||38 Zechariah - 2006
Let's turn to the word of God. We're moving through. We're coming to the end of the Old Testament tonight in Zechariah, beginning with chapter 5. Good evening.
A fellow by the name of Richard Lederer comprised a group of biblical bloopers. These were stories that were retold by students from different parts of the globe. And if you put them all together, it would sound like this. In the first book of the Bible, Guinessis, God got tired of creating the world, so he took the Sabbath off. Adam and Eve were created from an apple tree. Noah's wife was called, Joan of Arc. And Samson slayed the Philistines with the ax, A-X, of the apostles. Moses went up on Mt. Cyanide and got the 10 Amendments. The first commandment was when Eve told Adam to eat the apple. The fifth commandment is to humor thy father and thy mother. The seventh commandment is thou shalt not admit adultery. Moses died before he ever reached Canada, rather than Canaan. Joshua led the Hebrews in the battle of Geritol. And Solomon, one of David's sons, had 300 wives and 700 porcupines. Jesus was born because Mary had an immaculate contraption. The people who followed the Lord were called the 12 decibels. And the epistles were the wives of the apostles. And a Christian should have only one wife. This is called monotony.
There's a lot of names and places and eras in the Bible that can become very confusing. And it's especially confusing when it comes to prophecy. In fact, some have complained-- I say some, being biblical commentators, both Jewish and Christian-- of the symbolism that is employed in the Book of Zechariah. The significant, or the sign, type of literature that we find. It's interesting that Paul said he didn't want believers to be ignorant in two areas. He didn't want them to be ignorant of the Last Things, the coming of the Lord. And he didn't want them to be ignorant of spiritual gifts. And yet those seem to be the two areas that we're the most ignorant about, the coming of the Lord and the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
Well, so far, in the first four chapters, we have seen several visions that Nehemiah had that the Lord gave to him in a single night. And, so far, they've been very encouraging. How the Lord would prosper Israel in the future. And how they would be restored to their land and to their place. Days of blessing, days of prosperity. There would be a renewed presence of God among the people. There would be the reestablished nation. And there would be re-energised leadership in the form of Zerubbabel, that's the civil leader, and Joshua, that is the spiritual leader. All of that culminated in a vision in chapter 4. That glorious vision of the automated menorah, where that supply of oil, the supply of the spirit of God, kept coming, and would keep coming, enabling the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem to be finished. But what was great about-- what we saw is that God was saying, whatever has been in the past, let it go. Because the future will far exceed the past in glory. So God brought their eyes up to that beautiful future horizon.
Now, in chapter 5, we get another vision. A vision of the flying scroll, where we read, "Then I turned and raised my eyes and saw there a flying scroll. And he said to me, what do you see? So I answered, I see a flying scroll. Its length is 20 cubits and its width is 30 cubits." So he sees this scroll that's 30 feet by 15 feet flying in the air. The size of a billboard. Actually, the dimensions are quite interesting. They are the size of the Holy Place in the Tabernacle. Remember the Tabernacle proper. There, it was divided into two sections, the Holy Place and the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was 15' by 15'. The Holy Place was 15 feet wide by 30 feet deep. And it was also the same measurement as the vestibule of Solomon in the temple, according to 1 Kings 6. That was the place where the law was heralded, or read from. So he sees this scroll with those dimensions flying above him, 20 cubits and it's width, 10 cubits.
Now, in ancient times, people would write upon scrolls. They didn't have bound books like we have today. So they would write on either the inner bark of trees that were treated in a special way so that you could write on them, or papyrus, scrolls of papyrus, or the skins of animals called vellum. All of those were materials used at different times in the past for writing. The scroll will contain curses. A large number of curses, obviously. And it's flying around, out in the open, so that anybody could see it. But the dimensions, 15 feet by 30 feet, could indicate, perhaps, the truth that judgment must begin at the house of God. As God, with these curses, is going to root out wicked individuals from Jerusalem.
"Then he said to me, this is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth." Now, that word "earth" in Hebrew, is "erets". And "erets" is the word most typically used for the land of Israel. Erets Yisrael the land of Judah or Israel. So, it is the curse over the face of the land of Israel.
"Every thief shall be expelled, according to the side of the scroll-- according to this side of the scroll. Every perjurer shall be expelled, according to that side of it. And I will send out the curse, says the Lord of Hosts, and it shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of the one who swears falsely by my name. It shall remain in the midst of his house and consume it with its timber and its stones." Now, two sins are mentioned in this scroll, on one side and the other-- stealing and lying. Which could be representative sins of all of the sins, all of the commandments that were broken. These two could just be the most notable ones. Swearing falsely by the Lord's name, breaks the middle commandment of the first table of the law. And then, stealing breaks the middle commandment of the second table of the law. So, it could be, that they represent all of the law, all of the sins that were committed. The law of God being broken.
Now the scroll is not rolled up. It seems to be unbound because he can see its measurements. So, it would be out in the open, publicly displayed, the curses that God puts on them. What are these curses? Well, we don't know exactly. But they could simply be curses that God had promised the nation of Israel way back in Deuteronomy 28. Very simply stated, if you obey me, I'll bless you. If you disobeyed me, you'll have these curses upon you. You'll be cursed when you go out. You'll be cursed when you come in. You'll be cursed in the kneading trough. You'll be cursed out in the field. And a list of curses are given for disobedience, as they are in the land. So, the scroll then, signifies that law breakers will be expelled and will be judged from Israel.
Then we have another vision. "Then the angel who talked with me came out and said to me, lift your eyes now and see what this is that goes forth. So I asked, what is it? And he said, it is a basket." Or in Hebrew, an ephah. And an ephah is the largest dry measurement in ancient times in the Bible, in the Old Testament. It's about 39 quarts-- American quarts. It is a basket, an ephah, that is going forth. He also said, "This is their resemblance throughout the earth. Here is a lead disk lifted up. And this is a woman sitting inside the basket. Then he said, this is Wickedness! And he thrust her down into the basket and threw the lead cover over its mouth." Wow, what a picture. Just as bits of grain, or trash, would be collected and put in a trash basket, this Wickedness will be tossed out and taken out like garbage.
"Then I raised my eyes and looked and there were two women coming with the wind in their wings. For they had wings like the wings of a stork. And they lifted up the basket between the earth and heaven." Now, when it says that these women had wind in their wings, it could also be translated, spirit in their wings. It's the same Hebrew word, "ruach". It's sometimes translated "wind", sometimes translated "spirit". So, if you look at it this way, that the spirit was in their wings, the indication could be that God is the one who is overseeing this cleansing work, taking the wickedness out. It is by His spirit that this is being done.
"So I said to the angel who talked with me, where are they carrying the basket? And he said to me, to build a house for it in the land of Shinar. When it is ready, the basket will be set there on its base." Now Shinar is Babylon. And the wings of a stork-- they're interesting. A stork is a migratory bird and they're able to cover, in their migration, long distances. Much further than it would be from Judah, all the way over to Babylon. But we have to be careful with this image because it's a picture of a woman, and the woman is called, Wickedness. It doesn't indicate, at all, that women are wicked. So don't get that idea. Because the two women that take Wickedness away are also females. So there's good and bad. It's simply a depiction here.
Now, what does it mean exactly, and why is it Shinar? Does it refer to the Babylonian captivity? Is it the idea of taking the Jews from Judah and bringing them over to Babylon? Probably not. Because you see, so far, all of the visions in Zechariah have been future, not past. And the Babylonian captivity is, at this point, already passed. So it probably doesn't refer to the captivity, but it probably refers to some future event. In fact, the way I see it, is that same rebellious spirit that first cropped up in Shinar, at Babel, in Genesis 10 and 11-- that seed that was sown there, and that continued through history into the nation of Babylon, will continue even into the future, in the tribulation period, when you read about it in Revelation 18, mystery, Babylon the Great.
In the Bible, Jerusalem, is mentioned more than any other city. But second unto Jerusalem, is the city of Babylon. Second to Jerusalem, Babylon is mentioned more than any other city in the Bible. Babylon began in the plain of Shinar, as Babel, in Genesis 10, with a guy by the name of, Nimrod, the grandson of Shem, or the grandson, excuse me, of Ham, in the plane of Shinar. And the people said, let's build a city, and let's build a tower whose height reaches up toward the heavens. It was a city conceived in rebellion. It was a city that didn't want God at its center, but wanted man at its center. It was a humanistic city.
Ancient documents show us that Nimrod married a woman by the name of Semiramis. And they bore a son and they called their son, Tammuz. Semiramis claimed that Tammuz was born miraculously. That he was born from a sunbeam. And that he was the savior. That he was a god, the savior of the earth. So already, in the early stages of human history, back in Babel, you have Satan working with a counterfeit, a virgin born savior. As Tammuz grew up in the land of Shinar, he was killed. He was gored by a bull and he died. And it is said that Semiramis wept for him for 40 days. But after 40 days he rose from the dead. So now, you have a virgin born savior of the world, who died and rose again. Stems all the way back from Babylon. Satan was working hard at the counterfeit, even back then. By the way, the whole idea of lent comes from the mourning of Semiramis over Tammuz, those 40 days.
Well, you take that into the future-- those seeds of human rebellion that were birthed there, and grew there, even during the time of the exile, will be even worse in the future. Because we read about, in Revelation 17 and 18, both religious Babylon-- this harlot she is called. And the mother of harlots in Revelation. And her sin is fornication-- spiritual fornication-- that is idolatry. She is both a religious center, as well as, an economic center by that time in the tribulation period. This vision, I believe, refers to the end of time. To that time. To the Revelation 17 and 18 time. When at that time, there will be both a Jewish revival, as God reaches out and 144,000, the remnant, believe in Jesus Christ as their Savior, their Messiah. An exciting time. At the same time, it is the tribulation period. So God is pouring out his wrath on the earth. Satan is unleashing his fury on the earth, and principally on the Jewish nation. But then, Jesus will return and in one fell swoop, in one day, as Zechariah has already said, he will remove evil, wickedness, and will judge Babylon. So I believe this has a future fulfillment at that time period.
Now, we come to another vision in chapter 6. "And I turned and raised my eyes and looked, and behold, four chariots were coming from between two mountains. And the mountains were mountains of bronze or brass. These chariots are war chariots. With the first chariot, were red horses. With the second chariot, black horses. With the third chariot, white horses. With the fourth chariot, dappled or grizzled horses. Strong steeds." Now some see these mountains, since mountains sometimes in the Bible is a reference to human government, as the judgments of God coming between two superpowers. And there's different ideas as to who they are. Others see the two mountains as Mt. Zion and Mt. Moriah, geographical places in Jerusalem. And the valley between them, is the valley of, they say, Jehoshaphat, or the Kidron Valley. And that when Jesus Christ comes again and puts his foot on the Mount of Olives, and widens that valley all the way down to the Dead Sea, that this has that as its reference. Brass, of course, is a symbol of judgment. The brass altar was the altar of sacrifice that took place for sin, out in the outer court.
"Then I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, what are these my Lord? And the angel answered and said to me, these are four spirits." Again, the word, ruach, winds or spirits, of heaven who went out from their station before the Lord of all the earth. The one with the black horse is going to the north country. And so often in the Bible, the north country refers to Babylon. Not always, but often. The white are going after them and the dappled are going toward the south country. And often it's a reference to Egypt. Now you remember, historically, that little vulnerable nation of Israel, was sandwiched between superpowers, often in the north and in the south-- Babylon and Egypt. Or later on, the Seleucids and the Ptolemaic Empire, and with the struggles that took place between the North and the South. And Israel was the one that felt the brunt of it for so many years of their history.
"Then the strong steeds went out eager to go, that they might walk to and fro throughout the earth. And he said, go and walk to and fro throughout the earth. So they walked to and fro, throughout the earth. And he called to me and spoke to me saying, see, those who go toward the north country, have given rest to my spirit in the north country." This vision does correspond to the first two visions that we've already read. First vision, was the vision of the scroll. And that is, that wicked individuals would be judged. Second, the principle and practice of wickedness would be removed, judged, taken away from Israel. Referring to the end times, the woman in the basket. This is a reference to the judgment upon wicked nations that are around Israel both in the north and in the south.
What is the timing of it? What does it represent? When will it take place? Well, again, you have various interpretations. Some will say that it already took place. That it refers to the southern country of Judah being exiled, deported into Babylon. I don't buy that because all of the other visions of the prophet were futuristic visions to bring them hope in the rebuilding of the temple, and get them to look far past that, to the coming Messiah.
Second interpretation is, this refers to some immediate fulfillment. That soon after this prophecy was given, by the prophet Zechariah, that sin would be purged, wickedness would be taken away, and nations would be judged. The problem with that interpretation is we have no historical record of it. We have no historical record of evil nations being judged, because more wicked nations came and invaded the land years later. This must refer to the future. The future judgment and the future millennial reign of Jesus Christ. That's the flow of these visions, so far. They start with the blessing pronounced on Zerubbabel, that civil leader in Jerusalem.
And then, extending from Zerubbabel, all the way into the future. Especially when The Branch-- he's already been mentioned once, and we'll see him mentioned again tonight, when the Messiah will come in the future. "And when He comes, He will remove evil wickedness in one day from Israel. And He will judge the enemies, those who are coming from the north, up through the valley of Armageddon. And then He will rule and reign for 1,000 years. Then, the word of the Lord came to me saying, receive the gift from the captives from Heldai to Tobijah, and Jedaiah who have come from Babylon. And go the same day and enter the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and the gold and make an elaborate crown."
Now, that word "crown" in Hebrew, is in the plural. It should be "crowns". It could refer to a double crown or an ornate set of crowns. "Take silver and gold and make elaborate crowns, and set them on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest." Now let's just say you were living a couple thousand years ago, in Israel at the time that Jesus came. And you were reading Zechariah. Here is a prediction-- and we'll see it in just a minute-- that some of the rabbis, even then, said this is a reference to the Messiah using Joshua, but going past Joshua to some priest-- Messiah priest-- greater than Joshua. But just the fact that he is named Joshua-- Yeshua-- the same name that Jesus was given, should be an indication, hmm, something's up. Interesting prophecy.
Now, these new arrivals from Babylon, come with their gifts of silver and gold, presumably to help restore the community that is back in Jerusalem. And so, a crown is made, this ornate set of crowns. "Then speak to him saying, thus says the Lord of hosts. Saying, behold the man whose name is The Branch. From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord." Now, remember that term, "branch", it's a term used seven times, altogether, in the Old Testament that refer to the future Messiah, from the Old Testament perspective. The future Messiah, that would come to the Jewish nation. Refers to Christ.
"Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory. And shall sit and rule on His throne. So He shall be a priest on His throne. And the Council of peace, shall be between them both. Now, the elaborate crown shall be for a memorial in the temple of the Lord for, Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hem, the son of Zephaniah. Even those from afar, shall come and build the temple of the Lord. Then, you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord, your God."
This is really the climax, the pinnacle, to all of the visions, so far. This is the future. This is the Messiah that is coming. Just as Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, was the high priest then, and would be given strength by God to rebuild, or to finish, spiritually, that temple in Jerusalem, there was coming another, their Messiah-- called here, The Branch-- who will build the future temple. "His name will also be Joshua. Yeshua. He will also receive crowns, plural."
Revelation 19-- John gets a vision of the coming Christ, the second coming. "And he says, I saw heaven open and behold, a white horse and He who sat on him was called, Faithful and True. And in righteousness, He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head, were many crowns. And He had a name written that no one knew except Himself." So here, the vision is of a priest who sits upon his throne. Interestingly, a King, who is both King and priest. And Jesus, will be both King and priest.
King, as the son of David. "The government will be upon His shoulders, on the throne of David, to order it, and to establish it, from this time forth, even forever more." Also, Jesus will come as a priest, forever, after the order of Melchizedek. That far greater, more permanent, better priesthood, than that of Aaron. So he bears both the King, and the priest.
It's interesting, is it not, in verse 12, how it's worded? "Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold the man whose name is The Branch." Although, some of the very words that Pontius Pilate used, when after scourging Jesus, and bringing Jesus before the people. He said those words, "Ecce homo," behold the man. That should have been another red flag in their minds. If they would have read 2000 years ago, this prophecy, and heard the words of Pilate. There he was, The Branch, the net serre, the one who would branch out and eventually build the temple.
Now, I'm going to read verse 12 to you, in what is called the Targum. It is the Aramaic translation of the Old Testament. Translation and paraphrase-- Jewish source. "Behold the man, the Messiah is his name, who is to be revealed." You can't get any clearer than that, that was their understanding. This man, is the Messiah, he's going to be revealed and he is going to be God's chosen one. So, one day, that God man, who made the world, will come back to the world He created, and He will rule and reign. He once wore a crown of thorns. He will now wear, at that time, the diadems, the crowns of glory in the future. He made the world. He created it. He's going to then rule and reign over it.
Now, Zechariah 7, begins a distinct division of this prophecy. It has been two years since the visions that Zechariah got in the previous chapters. And he got them all, remember, in one night. All in one night. All of those visions one after the other. Two years have passed, which brings us up to chapter 7. And in chapter 7, there's a group of folks, a delegation from Bethel, the house of the Lord, to ask about the issue of fasting to the priest. And Zechariah is a priest, he's among them. And the priests are the ones who interpret the law, so they have a question about this.
Now, in the fourth year of King Darius, it came to pass that the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month. That's Kislev, as it says. That would be part of our November, and part of our December, the way the months fall. When the people sent Sharezer with Regem-melech and his men to the house of God to pray before the Lord. And to ask the priests, who were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and the prophets, saying, "Should I weep in the fifth month, and fast as I have done for so many years?"
Now, in the law in the Torah, the Book of Leviticus gave a single day that the Jews were to fast. And it was in the seventh month, it was the day, Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. The Lord says on that day you will afflict your souls. That was the only day that God prescribed. So, Yom Kippur, was the day when they would abstain from food, they would fast.
Back in 1973, in October, on Yom Kippur, the time when Jews celebrate or commemorate by fasting, at 2:00 in the afternoon, when they were 20 hours already into their fast-- so their bodies were weakened-- and there was nothing going on. No work, no broadcasting, no radio, no newspapers, nothing-- that is when Syria and Egypt attacked Israel. Because they knew Israel will be most vulnerable on Yom Kippur. They're not going to be manning their stations. They're not going to be broadcasting over the country, so the news will be cut off. They'll be fasting. They'll be praying. They'll be weakened. And they were attacked.
But, this was different. What happened is, as time went on, the Jews, after the captivity, decided, let's keep some extra days to fast. Let's commemorate what happened in the destruction of Jerusalem and the burning of the temple. So they added several days to keep that memory alive among the exiles, and after the captivity, of what happened to Jerusalem. So the 17th day of the fourth month, they would commemorate the capture of the city of Jerusalem. And it was a day that they would fast. That corresponds to a day in our July. Then on the ninth day of the fifth month, which is in our August, they would fast again, commemorating the burning down of the temple in Jerusalem by the Babylonians. On the third day of the seventh month was another day of fasting. And on that day, they commemorated the assassination of Gedaliah. You may remember back in Jeremiah 4, when we covered his assassination. And then, on the 10th day of the 10th month, which is in our January, they commemorated the day that Nebuchadnezzar began the siege against Jerusalem. All of those four days were added to the fifth day, Yom Kippur, so that there were five days in which they were fasting during the year. Just to keep the memory alive.
This was a valid question. Hey, we're back from captivity now, but we've been keeping up this ritual, this ceremony. We've been going through the motions. Should we? I mean, after all, we're rebuilding the temple. We've been doing it. We've been keeping that memory alive. But it was really an outward form. It was merely ceremony they were keeping. So they bring this question to the priest in Jerusalem. "Then, the word of the Lord of hosts came to me saying--" I'm sure they expected a much simpler answer than the one that got. "--say to all the people of the land and to the priest, when you fasted and mourned in the fifth and the seventh months--" Now later on, you're going to find all four of those extra days will be mentioned. But here it is. "--when you fasted in the fifth and the seventh month during those 70 years, did you really fast for me? For me? When you eat and when you drink, do you not eat and drink for yourselves?"
The point is, God didn't really care about the ceremony. God was all about the sincerity of their heart, not the ceremony that they kept. He could care less about the ritual. God wanted the relationship. But, what the prophet, Zechariah, was getting at, is that these people were in it for the ritual, and for the ceremony. And there are a great number of people today who believe, if I keep a ceremony, if I do the ritual, that's what's pleasing to God. So it all becomes about the traditions that have been passed down, and keeping the ritual, and keeping the ceremony.
You may remember, when we were going through Isaiah, there in the 58th chapter-- In Isaiah, the Lord says, as they came to him, they said, "why have we fasted? And they say, and you have not seen it. Why have we humbled ourselves and you have not noticed? Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please. Your fasting ends in quarreling and in strife." So they, it seems, during that time before the captivity, we're fasting in order to buy God's blessing. To sort of twist God's arm. I'm going to show God just how good I am by this fasting. Expecting to get a blessing because of their fasting. Well, the Lord's saying, hey, even during the captivity, those extra days that you imposed, you weren't really fasting for me. You were just going through the motions. You were just making it about the ritual, not about the relationship.
Fasting, in the Bible, is commended. Both in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament, there were several prophets. And even in the New Testament, Anna, John the Baptist, Jesus, and the early church, when commissioning people, would sometimes fast. But the idea of fasting was a voluntary restraint from food in order that I might focus spiritually. So rather than being driven by the need for food, I'm going to let my appetite be driven by my spirit. I'm going to restrain. I'm not going to be controlled by the appetites-- by the flesh. I'm going to focus. I'm going to use this time to totally focus on the Lord, and His will. And in doing so, the Lord will say, "You should then also be concerned about the needs of other people. Should you not," verse 7, "have obeyed the words which the Lord proclaimed through the former prophets? When Jerusalem and the cities around it were inhabited and prosperous-- and the south and the low land were inhabited--"
Remember Isaiah and Amos both told these people down in Judah not to abandon acts of mercy, but to show themselves as representatives of the Lord by being kind, compassionate, generous. Then, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, execute true justice, show mercy and compassion, every one to his brother." Now, this has been the message of the law, as well as, all of the prophets who were before the captivity-- same message.
"Do not oppress the widow, or the fatherless, the alien, or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart against his brother. But, they refused to heed. They shrugged their shoulders." Now, that's a figure of speech from the animal world. When you try to put a yoke on an animal, and put the yoke on the shoulders, and a harness around the neck so that the animal would pull the plow. If that animal wasn't trained properly, he would move his shoulder and want to get out of that restraint that you're putting on him. In other words, God is saying you wouldn't allow me to control your life. I wanted to direct you. I wanted to use you to do my work, but you shrugged the shoulder.
"And stop their ears so that they could not hear. Yes, they made their hearts like flint. Refusing to hear the law and the words which the Lord of hosts sent, by His spirit, through the former prophets. Thus, great wrath came from the Lord of hosts." God through the prophet Zechariah, is giving them perspective. All of the fasts that they were commemorating and all those different months. The fast that commemorated, the burning of the temple, the siege of Nebuchadnezzer, et cetera, et cetera. Here they were commemorating days, fasts, that were disasters brought on by their own sin. God's point is, you'd have been a lot better off just listening to the warnings of my profits, from the beginning, and obeying. You see, here you are making it all about the ritual, the fast. And here you are, in the fast, commemorating disasters that are caused by your own rebellion. Just listen to me. Just obey me. Just be willing to be governed and to be led.
Therefore, it happened, verse 13, "That just as he proclaimed, and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen, says the Lord of hosts." Now, look at that again. It's basically the law of reaping and sowing. "The Lord says, just as He the Lord proclaimed and they would not hear, so they called out and I would not listen, says the Lord." I called out to you-- no response, shrugging of the shoulder, stopping of the ear, being hardened in heart. So when you cried out, I did not hear. But what did God do? He left them there for 70 years according to the prophecy of Jeremiah. Then, God in his faithfulness, rescued them and brought them back into the land in which they now dwell.
"But I scattered them," verse 14, "with a whirlwind among all the nations, which they had not known. Thus, the land became desolate after them so that no one passed through or returned. For they made the pleasant land, desolate." So they had already experienced in Assyria and Babylon, the scattering of the Jews, to the different nations that had also been captive by these two super powers, Babylon and Assyria. So the answer to the Jews who said, what about the fast? And God says, I don't think you're grasping the true meaning of the fast. The fast isn't to be about you, it's to be about me. It's to take the focus off of you and to put it on to me. And the way you prove that the focus is on me, is that you care for the things I care about. Those oppressed people over there, those hurting people, reach out to them, love them, because I love them. But they had made it all about themselves.
We live in a very self-absorbed, self-centered culture, and they were already into that back then. So the idea of fasting in our culture is a little hard to push because of self-gratification being so high on the scale. But, it is good, as the Lord leads, to say I'm just going to give myself totally to prayer for a period of time. And as the Lord leads again, be careful. You say, well, I want to fast until I hear from the Lord. Well, you may hear the Lord say, come home, if you go too long. So you want to be careful. But there are several ways to fast. Again, the idea is to take all of the focus off of self and onto the Lord. Rather than letting your body appetites govern you and control you, you're going to govern them and control them, by the Spirit. It really reminds you that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit and God owns it.
Now, in the eighth chapter, Zechariah 8, it continues with the same thought of chapter 7, that God wants an obedient heart. That He's not after the ceremony-- not after the ritual. But the future is well in view. The promise of restoration is in view. Again, the word of the Lord of hosts came saying, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, I am zealous for Zion with great zeal. With great fervor, I am zealous for her." The root word here for "zealous", or as some translations put it, "jealous", is the root word-- it's the same word as to burn, or to glow. So, God's fire of love on his heart-- that protective fervor that he has for his people-- that zealousness-- that jealousness-- to protect and to love.
"Thus says the Lord, I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth." Won't that be a great day. Not only the City of Truth, but "it will be called the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, and the Holy Mountain." Now, all of this anticipates the millennial fulfillment-- that 1,000 year reign of Christ upon the earth, when Jesus reigns from the throne of David. When the government is upon His shoulder. And He rules geocentrically from Jerusalem, fulfilling all of the promises to the Jews.
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, old men and old women shall again sit in the street of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age. The streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its street." So Jerusalem will become safe for senior citizens and for kids-- this all indicates security. Walking through the streets of Jerusalem, not being afraid of suicide bombers or some crazy person with a bomb in his car. Absolute safety. Total security. Isn't it interesting that Jerusalem means the place of peace? And yet, they have seen so many tears, so many wars, so much bloodshed. One day it will become what Zechariah predicted.
Interesting, there is a group called the National Council of Churches. And I was just perusing their website, just for fun. And they said, come on, nations of the world, churches of the world, let's work together and help give Zechariah the dream that he had here in chapter 8. As if, we, through our own devices, are going to bring peace to the Middle East. I'm all for peace. I want it. I pray for it. The Bible says pray for the peace of Jerusalem. But I'm not so naive as to think that there's going to be peace just because there's going to be a new prime minister, or a new president, or a new policy, or a new agreement. There's going to be peace in Jerusalem, and in the Middle East, when the Prince of Peace returns and He's in charge. And I can't wait for that day. That's the day we long for. That will be the reality.
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, if it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people, in these days, will it also be marvelous in My eyes, says the Lord of hosts." "Thus says the Lord of hosts, behold I will save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west." So, Jews will return. Not only from the east, but they will come to Jerusalem, also from the lands of the west. Lands like Europe, like the United States, New York, et cetera. Returning back to their homeland, making Aliyah, coming up to Jerusalem as citizens. "And I will bring them back and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. They shall be My people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness."
So the prediction, not only of a return to the land, but of a restoration to the Lord. The land, and the Lord, are in view in this prophecy. They're in the land, but they're not turned toward the Lord yet. They are there in that first part of the promise. The Jews are from all over the world being gathered in Israel. It's marvelous to see. It's marvelous to go there and see it. But the best is yet to come. When they, in the end times, turn back to the Lord, recognize Jesus, whom they have pierced-- their Messiah-- when there is that total restoration, when God dwells among them the way He always wanted to dwell among them.
There is really nothing new about the promises that we have read so far, in Zechariah. They go all the way back to Deuteronomy. Same basic promises-- I'll bring you into the land. You obey me-- blessing, upon blessing, upon blessing. You disobeyed me-- judgment, upon judgment, curse, upon curse. It's just a new application of the old Revelation. Now, every now and then, I meet a Christian who will say, I'm waiting for a new Revelation from God. And I go, oh no, this isn't good. You say, what do you mean it's not good? Because according to Jude, it's been once for all, delivered to the Saints. Once for all, that God spoke. And in these last days, He has once for all spoken, by His son. You see, people don't need a new Revelation from God. They just need a new application of the old Revelation. Those same age old themes from the Bible that we study over and over again, are so good. So nurturing. So life giving.
As we read in Jeremiah 6, "Stand in the way and see, and ask for the old paths where the good way is, and walk in it, and then you will find rest for your souls. That's the word of the Lord." Verse 9, "Thus says, the Lord of hosts, let your hands be strong. You who have been hearing in these days, these words by the mouth of the prophets, who spoke in the day the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord of hosts, that the temple might be built." So there in those days, with Zerubbabel and Joshua, and the struggles they were having in finishing the task. "Be strong," the Lord would say to them, "for before these days, there were no wages for man or any hire for beast. There was no peace from the enemy. For whoever went out or came in, for I said all men, every one against his neighbor. But now, I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts."
So God says, there's a turning. I'm going to begin to bless. Zechariah is telling them, set your hand to the plow. Don't give up. Finish what you've started. Carry it to the end-- to its completion. "For the seeds shall be prosperous. The vine shall give its fruit. The ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their due. I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these. And it shall come to pass, that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and House of Israel, so I will save you and you shall be a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong. For thus says the Lord of hosts, just as I determined to punish you and your fathers provoke Me to wrath, says the Lord of hosts. And I would not relent, so again, in these days I am determined to do good to Jerusalem, and to the House of Judah. Do not fear."
Now, for years, Israel was caught in a cycle. Back in the book of Judges, it started. Once Joshua died, and there was no central authority figure in Israel, and every man did what was right in his own eyes, they started going through this crazy cycle of sin. First stage of the cycle, was rebelling against God. No, we don't want God to control us. We don't want the yoke on our shoulders. We want to be like other nations. In fact, we'd even like to worship some other gods. So, God brought them into the second stage of the sin cycle, retribution. He sold them into the hands of the enemies. They were under the heavy oppression, and the yoke, and the bondage of the enemies. The third stage, was repentance. They cried out to the Lord, "Oh Lord, please bring us back, save us." And then the fourth stage, was restoration. God sent them a deliverer, a judge, who would fight for their cause, and bring them back. And the land would be at rest again. And then, as soon as God brought them back, and they were at rest, that crazy cycle started up again. For 350 years, from after the death of Joshua, all the way to the first King Saul of Israel.
But then, with Saul, and David, and Solomon-- and then the kingdom split with all of the kings in the north and in the south. There was that deep seated rebellion still in the hearts of the people. So God said, I'm determined, as I said, in Deuteronomy 28. I'm going to remove you from your land. I'm going to take you out of the place where I said I'd bring you into. But there, in captivity, you're going to learn so many good lessons. And I'll take care of you there, and I'll prosper you there, but you'll cry out eventually, and I'll bring you back into the land I promised. And so, all of those lessons learned, and now that restoration, which was predictive of a future restoration-- not just to the land, but also to the Lord.
So The Lord says, "So again, in these days, I am determined to do good to Jerusalem and to the House of Judah. Do not fear. These are the things you shall do. Speak each man the truth to his neighbor. Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace. Let none of you think evil in your heart against your neighbor. And do not love a false oath. For all these are things that I hate, says the Lord." "Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me saying, thus says the Lord of hosts, the fast of the fourth month, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the 10th--" Those are all of those added four fast days that they included, besides Yom Kippur. Notice what God says, "All of those shall be joy, and gladness, and cheerful feasts, for the House of Judah." Therefore, love, truth, and peace.
Now, the Lord is still answering their question about fasting, back in chapter 7, all of this time, more or less. And what He is saying is, those four fast days, those commemorative days, which spoke of evil and desolation against Jerusalem brought on by your own sin. The fasts will be turned to feasts in the future. All of the crying will be turned to cheering in the future. All of the sighing will become singing in the future. You know, God is in the business of doing that. Taking your mourning and turning it into dancing. Taking those broken dreams and causing His spirit to come inside of you, and show you His will, and give you that beautiful, beautiful joy that comes from following Him.
Just a side note, since 70 AD-- though here the Lord says, I'm going to take your fast days and turn them into days of joy and feasting. Since 70 AD, when Jerusalem again fell to the Romans, and the temple was destroyed, the Jews again added these four days of fast to their calendar, commemorating the fall of Jerusalem, because of their blindness and their sin. So all of those rituals that God said, I don't care about the ritual, I want your heart. I love you. I want a relationship with you. They brought them back into their calendar.
Now, in the rest, the last few versus, the eye of the prophet looks to the future to Israel's greatest joy yet ahead. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, people shall yet come. Inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one city shall go to another saying, let us continue to go up and pray before the Lord, and seek the Lord of hosts. I myself will go also. Yes, many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to pray before the Lord. Thus says the Lord of hosts, in those days, 10 men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, let us go with you for we have heard that God is with you."
At that time, Israel will be the head of the nations. The head and not the tail, as God once promised. The leader. And all of the other nations will long to enjoy the blessings and the prosperity that the Jews have, as a result of God's blessing. Now, God has been with Israel from the beginning. At different stages in their history, He was with them in a more notable way than at other times. For instance, during the wilderness wanderings-- during that period of 40 years, there was that Shekinah glory-- that pillar of cloud and fire at night that was in token of God's presence with them.
The Lord was with them. The Lord, certainly was with them, in bodily form, in the incarnation, when Christ Jesus came to live among them in his flesh. He was Emmanuel, God with us. The Lord was with them. But yet, in all of His glory-- the way God always wanted and planned to live with His people, has yet to be realized, has yet to be fulfilled. And so, in verse 23, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." And every 10 Gentiles to one Jew, grabbing the sleeve, saying, let's go with you.
Now, you know, when this was written, when this was predicted, the Jews were highly despised. This was very improbable. The idea that the Jews would be so elevated that people would say, boy we want to hang out with you, because God is with you. There were super powers that were much greater than anything that Israel had seen. They were just a group of 50,000 people rebuilding the temple under duress. But the prediction, is that they would once again become great.
Now, in their future-- in their immediate future-- here they were, back in the land-- Greece was looming on the horizon. Soon, Alexander the Great would come, and everyone would look up to the Grecian empire. Then, the great Roman Empire would come. After, Pompeii would conquer the land of Israel, et cetera. But here is the prediction that all of these Gentile nations will one day look to Israel, not as a servant, but as the head-- as the leader-- because it's the nation from which the Messiah will reign from Jerusalem and sit upon the throne of David. Moreover-- and I don't like to spiritualize text, but I like to think, also, in verse 23, that "men from every language shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man."
Today, we are seeing a move among the Gentiles. God is pouring out his spirit all over the world. We hear reports of it all the time. Every week, every month-- new things that God is doing. A new work starting in this city, in this country. People from every language, every tribe, are clinging to this crucified Jew, Jesus Christ, asking for salvation-- trusting Him. But one day soon, God will again pour out His spirit upon the Jewish nation, after the rapture of the church-- which could happen at any moment. Then, in that 70th week of Daniel, as He pours out His spirit on the Jewish nation, and brings back to Himself that remnant-- restored to the land but restored to the Lord. That's where the glory gets really exciting.
Let's pray. Heavenly Father, we thank you for the time that we have spent tonight as your Holy Spirit has taken the word of God and brought it into the hearts of the people of God. That's where the changes come. That's where the real joy and fellowship with You is. Lord, so many principles, so many promises, that we have seen. Your promise in judgment, Your promise in restoration, Your promise in blessing. And so Father, tonight, we bring ourselves before You, because just as You took a nation that had sinned and was broken and had failed, and promised a glorious restoration, so to You do that with individuals. Broken by sin, discarded by this world. But when Your hands are on our lives, what beauty can come. What feasts can come from days of affliction and fasting. So pour out Your spirit Lord, upon each one of us tonight and fill us with Your joy. In Jesus' name, Amen.
Shall we stand. The pastors are down here at the front to minister to you this evening. If you are in need of prayer for any reason, we would encourage you, as we're dismissed, come on down, they'll be happy to minister to you and to pray for you. And God is doing some wonderful, exciting things, in meeting the needs of people physically, spiritually, monetarily, and with relationships. And so, God, is willing to help you if you will just but give Him the opportunity. These men are here to help share with you the work of God. So we would encourage you as we're dismissed, come on down and see what the Lord might want to do in your life this evening. Opening the door and giving him that opportunity to do so.
[MUSIC - RICH MULLINS, "AWESOME GOD"
Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above. With wisdom, power, and love, Our God is an awesome God. Our God is an awesome God. He reigns from heaven above. With wisdom, power, and love. Our God is an awesome God.