Lesson 9 - Zech. 8:1-8; 9:9-12 - THE LORD'S RETURN TO ZION
LAST WEEK: WEEK: In Hag.1:1-11; 2:5-9, we heard from the first post-exilic prophet, Haggai, who warned the returned exiles of the consequences of failing to resume the work needed to finish the Temple. They-over 42,000 Jewish returnees-- had started rebuilding its soon after their return, but had stopped all work after two years later when they ran into opposition from the indigenous Samaritans. Haggai's prophecy, coming 14 years later, is addressed specifically to Zerubbabel, the of the exiles, and Joshua, their appointed high priest, but generally to everyone in the exile community. The text revealed that they had been spending all their time and resources on their own houses rather than God's house. While this was going on, the prosperity in the land had sunk to a very low level. In two oracles, the prophet exhorted them to "consider their ways" (8:4, 7). The two primary truths we drew from this lesson, which are equally applicable to modern Christians, were: (1) That we must "consider our ways" by honestly evaluating our priorities in life. The exiles had basically abandoned God plan and relegated Him to last place. For you and me, a very objective measure of our spiritual priorities can be found in our time schedules and our bank statements. These two things show what we are doing with our time and how we are spending our treasure. So, are we making God and His plans a priority in our lives or are we simply just giving Him what's left over? (2) God's discipline towards His believers (in our case the modern church), is always for the ultimate purpose of restoration. In the exile's case it was the restoration of God's house, the Temple. In our case, the church, it refers to all of our efforts-our evangelistic outreach, support of missions, local, national, and international-in building of God's kingdom on earth in anticipation of Jesus' return. We can't do this by sitting in our comfortable pews-our "paneled houses"-we need get up out of them to seek and to save. All of these entail a committed investment of our time and our money.
THIS WEEK: In Zech. 8:1-8; 9:9-12, we are introduced to Zechariah, a second post-exilic prophet and contemporary of Haggai, who spoke God's message to the returned exiles over a 50-year period between 520 and 470 B.C., and he also became a priest in the rebuilt Temple. His prophecy was directed at the weak faith of the exile community, who basically needed to re-learn everything about worshiping and serving God. From our NT Christian perspective, the dominant theme of the Book is Christ-the promised Messiah who would come and dwell in their midst. In terms of overall application of the Book, just like the returned remnant of Zechariah's time, we modern Christians are expected to worship God honestly-i.e., in Spirit and Truth-and be prepared to extend God's invitation of salvation to all nations, races, languages, and cultures.
Read Zech. 8:1-2 - I AM EXCEEDINGLY JEALOUS FOR ZION
2 Then the word of the LORD of armies came, saying, 2 "The LORD of armies says this: 'I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.'
v. 1: "Then the word of the Lord of armies came, saying," - We will hear Zechariah title God as "the LORD of armies" repeatedly. This particular name (Heb. YHWH tsaba [tsaw-baw]), places emphasis on God's sovereign and almighty power to control all of history from creation to the end of time.
v. 2: "The LORD of armies says this: 'I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.'" - YHWH is a "jealous" God who tolerates no rivals, real or imaginary, and who is zealous to protect His uniqueness and maintain the allegiance of His people to Himself alone. He is likewise jealous for His people, meaning that He is protective of them against all who challenge them or claim to be among God's elect alongside them.
Read Zech. 8:3-6 - I WILL RETURN TO ZION AND DWELL IN THE MIST OF JERUSALEM
3 The Lord says this: 'I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of armies will be called the Holy Mountain.' 4 The LORD of armies says this: 'Old men and old women will again sit in the public squares of Jerusalem, each person with his staff in his hand because of age. 5 And the public squares of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its squares.' 6 The LORD of armies says this: 'If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the LORD of armies.
v. 3: "The LORD says this: 'I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD of armies will be called the Holy Mountain.'" - The prophet foretells a time when the LORD would return to Jerusalem and dwell there among His people, and because of His presence, it would be transformed into a "City of Truth," where there will be no deceit, and it will a "Holy Mountain" because God truly dwells there; however, Jerusalem did not achieve this fulfillment in the period following the captivity. Jerusalem will not become a faithful city until its Messiah, Jesus Christ, returns to reign and rule, and it will be through Him that Zion (the Temple mount) becomes the Holy Mountain.
v. 4-5: "The LORD of armies says this: 'Old men and old women will again sit in the public squares of Jerusalem, each person with his staff in his hand because of age. 5 And the public squares of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its squares." - In new Jerusalem, the elderly would feel safe enough to sit outside in the open and the streets would be a safe place for children to play again. So, Jerusalem would become a place of tranquility, long life, peace, and prosperity. All of these things await the advent of Jesus Christ at His second coming.
v. 6a: "The LORD of armies says this: 'If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days," - Zechariah's audience would have doubted the possibility of a future millennial reign of Christ where honesty, peace, and prosperity ruled. Such things seemed unattainable to them.
v. 6b: "will it also be too difficult in My sight?' declares the LORD of armies." - This should remind us of what Jesus said on this point: "With people this is impossible, but with God all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26). The irony in this is that God's promise of blessing was as hard for the returned exiles to believe as His past threats of judgment had been for their forebears many years before them.
Read Zech. 8:7-8 - I AM GOING TO SAVE MY PEOPLE
7 The LORD of armies says this: 'Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; 8 and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'
v. 7: "The LORD of armies says this: 'Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west;" - The "land" from the "east" and the "west" is a metaphor for the entire world. The LORD , as Messiah, has promised to re-gather His people from all over the world and bring them back to live in Jerusalem. This will occur when Jesus Christ returns to reign and rule the Millennial Kingdom from Jerusalem. It represents the future national conversion of Israel to Christ.
v. 8: "and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.'" - "Jerusalem" represents the whole land of Israel here and identifies the place where the people will come to worship God and to be near Him. This future "Exodus" depends on God's grace (salvation) and His faithfulness just as much as did the original Exodus. The phrases, "they shall be My people, and I will be their God" repeats and reaffirms the same covenantal language seen in Gen 17:7 and Ex. 6:7. Bible scholars consider this to be one of the greatest and most comprehensive references to Israel's restoration and conversion to be found in the prophetic Scriptures.
APPLICATION 1: There will be a national restoration of Israel and its land in the future when Christ returns to establish His kingdom on earth. Even after seven years of Tribulation on earth, many people will remain skeptical of the Millennial reign of Christ (Mt. 24:15-25); yet, we know that He will return to reign and rule at the appointed time (Rom. 11:25-27).
Read Zech. 9:9-12 - HE WILL SPEAK TO THE NATIONS
9 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. 10 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. 11 As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you, I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.
v. 9: "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." - This verse is one of the most messianically significant in the OT. The cause for rejoicing is that their king will come to them "just and endowed with salvation." The people whom Zechariah was addressing have recently endured 70 years of servitude, followed by a return to Jerusalem that has been difficult and disappointing. The coming "king" in question here is the messianic king. Both Mt. 21:5 and John 12:15 quote this passage with reference to Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Riding on a "donkey" was a sign that the Messiah-King would come in peace, whereas a warrior king would have been mounted on a horse.
NOTE: The entire Church Age-the age we've been in for nearly 2,000 years-fits between Zech. 9: verses 9 and 10. The same phenomena also appears in Isa. 9, between verses 6 and 7. These two verses present two Advents of Christ, verse 9 the first and verse 10 the second. Jesus came in peace the first time and was rejected; but when He returns the second time, He will come as the ultimate conqueror who will bring everlasting peace on earth.
v. 10: "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." - "Ephraim' refers to the Northern Kingdom of Israel and "Jerusalem," the southern kingdom of Judah. Ephraim was taken into captivity by the Assyrian Empire and unlike Judah, never re-emerged as a Jewish state. The mention of both in this verse holds out hope of a reunited kingdom. The "chariot, "horse," and "bow" were all implements of war that the coming Messiah-King will abolish. The Messiah-King (sometime referred to as Zion's King) will not only end war in Israel, but will establish peace in the whole world with His sovereign proclamation "to the nations." And notice the extent of this Kingdom, "from sea to sea, And from the River to the ends of the earth," denoting that it will encompass the entire earth.
v. 11a: "As for you also, because of the blood of My covenant with you," - The Covenant that YHWH established with Israel began with Abram, long before there was an Israel (Gen. 12:1-3), and was renewed with Moses (Ex. 24) and Joshua (Josh. 24), and David (2 Sam. 7:12-17). The "blood" represents the animal sacrifice usually made to ratify the Covenant.
v. 11b: "I have set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. " - This speaks to the hopelessness that these exiles have felt. Here, God pictures taking them out of a dry cistern where they were
captives like Joseph (Gen. 37:24) and Jeremiah (Jer. 38:6-9). They needed encouragement.
v. 12a: "Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have the hope;" - This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you." - The "stronghold" to which they are returning, which is the source of their "hope," is in person of the Messiah King, Jesus Christ himself dwelling in Jerusalem. The scattered Jews, despite raging anti-Semitism, despite the Holocaust, still have the 'hope' of the Messiah and resoration, and in the end-times, the LORD will fulfill all His Covenant promises to them.
v. 12b: "This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you." - Jewish law requires that a thief repay his victim double for whatever was stolen, and Jewish parents are required to give their firstborn a double share of the inheritance. These people had already received "double for their sins" (Isa. 40:2), so that here, the prophet promises them that instead of shame and dishonor, the Messiah King will give them a double portion of everlasting joy (Isa. 61:7).
APPLICATION: The first coming of Christ is a promise and a pledge that confirms His Second Coming. Bible scholars consider the passages of this chapter to be some of the most significant verses about the coming of a Messiah in all of the OT. Zechariah called upon Israel to rejoice because her king was coming. The King will be the promised Messiah who would redeem His nation and bring salvation to Israel. Christians call this period the Millennial Kingdom of Christ (Rev. 20:1-6). The nation of Israel (Judea and Galilee were Roman provinces at that time) rejected Jesus in His first coming when Christ presented Himself as King, but this prophecy assures us that Jews will fully recognize His messiahship at His Second coming and will submit to Him as their King.