"The Lord Almighty Says…"
1Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 2This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her."
3This is what the Lord says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain."
4This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."
6This is what the Lord Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the Lord Almighty.
7This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."
9This is what the Lord Almighty says: "You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built. 10Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor. 11But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past," declares the Lord Almighty. 12"The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong."
14This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me," says the Lord Almighty, 15"so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. 16These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this," declares the Lord.
18Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19This is what the Lord Almighty says: "The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace."
20This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him."
23This is what the Lord Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’"
In this chapter, the Lord continues His answer to the question concerning fasting that the Bethelites posed in the previous chapter: "Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?" (Zech. 7:3). The Lord used the answer to this question about fasting to speak to the people about their worship in general. The essence of the Lord’s answer is that obedience is better than sacrifice. In the last chapter, the Lord urged the people to obedience through negative reenforcement, reminding them how the Israelites had suffered due to results of their disobedience. In this chapter, the Lord uses positive reenforcement, reminding the people of all the great things He has planned for Israel. In the previous chapter, the Lord spoke of Israel’s past desolation. In this chapter, He speaks of Israel’s future restoration.
In this chapter, the Lord gives ten messages to the people, most of them promises. Each message is prefaced by the words: "This is what the Lord Almighty says…" The repetition of these words underscores the veracity of the words, reminding the people that each of these messages is coming directly from the Lord of the Universe, the True and Holy God. Many of the promises contained in these messages are fantastic, so the people, lest they doubt the words, need the reminder that the Lord Himself is speaking. For believers, the words "This is what the Lord Almighty says", when found in the Bible, are a guarantee that what follows will come to pass.
Let us look at each of the ten messages from the Lord found in this chapter:
Concerning God’s jealousy: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her’" (vs. 2) – The first message is that God is "very jealous". He will not allow His people to worship other things. "God demands the whole heart, and will not be content with a divided throne. As the husband cannot brook the estrangement of his wife’s affections to a rival, so God cannot allow the bestowal of our affections supremely to any other object. This is idolatry, and as such will be punished with intense severity, either in this world or in the next" [Moore, 110–111]. What is unstated here, though, is that God’s demand on our affections is for our own good. Our affections are best placed on Him; our worship is best exercised on Him; our service is best utilized for Him. Love for, worship of, service for idols is wasted love, empty worship, futile service.
Concerning the Lord’s return to Jerusalem: "This is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain’" (vs. 3) – The glory of the Lord manifested its presence in the likeness of a cloud and came to dwell with the children of Israel when Moses set up the Tabernacle (see Ex. 40:34). Then, when Solomon dedicated the Temple, the glory of the Lord came to dwell in the Temple in Jerusalem (see I Kings 8:11). But later, the glory of the Lord departed from the Temple in Jerusalem when Babylon was in the process of conquering Israel, during the time Ezekiel prophesied (see Ezek. 8–11). Here in Zechariah, the Lord promises to "return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem". This will ultimately be fulfilled in the New Jerusalem, as prophesied by John: "I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them’" (Rev. 21:2 –3).
Concerning future prosperity in Jerusalem: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there’" (vss. 4–5) – The picture here is one of prosperity, blessing and security. That "once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem" points to a time when wars, famine and disease will not cut life short. That "boys and girls" will be playing in the streets points to a time of security, when the streets are safe enough for children to play in.
Concerning the veracity of what He is saying: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?’ declares the Lord Almighty" (vs. 6) – Recall that the Lord was speaking to the remnant in Israel who, not many years before, returned to a desolate land. They must surely have thought that these promises were marvelous. To have the Lord dwell again in Jerusalem! That Jerusalem would again be prosperous and secure! But with His rhetorical question, "But will it seem marvelous to me?", the Lord is saying that nothing is impossible for Him to accomplish. In our disbelief, we limit the power of God. We must not let human reason decide what God can or cannot do. There are many great promises in the Bible that have yet to be fulfilled, foremost among them, the return of Christ. These promises seem "marvelous", but "will they seem marvelous to God?"
Concerning the return of the children of Israel to the promised land: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God" (vs. 7–8) – The promise that God would bring the children of Israel back to the promised land seemed for many centuries a marvelous impossibility to many people, even Bible-believing Christians. In fact, before the 1900s, many reputable Bible commentators claimed that the Lord was speaking figuratively in this verse. This is surprising because the return of the children of Israel to the promised land was prophesied many times in the Old Testament (see also Isa. 11:11-12; 43:5,6; Ezek. 37:21; Amos 9:14-15). On the other hand, many other commentators did believe in the literal fulfillment of the promise of God. T. V. Moore wrote in the mid-1800’s: "The terms of this prediction carry us beyond any facts at that time existing, and refer to events then future. It predicts a return of the Jews from the west as well as the east, whilst at this time the only dispersion existing, was toward the east in Babylon. Hence, a universal dispersion is implied in this universal restoration, the terms, from the east to west, being inclusive of the entire earth. This general dispersion did not occur until the final fall of Jerusalem, since which there has been no general restoration of the Jews, either in a literal or a figurative sense. Hence the main facts predicted, are yet future" [Moore, 114]. Mr. Moore was correct in believing literally in the promise of God. In the last hundred years, we have seen the beginnings of the fulfillment of this promise. We have literally seen the children of Israel "of the east and the west" brought "back to live in Jerusalem". Now, though we have seen the physical restoration of the children of Israel to the promised land, their spiritual restoration has yet to occur. But God has said this will happen, so we should believe it will. Be careful anytime you say that a promise of God cannot be taken literally. You will probably be wrong!
(This study will continue in the next issue)