Last month we considered the key observance in Synagogues in the month of July, which was the 9th Av. A day remembered for a multitude of trials that came upon Israel.
Turmoil, trial, heartache, and death seem to be the constant companion of the Jewish people. For centuries the Jewish people have had major setbacks.
The Spanish Inquisition, Russian pogroms, the Nazi Holocaust are just a few of the horrors endured by the Jewish people. After reestablishing the nation in 1948, strife and wars have continued.
Such circumstances seem to justify the questions, Has God forgotten us? Will there ever be an end to strife and bloodshed? Will things continue to get worse? Is there any hope?
The first 39 chapters of Isaiah address God’s impending discipline on Israel for her idolatry and sin. But from Isa. 40-66 the focus is on comfort after judgement.
So following th 9th Av that occurred last month, the focus of the Haftorah readings in the synagogue are those chapters as well as Zechariah’s prophecies.
In the concluding chapters of Zechariah the Jewish prophet speaks of a future day when God will remember Israel once again.
Bloodshed will cease, and Israel’s situation will be altered for eternity. The hope of the ages will become a reality for Israel and her people. A hope that will impact all the nations.
Zechariah means God remembers. In the closing chapters of his book, we see a great hope articulated. I want to focus on Chapter 12 as we consider Israel and the Nations.
V 1 describes this prophecy coming from the Lord God of Israel. The burden (oracle) of the word of the LORD concerning Israel. Thus declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him,
Zechariah refers to God’s creative power. God stretched out the heavens, laid the foundations of the earth, and made man in His own image.
The God who did these things is certainly able to care for Israel. He is totally sovereign over the heavens and earth. Israel’s omnipotent Lord can and will bring to pass what He promises to Israel.
Next the Lord gives Zechariah three images to describe what He will do for Jerusalem in the future.
Zech. 12:2 “Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that causes reeling to all the peoples around; and when the siege is against Jerusalem, it will also be against Judah.
First, He spoke of a day when Jerusalem will be besieged by invading armies. He says God will make Jerusalem “a cup of trembling” to all the armies that will be gathered against her.
What does a “Cup of Trembling” mean? To best understand this we need to consider Isaiah 51:17 “Rouse yourself! Rouse yourself! Arise, O Jerusalem, you who have drunk from the LORD’S hand the cup of His anger; The chalice of reeling you have drained to the dregs.”
The second is in Jeremiah 25:15-16 “Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it. They will drink and stagger and go mad because of the sword that I will send among them.”
The “cup of trembling” is the wrath or judgment of God. For generations, Israel had known God’s fury when she turned to idolatry. The “cup of trembling” that was poured out on Israel is now turned to her enemies.
The Lord said through Jeremiah: ““Take this cup of the wine of wrath from My hand and cause all the nations to whom I send you to drink it … Then I took the cup from the LORD’S hand and made all the nations to whom the LORD sent me drink it… And it will be, if they refuse to take the cup from your hand to drink, then you will say to them, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: “You shall surely drink!” (Jer. 25:15, 17, 28).
God will prevail over the nations opposed to Israel. Whether they acknowledge His authority over them or not, they will ultimately do His bidding.
This word picture in chapter 12 is that Israel, having suffered repeated outpourings of God’s discipline, will see that judgment removed from her and meted out against her enemies.
Israel’s trials & tribulations will be over, and God will bless her.
The second image concerning Jerusalem is found in verse 3, where it’s described as “a heavy stone,” too heavy to lift.
It will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it.
Jerusalem will become like a stone that nations will think is an easy stone to remove. And as Daniel 2 describes, it will be a stone that will fall on all the armies gathered against her.
Daniel describes a stone cut without hands that comes crashing down, hits the feet of the image that represents the Gentile world powers, and smashes it to pieces.
Dan. 2:35 You continued looking until a stone was cut out without hands, and it struck the statue on its feet of iron and clay and crushed them…But the stone that struck the statue became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.
The stone pictured is Messiah, for we are told that it “became a great mountain and filled the whole earth” An allusion to those who are His followers ie. The Church of Jews and Gentiles today.
The stones of Daniel 2 and Zechariah 12:3 are similar, though not exactly the same. Zechariah speaks of the same stone—The Messah —crushing all the armies of the world that will be gathered against Jerusalem.
Zech 14:3 Then the LORD will go forth and fight against those nations, as when He fights on a day of battle.
Although all the armies of the nations will come to destroy the city, they themselves will be wiped out like Pharaoh and his armies in the Red Sea.
One further comment should be made about Zechariah 12:3. The last phrase says, “though all the nations of the earth be gathered together against it.”
At the end of the Tribulation period, just before Israel’s Messiah returns, anti-Semitism will be rampant. Under the leadership of the Antichrist (the prophesied enemy of God’s people), the whole world will rise up against the Jewish people and Jerusalem.
To whom can Jewish people look? Governments will hate them and send their armies to destroy Jerusalem and its people. We are seeing the rise of anti-semitism. With no other alternative, there will be only one direction to look, and that is up. We see this later in Zechariah 12:10.
In v 4 we have third image. In that day,” declares the LORD, “I will strike every horse with bewilderment and his rider with madness. But I will watch over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness.
This verse speaks of terrified horses who have been somehow blinded, frightened and unpredictable. On that wild horse is a rider who also has gone mad.
Blindness and terror, for the horse and the rider, almost an image of the armies of Pharaoh when they went after Israel in the Red Sea. It portrays a situation where confusion reigns.
This will be the world in the closing days of the Tribulation period when total bewilderment will overtake the earth. Although we’re not in the Tribulation period, we must agree that we’re living in a world where confusion is increasingly a daily fact of life.
Tucked in the middle of verse 4 is a phrase that seems almost out of place: “I will watch over the house of Judah.” This statement connects also with verse 10.
V 5 “Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’
The people of southern Israel (the former territory of Judah) will turn to the Lord. This is a consequence of the Lord opening His eyes in grace on the house of Judah (12:4).
In v 5-6 we read Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of hosts, their God.’
“In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among pieces of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem.
The clans of Judah recognize that their strength comes not from themselves but from the LORD of hosts.
They will be like a blazing fire under a cooking pot or a flaming torch among dry sheaves of grain, devouring the nations all around them as Jerusalem is restored. Like a WW2 flame thrower.
In v 7 we read The LORD also will save the tents of Judah first, so that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem will not be magnified above Judah.
When the battle comes, we get the impression that Jerusalem and the surrounding region, will quickly gain victory. That will not be the case.
If The house of David centered in Jerusalem, experienced victory first, they would take credit for the defeat of the nations. God will not allow that pride. He alone will win this battle, the glory is His.
As the Tribulation comes to its climax, the armies of the earth will step into the final battle, seeking ultimate victory over the Jews and Israel.
At that time a miraculous conquest will take place. Instead of the armies of the earth under the Antichrist wiping out Israel, the Lord will intervene, and the battle will change swiftly.
In v 8 we read: In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them.
God has done this in the past. Isaiah describes the time when Jerusalem was besieged for an extended period. Food was so scarce that Judah resorted to desperate measures to survive.
Animal refuse became a means of avoiding death by starvation. Even the bodies of those who perished were eaten. But Isaiah gave a word of assurance to the king and the people in Isa. 37:33
Therefore, thus says the LORD concerning the king of Assyria, ‘He will not come to this city or shoot an arrow there; and he will not come before it with a shield or throw up a siege ramp against it. By the way that he came, by the same he will return, and he will not come to this city,’ declares the LORD. ‘For I will defend this city to save it for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake.’”.
God’s power brought victory over Sennacherib, king of Assyria, He “departed, and returned to Ninevah.” His armies were wiped out by the angel of the Lord, who destroyed 185,000 of his troops.
Just as the Lord intervened against Sennacherib, He will do so again in the future. When the Lord makes a promise, He can and will carry it out. In this future battle instead of defeating one army God will defeat and destroy the armies of the world.
Zechariah illustrates this in v 8: “In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them at that day shall be like David.”
Those considered too weak to go to war, will be strengthened by the Lord so that they’re able to fight as well as King David fought, renowned for his victories in battle.
The house of David will be so powerful that it will do battle as God Himself did. They will fight with supernatural power and strength needed to bring about the victory promised by the Lord.
Zechariah 12:9 tells us that their victory is the Lord’s doing: “And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
Make no mistake about it—although men will be enabled to fight, this victory will be won by the Lord. All the credit goes to Him.
For two thousand years the Lord has been dealing with the Jewish people on an individual basis concerning their salvation. But both Zechariah and Paul in Romans 11 speak of a day coming when Israel will experience national salvation.
Zechariah 12:10 tells us of that day when the nation of Israel turns to the Lord.
“I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.
In Zechariah 3:9 the Lord promised to “remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” Zechariah 12:10 tells a little more about that promise, stating that Israel will look to her Messiah, the one they pierced.
When this takes place nationally, the nation will mourn as if they had lost their firstborn or only son. Their mourning will be like that of Pharaoh and his subjects on the night the death angel visited Egypt on the first Passover.
The mourning spoken of in verses 11 to 14 goes far beyond the normal mourning.
In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadad rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land will mourn, every family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Levi by itself and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself and their wives by themselves; all the families that remain, every family by itself and their wives by themselves.
These words may seem strange to us today. It compares to the mourning over the untimely death of Josiah, a King who brought the greatest revival in Israel.
“The family of the house of David” mentioned in verse 12 refers to the royal family. “The family of the house of Nathan” probably refers to the prophetic line,
“The house of Levi” to the priestly line, and “the family of Shimei” to the scribal or seferim line. The point is that the entire nation will mourn as never before.
What is the cause of this great mourning by the entire nation? They will finally realize that the one they have rejected for so long is their Messiah—Yeshua.
The rest of Zechariah describes the judgment by God on the nations and the establishment of the Kingdom of God in the world by Israel’s Messiah.
It describes how all the people of the Nations that survived will send representatives to Jerusalem to celebrate Tabernacles so that might receive the blessings of God upon them.