writing about much of the same subjects, with some of their writings overlapping only by a period of months.  When God spoke to His people at that time, it was a 1-2 punch (lovingly speaking), first through Haggai & then through Zechariah.  He definitely wanted His people to get the point!

It makes sense then, that the background to Zechariah is much the same as it is for Haggai.  Zechariah was writing to the post-exilic Jews who had become discouraged in the process of rebuilding the Jerusalem temple.  When the Jews were first sent out of Babylon by the decree of Cyrus (Ezra 1:1-4), a group of 42,000 men (not including women and children) took up the journey back to Jerusalem, led by the Jewish governor Zerubbabel.  They immediately began the process of rebuilding the altar of sacrifice & laid the foundation for the temple, but quickly ran into resistance.  While they worked through these issues, apathy seemed to set in & they allowed 18 years to pass while they got into the habits of their own daily lives.

That’s when God raised up men like Haggai & Zechariah.  With Haggai, God gave 4 messages over the period of 4 months, and then Haggai disappears from the scene.  It was a call-to-arms – a kick in the pants to get moving again and a reminder of the disobedience that caused their exile to Babylon in the 1st place.  With Zechariah, it’s similar, but more extensive.  Once again, God does exhort His people to get moving again in regards to the temple, but He also goes to great lengths to assure them that He has not forgotten them.  God had a vast plan in mind for His people, and He wanted His people to know that He knew about it.

Zechariah’s own name is interesting in this regard.  His name literally means “the LORD remembers.”  God remembers His promises to His people.  He had not forgotten about them during the 70 years of captivity.  He had not forgotten about them in the 18 years of their apathy.  He had not forgotten about them at the present time, and He would never forget them in the future.  He remembered His covenant promises made to David & the whole nation of Israel, and God would see those promises come true.  He would not only preserve His people during the current years, but He would send the Promised Messiah to them.  In fact, the Messiah would come not just once, but twice.  First, He’d be rejected – but later He would come in victory, and all of Israel would see Him for who He truly is.  The future kingdom of Israel is a kingdom that would extend over all the world, and everyone would come and worship the King – the Messiah – the Lord God Himself in the midst of His people.

SIGNIFICANCE
So much of Zechariah’s prophecy is dedicated to the Lord Jesus, which makes it interesting that it is so unknown among NT Christians.  In Zechariah, we see Jesus as combined King and Priest of Israel (6:12-13).  We see the prophecy of Jesus riding into Jerusalem on a donkey, fulfilled during the Triumphal Entry (9:9).  We see the prophecy of Jesus being betrayed for 30 pieces of silver, later thrown into the temple (11:12-13).  We see the prophecy of Jerusalem mourning for the one they had pierced (12:10).  We see the (yet to be fulfilled) prophecy of Jesus’ return upon the Mt. of Olives, with it splitting in two (14:4), as well as the prophecies of the nations of the world coming to worship Jesus in Jerusalem (14:16).  This truly is a Messianic book!

It is also an apocalyptic book.  Typically, when we think of books of eschatology, we think of Revelation, Ezekiel, and Daniel – but Zechariah sits among them.  There are all kinds of symbolic images given, with a glimpse into God’s plan for the end times.  In fact, some of the prophecies of Revelation get some of their own imagery from the prophecies of Zechariah.

In addition to these things, some of the other themes that have been recurrent through the other prophets arise again here.  Once more, God is shown to be the God over all the nations; not just Israel.  Again, God is shown to be faithful to His promises – we have confidence for future things because God has been faithful in past things.  Again we see the dual characteristics of God as the Righteous Judge & God as the Merciful Deliverer – He is both, without contradiction between the two.  All in all, everything the Bible has already proclaimed about God is once more on display, but this time with a specific focus on the Messianic future in store for Israel.

GENERAL OUTLINE
As always, scholars have different thoughts on how to divide the book.  Generally speaking, there are two primary sections, which would seem to be readily divided based upon the specific dates included in the Scripture.  As with Haggai, Zechariah also writes down the precise dating for at least some of his prophecies – and that’s a natural place to draw a line.

  • The Night Visions (1-6)
  • The Question of Fasting (7-8)
  • The Future Messiah (9-14)

Because of the difference in style between 1-6 & 7-14, some scholars argue that there is more than one author responsible for the book.  However, that seems to be an unnecessary argument.  Not only does the subject change between the break (from visions to more standard oracles), but there’s also a date change – with perhaps more time passing between Ch 8&9.  It only makes sense that writing style changes a bit over the years.  If it happens in our own speaking style, why would it not take place with the prophets?  All in all, it seems best to take the one Zechariah son of Berechiah as the single author of the entire book.

The Night Visions
Introduction (1:1-6)
The book begins (like many others) with a brief introduction of the prophet, and a general purpose statement.  Again, as with Haggai, Zechariah lists the very specific date that he received the prophecy: “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius…”  This isn’t yet quite as precise as Haggai (though it’ll get there), but it’s still a very detailed account.  In fact, in comparison with Haggai, this first word comes to Zechariah merely 2 months after Haggai’s own introductory word from God.  18 years have passed since the foundation of the temple was laid upon the Jewish return, and things have been dormant.  Apparently, God had been as silent as the people.  But now He speaks loudly!  First through Haggai, now through Zechariah – barely 8 weeks apart.

  • When God wants to get our attention, He knows how to do it.  How often have you found yourself reading your Bible & convicted by something, only to hear a similar message preached in church or on the radio, or followed up by a conversation with someone else about the same subject, etc.  That’s God the Holy Spirit getting our attention.  When He speaks, listen up!

As for the ancient Jews, what God was speaking to them was for them to repent.  Zechariah 1:3, "(3) Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts."  The people knew that God had been angry with them in the past – that was the whole reason they experienced the Babylonian Captivity.  But now that time was done.  It was now time to repent – time to turn back to God.  And if they did, they could be sure God would turn back to them.  God had been righteous & just in His judgment of their forefathers (1:6), but now was the time they could experience His mercy.  All that was needed was a turning – a repentance.

  • The same is true for anyone!  People so often walk far away from God, but the good news is that no matter how far we’ve walked, God is only one step away from us.  All that’s needed is that we turn.  To repent is to change our mind & our direction.  Once we walked towards sin; now we turn around & face God in humility.  That was the open invitation from God to Jerusalem, and that is His open invitation to us, as well.
  • If you’re waiting to repent, what are you waiting for?  What could possibly be so good about your sin that you would rather forsake the God who made you & who loves you?  Christian or non-Christian, we let sin get in the way of our relationship with God.  Either sin is a stumbling block for the Christian, or it’s the evidence of no relationship with God whatsoever for the non-Christian.  The solution is the same: repentance & faith in Jesus Christ.  Don’t wait!  Do it tonight!

Vision #1: Horses (1:7-17)
Time passes, but not much.  It’s now the 11th month of the same year, and this time Zechariah marks the actual date as the 24th.  It’s now been exactly 2 months to the day following Haggai’s last message (Haggai 2:10,20), and Zechariah receives a series of 8 visions in the middle of the night.  Were they dreams – or was Zechariah already awake, and received visions as if in a trance?  We don’t know.  He doesn’t give too many details concerning himself…apparently, he was consumed by all the details in the visions themselves.  It was a busy night!

The first vision has imagery familiar to students of the Book of Revelation, as Zechariah saw various colored horses.  Only 3 are described (as opposed to 4), the colors being “red, sorrel, and white,” (1:8).  Sorrel = a kind of ruddy brown, perhaps even speckled.  Technically, Zechariah did see a 4th horse – another red one, but this one had a rider.  The four of them were standing among myrtle trees.  Thankfully, that wasn’t all Zechariah saw, as there was also an angel from God who was able to explain the vision to him. (And he wasn’t the only angel – the Angel of the LORD was also there! 1:11-12)  Apparently, these horses had been sent by God to patrol the earth, and reported back that everything was quiet.

Although it seems like a strange vision, it would have been comforting to the Jews!  After all, it was terrible war & conquest that sent them into captivity.  Now things had settled somewhat.  Although the world was never completely without war, it was peaceful enough for the Jews to be resettled in the land.  It was this message of encouragement that God wanted to pass along to the Jewish people, and Zechariah describes the Lord talking with “good and comforting words” (1:13).  God had used the nations of the world, but He was angry with them because they had been evil (1:15).  Now, God affirms that it was His will that the Jews be in Jerusalem, and specifically tells them to reestablish His temple (1:16).  He had chosen His people, and He promised to comfort them in their home (1:17).

  • Do you ever remember being comforted by your parents after their discipline was complete?  Not every parent does it, but children need to be reminded that even though we have to discipline them, we still love them.  That’s basically what God does here with Israel.  He had to judge them, but He tells them He never stopped being their God.  He still loves them & still has a plan for them.
  • Just because God might discipline us doesn’t mean He’s stopped loving us.  On the contrary; it’s those whom God chastens that He loves (Heb 12:6).  Don’t give up on God; He hasn’t given up on you.

Vision #2: Horns (1:18-20)
The 2nd vision features 4 horns – generally a symbol of national power or kingdoms.  There had been 4 horns that scattered the kingdoms of Israel & Judah all over the earth (perhaps a reference to Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and the Persians).  If the prophecy is looking more towards the future, then it might be a reference to Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome.  Whoever the nations actually are, God had already provided His answer to them.  Opposed to the 4 horns were 4 craftsmen that God used to terrify them (1:20).  The basic idea is that although the Jews had many enemies, God is greater than all.  His plan for them would not be turned aside.

  • God’s will is always going to be accomplished.  Not a single promise of His will fail!

Vision #3: Measuring Line (2:1-13)
The next thing Zechariah saw was a man sent to measure out the dimensions of Jerusalem.  It was going to be so big that “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls, because of the multitude of men and livestock in it,” (2:4).  Why?  Because God Himself will be their wall (2:5).  God promised to dwell in their city and protect them.

Out of this promise, God calls out to the Jews who remained scattered among the nations of the world to come back. Although well over 50,000 Jews initially returned, that was just a small percentage of the Jews who had left the land.  God was (and is!) calling His people home.  The Jews was considered the apple of God’s eye (2:8), speaking of the special attention He gave them.  He loved His people, and promised that the other nations of the world will one day serve Israel during the new Kingdom.  More than that, some of those other nations would even join with Israel & also be known as the people of God (2:11 – perhaps a reference to the Church).  But once more, the point is made that God chose the Jews; He was not abandoning them now.

Vision #4: The Priest (3:1-10)
In the next vision, Zechariah saw someone he knew: Joshua the high priest.  Joshua seemed to be on trial, and he was in front of two other beings: (1) the Angel of the LORD, i.e. the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus, and (2) Satan.  Satan was opposing Joshua, likely accusing him of some past sins that might perhaps invalidate his ministry.  But God was not silent in the face of Satan’s accusations.  God rebuked the devil, and reiterated His own choice.  Joshua was “a brand plucked from the fire” (3:2) – he was one saved and redeemed by the Lord Himself.

At this point, Joshua’s filthy clothes were changed due to the forgiveness given him by God (3:4-5), and God “admonished” (3:6) Joshua to walk rightly in the future.  As he did so, Joshua was to expect another one to come: God’s “Servant the BRANCH.” (3:8)  This “Branch” would be used by God to “remove the iniquity” of the Jews (3:9) and restore the people to a right relationship with God.

  • Who is the Branch?  None other than the Lord Jesus!  This is exactly what Jesus did in His 1st coming with the Church, and what He will do in His 2nd Coming with Israel.

Vision #5: The Lampstand & Olive Tree (4:1-14)
In the 5th vision, Zechariah sees a large menorah (7 stemmed lampstand) in between two olive trees.  Apparently the olive trees dripped oil directly into the lamp, providing it with a constant source of fuel.  Confused by the imagery, Zechariah asked the angel about it, who gave him a very specific word from God as the interpretation: Zechariah 4:6–7, "(6) So he answered and said to me: “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ Says the Lord of hosts. (7) ‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’ ”" 

Remember the historical context: Zerubbabel’s leadership of the people had become bogged down by opposition to the temple reconstruction.  It would have been easy for Zerubbabel to get discouraged, wondering how he could now pick up the work again, as he knew he was supposed to do (from the previous messages of Haggai & Zechariah).  God’s word to Zerubbabel is that it wasn’t in his own power that he needed to trust, but in the power of God.  Did Zerubbabel face great opposition?  Yes.  But that opposition was nothing in comparison to the power of God.

Once Zerubbabel finished the project, the completion itself would be a witness to the power of God (4:9).  The temple building might appear outwardly to be small & insignificant, but it’s only the prelude to something much better.  The returning Jews would have felt as if they were in the “day of small things” (4:10), but it was only the beginning.  God had something truly grand in store – but they needed to trust Him for it.

Vision #6: The Flying Scroll (5:1-4)
Next, Zechariah sees a rather large scroll flying through the air.  It’s described as being 20 cubits x 10 cubits, which is approximately 32 feet X 17 feet.  Imagine something longer than two sedans (and about twice as wide as one) flying in front of your eyes…as a scroll, it surely has a lot to say!  And it does.  The scroll contained “the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth,” (5:3).  God knows all the sins of all the people everywhere, and they will be held to account.

Vision #7: Woman in a Basket (5:5-11)
In the 7th vision, wickedness is personified as a woman, who is sitting in a basket & taken off to Shinar/Babylon (5:11).  Although wickedness and sin had previously been rampant in Israel, it was being removed by the Lord as He restored His people.  Babylon was the appropriate place for such sin, and that’s where it was symbolically carried.

Interestingly, a sinful woman (a harlot) is described in the Book of Revelation, and she was known as Mystery Babylon (Rev 17:5).  Although there may not be a direct tie with Zechariah’s vision, his imagery and description certainly may be an influence in Revelation.

Vision #8: Chariots (6:1-8)
In the final vision, Zechariah sees 4 chariots, each pulled by different colors of horses: red, black, white, and dappled.  The angel specifically interprets these as being four spirits from heaven sent to walk to & fro throughout the earth (6:6-7).  Like the earlier horses, they seem to patrol the earth.  The idea is that God is aware of all the goings-on of the world – there is nothing that escapes His attention.  God had His hand of protection upon Israel.  There would be no sneak attacks from north or south or anywhere else.  His people could rest in the protection He provided for them.

Crowning the Priest (6:9-15)
The visions have ended, and now Zechariah receives a command from the Lord.  He is to make a new priestly crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the high priest (6:11).  As he did so, this Joshua would represent a Greater-Joshua, Someone still to come.  This would be the “BRANCH” (6:12), just as Zechariah had seen earlier in his visions.  Just as the Jews were now rebuilding the temple, the Branch would build a new temple – a glorious temple.  When He did, He would sit not only as High Priest, but as King (6:13).  This would have been forbidden for the Joshua of Zechariah’s day, as priests came from the tribe of Levi, while kings came from the line of David.  Yet for Jesus, this is the expectation.  As the book of Hebrews shows, Jesus serves as Priest from a different lineage (Melchizedek); He alone is King & Priest at the same time!

What is God doing?  He’s causing His people to continue to look forward to the Messiah.  They were back in the land, doing the will of God, but things would have looked pathetically small in comparison to what they had in the days of David and Solomon.  God is reminding them there is a wonderful future in store, one that God Himself had promised.  God hadn’t forgotten His promises, nor had He forgotten His people.  He would indeed send the Messiah, and His people would live in the Messianic Kingdom.

The Question of Fasting
The Problem of Past Fasts (7:1-14)
Two years past before the next prophetic word is given to Zechariah, and it comes in response to a question the people asked the prophets and priests about fasting.  The people had a tradition of mourning & fasting during the 5th month (perhaps then, as today, in mourning the destruction of the temple).  Now that they were back in the land, they wondered if they needed to keep doing it.  So they ask the question, and God responds.

First of all, God calls them out on their motives.  When they did in the past, did they really do it for God? (7:6)  They went through rituals, but they never followed through in obedience.  Why would God honor that kind of fast?  If they were going to mourn & fast, they ought to do it in sincerity & follow through.  Zechariah 7:9–10, "(9) “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion Everyone to his brother. (10) Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.’"  THAT’s what God wanted; not mere ritual.  God isn’t impressed by ritual…He never is.

As for the Jews, God had seen their disobedience, and that’s why they ended up as Babylonian captives in the 1st place (7:11-14).  But God had something different in mind for His people, as seen in Ch. 8…

God’s Desire for Jerusalem (8:1-17)
It wasn’t that God was perpetually angry with His people.  God was “zealous for Zion” (8:2) – He promised to “dwell in the midst of Jerusalem” (8:3) – He promised His marvelous salvation for them (8:6-7).  They could take courage because God had no plans to treat the current generation of Jews as He had treated their fathers in the past (8:11).  He was “determined to do good to Jerusalem” (8:15).  All God asked is that they truly behave as His people.  Zechariah 8:16–17, "(16) These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace; (17) Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor; And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate,’ Says the Lord.”"

It wasn’t complicated.  Stop sinning!  Act like the redeemed people God had called them to be.  We could say the same thing.  What did Jesus boil it all down to: love.  Love God & love our neighbors.  Stop acting like the rest of the world, and act like the people He has saved us to be.  All the ritual in the world cannot replace a loving people sincerely seeking God in truth.

The Sincerity of Future Fasts (8:18-23)
God does get to the issue of fasting.  No matter what month it’s in (4th, 5th, 7th, 10th), they were to fast sincerely.  Yes fast, but “love truth and peace.” (8:19).  Israel was supposed to set an example for the rest of the nations of the world.  One day in the new Kingdom, all peoples will go to Jerusalem to seek God, because they will know that God dwells in the midst of His people (8:23).

The Future Messiah
God vs. Jerusalem’s Enemies (9:1-8)
The issue of Israel’s own sincerity in worshipping God addressed, in this last section, God reveals to Zechariah His plan for Israel’s future.  God has alluded to it already, but now goes into great detail about the coming King & Kingdom.  He begins first by looking to the present.  As we’ve seen many times through other prophets, God shows that He is aware of the sins of Israel’s neighbors, and God declares Himself to be against cities such as Damascus, Tyre, Sidon, and the cities of the Philistines.  God promises to cast them down, and set Himself up as Jerusalem’s personal protector.  He will “camp around” His own house (9:8), and be a wall for His own people.

The Coming King & God’s Salvation (9:9-17)
The Branch had been prophesied earlier to come not only as a priest, but as a king, and it’s His kingly role that is anticipated here.  The wording ought to sound familiar to every student of the gospels: Zechariah 9:9, "(9) “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you; He is just and having salvation, Lowly and riding on a donkey, A colt, the foal of a donkey."  This is the prophecy directly fulfilled by Jesus during His Triumphal Entry of Jerusalem.  It demonstrates the humility in which the King would initially approach Israel, though His eventual kingdom would stretch from sea to sea (9:10).

Because of this King, God promised to restore the nation of Israel.  Both Judah and Ephraim (9:13) are raised up by God against their enemies (here, listed as Greece), and God promises to fight on their behalf.  Perhaps looking forward to the days of the Great Tribulation, God is seen in all His might as “the LORD of hosts” (9:15) defending & saving His people from physical destruction.  God promises to save them, and that is exactly what He does.

God’s Promise to Restore Israel (10:1-12)
In the process of this act of deliverance, God continues to call His people to repent.  They are to abandon idols & false prophets (10:2).  God would judge the false teachers among them (10:3), and He would personally strengthen His people to save them.  God reaffirms that He is “the LORD their God” (10:6) – not an outsider, not an idol – but the covenant keeping God of Israel who had not forsaken His people.  The people in that day will see the deliverance of God, and they will remember the One who remembered them (10:10,12).

God Rejected as Shepherd (11:1-17)
The false prophets were shepherds who ought to have been rejected, but God was one that ought to have been received.  But that’s not what happened historically.  God looks back to the sin of His people, and though He cared for the two nations (Israel & Judah) like a Shepherd with two staffs (Beauty & Bonds – 11:7), they did not want Him.  So God broke Himself off from them, like a contracted shepherd leaving a flock.  So much did they reject God, that it was as if they paid Him a pitiful amount for His wages…something that becomes incredibly specific prophecy in regards to Jesus.  Zechariah 11:13, "(13) And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—that princely price they set on me. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord for the potter."

Time prohibits a thorough study, but this would seem to be an impossibly accurate prophecy regarding Judas’ betrayal of Jesus.  Yet it just goes to demonstrate that nothing is impossible with God.  Yes, Jesus was betrayed for 30 (not 29; not 31) pieces of silver.  Yes, the money was thrown (not placed; not given) into the temple.  Yes, the money was used for the potter (not any other purchase was made).  What God prophesied about Jesus came true.  To. The. Letter.

Ch 11 ends by looking at the future shepherd the people would receive.  Not the Lord; a worthless shepherd (11:17).  Potentially a reference to Antichrist.

Tribulation in Israel & Mourning for God (12:1-14)
Ch 12 goes on to talk about a time during which all the nations of the earth will go to war against Judah & Jerusalem – an obvious reference to the Great Tribulation.  God promises to personally defend His people (just as He does with Ezekiel’s battle of Gog & Magog), perhaps referring here to the future final battle at Armageddon.  Or perhaps this is Gog & Magog, or another battle against Jerusalem that takes place just prior to, or at the very beginning of the Great Tribulation.  As God brings about His great deliverance, the people look to Jesus in faith.  Zechariah 12:10, "(10) “And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced. Yes, they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn."   Finally, they see Jesus as who He truly is, and they will be struck by the fact that they had rejected their Messiah for so long.

Israel Purified (13:1-19)
Their true conversion to Christ brings about a revival among the people, and they abandon false prophesies and teachers.  Those who used to make a living from false teaching will be ashamed of it.  Here, the tenor of the prophecy changes, moving from a narrative format back to poetic – indicating a shift in topics as well.  The True Shepherd is once again shown as having been rejected, as the historical picture moves from Jesus’ 2nd Coming back to His 1st.  The Shepherd had been initially struck & the sheep were scattered (13:7 historically fulfilled in Jesus & the disciples).  At the same time, there will be much death & destruction during the years of the Great Tribulation.  Revelation tells us that 144,000 Jews are sealed on their forehead specifically kept alive, but how many others will perish?  Zechariah prophesies that 2/3 perish, while 1/3 survive and are refined as silver & gold are refined through fire.  Still, at the end, the Jews truly call upon the name of God in faith, and are known as His people.

The 2nd Coming and the Kingdom (14:1-21)
The final chapter focuses in on the final day: the Day of the Lord.  Once more, a battle is described – a horrific battle in which all the nations come against Jerusalem & terrible atrocities take place.  God is described as going forth in battle, and when He arrives, He arrives in complete power & splendor…and with a physical body.  Zechariah 14:4, "(4) And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, Which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, Making a very large valley; Half of the mountain shall move toward the north And half of it toward the south."  Considering that God the Father is spirit, who is referenced?  The glorious Lord Jesus Christ.  This is His 2nd Coming as He arrives for (and finishes!) the Battle of Armageddon.  As He sets foot on Mt. Olivet, the mountain splits in two in an awesome display of the power of God on behalf of His people.  When God delivered Israel from Egypt, He split the waters of the Red Sea – when God delivers Jerusalem from Antichrist & the nations of the world, He’ll split the very rocks!

The victory Jesus brings at that moment is total, and Jerusalem is forever changed.  Living waters flow from the city, and it is known as the city from which God is “King over all the earth.” (14:9)  Jerusalem will be safe, while the enemies who fight against them on that day will experience a terrible plague & death.  Afterwards is the institution of the Millennial Kingdom.  All who are left alive come to Jerusalem “to worship the King, the Lord of hosts” (14:16).  It will be a pure kingdom – a holy kingdom – one in which everything & everyone is dedicated to the Lord.

Conclusion:
Had the Lord forgotten His people?  Absolutely not!  He remembered every promise He made with them, and knew details about His covenant of which they had no idea.  The Jews needed to be encouraged to keep doing what they were doing, all the while trusting that God would do something great with it.

Christian, we can say much the same.  God has given us a work to do in the Great Commission.  Keep doing what you’re doing.  (And if you’re not doing anything, do something!)  Keep at it – don’t stop.  Don’t get discouraged when you don’t see results.  Don’t despise the day of small things.  You might not know how God is moving behind the scenes, but we can trust that whatever we do for the Lord (especially by His Spirit), that God will do something great with it.

Of course the greatest thing God is doing is moving forward in His ultimate plan of redemption through Jesus Christ.  One day Israel will see Jesus for who He is, and Jesus Himself will come back in incredible glory.  And we will be there!  All the saints will be with Jesus at His return (14:5)…that includes you & me.  How we look forward to that day – how we long for it!  It’s coming – just hold on.  God has not forgotten His promises.  God has not forgotten His people.  Soon, Jesus will call us home, and soon after we will accompany Him back to earth for His Kingdom.  Our God remembers His promises, and He will see it done!