A Bible study from Faithbuilders
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--ZECH. 9:12 RSV
ONE OF GOD'S important instructions in the Old Testament is in Zechariah 9:9. "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass." Jesus himself was guided by this; it instructed Him on how He should present himself to the people of Israel on a special occasion. (Matt. 21:1-11, Mark 11:1-10, Luke 19:28-40, John 12:12-16) And the gospels clearly teach that Jesus is the One through whom all must worship God acceptably who would seek salvation. The remainder of that chapter is considered now with its preview of the first advent of Jesus and the momentous days which saw its primary fulfillment.
The "daughter of Jerusalem" refers to others of Israel living in and around that city. They were aware that God had promised a Messiah deliverer, and were ready to acclaim anyone who would lead them to a better life and deliverance from their long bondage to Rome. The prophecy was significant to both elements. To "the daughter of Zion" it was announcement that the new arrangement they had long awaited was about to begin. Their king was there, and while quite unexpected events were about to unfold, He would soon be raised as a king into His heavenly kingdom. This would open a new dimension to their relationship with God. Every one of those of faith would become "sons of God" as their kingdom hopes became reconstituted into the spiritual reality for which their previous calling had prepared them. (Acts 1:6) Gladness, rejoicing in hope, and heart appreciation for God's special favor enlarge as new believers meditate on that which can come to every believer through the death and resurrection of Christ Jesus our Lord.
But the information in verse nine was more like a command to "the daughter of Jerusalem." A multitude must be stirred by the occasion, so as to draw attention of both admirers and despisers to the important event. The arrival of "the King of the Jews" (Matt. 27:37) must be announced, and if the people had not shouted out the very stones would have, Jesus told the Pharisees that asked Him to quiet the tumult. (Luke 19:39,40) The event was an important occasion in God's eternal purpose. And the power of the King in His kingdom would eventually extend peace to every one who would believe, in every city, in every land.
This prophecy does not promise that all war everywhere would cease. In God's due time all war will cease in the earth. (Psa. 46:9, 1 Cor. 15:24-26) We know it; we praise Him for that promise; and we praise Him that we now believe it. But to assure eternal peace in the hearts of all men was not the primary meaning of the prophecy. Its context refers to the first advent of Jesus and to one of the initial blessings for believers in His death and resurrection. It speaks of the true brotherhood of the 'sons of peace.' (Luke 10:5,6) And the peace would be not only for Israelitish believers: "He shall speak peace unto the heathen [Gentiles]." The fulfillment of that segment of the prophecy began with Cornelius, and has continued ever since.
The primary purpose of the prophecy was to show that the resurrected Jesus would speak peace unto both Jews and Gentiles. There was to be no limit to the boundaries of the dominion of that spiritual kingdom, the blessings from which opened at Pentecost. They would go "to as many as the Lord our God shall call" (Acts 2:39), and people of every land would receive that calling.--Rev. 5:9
The "pit wherein is no water" no doubt represents the condition of mankind in general under condemnation. This reference to a pit directs our minds to the fact that mankind in sin and death, and alienated from God, is without the spiritual water of life. Similar language is used in Isaiah 51:13,14, where it is written of some who "hasteneth that he may be loosed, and that he should not die in the pit." The pit there mentioned was apparently without "bread." This, too, speaks of those in poverty under sin and death, needing deliverance. When those who earnestly seek salvation recognize its source, they move toward it, up and out of the pit, and into deliverance through Christ.
Jesus described the zealous response of some who came to an early appreciation of the promises of Him who is invisible. "And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of the heavens is forcibly treated, and forceful men seize it"-- Marshall Interlinear; "...the kingdom of heaven is being invaded, and invaders are seizing upon it"--Rotherham. (Matt. 11:12) The parallel passage is Luke 16:16: "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it." The Greek word translated 'presseth' is identical to the Greek word translated 'is forcibly treated' in Matt. 11:12.
The second half of the important promise of Zech. 9:12 as worded in the RSV is now considered: "Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double." It is at once noticed that this is a promise of blessing--indeed, of a 'double' blessing. In fact, the entire passage, verses 9-17, contains a series of comforting promises. There is in the context no intimation whatsoever of any sins or transgressions for which God would "render" some kind of double punishment.
This meaning of the prophecy may bring dismay to Bible students who have thought it read differently. Fear of a new thought and the sinews of prejudice and conviction strain to reject that which one may not yet have individually studied to the same conclusion. Some seem to think there is little more to learn, nothing deeper to see. It is easier to reject a faithful teaching than to turn away from a long- accepted opinion that misses the mark of interpretation in harmony with the context. But God is love, and perfect love for God and His word, and an appreciation for the revealment of truth through His holy spirit, casteth out fear.--1 John 4:18
A certain theology holds that Zech. 9:12 was written to mark a turning point in God's dealing with Israel; that the day Jesus died marked the end of a period of favor, and the beginning of a like period of disfavor. But the prophecy of Zechariah does not suggest such a teaching. The prophet wrote just a few years after a faithful remnant had returned to the land of their fathers following the seventy years of captivity. That was a very proper juncture for God to intimate the nature of blessings which would be offered to them as a nation about five and one-half centuries later. The time when those privileges were offered was during and shortly after the earthly ministry of Jesus.
These blessings of faith in Christ Jesus for which Israel was kept under the law are the abundant blessings reserved for the spiritual firstborn. Belief and faith in the heart are essential for membership in "the church of the firstborn, which are enrolled in heaven" (Heb. 12:23), whether or not one be a firstborn by natural birth. The law of the firstborn is recorded in Deut. 21:17. "He shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his." This was foreshown in the experiences of Jacob and Esau. Jacob acquired the legal birthright and the consequent firstborn's double blessing through faith and the respect in his heart for the promises of God.--Gen. 25:31-34, 27:27-29,36
"Even today do I declare" refers to the very day that Jesus completed the pouring out of "the blood of thy covenant." (Zech. 9:11,12) That was an appropriate point for Jehovah to declare it, and this prophecy records that declaration. Even as God's oath to Abraham was sworn immediately following the offering of Isaac, so here God's declaration in the prophecy is identified with the completion of the personal sacrifice of our Master. The important promise Jesus made to the thief during their crucifixions was similarly timed. It was in the hours of His dying that Jesus assured, "Amen, I say unto thee today, thou shalt be with Me in paradise." (Luke 24:43) But God did not define the very day He will restore double unto them, because as before mentioned, the deeper fulfillment of that promise follows each person's individual heart consecration.
The peace and blessing of the 'double' are enjoyed by each one who participates in the kingdom of heaven and its "upward call of God in Christ Jesus." (Phil. 3:14 RSV) The first to enjoy the 'double' were the faithful Jewish remnant, "as many as received him." (John 1:12) The same Hebrew word for double as used in Zech. 9:12, mishneh, is used twice in Isaiah 61:7, and the context indicates that the blessing promised is again a very real though an intangible one--it is a spiritual blessing. "Instead of your [former] shame ye shall have double; and instead of dishonor they shall rejoice in their portion: therefore in their land they shall possess double; everlasting joy shall be unto them."--ASV
Inasmuch as only the faith remnant of fleshly Israel could "be named the Priests of the LORD" and "Ministers of our God" (Isa. 61:6), it would be necessary for them to "eat the riches ('wealth'--RSV) of the nations." This 'wealth' refers to the faith remnant from among the Gentiles, who would be appropriated, as it were, by Israel's remnant in order that those Gentiles might become joint members. The glory of the truth revealed to Gentiles requires their personal belief in the divine promises originally made to Abraham and his seed. For this Israel would 'boast,' would rejoice in being fitted with others-- Gentiles--who would participate in the special privileges.--Isaiah 61:2-6
Israel was and always is Israel. The name always refers only to the faithful, only to the true. None others fulfill the meaning of the word, "to rule with God." Paul's identification in Romans 9:6 is a truth: "However, it is not as though God's Word had failed--coming to nothing. For it is not everybody who is a descendant of Jacob (Israel) who belongs to [the true] Israel." (Amplified Bible) Any natural Israelite who lacked the faith of Abraham was not of Israel, even though after the flesh they were called Israel. The rest were only nominal, and in their harvest the nominal were denominated "chaff," worthless for use in God's purpose.
Isaiah 61:4 suggests that the prophecy was received after God had visited 'wastes' and 'desolations' upon Jerusalem. Many scholars believe that a prophet subsequent to the "son of Amoz" (Isa. 1:1) wrote the later chapters of Isaiah. This conclusion is further supported by 1), reference to the loss of Solomon's temple--"Our holy and our beautiful house, where our fathers praised thee, is burned up with fire: and all our pleasant things are laid waste" (Isa. 64:11); and 2), by the search for spiritual materials--"But this is the man to whom I will look, he that is humble and contrite in spirit, and trembles at My word"--with which to build another temple: "what is the house which you would build for me, and what is the place of my rest?" (Isa. 66:1,2 RSV) The captivity brought 'shame' and 'dishonor' upon all the people, but this was felt most deeply by those who had faith in God. The promise in Isaiah 61:7 was especially to comfort the real Israel. The 'double' was to be for them, and they would receive it "in their land." Such words of promise would encourage a captive people to return at the earliest opportunity from the national punishment in Babylon.
God's blessings to natural Israel were literal, but the eternal blessings which the symbols represent are spiritual. The natural blessing which Solomon invoked upon Israelites "so long as they live in the land which thou gavest unto our fathers" (I Kings 8:38-43) and "all the days that they live in the land" (2 Chron. 6:28-33), come in their spiritual form to any man who worships God in spirit and in truth, whether Jew or Gentile.
Some of the faithful fleshly Israelites of our Lord's and the apostle's time did possess their double portion--"everlasting joy shall be unto them"--when actually living "in their land," but many received their double portion while living in distant lands. And the remnant of other nations also receive a firstborn's double blessing of joy: "...your heart shall rejoice and your joy no man taketh from you...that your joy may be full." (John 16:20-24) This has been possible because the remnant of Israel under the direction of Jesus and the apostles took the message of salvation abroad to the Gentiles. They in turn also actively minister reconciliation and the upward call.--2 Cor. 5:18-21, Phil. 3:14
"Prisoners of hope" turn "to the strong hold" by exercising faith in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is He that has the authority to bestow deliverance. He grants it to those who seek it by devotion and service. The only way ever intended whereby one becomes a member of Abraham's seed that blesses others is through faith. And Paul reminds all believers of "the words of the Lord Jesus, how He said, 'It is more blessed to give than to receive.'" (Acts 20:35) "Sons of God" enjoy a blessing which supersedes that experienced by members of the previous 'house of servants.' (Heb. 3:5) Sonship opened as a result of the dispensation of faith in Jesus after His death and resurrection. "But the scripture shut up all...under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe."--Gal. 3:22 American Standard Revised
The symbols used to portray this joint service are a bow and an arrow. Judah is the bent bow; Ephraim, the arrow. But not all Israel were to be used, only "thy sons, O Zion"--only the Israelites indeed, the ones of faith. He makes Zion's sons "as the sword of a mighty man," not 'against' but 'over,' as in "I will brandish your sons, O Zion, over your sons, O Greece." (RSV) We incline to the view that God did not intend those words to intimate future Jewish efforts under the Maccabees to deliver themselves from the dominion of Greece, as Jerome says the Jews understood. In view of the events clearly foreshown by verses 9-12, it is reasonable to think that this connected verse, 13, holds reference to an activity involving the gospel. 'Over' suggests the priority of Zion to God's blessing, as well also the superiority of Israel's relationship as natural branches in the olive tree. Peter's words may relate to those elements. He affirmed to the Jews that God should send "the Christ having been foreappointed for you, Jesus..." The apostle concluded with the words, "Unto you first God, having raised up His servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities."--Acts 3:20,26
Verse fourteen promises that "the Lord GOD shall blow the trumpet." A trumpet usually announces something. Here the prophet seems to be using a trumpet blow to mark the start of the gospel invitation. In Isaiah 27:3 the trumpet blast represents a spiritual call for response by believers. In Isaiah 58:1, a trumpet illustrates the prominence to be given a specific instruction. In Amos 2:2 and 3:6 a trumpet is used in connection with judgment and destruction. The trumpet blown 'in Zion' announces impending judgment from the LORD, and calls people to repentance. (Joel 2:1,15) It is marvelous that the Lord would "be seen over them" working his providence and blessing.--Zech. 9:14
Zech. 9:15: "Jehovah of hosts will shelter above them, and they will eat and tread down sling-stones, and will drink, make a noise, as if wine, and become full, like the sacrificial bowls, like the corners of the altar." (Keil-Delitzsch) The prophet's language, which describes victory over enemies, whose flesh and blood is eaten and drunk, is similar to that in Num. 23:24. The time of fulfillment of the context, Zech. 9:9-12, suggests the intended primary significance of verse 15. It may point to the victory which God's power through his holy spirit gave to the early followers of Christ Jesus in their fight against the error, prejudice, and persecution of Judaism.
Remnants of Gentile nations are gathered by the Gospel message sent forth by the spiritual elect, who "set up," that is, proclaim the "ensign" throughout the earth. The adjacent Philistines mentioned in verse 14 may represent Gentiles, at one time enemies because of Israel's priority regarding the gospel (Rom. 11:28), but who would be reconciled to God through the witness of Israel's remnant. This would lead to the repentance of a remnant of Edom, Moab, and Ammon, representing other Gentiles, who would come with obedience to also partake of spiritual blessings. The spread of the gospel was actually in that manner: first into adjacent Samaria, and later to other Gentiles.--Acts 1:8, 8:5-14, 10:1-11:1
The promise of Zech. 9:16,17 must have comforted the remnant to anticipate "that day" when the LORD their God would save them "as the flock of His people." Jesus brought that blessing, identified Himself as their shepherd, and they as His flock. (Luke 12:32, John 10:11-16) How encouraging to the ones who feared the LORD and who thought upon His name must have been the words: "...for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. Yea, how good and how fair it shall be!" (RSV) His people become as crown jewels only through His goodness and love, through the sustenance and joy which comes to all who are God's dear Israel, encouraged by His provisions of truth and hope!
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