We’ve reached the final chapter of Zechariah’s prophecy. Back in chapter 1, the Lord spoke through Zechariah to his people who had returned from the exile in Babylon and the Lord commanded them to return to him. They had returned to Jerusalem, but now they must return to God by giving up their sins and renewing their obedience to him. And God continues to send preachers to his people to call on us to repent and to renew our obedience, because even though we are his people who believe, we are still sinners who continually do what is wrong. And so, every day we must turn from our sins in repentance and seek his forgiveness and pray for his help to obey him.
After that opening message, there followed eight night visions which Zechariah received from the Lord. And the night visions contained kind and comforting words for his despondent people who were struggling to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. And the Lord comforted them by making clear to them that the temple would be rebuilt; and Jerusalem would become an ever-expanding city; and foreign nations would come and worship the Lord; and those that did not and who remained their enemies would be destroyed; and the Lord will dwell there again, among his people to bless them. And while the Lord’s promises were fulfilled in part in the days of Zechariah, the visions pointed forward to the church of Jesus Christ, which is growing throughout the world and which is filled with people from every nation and it’s where God now dwells by his Spirit. And the visions also pointed forward beyond this world to the judgment to come on those who refuse to repent and to the hope of eternal life for all of God’s people in the new Jerusalem to come in the new heavens and earth where God will dwell with his people for ever and for ever.
After the night visions, the Lord spoke about his servant, the Branch, who will be both a priest and a king and who will establish peace. And he was referring to the coming of the Lord Jesus, who is our Great High Priest, who offered himself as the perfect sacrifice for sins; and who is our Great King, who calls us into his everlasting kingdom. And he gives us peace, because, through faith in him, we have peace with God; and we don’t need to be afraid of anything, because he promises to keep us for ever.
That was in the second half of chapter 6. Chapters 7 and 8 focused on the past and on the future. In the past, God’s people were unfaithful to him and they refused to pay attention to the Lord and his word. And so, the Lord was angry with them and he sent them away from the Promised Land and into exile to far off lands. But then the Lord revealed how he will return to Jerusalem; and he will bring back his exiled people; and he will dwell with them; and old men and women will sit in the streets of the city and boys and girls will play there and there will be no one to harm them. And once again, the Lord’s promises were fulfilled in part in Zechariah’s day. And they are fulfilled more fully in the church of Jesus Christ. But they will be fulfilled in all their fullness in the new and better world to come, where all of God’s people, drawn from every nation, will live in perfect peace and rest in the presence of God for ever.
Chapters 9 to 11 were one long oracle from the Lord. And, once again, he mostly spoke about the future. In chapter 9 he announced that the unbelieving nations will be judged and condemned; and a great king is coming for God’s people; and a final battle will be fought and won. In chapter 10 he announced that God will provide his people with new leaders and he himself will come and save them as he did in the past. Chapter 11 was about the past, because the Lord reminded his people of their past sins. But their past sins only served to highlight the greatness of God’s love for them, because though they deserved to be abandoned by him for ever, he had good things in store for them in the future.
And chapters 12 to 14 are also one oracle. Chapter 12 spoke about the nations gathering together against Jerusalem. But then the Lord will come to deliver his people. He will make Jerusalem an immoveable rock and he will shield his people and make them strong. And he spoke about someone who was pierced. And in chapter 13 he spoke about a fountain that was opened to cleanse God’s people from their sin and impurity; and he spoke about a shepherd who will be struck.
And these two oracles at the end of Zechariah in chapters 9 to 14 are about Jesus Christ, because he’s the coming king, and he’s the one who was pierced and he’s the shepherd who was struck and he’s the one who provides the fountain of forgiveness for his people. And these two oracles are about the church, which faces opposition and oppression from an unbelieving world. And these two oracles are about Christ’s final victory and eternal life in the presence of God.
The Lord spoke to his despondent people in Zechariah’s day to encourage them with the promise of better things to come. And these visions are also for us, because they speak to us of Christ our Saviour and our King who cleanses us from our guilt and shame and who promises to protect and keep us and to bring us into God’s presence where we will live with him in perfect peace and rest for ever. There are better days to come. And we know that everything that God has planned for us will happen just as he said it will, because he’s the almighty God who does all that he pleases and no one is able to thwart his plans for us.
Chapter 14 is the final part of the second oracle and it’s the final chapter of the book and it’s the passage we’re studying this evening. And it contains seven pictures. So, imagine we’re looking at a tapestry; and sown into the tapestry are seven pictures. Or imagine you’re looking at a graphic novel and there are seven pictures on one page. And each of these pictures are about ‘that day’. We’ve come across the phrase ‘on that day’ before, when I explained that this phrase doesn’t refer to one single day, because it embraces the whole of the time between the first and second comings of Christ. So, right now, we’re living in ‘that day’. However, as we’ll see, the focus in this chapter has shifted towards the end of that period and to what happens when Christ comes again.
And the first picture is in verses 1 and 2, which begin with the words ‘A day of the Lord is coming’. As we’ve seen, Zechariah normally says ‘on that day’. This time he talks about ‘a day of the Lord’. And perhaps he uses this expression to underline for us that the Lord is the one who is at work to accomplish his purposes. The Lord is not sitting back, relaxing in a chair in heaven. He’s up and he’s active and he’s accomplishing his purposes.
And what will happen on that day? He says that ‘your plunder will be divided among you’. And when he refers to ‘your plunder’, he’s referring to the plunder which is taken from God’s people in Jerusalem. And it will be divided ‘among’ them in the sense that it will be divided up in their midst. They’ll watch while it happens and they won’t be able to stop it. And it only gets worse — doesn’t it? — because look at verse 2. The nations will gather against Jerusalem to fight against it. And the city will be captured. And the houses will be ransacked and the women will be raped. And half of the city will go into exile and the rest will be left in the city.
And you read those words and you perhaps ask yourself, ‘Isn’t that what happened at the time of the exile?’ At the time of the exile, seventy or so years before Zechariah was writing, the Babylonians surrounded Jerusalem to lay siege to it. They captured the city and ransacked the houses and they probably attacked the women and many of the inhabitants were taken away into exile, but some were left behind. It sounds as if Zechariah is describing the exile. But, you see, Zechariah is using images from Israel’s past to speak about the future. He’s using images which were familiar to them to speak about something that would happen in days to come.
And notice something which is perhaps surprising. Look at the beginning of verse 2. It says: ‘I will gather the nations….’ That is, the Lord will gather the nations. The Lord is the almighty God who rules over all his creatures and all of their actions. And, according to this oracle from the Lord, he will cause the nations to attack his people. But why would the Lord cause the nations to attack his people? The answer comes in verse 3 where we’re told that the Lord will go out to fight against the nations.
So, why did the Lord cause the nations to attack his people? Because it was his plan all along to attack and destroy the nations. This recalls what we read in Exodus 14 of the exodus from Egypt. The Israelites had escaped from Egypt, but the Lord revealed that he had hardened Pharaoh’s heart so that Pharaoh would send his army to recapture the Israelites. In other words, the Lord sent Pharaoh’s army against his people. And the reason the Lord sent Pharaoh’s army against his people was to display his own glory by destroying Pharaoh’s army. And the reason the Lord will gather the nations against Jerusalem is to destroy the nations.
So what is the meaning of this picture? In Zechariah’s visions, the city of Jerusalem very often represents the church. And so, this first picture speaks of the way an unbelieving world opposes and oppresses the church of Jesus Christ in these, the last days in which we’re living. However, this first picture probably concerns the final battle in particular. We read about the final battle in Revelation 19. Right before Christ comes again, the Devil will gather the nations together for one final battle against the church of Jesus Christ. They will march across the breadth of the earth and will surround the church to attack it. But then the Lord will come out to fight against the nations and he will send fire from heaven to destroy them. In other words, the nations will gather against the church, but will be defeated. As Zechariah foretold, the Lord will let the nations assemble one last time so that he may finally destroy them.
The first picture in this chapter is of a battle. The second picture is in verse 4 and 5. On that day God’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives. Now God does not have feet, because he does not have a body. He’s a spirit. But this is a picture, isn’t it? The Lord is using images and pictures to convey to us something we need to know. And in this picture, the Lord is depicted as standing on the Mount of Olives, which was on the east side of Jerusalem. And the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west and will form a great valley. Half of the mountain will move one way and half of the mountain will move another way. And, according to verse 5, his people will flee by God’s mountain valley. That’s why God will split the mountain in two: it’s to provide a way of escape for his people. The Mount of Olives was like a barrier preventing their escape; and so, the Lord will open up a way for them. Again this recalls the time of the exodus, because didn’t the Lord open up a way of escape for the Israelites through the Red Sea? Half of the water moved one way and half of the water moved another way and a way of escape was opened for them. And here’s the Lord promising that he’ll do the same for his people in the future.
At the end of verse 5 he refers to an earthquake which took place in the days of Uzziah the king. Amos refers to it at the beginning of his book. Presumably this was an earthquake which had gone down in the history books as a significant time in Israel’s history which every one still remembered generations later. And just as they escaped at that time, so they will escape again. And then we’re told that the Lord will come and all the holy ones with him. Some of the commentators think the holy ones are his angels, but others think he’s referring to God’s people. In any case, the whole image conveys how God will come to deliver his people from all their enemies and all their troubles. And since he describes the mountains giving way before the Lord, who has come to deliver his people, then it makes us think again of the end of history and how the whole world will collapse to be replaced with the new heavens and earth.
The third picture is in verses 6 and 7 where he tells us that there will be no light. And there will be no cold or frost. And it will be a unique day, without daytime or night-time. A ‘day known only to the Lord’ means it will be a day like no other which we are unable to understand or explain. And when evening comes, it won’t become dark, but it will be light. And so, the seasons will be disrupted, because there will be no cold or frost after the summer. And the day has been disrupted, because the separation of daytime and night-time has been removed. After Noah’s flood, God promised that as long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease. But Zechariah is describing a time when those things have ceased. It’s as if the creation is coming apart and the world as we know it is coming to an end.
The fourth picture is in verse 8 and it’s a picture of living water flowing from Jerusalem and going to the east and west in summer and winter. The image of living water conveys the idea of fresh water. That is, water that is not stale or contaminated, but fresh and clean. And it conveys the idea of water that gives life.
The image of a flowing river appears in several places in the Old Testament, including Genesis 2 where there was a river flowing from Eden to water the earth; and in Joel 3 where there’s a fountain that flows from the temple to water the ground; and in Ezekiel 47 where a river flows from the temple to turn the Dead Sea into fresh water. And Psalm 36 speaks of a fountain of life. But perhaps the most important connection is with Revelation 22 and the river of life which flows from the throne of God down the middle of the great street of the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and earth. And on each side of the river, there’s the Tree of Life for the healing of the nations. And whoever is thirsty is invited to come and to drink from the water of life and live for ever.
If we put the last three pictures together of the shattering of the Mount of Olives and of the disruption of the seasons and the daytime and night-time and the river of living water flowing from the city, we’re beginning to see that Zechariah is focussing on the end of these, the last days in which we’re living and on the end of history. In this chapter, the focus is not so much on today, but on what will happen when Christ comes again.
The fifth picture begins in verse 9 with Zechariah telling us that the Lord will be king over the whole earth. And on that day, there will be one Lord and his name will be the only name. So, Zechariah depicts a time when all across the world, everyone will acknowledge that there’s only one God and they will serve him as their King.
That time has not yet come, because even though God has revealed his eternal power and divine nature to everyone by the things he has made, sinful men and women and boys and girls have suppressed the truth and they have worshipped other things which are not God, instead of worshipping the true God and giving thanks to him. But there is a day coming when everyone will confess that there’s only one God and everyone will bow before him as their King. That day has not yet come, but it will come.
And this picture contains a little more detail, because not only does it depict God as King over all, but it shows how the land around Jerusalem will be transformed. He says it will become like the Arabah. The significance of the Arabah is that it was lower than the area surrounding it. So, all the land around Jerusalem will be lowered, whereas Jerusalem itself will be raised. Jerusalem will be raised up and exalted, high over all, while the surrounding countryside will be lowered. In Isaiah 2 we read of a time when the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be raised up above the hills and the nations will stream to it. Raising up Jerusalem conveys the idea of its greatness and glory. It is exalted over every other city. It will become preeminent. And the city will be inhabited. Many people will live in it. And those who dwell there will be safe and secure for ever. It will never be destroyed.
And when we read these things, we cannot help but think of the new Jerusalem to come in the new heavens and earth which is the church in glory. In Revelation 21 it’s depicted as a great city, which shines with the glory of God and its surrounded by a great wall so that it’s safe and secure.
The sixth picture speaks of the judgment to come. In verse 12, Zechariah mentions a plague which will fall on the nations that fought against Jerusalem. Because of this plague, their flesh will rot and their eyes will rot and their tongues will rot. The reference to a plague recalls the exodus and the ten plagues which the Lord sent on the Egyptians. And, according to Zechariah, each man will be stricken by the Lord with great panic. And in their panic, they will seize one another and attack one another. This recalls the days when Gideon was judge over God’s people and their enemies, the Midianites, woke in the night when Gideon and his men blew their trumpets and displayed their torches. And in their panic, the Midianites killed one another. And Zechariah tells us that Judah will fight at Jerusalem. Presumably he means they will fight alongside the people of Jerusalem against the enemy nations. And the wealth of the surrounding nations will be collected. In other words, the nations will be destroyed and they will be plundered. And a plague will strike their horses and mules and camels and donkeys. All of their animals will be destroyed. This image conveys to us the thoroughness of the judgment and the totality of the devastation on the unbelieving nations.
And then, in the little picture which Zechariah is describing for us, he sees that there are some survivors. And those who survive go up to Jerusalem year after year to worship the King, who is the Lord Almighty. He refers to the Feast of Tabernacles, which became the main religious festival in the days after the exile; and it was a time of great thanksgiving. And so, Zechariah foretells how some people from the nations will present themselves before the Lord to worship him. And they will continue to do so, year after year. Meanwhile, those who do not worship the Lord, will once again suffer a plague of no rain.
And so, those who do not believe and do not worship the Lord will be condemned and punished for ever. But those who believe join together to worship the Lord and to give thanks to him. And that matches what we read at the end of the book of Revelation, where it tells us that the wicked will be thrown into the lake of fire to suffer punishment forever and forever, but all of God’s people will be with him forever and will worship him.
We come to the seventh and final picture which Zechariah sees and describes for us. And it’s a picture of a holy city. In Old Testament times, the High Priest wore a turban on his head and on the turban was a sign saying, ‘Holy to the Lord’. In other words, in those days, only the High Priest was holy to the Lord, set apart to serve the Lord in his temple. And in those days, certain bowls were regarded as holy and could be used in the temple for worship. In other words, in those days, only certain objects were holy to the Lord, set apart for the Lord in his temple. But the day is coming, when even the bells on the horses will be holy to the Lord and every cooking pot will be regarded as holy too. In other words, everything and everyone in the new Jerusalem will be holy. On that day, there won’t be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty. The Canaanites were the enemies of the Lord in the days of Joshua. They were the ones who were living in the Promised Land and they had to be removed so that God’s people could live there. And in the new Jerusalem to come, none of God’s enemies will be allowed to live there, because it will be for God’s people and God’s people alone.
And so, it’s a picture of a holy city filled with holy people. And it matches what we read in Revelation 21, where it says that nothing impure will ever enter the new Jerusalem in the new heavens and earth. Nothing impure will ever enter it. Nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful. But how can we ever hope to enter that city, since we are sinners, who sin against the Lord continually. How can we ever hope to enter that city, when none of us is holy by nature? How can we ever hope to enter that city, when by nature we’re sinful and corrupt and defiled? We can hope to enter that holy city, because Christ gave up his life to pay for our sins and he shed his blood to cleanse us. And through faith in him, we are pardoned by God and accepted as righteous in his sight and we’re regarded as holy, set apart from those who do not believe to belong to God as his holy people.
And so, in his first letter to the Corinthians, Paul addressed God’s people as ‘those sanctified in Christ’. That is, he addressed those who have been made holy in Christ, set apart to belong to God. And in Ephesians 1, Paul says God chose us in Christ before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. And we will be holy and blameless when he comes again, because Christ gave himself up for his people to make us holy and to present us to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. That’s what we will be when he comes again. Perfectly holy. And right now, in this life, he gives us his Holy Spirit, who works in our lives and helps us to grow in holiness so that we become more and more willing and able to do his will here on earth.
Zechariah’s final chapter with these seven pictures is telling us about the future that awaits us when Christ comes again. There will be one final battle, but God will come to fight against the nations and to give his people a way of escape. And this present earth will be disrupted and destroyed. But there will be a river of living water flowing from the presence of God to give everlasting life to his people. And the Lord will rule as King over all. And his enemies will be destroyed. And his people will worship him. And his people will be holy.
And so, no matter what happens on the earth, in these, the last days in which we’ve living, we should remember and believe that our future is secure, because God has planned it all and he will do all that he has planned and will give his people everlasting life in the new heavens and earth to come, where he will dwell with us as our King and Saviour. And while we wait to come into his holy presence, we should strive with all our might and with the help of his Holy Spirit to be his holy people here on earth, doing his will and obeying his commands so that our life here on earth reflects our future glory in the new Jerusalem to come.