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Worship the Righteous and Humble King (Zechariah 9)

Updated: Jun 21

Listen: https://tpc.simplecast.com/episodes/zechariah-9-veerman

Zechariah 9

Rev. Erik Veerman

6/19/2022

Worship the Righteous and Humble King

Reading of Zechariah 9

Prayer

“Peace through strength.” That is the official motto of the USS Ronald Reagan. It’s one of ten Nimitz class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers in the US fleet. They are the largest warships in the world. “Peace through Strength.” That phrase comes from Reagan himself, who in the 1980 presidential election said this: “to be prepared for war is one of the most effective means to preserving peace.” But Reagan wasn’t the first to adopt this strategy. In fact, it has been used many times. Some say it originated in second century Rome. The Roman Emperor Hadrian used similar words. He built a massive wall spanning from coast to coast and he both enlarged and equipped the Roman military. All with the goal of stability and peace.

But is it even possible to have lasting peace on earth?

On a human level, perhaps “peace through strength” works. But then again, what happens when multiple nations have a similar military strategy but with different views of peace. In that situation, “peace through strength” turns into “peace through war” which then just turns into war.

In Zechariah 9, God reveals a radically different strategy for peace. Peace not through human strength, but rather peace through humility and human weakness. That’s a radical message. It’s very counter-intuitive. I mean, how can worldly weakness bring about peace? But yet, that’s the focus of this chapter. And, right in the middle of the chapter, verse 9, we’re introduced to a coming king. He will be the one through which God will bring this radical peace.

As we look at these verses, it is helpful to understand two layers.

• There’s the earthly layer – what was happening or would happen on earth. The earthly reality.

• And there’s the heavenly layer – what these verses point to beyond earth, in heaven. The spiritual reality.

It’s similar to, but the opposite of the prior chapters in Zechariah. Last week, I reminded you that the prophetic visions at the beginning of the book were like a heavenly perspective of an earthly reality. That’s why we read of strange other-worldly elements in them. Well, these last chapters are very different. They give us an earthly perspective of a heavenly reality. They are more like traditional prophecies in the Bible. They foretell the future through concrete earthly situations, and point to heavenly realities. We’ll see this in several way in the final chapters of Zechariah.

This morning, we read together the Lord’s prayer. One of the things we pray for in the Lord’s prayer is “thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Those are the words that Jesus gave us to pray, and they recognize these two realities. Earthly realities and heavenly realities.

Children! This can be really hard to think about. Everything in your world is about things, and people, and places. It’s hard to imagine something that you can’t see, like heaven. This is not the best analogy, but think of a video game where you are entering into a different world. When you’re playing that game, you’re still in this world here, but there are things going on in that realm. Well, as you grow older, you will realize that life is more than what you can see. There are spiritual realities and there are truths beyond this world. Heaven is real. We can’t see it now, but it’s a real place with God’s presence. And it is and will be filled with God’s people.

For all of us, as we read our Bibles, we have to understand that it speaks about things on earth, in our lives now, and things in heaven. Things we can’t see but which we are assured are real. In the book of Hebrews chapter 11, we’re told that “faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.” In the Scriptures, we learn true things about heaven. Even though we can see them, we are assured of them because God has revealed them.

That’s why peace through human weakness sounds radical when we think about from an earthly human perspective. But when we think about peace from a heavenly perspective, with God’s purpose and means, we can begin to understand how lasting peace is possible.

Ok, that’s a little bit of an overview as well as a little bit of guidance.

The humble king of verse 9 is really the center of this chapter. He is the Lord himself.

To give us some organization, we’ll consider three things:

1. This humble King is the one who will overcome his enemies (the first 8 verses).

2. Second. who will establish peace and freedom (verses 9-13)

3. Who will save his people (verses 14-17)

1. Who will overcome his enemies

So first - the Lord will overcome his enemies.

These first few verses are full of dominion and destruction. City after city is defeated. And we’re given specific names. Lots of them.

• Verse 1 - The land of Hadrach and the city of Damascus

• Verse 2 – Hamath and Tyre and Sidon

• Verse 5 – Ashkelon and Gaza and Ekron

• Verse 6 – Ashdod and Philistia

If you were to locate these cities on a map, you would find that they begin in the north, in modern day Syria. Damascus is still there to this day. And they continue south into modern day Israel, and down to Gaza and Ashdod, which are on the coast. So these cities were all north or west of Jerusalem. To give you some perspective, the distance from the northern most city to the southwestern most city is about the same as from Greenville to Atlanta.

And as you heard, the language used in the first 5 verses is language of judgment and defeat. God’s judgment. “The Lord is against the land.” Verse 1. And then we see God’s wrath against these cities.

Now, we’re not going to work through every city and situation. However, special attention was given to Tyre in verses 2-4.

Tyre was a very wealthy city. They were very self-sufficient. In fact, it was situated on an island in the Mediterranean, but only half a mile off the coast. About 40,000 people lived on this island. Tyre was also very powerful. And do you know what Tyre’s military strategy was? Peace through strength. Tyre was the most fortified city in the region. They built walls up to 150 feet high. Verse 3 mentions the rampart – referring to her walls. And they had war ships patrolling the waters between. Their navy and city defense seemed impenetrable.

Yet verse 4 says, “the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire.” To the hearer in 500 BC, that was quite a shocking prophecy!

Yet, it’s exactly what happened. You see, these cities were all defeated, in the order listed, including Tyre. It happened in the 4th century under Alexander the Great. In the year 332 BC, the Greeks under Alexander built a 200-foot-wide causeway out to Tyre. It took seven months. And with a combination of ships and catapults, they eventually overcame the city. They killed 8000 people, sold 30,000 people into slavery, and burned most of the city to the ground, just as verse 4 describes.

The prophecy of these verses came true. Similar to the way he used the Babylonians, God used the Greeks to fulfill Zechariah’s prophecy. City by city fell according to this prophecy made 170 years earlier.

The message of these opening verses? Worldly strength is not the answer to peace. It’s not part of the path to peace or salvation. Human strength will not bring ultimate peace. It will not save you. Earthly might is no match for heavenly power. When we put our hope in nations instead of the Lord, we are on shaky ground. I’m not saying that civil government doesn’t have a role. Nor am I saying that we should not support our nation or perhaps serve in our military. No, not at all. Those are important things, with the right perspective. But I am critiquing any sort of worldview where your hopes and dreams are based on an unholy mixture of your faith and your national pride or your politics. Peace through worldly efforts will not ultimately save or bring peace in the end.

Now, besides the earthly reality that human strength is ultimately weak, there’s also a heavenly reality, here. Something interesting emerges when considering this specific list of cities. They are all representative of Israel’s past enemies. In fact, to Zechariah’s generation, none of them really represented a current threat. No, these cities and regions represented the Assyrians, the Philistines, and even the Canaanites in that order. They were each, at one point in time, the antagonists in Israel’s history. So part of God’s message is that he will defeat his and our enemies. It’s broadly pointing to the downfall of all enemies of faith. That includes those who oppose God and true faith; it includes the devil himself; and it also includes our own sin and death.

And just to be really clear, for those who oppose God, it may be a spiritual defeat. Let me explain. In verses 7-8, the cities of Ashdod and Philistia were not physically overthrown. No, God did something wholly different there. He brought them into his family, a remnant of them. The Lord took away their “blood,” verse 7, meaning their false blood sacrifices. And he took away their “abominations,” meaning their sinful practices. And what did they become? The end of verse 7, “a clan of Judah!” God defeated them not by destroying them, but by making them part of his family. Isn’t that part of what we pray for? When we pray for people who are opposed to God, we don’t pray that God would destroy them. No, we pray that they would come to believe in Christ and become a brother or sister in him.

To summarize, human strength and power is not the answer to lasting peace. It’s no match for God in his dominion and power. It will not save you in the end. No, rather God is the only one who can bring peace and save.

2. Who will establish peace and freedom

But how? How will God bring peace and salvation? Well, the answer is surprising. As I alluded to earlier, ultimate peace does not come through worldly strength, but rather through worldly weakness and humility.

By the way, we’re in the second main point now: A king will come who will establish peace and freedom.

The second half of verse 9 says, “Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey.” This is a prophecy about Jesus. It pointed forward to what we call Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem. It happened 1 week before his death on the cross. Verse 9 is quoted in Matthew chapter 21 which we read earlier in the service, as well as in the Gospel of John, chapter 12. By the way, it’s called the triumphal entry, not because he was riding in earthly triumph. No, it was a recognition that he was a king.

To be sure, Zechariah’s audience didn’t know Jesus. This was prophesied about 500 years before he came. However, Zechariah’s audience did know about the future Messiah. The problem was, their expectations were wrong. They thought that when the Messiah came, he would bring earthly dominion and power… that he would re-establish the nation-state of Israel. In other words, they thought he would come and bring “peace through strength” worldly strength.

But what Zechariah 9 showed them was very different.

• They expected a king riding a horse of war or chariot, with sword raised, as he rallied the troops for battle.

• They expected a messiah to reign with earthly authority and power, causing fear among their enemies, and emboldening his people.

But no, rather, this coming king would be riding on a donkey. Now, to be sure, this was not unheard of for a king. Kings would ride donkeys for ceremonies. But it was certainly not a display of military might nor an image of power. Verse 9 captures it well – “humility.” A humble king. And verse 10 reinforces the idea. This coming king would cut off the weapons of war … the chariot, the war horse, and the battle bow. That’s because the weapons of this king were not earthly.

And just to be sure, verse 13 mentions the bow and arrow and sword. But these were not referring to earthly weapon given to Judah. No, instead, it refers to God using them as weapons. It alludes not to physical weapons, but spiritual weapons. In other words, when this king comes, he would use his people in the spiritual battle to bring the Gospel to the nations, and usher in his kingdom of peace.

Thinking that Jesus would come with earthly dominion and power misunderstands what kind of king Jesus would be, and the kind of kingdom he would bring.

The end of verse 10 reveals what Jesus would accomplish. He will bring “peace to the nations.” And his rule will be from “sea to sea,” and “to the ends of the earth.” There is no earthly kingdom that has or will accomplish that kind of peace and rule.

I was thinking of those time-laps maps that you can find on YouTube. Have you ever seen them? They’re videos of a world map. The years tick up and you can see what regions the different nations control over time. Nations and kingdoms are different colors and their boundaries grow and shrink. And what’s really clear, is that earthly kingdoms come and go. Nations rise and fall. And as we know, their conquests and downfall involve war and destruction and death.

But this coming king will not build his kingdom through human military might and strength. But he will rule over all the world, and he will bring two things: peace (verse 10) and freedom (verse 11).

This prophecy is unbelievable, literally. That’s because lasting peace doesn’t seem possible on earth. Freedom is elusive all over the world.

Yet, God promised it.

The reference in verse 11 to “the blood of my covenant.” That goes back to the covenant promise that God made with Abraham. God promised that Abraham’s descendants would be like the sand of the sea and stars of the sky. And here in verse 11, God promised to free them from their “waterless pit.” (their situation in Jerusalem). He promised to restore them and bring them lasting peace. God was saying to them, “I will keep my covenant promise and I will do it through this coming king.”

These verses provide the backdrop to Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem 500 years later. And they are perfectly consistent with Jesus’ life and testimony.

• Jesus said to “I came to seek and save the lost.”

• He said to Pilate, the Roman governor, “My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, my servants would have been fighting...”

• Jesus said to his disciples, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's.”

• As an example of humility and service, he washed his disciples’ feet. He ministered to the outcasts, the sick, and the poor.

He came to bring peace, not through human strength, but through worldly weakness and humility.

3. Who will save his people

And finally, point 3, this humble king will save his people. That’s part of the verse 9 prophecy. “Behold, your King is coming to you, righteous, and having salvation.”

And these last 4 verses focus in on that salvation. The language is again full of God’s dominion and power. But it’s not the language of earthly dominion and power like the first 8 verses. Rather its language of heavenly might and power. “…the Lord will appear… and his arrow will go forth like lightning. The Lord God will sound the trumpet. He will march forth like the whirlwinds.”

It’s a salvation of spiritual and heavenly victory and protection. God will save them, like “the jewels of a crown.” And it ends with the proclamation that God’s people will flourish.

Let me put it this way… The peace and freedom of the middle section (verses 9-13) will lead to the salvation of this last section (verses 14-17). And it’s the salvation of the last section that fulfills the promise of peace of the middle section.

And if you look at this chapter as a whole, it has a rising arc and a falling arc. It begins with earthly judgment and defeat, which fall off to nothing. And it has a spiritual emphasis which rises from nothing to a final climax of God’s saving power. And these arcs intersects with the coming king of verse 9.

That’s because this coming king, Jesus, fulfilled all of it. The humility of Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem turned into a perfect display of humility and weakness. When Jesus died on the cross, his death accomplished all of the promises of this chapter.

• Jesus defeated all the enemies of the faith – sin, death, and the devil

• Through his death, Jesus brought peace. Peace with God and eternal peace in heaven for his people

• Through the cross, our freedom was gained. Freedom from the chains of sin and death. Jesus paid the ransom and we’re now free.

• And when Christ took our place, he saved us. We became “the flock of his people” (verse 16). We’ve been restored and renewed for eternity

All of these promises were fulfilled through the worldly weakness of the cross and, I should add, guaranteed for us by Jesus’ resurrection, which led to his exaltation.

Regarding the worldly weakness of the cross, the apostle Paul said it this way in 1 Corinthians chapter 1, “God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are.”

And if you know and believe in Christ, Jesus is your king. When he entered into Jerusalem, he entered for you. He died in weakness in your place, so that you may live for him by faith.

If you do not know and believe in Jesus, may Jesus be your king. May his death in weakness become your peace and salvation. So that you, too, may live by faith.

Conclusion

As we come to a close, where does this all bring us? I mean, what should be our response to this heavenly salvation and peace?

Well, it all leads to worship. Verse 9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!”

Do you realize, this is the first time in the book of Zechariah where the people were called to worship. So far, they have been called to return to the Lord, to take heart, to believe in God’s promises, not to fear their situation, not to despise the day of small things, to continue on in their labors with strong hands, and to love truth and peace.

But here in chapter 9, they were given a tangible glimpse of Jesus, the coming savior. God revealed to them just what kind of salvation he would bring. And here he called them to rejoice greatly, to shout out loud. Why? Because God has done it. And he accomplished it through humility and weakness.

As we come to see Jesus, we come to worship him. To rejoice in the hope that we have. We’re no longer “prisoners of hope” to use the language of verse 12. Rather, we have a humble king who came and who, as the son of God, accomplished salvation in an amazing way for us. And it should it cause us to rejoice greatly.

When Jesus entered Jerusalem, he was being worshiped. The people were shouting words of praise. Now, many or perhaps most of them didn’t understand Jesus’ heavenly kingship. They didn’t know that Jesus would accomplish peace through weakness. But some knew he was the messiah, the promised king. And so, they waved branches and they shouted hosanna in the highest! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.

May we also worship our righteous and humble King

1. Who has overcome his and our enemies

2. Who is establishing peace and freedom

3. and who has and will save his people.

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