Deliverance at Last Part Seven
Zechariah 12 & 13
Turmoil, trouble, heartache and death seem to be the lot of the people in the Middle East. Many, I am sure, are questioning, Has God forgotten us? Will there ever be an end to all this horrible strife and bloodshed? Will things continue to get worse? Isn’t there any hope?
Reading chapters nine through eleven of the Book of Zechariah, one would begin to wonder. The Lord promised His King for Israel, who, when He came, she rejected. He provided for her a Shepherd, but she would not follow Him. Instead, she followed false shepherds. Even at a future date she will follow one final false shepherd, the Antichrist. The situation looks almost hopeless.
However, when we leave chapter eleven and move on into chapters twelve to fourteen, the picture changes. We take a great leap in time. Here we come to a day when God will remember Israel, and once and for all deliver her from all her enemies. Bloodshed will finally end. Things will be better. Hope will turn to reality at last. God’s Shepherd-King, Jesus, will rule and reign over her. She will turn to Him, and blessings will be hers for eternity. Let’s take a look and see how all this unfolds.
THE PROVISION FOR ISRAEL 12:1-6
Chapters twelve, thirteen and fourteen join together to become a unit. They are united by several key phrases and words used over and over. For example, the phrases, “in that day” and “at that day,” are used sixteen times. In context with these key phrases, the name of the city of Jerusalem is used twenty-one times. Furthermore, the name of the Lord, or personal pronouns referring to Him, are used forty-eight times. Throughout this entire segment one senses very clearly that there is a day yet future when the Lord is going to do something for Jerusalem. He has not forgotten her. Is not the meaning of the name of Zechariah, “God Remembers”?
Jerusalem Will Be a Cup of Trembling
This segment begins by using three figures to tell us what the Lord will do for Jerusalem. First, He speaks of yet another day when this city will be besieged by invading armies. This time, He promises to make Jerusalem “a cup of trembling” to all the armies that will be gathered together against her.
The phrase, “cup of trembling,” is also used in Isaiah where we read, “Awake, awake, stand up, O Jerusalem, which hast drunk at the hand of the Lord the cup of his fury; thou hast drunk the dregs of the cup of trembling, and wrung them out” (Isa. 51:17). This passage is one of judgment. Jerusalem was drinking the cup of God’s wrath for her idolatry. However, the Lord promises He would remove that judgment from Jerusalem one day: “. . . Behold, I have taken out of thine hand the cup of trembling, even the dregs of the cup of my fury; thou shalt no more drink it again” (Isa. 51:22).
The Hebrew brings out that the cup is one from which you drink intoxicating beverages. When you drink them, you “stagger” or “reel” from the content thereof.
In that future day, when the armies of the earth will be gathered once more against that little city of Jerusalem, they will be greedy. They will be drinking of the wine goblet of Jerusalem, intoxicated to the point that they will seek to destroy her once and for all. Have we not seen this over and over again in our own generation, as the various nations have sought to drive the Jews into the Mediterranean? Did not Nasser of Egypt promise King Hussein of Jordan that if he attacked Jerusalem in the 1967 war, they would join together to drink champagne one week later to celebrate their victory? It was, rather, Israel who celebrated that victory six days later!
The promise here is that even when all the armies of the earth gather against Jerusalem, they will only find themselves reeling with intoxication, unable to accomplish her destruction. Jerusalem will be God’s “cup of trembling” to all these nations.
Jerusalem Will Be a Burdensome Stone
The second figure about this city is found in verse three, where Jerusalem is described as a “burdensome stone.” The city is likened to a stone that is too heavy to lift. She will become that stone to all the armies gathered against her. In fact, this very passage informs us that at the time of its fulfillment, all the people of the earth will be gathered together against her. Whenever we pick up a stone too heavy to lift, we drop it. It will fall and crush something, usually our feet. Daniel speaks of this so clearly in chapter two of his book, where he describes a stone cut without hands. It comes crashing down, hits the portrayed image upon the feet and smashes it all to pieces. The stone pictured is Christ, and that which is destroyed is the Gentile nations. The stones of Daniel 2 and Zechariah 12:3 are parallel. Here, the prophet speaks of that same Stone, Christ, crushing all the armies of the world that are gathered against Jerusalem. Instead of them destroying the city, they will be wiped out. These same events are reiterated throughout both the Old and New Testament Scriptures.
Jerusalem Will See a Miraculous Deliverance
The third figure, in verse 4, speaks of horses, which are symbolic of power and strength. Every horse will be both astonished as well as blind. His rider will be mad. Interestingly enough, these are the same judgments promised to Israel if she failed to obey the Lord’s commands. “The Lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart” (Dt. 28:28). Here is a picture of the utter confusion that will befall the armies of the enemy that will gather against Jerusalem and Israel in the end times. It is no wonder they will suffer defeat. Intoxicated with initial success, they will not only meet the Smiting Stone, but simultaneously they will be hit with utter confusion.
Tucked in the middle of verse 4, there is a promise of spiritual blessing that God will ultimately bestow upon Israel: “. . . I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah.” Their trials, tribulations and testings of the centuries will be over. God will be ready to bless.
Verse 5 points out that the inhabitants of Jerusalem will no longer look to their own military for deliverance, but will then look to the Lord. When they do, their leaders will have miraculous strength and ability to defeat the armies gathered against them. When this battle is concluded, Jerusalem will be safely inhabited, never to face another siege or defeat.
THE PRESERVATION OF ISRAEL 12:7-9
Amazingly, the Lord will deliver the rural areas of Judah prior to the highly fortified city of Jerusalem. Scripture points out the reason very clearly – it is so that the leaders and populace of Jerusalem will not become puffed up, feeling that it is through their strength the battle is won. It will be the miraculous deliverance of the Lord. Though the people, from the aged to the greatest, will fight and even experience superhuman capabilities in battle, it will ultimately be the Lord who provides the victory. “In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem . . .” (12:8), “. . . in that day, that I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem” (12:9). Truly, the battle is the Lord’s. The Messiah in His return will defeat all the enemies.
THE PENITENCE OF ISRAEL 12:10-14
With the return of Christ, or the Messiah, and the victory won, the entire remaining population of Israel will finally realize who He is. They will look unto the One they have “pierced.” As a nation, they will see that the very One they sent to the cross of Calvary is the One who will have delivered them from their enemies. They will totally turn to Him.
So graphic will be that turning, it will bring about a national mourning such as they have never known before. They will just have experienced the greatest victory ever, and yet the whole nation will weep and mourn as if they had all just lost their firstborn sons. For the first time, they will sorrow for having followed their forefathers and false shepherds, who for so long led them astray.
The mourning in Jerusalem will be greater than that of “Hadadrimmon, in the Valley of Megiddon” (12:11b). This refers to a day of mourning in Israel recorded in 2 Chronicles 35. Pharaoh-neco of Egypt was passing by on his way to fight against Carchemish, which is near the Euphrates River. King Josiah went out to fight him. Pharaoh-neco sent messengers telling Josiah he was not out to do battle with him but was only passing through. Though this leader of Egypt clearly did not want to fight against God’s people, Josiah was determined to war against him. He did so in the Valley of Megiddo. In the ensuing struggle, Josiah was mortally wounded and died that night.
There was a great mourning all over the land (2 Chr. 35:24-25). The Jews were convinced that the line through which the Messiah was to come was cut off, and they could never know deliverance. Zechariah tells us that when Israel sees her Messiah come, she will mourn for Him in a far greater way than she has ever done before. In fact, the sorrow will be so great that husbands and wives will not even weep together. The kingly line, the prophetic line, the priestly line and all the common people will mourn as never before. Why? The nation of Israel will finally realize that for centuries she has rejected her Savior.
THE PURIFICATION OF ISRAEL 13:1-6
The prophet begins this chapter by using the phrase, “In that day.” He speaks once again of the day when the Lord returns to defend the city of Jerusalem. It is also that same day on which Israel will turn to the Lord (12:10).
First, there will be a fountain opened to the Jew and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin. The root of the Hebrew word for fountain means to dig out. It could be used of a well, spring, or fountain. This concept is used several times in the Old Testament, especially by Jeremiah, “For my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water” (Jer. 2:13). Furthermore, we read, “. . . they who depart from me shall be written in the earth, because they have forsaken the Lord, the fountain of living waters” (Jer. 17:13). It becomes very clear that Israel “hewed out cisterns,” which means she followed after dry traditions developed by her religious leaders, rather than turning to the Lord.
Zechariah, speaking of that day of the Lord’s return, tells us that Israel will then turn to the fountain of living waters, or Christ. Finally, the nation will experience that which it has desired for so long – national forgiveness for sin and uncleanness. This fountain is opened to Israel on the day she repents of her sin and looks to her Messiah. Never again will she turn from the Lord.
Secondly, in verses two and three we learn that Israel will no longer follow after false shepherds like those who led her into idolatry. Idol worship will be so far removed from the land that the very names of those they served will be forgotten. The false prophets of the Tribulation period will also be destroyed. Even the parents of these false prophets will turn on them and stab them to death. The land will be cleansed from this terrible scourge.
Thirdly, those who have been false prophets will be so ashamed, they will not even dare to wear their usual clerical garb any longer. They will even go so far as to deny ever having been prophets, claiming rather to have been herdsmen from their youth. Prophets will be asked, “What are these wounds?” (v. 6) as the pagan prophets cut and immolate themselves. Lying, they will claim they were wounds received “in the house of my friends.” Some feel the Hebrew goes so far as to say, “I have received these wounds in the house of prostitution.” They would rather be identified with this than with being a prophet. When the Messiah returns, Israel will turn to Him, and the land will be completely purified from everything false.
THE PRELUDE TO ISRAEL’S NATIONAL CLEANSING 13:7
Zechariah now turns his thoughts from the false shepherds involved in idol worship to the true Shepherd. He, too, would be wounded in the house of His friends. Jesus makes it very clear in Matthew that this passage refers to His crucifixion and the scattering of the disciples after His demise (Mt. 26:31).
God, in verse 7, appears to be calling His sword to smite and kill the true Shepherd of Israel. The death of Christ on the cross had been predicted time and time again by Moses, David, Isaiah and others. Now, Zechariah confirms it, adding one more thought. When He would die, the followers of Christ would be scattered for a little time, which is exactly what happened.
The last part of verse 7 is a beautiful picture of grace. God had been judging. The palm of His hand was turned down to whip and punish Israel. In His mercy, love and grace He now turns His hand over, the palm facing upward, outstretched to take in the scattered sheep to comfort and bless them. This is truly the prelude to Israel’s blessing. In order for her to know that blessing, the Shepherd had to die. Before God could turn His hand over in grace, the sword had to be activated against His Son.
THE PRESERVATION OF ISRAEL’S REMNANT 13:8-9
In the last verse of this chapter the prophet takes another time leap, this time to “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” or the Tribulation. The Nazi Holocaust of World War II will almost fade into oblivion when compared to that which is spoken of here. Two-thirds of the Jews in the land will die. There is a division of opinion among Bible scholars as to whether this refers to Jews in the land of Israel or worldwide. The word used in Hebrew is eretz. Today, in Israel, when they speak of eretz Israel, they mean the land of Israel. On the other hand, however, the same word is used in Genesis for the creation of the entire earth (Gen. 1:1). Whichever meaning is intended, this will be a horrible time as thousands, perhaps even millions, of Jews will die.
But, the one-third who remain are brought through the refining fire of the Tribulation. They will have been tested as no one else ever has. The dross will be removed. This tiny group, all that is left, will turn en masse to the Lord. They will belong to Him. They will enter the Millennium to be with Christ whom they have received. Yes, though tried by God, though bearing the brunt of the attacks of Satan, some will be delivered. They will finally know the benefits of God’s redemption through His Son, Jesus, their Messiah.
Battles, bloodshed, persecution and strife will have forever ended. Israel’s returning Messiah will deliver the Jew both physically and spiritually. The nation will finally know their “Great Shalom,” Jesus. Deliverance will have come at last.