God’s people—the ones who are really his—have pretty much always been in the minority throughout history. We aren’t usually openly persecuted in America, so it’s easy to forget that this is an anomaly in the history of the Church. Even in nations that supposedly worshipped the Lord, like ancient Israel, speaking up for the Lord could be a dangerous business. And on the international scene, Israel was always surrounded by powerful enemies who frequently agreed on only one thing: Israel must be buried.
This was especially true in Zechariah’s day. This was after the Exile. Even though they had a king who tended to be friendly towards the Jews, this could change in a heartbeat. They were servants of another nation, weak, and mostly defenseless.
But above all the noise of international turmoil, the Lord’s prophet speaks here a word of hope to the returned exiles. If they would just trust in the Lord, he’d provide what they needed. In an agricultural economy like Israel’s, rain was a sine qua non for life and everything else. And the Lord—not the Baals, nor any other god—could provide it.
However, they had to stop fence-sitting. They had to stop listening to idols and diviners. It was easy to “hedge your bets,” to try to worship different gods and go to different sources for comfort and guidance. But according to the Lord, any source they went to--outside of him--was a dry well and an empty promise.
If they did turn to the Lord, and him alone, then he'd be their Defender once more. Although right now they were like sheep without a shepherd, he would turn them into war horses who’d charge their enemy in battle. Verse 5 is especially striking: Imagine infantry men charging men on horses. . . and turning them in flight!
How could this happen? They were battered, worn out, and discouraged. What would be the big change? Well, the first clue is found at the end of vs. 5: “The Lord will be with them.” He'd be empowering them, miraculously destroying their enemies in front of them, and filling them with courage and strength. But the big answer is in vs. 4, which I sort of saved until now. Every source I’ve read says that vs. 4 is referring to the Messiah. He’s the Cornerstone of the New Temple, he’s the tent peg who'll restore David’s fallen tent, he will be the “battle bow” in the Lord’s hand to destroy his enemies, and from him all the “rulers” will come (all authority will be delegated from and thru him).
The rest of the chapter (vss. 6-12) describes a great ingathering of God’s people from all over the world into “Jerusalem.” Some take this to be literal at the End of the Age, while others see it as being figuratively and spiritually fulfilled now in the Church Age. Again, I lean more towards the “partial now/complete then” interpretation of such passages. But no matter how you interpret it exactly, there are a couple of applications which we can draw from this.
First, as always, the nations—under the control of the Enemy—will oppose God’s plan. Egypt and Assyria (10-11) are listed as symbolic of the international conspiracy to thwart the Lord’s purposes. The composer of the 2nd Psalm talked about the nations gathering together against the Lord and his Anointed One, and he also described the Lord’s response: derisive laughter.
That leads me to the second thing we can glean from this: The Lord’s purposes—both for us and for the world—will prevail. No matter what the world or the Devil come up with in their schemes against the Lord and his people, they will fail.
So what do we do? What’s our part? It’s in the last verse of today’s passage. We are to A) Be strengthened in the Lord, and B) Live securely (trust) in his Name. And of course that includes doing things his way. You can’t really claim that you’re trusting in his Name if you aren’t, right?
Lord Jesus, I’m not going to be like the world, running around with no Shepherd. That’s foolish. Where you lead, I will follow. I will trust you, and by your grace I’m going to obey you.
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