The Priestly Theocracy #9
Zechariah and the leaders of the newly reborn Judah only seemed to have heard about God coming back to bless Jerusalem and make Jerusalem strictly into a separatist Levitical Utopia. Altogether, they misread the signs and regarded the returning people, who were attracted to the temple and to Jerusalem, as evidence that God was behind it. History proved that they lived on “presumption”; for, the people had not met God’s conditions. Therefore, they, themselves, forfeited the fulfilment of God’s promise. Without God’s fulfilment, their faith and their expectations were in vain. “When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously, you need not be afraid of him” (Deuteronomy 18:22). Zechariah did hear the Lord, but he failed to fulfill God’s conditions to claim the blessings of God. They were to have an open city, where the “Law of God” would govern, and not where their “Levitical observances and their rituals” governed. Where Zechariah failed to listen to God; therefore, God used the Hellenized Syrians and the Romans to open the city Jerusalem to the world.
The Lord of hosts insisted that the priests made proper use of God’s Law. They were to remember the consequences which their fathers suffered because their fathers had also neglected, and they even refused, to listen to the voice of God. The “Voice of God” was and the “Voice of God” still is being represented by a people who live within God’s Law. God is jealous for Zion! God still wants to inhabit the temple and be with God’s people. Repeatedly God said to Zechariah:
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. Thus says the Lord: I will return to Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain (Zechariah 8:2-3).
Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, says the LORD of hosts? Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be my people and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”
Thus says the LORD of hosts: “Let you hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets, since the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for beast, neither was there any safety from the foe for him who went out or came in; for I set every man against his fellow. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the LORD of hosts. For there shall be a sowing of peace and prosperity; the vine shall yield its fruit, and the ground shall give its increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And as you have been a by-word of cursing among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so will I save you and you shall be a blessing. Fear not, but let your hands be strong.”
For thus says the LORD of hosts: “As I purposed to do evil to you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, so again have I purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another, render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace, do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, says the LORD.”
And the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah seasons of joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love truth and peace.
Thus says the LORD of hosts: Peoples shall yet come, even the inhabitants of many cities; the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts; I am going.’ Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to entreat the favor of the LORD. Thus says the LORD of hosts: In those days ten men from the nations of every tongue shall take hold of the robe of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’ (Zechariah 8:6-23).
Zechariah, Chapter Eight, is an eye opener. It describes God as being faithful and righteous. God has not mellowed! God does not turn a blind eye on man’s failure to keep his part in the covenant with Abraham. All generations are bound by the God’s covenant with Abraham. And Abraham’s compliance did not make it right without the consent and participation by his offspring. The blessings to the nations depended on the keepers (people) of the covenant and not the giver (God). The returning exiles were given a second chance to become a covenant people. The covenant people were to attract the world to their lifestyle and their desire to become Jews. In Chapter Nine, the exiles were looking for a “King” or a “Cornerstone,” different from the priests and from the Levites who stressed the offerings, the rituals, and the sacrifices in place of the Ten Commandments. The nations were not the one ones that needed to be punished (Zechariah 9:1-8). Zechariah did not foresee a future “Messianic figure.” Zechariah did foresee a king, who would resurrect Judaism and trample even on the emerging Greeks. It became apparent to Zechariah that the people in charge were not building an “utopia” but a “cage” for Jews. There was no room for the Gentiles — not even for their own people, who were married to Gentiles:
Rejoice greatly, O daughters of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughters of Jerusalem! Lo, your king comes to you; triumphant and victorious, humble and riding on an ass. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall command peace to the nations; his dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your captives free from the waterless pit. Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double. For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will brandish your sons, O Zion, over your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior’s sword.
Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow go forth like lightning; the LORD GOD will sound the trumpet, and march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour and tread down the slingers; and they shall drink their blood like wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.
On that day the LORD their God will save them for they are the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. Yea, how good and how fair it shall be! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the maidens (Zechariah 9:9-17).
The coming of the Lord as the “King” or as the “Cornerstone” to Jerusalem and settle in the temple would restore moral law that would make an utopia none like it the world would ever seen possible. God would take full charge and never again let things get out of hand, or allow leaders manipulate the people and lead them away from Yahweh. In Zechariah’s world, there is no room for people whose blood is not tinted with Abraham’s genes. God had not and would not forgive the Gentiles for what they had done to Israel and to Judah. The “King” would be the “Cornerstone” and set the agenda for the “new age” of Israel-Judah:
My anger is hot against the shepherds, and I will punish the leaders; for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his steed in battle. Out of them shall come the cornerstone, out of them the tent peg, out of them the battle bow, out of them every ruler.
Together they shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the LORD is with them, and they shall confound the riders on horses.
I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them; for I am the LORD their God and I will answer them. Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and rejoice, their hearts shall exult in the LORD.
“I will signal for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as of old. Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. I will bring them home from the land of Egypt, and gather them from Assyria; and I will bring them to the land of Gilead and to Lebanon, till there is no room for them. They shall pass through the sea of Egypt, and the waves of the sea shall be smitten, and all the depths of the Nile dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. I will make them strong in the LORD and they shall glory in his name,” says the LORD (Zechariah 10:3-12).
In his eagerness to have God restore Israel-Judah and punish the Gentile nations, Zechariah was blinded by overlooking his own people’s guilt. The cedars of Lebanon did not walk to Jerusalem by themselves, nor was the natural habitat for the animals and plants destroyed by itself. The wood that was needed to rebuilt the temple, the walls, Jerusalem, and the housing for the priests was the reason why the forests were depleted. It was all for the purpose to resurrect a costly “religious system.” Yet, all that God demanded from Israel was faith, loyalty, and obedience to God and to God’s moral Law. Zechariah found it very painful to admit that his contemporary leaders were no different from their predecessors. They, too, separated themselves one from another over matters, which divided them instead of uniting them. They cheaply betrayed one another. Their shepherds sold their own people so that they could keep their system running. That was why God would become the “Shepherd, Himself.” And therefore, God could keep his people safe from falling into the hands of earthly powers. No Gentile nation would ever again lord it over Israel-Judah. It was a great vision — actually it was a proposal of God — what a people could become, provided the people followed God’s instructions — not by might, but by faith in God’s Law. God and His Law are one and the same. God and His Law are the foundations of creation, itself. The Law is the Word and the Word is the Voice of God. “And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us, full of grace and truth; we beheld his glory, glory as the only Son from the Father” (John 1:14). As Jesus said, “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. When he has brought them out all his own, he goes before them, and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:3-4). “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). If man does not hear “God’s Voice” and does not obey “God’s Words,” he is not likely going to built a house fit to live in. The mistake Lebanon made was when it opened its doors to “Levitical fanatics” who needed much more wood to keep their fire burning:
Open your doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour your cedars! Wail, O Cypress, for the cedar has fallen, for the glorious trees are ruined! Wail, oaks of Bashan, for the thick forest has been felled! Hark, the wail of the shepherds, for their glory is despoiled! Hark, the roar of the lions, for the jungle of the Jordan is laid waste!
Thus said the LORD my God: “Become shephard of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slay them and go unpunished; and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the LORD, I have become rich’; and their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land, says the LORD. Lo, I will cause men to fall each into the hand of his shepherd, and each into the hand of his king; and they shall crush the earth, and I will deliver none from their hand.”
So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slain for those who trafficked in the sheep. And I took two staffs; one I named Grace, and the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed the three shepherd. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die; what is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed; and let those that are left devour the flesh of one another.” And I took my staff Grace, and I broke it, annulling the covenant which I had made with all the peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the traffickers in the sheep, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the LORD. Then I said to them, “If it seems right to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them. And they weighed out as my wages thirty shekels of silver. Then the LORD said to me, “Cast it into the treasury”—the lordly price at which I was paid off by them. So I took the thirty shekels of silver and cast them into the treasury in the house of the LORD. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
Then the LORD said to me, “Take once more the implements of the worthless shepherd. For lo, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for the perishing, or seek the wandering, or heal the maimed, or nourish the sound, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs.
Woe to my worthless shepherd, who deserts the flock! May the sword smite his arm and his right eye! May the sword smite his arm and his right eye! Let his arm be wholly withered, his right eye utterly blinded!” (Zechariah 11:1-17).
A religion that becomes a heavy burden to the people will destroy itself. So Zachariah was given a glimpse of a shepherd or of a leader who would not need a particular nation, race, physical structure, or an elaborated worship system to honor God. These glimpses were flashed, mingled in with his hope that somehow God would save Judah for David’s sake. Zechariah hoped that God would cleanse Israel without destroying it. And after the painful rehabilitation, Zechariah believed that his people would emerge — a people who totally would depend on God for their existence. Unfortunately, these people were the same people whose leaders did reject the Messiah, their own Savior. These people did witness the end of everything that they loved of material value, being destroyed. It was a glimpse of a time when they would look upon the “Supreme Shepherd,” whom they pierced before the Gentiles destroyed their world. The destruction of their world gave them a reason to mourn. A new Israel was to be born, not of the flesh, but of the spirit that would no longer depend on an expensive religious system to please God. The simple people shall know more about God than the priests. Christians correctly identified the time with Jesus who said in His prayer, “I thank thee, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was they gracious will” (Luke 10:21). Jesus left the temple and was going away, when his disciples came to point out to him the buildings of the temple. But he answered them, “You see all these, do you not? Truly, I say to you, there will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1-2). It was not that clear to Zechariah as it has become to Christians:
Lo I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling to all the peoples around about; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will come together against it. On that day, says the LORD, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But upon the house of Judah I will open my eyes, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the LORD of hosts, their God.’
On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the peoples round about, while Jerusalem shall still be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.
And the LORD will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah. On that day the LORD will put a shield about the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD, at their head. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of compassion and supplication, so that, when they look on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a first-born. On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn, each family by itself; the family of the house of David by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the house of Nathan by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of he Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.
On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.
And on that day, says the LORD of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more; and also I will remove from the land the prophets and the unclean spirit. And if any one again appears as a prophet, his father and mother who bore him will say to him, ‘You shall not live, for you speak lies in the name of the LORD’; and his father and mother who bore him shall pierce him through when he prophesies; he will not put on a hairy mantle in order to deceive, but he will say, ‘I am no prophet, I am a tiller of the soil; for the land has been my possession since my youth.’ And if one asks him, ‘What are these wounds on your back?’ He will say, ‘The wounds I received in the house of my friends.’
“Awake, O sword, against my shepherd, against the man who stands next to me,” says the LORD of hosts. “Strike the shepherd, that the sheep may be scattered; I will turn my hand against the little ones.
In the whole land, says the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God’” (Zechariah 12:2-13:9).
Zachariah came to the conclusion that his kind of Israel — Judah would never become God’s tool to change the world. Jesus came to the same conclusion in Mark 13, in Matthew 24, and in Revelation 19-22. God will see the nations to confuse the Jews themselves and that will lead to their demise. Out of the ashes, with the nations supporting it, Jerusalem will become the Mecca for all the nations. The desert will bloom, darkness will vanish, and God, like the Christian Christ, will be king for ever:
Behold, a day of the Lord is coming, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in the midst of you. For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women ravished; half of the city shall go into exile, but the rest of the people shall go not be cut off from the city. Then the LORD will go forth and fight on a day of battle. On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives which lies before Jerusalem on the east; and the Mount of Olives shall be split in two from east to west by a very wide valley; so that one half of the Mount shall withdraw northward, and the other half southward. And the valley of my mountains shall be stopped up, for the valley of the mountains shall touch the side of it; and you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the LORD your God will come, and all the holy ones with him.
On that day there shall be neither cold nor frost. And there shall be continuou day (it is known to the LORD), not day and not night, for at evening time there shall be light.
On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea; it shall continue in summer as in winter.
And the LORD will become king over all the earth; on that day the LORD will be one and his name one.
The whole land shall be turned into a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem. But Jerusalem shall remain aloft upon its site from the Gate of Benjamin to the place of the former gate, to the Corner Gate, and from the Tower of Hananel to the king’s wine presses. And it shall be inhabited, for there shall be no more curse; Jerusalem shall dwell in security.
And this shall be the plague with which the LORD will smite all the peoples that wage war against Jerusalem; their flesh shall rot while they are still on their feet, their eyes shall rot in their sockets, and their tongues shall rot in their mouths. And on that day a great panic from the LORD shall fall on them, so that each will lay hold on the hand of his fellow, and the hand of the one will be raised against the hand of the other; even Judah will fight against Jerusalem. And the wealth of all the nations round about shall be collected, gold, silver, and garments in great abundance. And a plague like this plague shall fall on the horses, the mules, the camels, the asses, and whatever beasts may be in those camps.
Then every one that survives of all the nations that have come against Jerusalem shall go up year after year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of booths. And if any of the families of the earth do not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain upon them. And if the family of Egypt do not go up and present themselves, then upon them shall come the plague with which the LORD afflicts the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths. This shall be the punishment to Egypt and the punishment to all the nations that do not go up to keep the feast of booths.
And on that day where shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, “Holy to the LORD.” And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar; and every pot in Jerusalem and Judah shall be sacred to the LORD of hosts, so that all who sacrifice may come and take of them and boil the flesh of the sacrifice in them. And there shall no longer be a trader in the house of the LORD of hosts on that day (Zechariah 14:1-20).