A SURVEY OF THE MINOR PROPHETS, Part 8

OUR GOD REIGNS

Zechariah 14:1—21

The title of this book of prophecy comes from the prophet’s name, Zechariah, who preached in Jerusalem during its restoration, as a contemporary of Haggaih. His name, Zekar-Yah, properly means “Yahweh remembers.” What does Yahweh remember? His people of course!

This is a book filled with unending hope for the many Jews who felt they had been forgotten by God during the 70 years of exile.

This is the longest of the Minors and it is most frequently quoted elsewhere in Scripture. In all, there are over 70 quotations (direct and indirect) from Zechariah in the New Testament. Half of these are to be found in the book Revelation.

1. The day of the Lord, 14:1—8

The phrase, “day of the Lord” is a common one among the Minors. It speaks of the ultimate goal of the history of Earth: the Second Coming of Jesus Christ and His personal reign over all nations and people. However, before the coming of Christ’s Kingdom, the Earth must experience certain “birth pangs.” This is what chapter 14 deals with.

It is impossible to see this prophecy as being fulfilled at some time in the past. Though Jerusalem has been destroyed, captured, occupied, and destroyed again numerous times in the past, none of its history comes close to Zechariah’s prophecy. The “day of the Lord” is an eschatological phrase which refers a time in our future. And yet, over the centuries, the “day of the Lord” has had many inner-history fulfillments or partial fulfillments that foreshadowed the ultimate fulfillment. This supra-historical fulfillment of history will finally come to pass when Christ returns literally, physically, and visibly to the Earth to consummate the Kingdom He inaugurated at His first coming.

a. The end of judgment, vs. 1, 2

A day of the LORD is coming, Jerusalem, when your possessions will be plundered and divided up within your very walls. I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city.

Chapter 14 picks up a thought begun back in chapter 13:

In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will put into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on my name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are my people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’” (Zechariah 13:8, 9)

A refining process looms on the horizon for God’s people, the Jews. The final “day of the Lord” will involve a final siege on Jerusalem; it will happen immediately before the Second Coming; it will involve Jerusalem and other nations gathering against it. In the early stages, the siege will be successful. What we are reading in verse 2 is history written backwards.

The fact that many nations will come against Jerusalem is stated repeatedly throughout the Minors:

I will gather all nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. There I will put them on trial for what they did to my inheritance, my people Israel, because they scattered my people among the nations and divided up my land. They cast lots for my people and traded boys for prostitutes; they sold girls for wine to drink. (Joel 3:2, 3)

What triggered Zechariah’s harsh words of prophecy? Even though Zechariah is seeing the far future, it was the selfish behavior of his people during his time that prompted the prophecy. The people should have been working tirelessly to rebuild the Temple and fix up Jerusalem after their 70 year exile. Instead, for some 16 years after they returned to Jerusalem, the Temple had virtually no work done on it. The people were more concerned about building homes for themselves than they were with restoring God’s House.

b. God’s breakthrough, vs. 3—8

In spite of how hopeless it will seem for Jerusalem, suddenly the King of Kings will return in full glory for all to see, in the face of the Antichrist’s forces:

Then the LORD will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. (vs, 3, 4)

In his book of Revelation, John describes the same event like this:

Look, he is coming with the clouds,” and “every eye will see him, even those who pierced him”; and all peoples on earth “will mourn because of him.” So shall it be! Amen. (Revelation 1:7)

The Lord will return personally, literally, physically, and visibly to the Earth, just as He said He would, at the exact location He departed from after His earthly ministry was over. Remember what the the early believers were told:

Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)

While Zechariah indicates that Jesus will return in power to fight for His people, ultimately He is coming back with “healing in His wings,” according to Malachi 4:2. But before the healing must come great Earth upheavals and catastrophic events that will change the landscape of the Middle East and beyond. See Revelation 16:18, 19, for example.

2. King of the Earth, 14:9—15

a. Return to Shema, vs. 9—11

The LORD will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one LORD, and his name the only name. (vs 9)

While on the island of Patmos, John was given a look into this same event:

The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.” (Revelation 11:15)

On that day, Jesus Christ will finally be seen by all and acknowledged by all people as the one and only “King of kings and Lord of lords.” And in a final nod to the Jews, their great confession, the Shema, will be regarded by all as true: there is one Lord.

b. Judgment on Babylon, vs. 12—15

This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (vs 12)

As we read about the literal Second Coming of Christ, it is sometimes difficult to separate the figurative language from the literal. We read about the splitting of the Mount of Olives, the spring of living waters, the interruption of God’s own day, and other strange events. But at verse 12, we see a literal horror which John writes about in Revelation 19:11—18. Here we seen a coming together of the Jewish and Christian Apocalypses.

3. Worship of the King, 14:16—21

Then the survivors from all the nations that have attacked Jerusalem will go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Tabernacles. (vs. 16)

In spite of the awful decimation that will take place on Earth as described in the previous verses, there will be those who survive. Theologians are split as to whether these “survivors” will be a converted remnant among all the nations, or just people in general who are not touched by God’s various judgments. It seems to us that there will, in fact, be many, many survivors, some not converted at all, since there will be those who refuse to go and worship.

Three features of this worship become clear in this group of verses:

a. Jerusalem will be the center of faith in the world, 14:16

The Messiah will take His rightful place on the throne of David, and nations will stream to Jerusalem to worship Him and pay Him homage. We are told that all people will celebrate the “Festival of Tabernacles.” Why this festival in particular? This feast, out of all Jewish religious feasts, has been traditionally open to both the people of Israel and to strangers.

The Passover Feast pictured the death of the Messiah as our Redeemer; the Feast of Unleavened Bread pictured the walk of believers in fellowship with the Savior; the Feast of Firstfruits foreshadowed the resurrection of Jesus; and the Feast of Pentecost predicted the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. So the Feast of Tabernacles will remain unfulfilled until the Kingdom age and Israel is gathered to her own land.

b. All nations will come to Jerusalem annually, 14:17—19

Those who refuse to come will be dealt with harshly by God. This group of verses reminds us that, even in the great day when the glory of the Lord covers the earth, during the Millennial Kingdom, there be some who will simply rebel. Egypt is singled out here perhaps because as so often in the past it symbolized a defiant and rebellion nation.

Here is an accurate glimpse into the nature of the Millennial Kingdom. Just because Jesus Christ will rule and reign as the plant’s Sovereign, not every human soul alive at that time will be saved. It simply means that the Godly influence of a divinely ordered kingdom will be a positive influence over all the affairs of human beings. Justice, purity and righteousness will all be favored.

c. Holiness to the Lord will dominate all worship, 14:20, 21

On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.

This is a description of the true nature of the Messiah’s kingdom. It will be a holy kingdom, dominated by holiness in all things. Perowne observes:

The ornaments of worldly pomp and warlike power shall be as truly consecrated as the mitre of the High Priest, and every vessel used in the meanest sense of the Temple as holy as the vessels of the altar itself. Nay, every common vessel throughout the city and the whole land shall be so holy as to be meet for the service of the sanctuary, and every profane person all be for ever banished from the house of the Lord…All distinction between sacred and secular shall be at an end, because all shall now be alike holy.

We may sum up the teaching of these verses like this:

  • There will be holiness in public life (“the bells of the horses);

  • There will be holiness in religious life (“cooking pots in the Lord’s house);

  • There will be holiness in private life (“every pot in Jerusalem and Judah”).

And so Zechariah ends his book of prophecy in a most stunning way. This man, whose name means “Yahweh remembers” has proven that God has never forgotten His people. God Himself will end human history as He promised He would in His Covenant: His people will never be forgotten or foresaken.

But Zion said, “The LORD has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.” “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne?  Though she may forget, I will not forget you!” (Isaiah 49:14, 15)

(c)  2011 WitZend

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