Summary: Exposition of Zech. 9
God at War
Of all the descriptions of God found in the Bible, one of the most shocking is found in a song sung by Moses and the people of Israel after their rescue from the Egyptians at the Red Sea.
Exodus 15:3 The LORD is a man of war; The LORD is His name.
“A man of war”- a warrior, a fighter, a soldier, fighting for victory against His enemies. For some reason that’s not an image we connect with God our Father, God our Shepherd, God the Creator of all things. But it’s interesting how often in both the OT and the NT God is described using this metaphor.
Deuteronomy 1:30 The LORD your God, who goes before you, He will fight for you, according to all He did for you in Egypt before your eyes,…
2 Chronicles 20:29 And the fear of God was on all the kingdoms of those countries when they heard that the LORD had fought against the enemies of Israel.
Matthew 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
Revelation 19:11 Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war.
Now granted, many of these descriptions are symbolic, but the question is, symbolic of what? Is the Lord calling us to be involved in some kind of Christian jihad? If not, then what does the Bible mean by calling God a “man of war”?
I invite to think along with me about these questions as we read tonight in Zech 9, where God describes Himself as a Warrior in 3 ways: as Conqueror, a Peacemaker, and a Rescuer.
I. THE LORD IS A CONQUEROR (v. 1-8)
Many of the world’s warriors are remembered best as conquerors of huge kingdoms. Somebody took time to produce figures on how many square miles they conquered:
Genghis Khan 4,860,000 Alexander the Great 2,180,000
Attila the Hun 1,450,000 Adolf Hitler 1,370,000(lost it all in 3 yrs)
Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) 720,000
These conquering warriors racked up an impressive record, and changed history, but one thing I notice: none of them would be what you’d call good guys. The reason they conquered was for their own pride and lust for power. Certainly you’d never want to use any of these guys to represent God.
And yet God is a conqueror. He does use His power to take enemy territory, but here’s the difference: when God goes to war as Conqueror, He fights to defeat evil and defend righteousness.
This is what Zechariah describes in vs. 1-9: a prophecy of God going to war against evil. The enemies are the enemies of His people Israel, and the battle begins many miles north in Syria, specifically the regions of Hadrach, Damascus, and Hamath. (v. 1-2a) The Syrians were infamous for oppressing Israel, and these areas were considered unconquerable. Yet when God goes to war, Zechariah says, they will fall.
In vs. 2b-4, the battle moves south to the Phoenician cities of Tyre and Sidon, famous metropolitan seaports known for its wisdom and power, as well as military might on land and sea. Yet when God goes to war, these rich merchants shall be turned out of their homes, their navy will be sunk to the bottom of the sea, the strong fortresses burned to the ground.
The final assault comes in vs. 5-7 on the major Philistine cities of Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod. God will come sweeping through these cities, killing their king, emptying out their cities, vaporizing almost all their hopes for the future---almost. The prophet throws in a curve ball in vs. 7 (read.) The blood and abominations refer to idol worship. This verse seems to say that God will conquer some of the Philistines not by crushing them, but by converting them, bringing them over to His side, like a Jebusite (original inhabitants of Jerusalem, who became part of Israel when David conquered the pagan city.) These longstanding enemies of Israel and the Lord could not stand before God at war.
On the other hand, look at vs. 8 (read). God promises to camp out with His people, to keep His eyes on them to protect them from danger. No other army could threaten His people when He was keeping them safe.
The words of this prophecy were fulfilled c. 200 years later when Alexander the Great marched through this route conquering each of these areas. Guess which area Alexander did not harm or hinder? Israel. Through this pagan conqueror, God fulfilled His Word and conquered all of these areas.
But beyond this literal fulfillment, there is an important principle here: if you’re at war with God, you’re on the losing side. God is determined to conquer this world, either by His power, or by His love. There is no way anybody will ever successfully frustrate God’s plan of world domination. History is working toward the day when, in the words of Paul,