Zechariah: a Voice from the Past Looking to the Future
The book of Zechariah is fantastic in so many ways. This fourteen-chapter book is filled with evidences of God’s faithfulness among the nations, specifically with respect to Israel. He not only speaks of things that have occurred in our past – from the perspective of 2011 – but also speaks through Zechariah to point out things that will occur in the future from 2011.
After quickly introducing the prophet of Zechariah as being the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, and the time in which Zechariah received his Word from the Lord (the eighth month of the second year of Darius), we learn that God has one major concern for Israel. It is that they repent.
Interestingly enough, the people had already been working on rebuilding parts of Jerusalem, including the walls and the Temple, for a period of not less than five months, yet here God points out the dire need to return to Him. One can only assume that though the Israelites were busy doing things for God, their hearts were not in line with His. This is absolute proof that not only can Israelites be involved in things that appear to be God-centered and God-ordained, but Christians can as well.
Look at your life. Do you believe that everything in your life glorifies God? Moreover, are you quite certain that everything you are involved in is God’s direction for you? Beyond this, is everything you do as if you were doing it to the Lord? I’ll be frank. I cannot say with surety “yes” to these three questions. At times, I continue to look at the outward expression of my life and think, “Hmmm, that’s good.” But the truth is that there is yet a great deal within me that needs to be given over to the Lord. The same is likely true for you, but for the most part, who among us wants to hear that?
The Israelites were now back in their Land – God’s Land; a gift to them. They were busy rebuilding, yet God’s heartfelt appeal to the people of Israel was that they should return to Him with their hearts, their minds, and their wills. Have you ever done something for someone because you felt forced to do so? You go through the motions, but your heart is definitely not in it. It doesn’t matter if it was for your boss, your loved ones, or God Himself. The reality is that we all know how that feels to do something with the attitude that says “I cannot wait until I am done with this!”
Jesus never had that attitude – not once. Even though He was placed in a position by his mother at the wedding at Cana in which she literally put Him on the spot, He still honored the fact that she was His mother. There is a gentle rebuke to her though, in His response “Woman, what does that have to do with us? My hour has not yet come,” (John 2:4). In a sense, Mary put Jesus on the spot and He did help her and the situation out, but He did so in a way that would not reveal who He was to those in attendance (with the exception of the servants who actually saw the miracle take place). While Mary came dangerously close to overstepping her bounds, our Lord did what He could, but He was also clearly stating to her that His public ministry had not yet begun and this type of thing was not what His ministry would be made up of when it did begin.
The Israelites of Zechariah’s day did what they were supposed to do, yet their lives still contained areas of idolatry. They had their idols, just as we have our idols today. Oh we may not bow down before a wooden or stone image, asking it for favors and blessings, but we wind up worshiping things that capture our attention.
On one hand, we want to do what God wants us to do, while on the other hand, we are often sidetracked by money, friends, influence, importance, and many other things. These things ought not to be, but there it is, just as real to us as the idols of Zechariah’s day had captured the hearts of the Israelites.
Much of the book of Zechariah is futuristic from Zechariah’s perspective, though God uses the past to remind Zechariah about things that are extremely important to Him. Portions of Zechariah are still yet future and will unfold in God’s time.
A good portion of Zechariah is also directly Messianic, because it clearly speaks of the time Jesus will rule and how His Kingdom will look to the inhabitants of earth.
There are a number of things that stick out in my mind with respect to Zechariah and one of them is found in Zechariah 9:9-10, which states, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation,
Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim And the horse from Jerusalem; And the bow of war will be cut off. And He will speak peace to the nations; And His dominion will be from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth.”
Most of us read verse 9 and immediately think of the Triumphal Entry described for us in the gospels. This is known as Palm Sunday and it is when Jesus physically rode a donkey into Jerusalem with the people laying down palm fronds and clothing for the donkey to walk across. They also shouted “Hosanna!” Except those who deny the veracity of Scripture, no one denies that this act occurred. But look at verse ten, which begins “I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim…” and following. That verse describes something that has not physically occurred yet, though at least some commentators take that verse allegorically. They take verse 9 literally because it happened, but verse 10 is allegorical because it has not yet happened physically. These commentators believe this occurred when they claim Jesus “returned” in A.D. 70 at the destruction of Jerusalem. However, there is nothing in the verses that would indicate a change from the literal to the allegorical.
Verse ten speaks of Jesus’ triumphant physical return to this world after which He will destroy His enemies (the Antichrist and his armies) and will then enjoin true peace, not peace as the world tries to create, but actual peace that only the Prince of Peace can bring about. This will begin at the end of the Tribulation period when He sets up His Millennial Kingdom.
Notice that there is no time-lapse between verses nine and ten. They are written back to back. Since we know that He came and entered Jerusalem in triumph, but did not fulfill the contents of verse at that time, then we know that it is yet future and because of that, there is a space of time between those verses.
Another section of Zechariah that is also a favorite section of mine is when God through the prophet speaks about the final battle that will occur when the entire world comes against Israel. This is clearly delineated for us in Zechariah 12 where we learn that Israel is unceremoniously attacked. The first nine verses of chapter twelve discuss how the Lord will cause the entire world to be against Israel. He states that “…all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it. In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’ (Zechariah 12:3b-5).
The Lord takes credit for the world’s posture because He previously stated that He will “make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah,” (Zechariah 12:2). Judah here, is Israel.
Why does God do this? For a number of reasons:
- He wants to show Israel that He loves them
- He wants to show the world that all who stand against Israel stand against Him
- He wants to glorify Himself
This is a fascinating section of Scripture because on one hand, it provides a dire warning to all who believe that they can stand against Israel. On the other hand, it encourages all who support Israel and Israel herself. Though every nation will stand against Israel, this does not mean that every person in every nation will agree with the leadership of that nation.
The youth camp in Oslo, Norway, in which 80 or so people were shot and killed stood against Israel. Please do not misunderstand. I am not in any way saying that what the gunman did was understandable or acceptable. It was heinous, criminal, and anti-God. However, in the gunman’s twisted mind, it is likely that he chose that particular youth camp because of their socialistic position and the fact that they stood against Israel, while opening embracing Muslims who immigrating to Norway.
The Old Testament is filled with incidents of kings and leaders attacking Israel – in many cases because God directed them to do so to act as His arm of judgment against the rebellion and idolatry of Israel. However, He also always punished that invading nation that dared to touch Israel, a nation that Zechariah calls the “apple of His eye,” (Zechariah 2:8).
We are moving to a time – if we have not already arrived – in which the world is gathering together in their opposition to Israel. Most of the world does not believe Israel should be a nation. That same world wants to see Israel destroyed.
The world blindly believes what the liberal media tells them about the “poor” people of Palestine, who allegedly have nothing and big, bad Israel is doing their best to keep them that way. Do the research on your own to find out the truth. If you want to trust CNN, HLN, the NYT and others, that’s up to you, but you might be interested to know that these are not bastions of truth. As they say on the X-files, the truth is out there. You need to dig for it, but of course, you have to be willing to dig for it.
As Christians, we need to ensure that our hearts are right with God. We can do all sorts of things that we believe are correct, biblically speaking. In fact, they may be correct from a biblical point of view, but it is more important to do those things with the correct attitude.
I know so many people who believe that they should join the fray in standing in opposition to Israel. God does not approve of that.
In Zechariah, God shows us that He clearly sees when Israel is not on the right path. He also points out repeatedly that He and He alone is capable of correcting their behavior, not us. Though He may choose to use nations to carry out His judgment, those nations do not remain unscathed or separate from His judgment either.
It is not enough to simply do “things” for God. He wants our hearts more than anything else. If He does not have that, He really does not have anything.
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