This morning we’ll embark on our final examination of the Old Testament prophets as we look at a portion of the Book of Zechariah. You’ll find that book near the end of your Old Testament right before the Book of Malachi. We’ll look at chapter 12 this morning and then spend two more weeks in the book after celebrating the resurrection of Jesus next Sunday. Before we read chapter 12, let’s go ahead and put this passage in its proper context by looking at the background of the book:
Fortunately, Zechariah provides us with some needed background information in the first verse of the book:
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying…
Zechariah 1:1 (ESV)
• Name “Zechariah” = “YHWH has remembered”
• Date: 520 BC
Zechariah begins prophesying in the second year of King Darius of Media-Persia, which would have been in 520 BC. We know from the account in Nehemiah 12 that Zechariah, who was already a priest at that time, had gone to Jerusalem with a group of Jewish exiles who had returned there under the leadership of Zerubbabel in 538 or 537 BC. Zechariah was probably a young man at the time and it is likely that his ministry continued as late as the reign of Artaxerxes, which began in 465 BC.
• Contemporary of Haggai
See Haggai 1:1
o Chapters 1-8 – Historical
Although there are prophetic elements in this section, this primarily deals with the events of Zechariah’s day. His purpose was to encourage the people who had become discouraged in their task of rebuilding the Temple.
o Chapters 9-14 – Futuristic
Chapters 9-11 – First coming of the Messiah
Chapters 12-14 – Second coming of the Messiah
• Key phrase = “on that day” (17 times)
This same phrase is also used frequently by Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel to refer to the “Day of the Lord”, and particularly the period of time around the return of Jesus, the Messiah.
With that background in mind, we are now ready to read our passage for this morning:
1 The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: 2 “Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. 3 On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it. 4 On that day, declares the Lord, I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. 5 Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’
6 “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 surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.
7 “And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. 8 On that day the Lord will protect 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, going before them. 9 And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.
10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, 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 firstborn. 11 On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. 12 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; 13 the family of the house of Levi by itself, and their wives by themselves; the family of the Shimeites by itself, and their wives by themselves; 14 and all the families that are left, each by itself, and their wives by themselves.
It is clear from the very beginning that this passage applies to the commonwealth of Israel and the salvation of its people. But since God never changes – He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow – the manner in which He carries out that salvation is a great picture of how God works in our lives today as well. The same Mighty Savior who will one day bring salvation to Israel is working in our midst right now to bring His salvation to the world one life at a time.
So this morning, we’re going to focus on several aspects of God’s salvation that are revealed here in His future dealings with Israel and then see how those apply to all of us today.
SEVEN TRUTHS ABOUT SALVATION
1. Salvation is assured by God’s Word
It is interesting how Zechariah begins this chapter:
The burden of the word of the Lord concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord…
From the very beginning, Zechariah makes it clear that what he is about to reveal is not just his own human words; it is the word of the Lord. And that word is a burden to Zechariah because it is so important. In today’s language, if we were to share this kind of important message with someone else we might say something like “This is a heavy message.”
We can be assured that everything else in this chapter is going to come to pass because God has spoken it. Balaam’s words to Balak confirm that principle:
God is not man, that he should lie,
or a son of man, that he should change his mind.
Has he said, and will he not do it?
Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it?
Numbers 23:19 (ESV)
Last October about 2 dozen people shelled out thousands of dollars to participate in a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona. Unfortunately, three people died and 18 others were hospitalized as a result of that event. When I first heard about that, I wondered what it is that would cause some apparently “normal” people to participate in such an experience. But the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. We live in a culture where people are seeking out “spiritual” experiences. An increasing portion of our population describes themselves as “spiritual but not religious”. And that trend even influences the church.
From what I have observed over the years, I know that many people who commit their lives to Jesus are looking for some kind of emotional or spiritual experience to accompany that decision. And while it is true that many people describe a feeling of having a weight lifted off their shoulders or even a feeling of joy or exhilaration, those kinds of experiences are not required for someone to become a Christ-follower. I know that when I committed my life to Jesus, I never had any of those kinds of emotional experiences and at first that led me to wonder whether I was in fact a Christian.
But it is not our experiences that assure us of our position before God, it is His Word. The words of the apostle John are instructive:
I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.
1 John 5:13 (ESV)
John’s audience could know that they had eternal life, not because of some feeling they had or some experience they had gone through, but because of the truth contained in the Word of God and the decision they had made based upon that truth.
Just as we can be assured that the things that Zechariah wrote about will come true because God spoke these words, we can be assured of our salvation when we come to God based on the process that He has revealed in His Word.
2. Salvation is assured by God’s sovereignty
It’s interesting that out of all the ways that God could have chosen to describe Himself, he identified Himself as the one “who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him.” Although we can’t see it clearly in our English translation, the verb forms in that verse indicate continuing action. God is still active in the operation of His creation. Because God is sovereign in establishing His creation, He is also sovereign in determining how that creation operates and how the people He has created can obtain salvation.
As many of you know, Pastor Dana has been working with a team for several years to design a new type of wheelchair. And because they are the creators of that wheelchair and have obtained a patent for that design, they have sovereignty over who can build, sell and use that chair. And it is only when others comply with the guidelines that they establish that they can be assured of their right to build, or own that kind of wheelchair.
The same is true when it comes to our salvation. Because God has created each one of us, we can only be assured of our salvation when we comply with the rules that He has established. But the flip side of that is that if we do comply with the process that God has designed for us, then we can be assured, based on God’s sovereignty, that our salvation is real and complete.
3. Salvation is completely God’s work
If you read carefully through this passage, one of the things that immediately becomes apparent is that it is God who is performing all the action here. I’m not sure that I found every single one, but there are at least ten times in these 13 verses where God speaks of some action that He is taking or will take in the future. And in verse 7, we find a summary of all those actions:
And the Lord will give salvation…
There can be absolutely no doubt that the work of salvation is 100% God’s. He is the one who gives salvation. That principle is certainly confirmed by Paul with these well-known words:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.
Ephesians 2:8, 9 (ESV)
In our passage here in Zechariah, God reveals that truth progressively, bit by bit, to the people of Judah. He begins with saving them physically from the nations of the earth that are gathered to fight against Israel. That physical salvation is described in verse 2-9. And as a result of what the people see God doing to preserve them physically, they begin to understand that it is not their own strength that allows them to survive, but rather it is what God is doing on their behalf. We see this clearly in verse 5, when the clans of Judah say:
The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.
In verses 7 and 8, we see further evidence of the fact that salvation is completely God’s work. Notice in verse 7 that God says that He will give salvation to the tents of Judah first. This is a reference to the defenseless people living outside of Jerusalem in the countryside, the ones most vulnerable to the attacks of their enemies. And God is going to save them first so that the people in Jerusalem will recognize that it is God Himself, and not their military might that is going to deliver them.
And then, as we see in verse 8, even in Jerusalem, God is going to take the feeblest and transform them into warriors that are as mighty as David so that they can lead the others into battle.
And finally in verse 9, just to make sure that there is no doubt that this is all God’s doing, God reminds the people that He is the one who will destroy all the nations that will come against Jerusalem.
And, as we’ll see with the last four truths we’ll look at, the spiritual salvation described in verses 10-14 is completely God’s work as well, just as the physical salvation in verses 2-9 was all His doing.
4. Salvation often follows tribulation
When we read this chapter, it doesn’t seem like things are going to be all that bad for Israel. After all, God is going to defeat her enemies and save her people both physically and spiritually. But as we’ll see more clearly when we get to chapters 13 and 14, that salvation comes at a high price, only after Israel has gone through a period of great tribulation.
We really shouldn’t be surprised at that since we’ve seen that pattern repeated consistently throughout the Old Testament prophets. They reveal that Israel’s salvation and the restoration of the remnant will only occur after they have experienced a period of tribulation.
In fact, that same pattern is actually seen throughout Biblical history:
• Noah and his family were only saved after the tribulation of the flood.
• The people of Israel were only able to enter the Promised Land after wandering in the desert.
• Job was only saved and restored after losing his family and his possessions and suffering through terrible disease
• The people of Nineveh were only saved, at least temporarily, after Jonah experienced the tribulation of being in the belly of the fish for three days.
• Even Jesus had to experience the tribulation of the cross before he could experience the resurrection.
That is still true today. In fact, Jesus promised that we would experience tribulation in this world.
…In the world you will have tribulation…
John 16:33 (ESV)
As we’ve discovered in our journey, the main purpose of tribulation is to identify the righteous in Jesus. But God also uses tribulation in the lives of unbelievers to bring them to the end of their rope so that they will seek out Jesus and the salvation that He offers.
5. Salvation requires looking to Jesus in faith
Verse 10 is one of the greatest proofs of the deity of Jesus in the entire Bible. Let’s focus for a moment on just this portion of the verse:
…when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him…
Keep in mind that God is speaking here. If you read this carefully you will find that this portion of the verse begins with God referring to Himself – when they look on me. But then he switches from the first person – me – to the third person – him. He uses the word him twice – him who they have pierced – and – they shall mourn for him. Since it is clear that all three of these pronouns refer to the same person, this sentence appears to violate proper grammar rules. There is really only one possible explanation. This is a reference to Jesus – God in the flesh. The use of the word “me” confirms that He is God, and the use of the word “him” confirms that He is a separate person of the triune Godhead – a concept that we usually refer to as the Trinity.
Obviously, we don’t have the time and I don’t have the ability to explain fully this idea of a God who is one, but who also consists of three persons. But what I do want us to focus on this morning is what is required for salvation. According to this verse, Israel will only be saved spiritually when they look on Jesus. But what exactly does it mean to look on Him? Does that mean they just have to physically see Him when He returns to this earth?
Fortunately, Jesus provided us with the answer to our question in His conversation with Nicodemus:
And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life.
John 3:14, 15 (ESV)
The reference to the serpent in the wilderness comes from the account in Numbers 21, where the Hebrews grumbled against God, so God sent serpents among the people to bite the people and many of the people died. So God instructed Moses to fashion a bronze serpent on a pole and instructed the people to look at the bronze serpent so that they could live. But as Jesus makes quite clear here, it was not the physical act of looking at the serpent that healed the people, it was actually their faith.
In the same way, it is not merely looking at Jesus that will provide salvation for Israel, but it is the fact that they will look to Him in faith, believing that His sacrificial death on the cross is the only way that they can be saved.
From the time of Jesus until today, there have been a whole lot of people who have looked at Jesus, but never took that next step of looking to him in faith. It is clear that the kind of belief that Jesus is speaking of here is more than just an intellectual assent to the facts about His life.
A 2007 poll conducted by the Zogby Group for the North American Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention found that 75% of those who would not identify themselves as born-again Christians believed in the resurrection of Jesus. Even more surprising is the fact that 59% of people who rarely attend church and 39% of those who never attend church believe in the resurrection.
But that kind of intellectual belief in the resurrection of Jesus, by itself, is certainly not adequate for salvation. What we do with that historical fact will determine whether or not we look to Jesus in faith. It is only when the people of Israel believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins, that He rose from the grave to prove His victory over death and then make the decision to trust in those actions alone as the basis for their relationship with God that they will experience true salvation. And today, that is true for all of us as well.
6. Salvation is accompanied by genuine repentance
When the people of Israel do finally look at Jesus and trust in Him for their salvation, that faith is going to be accompanied by genuine repentance. The people are going to mourn over their sin of not recognizing Jesus as the Messiah in the same way that a parent mourns over the death of a child.
God also compares the mourning over their sin to the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. That is probably a reference to the way the people of Judah mourned when the righteous King Josiah was killed in battle on the plain of Megiddo.
I’m not going to spend a whole lot of time on this point since we discussed it in some detail a couple of weeks ago. But let’s take a moment to look once again at a relevant passage from the New Testament:
As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.
2 Corinthians 7:9, 10 (ESV)
It is just not possible to experience the salvation of God without genuine repentance. Perhaps the most egregious disservice of the church has been the peddling of “cheap grace” that does not require true repentance. We tell people to just walk down the aisle and “pray the prayer” and assure them that they are now Christians without ever talking to them about the need for genuine repentance.
That is why we encourage people who are considering a decision to make Jesus their Lord and Savior to set aside some time to discuss that decision and all it entails, including the need for repentance, with me or Dana before they make that decision. We have a responsibility as a church to make sure that each person understands that while our salvation is all God’s work and we can do nothing to earn it, that salvation came at a high price – the death of God’s own Son. It is our sin that nailed Jesus to the cross and until we recognize that and grieve and mourn over our sin and genuinely repent, it is just not possible to experience that salvation.
7. Salvation requires an individual response
At first glance, verses 12-14 seem a bit perplexing. Why does God specifically mention the houses of David, Nathan, Levi and Shimei? And why is it that the wives are mourning by themselves?
David and Nathan seem to be mentioned for two reasons. First they were from the royal family. We’re all familiar with David. Nathan was one of David’s sons, born to him by one of his unnamed wives or concubines. Both David and Nathan are also in the Messianic line of Jesus. Nathan is mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus in Luke 3 as an ancestor of Mary and David is part of the line of both Joseph and Mary. Their families are going to mourn because even though they were in the line of the Messiah, Jesus, they had still failed to recognize Him as Messiah.
Levi and Shimei were both priests. The role of the priests was to connect men with God and yet when God came in the flesh they rejected Him. So they, too, will mourn.
By specifically mentioning those four families, God was pointing out the necessity for everyone to respond in faith to Jesus, the Messiah. If even the royal family and the priests needed to do that, then so did everyone else.
The fact that the wives will mourn by themselves points out the necessity of each person responding individually to Jesus. It won’t be sufficient for the wives to just have their husbands or the rest of their family trust in Jesus. Each person has to make that decision on his or her own.
None of us can experience God’s salvation just by being part of a Christian family or even by coming to church on a regular basis. Each one of us must individually make the choice to look on Jesus in faith and to put Him in control of our lives. This familiar verse assures us that if a person makes that decision, they will experience God’s salvation.
if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
Romans 10:9 (ESV)
Notice that we must both trust in the resurrection of Jesus as the basis of our salvation and make Jesus our Lord in order to be saved. And it’s that second part – putting Jesus in control of our lives - that is the sticking point for many. But there is no doubt that it is an essential element for our salvation.
God is indeed the Mighty Savior who will one day save the people of Israel as they look on Jesus in faith. But as exciting as that is, what is really relevant for all of us right now is that God wants to do the very same for all of us.
This morning, all of us here fall into one of three groups:
• There are those who have personally made the decision to look on Jesus in faith, trusting in Him alone as the basis for our salvation. You have made a commitment to put Jesus in charge of your life. And you have experienced genuine repentance as a result of mourning over your sin.
If that’s the case, then during our response time in just a moment I want to encourage you to give thanks to God for His salvation.
• There are those of you here this morning that believe that you are Christians – maybe because you come from a Christian family or because you come here to church on a regular basis. Maybe you’ve even walked up an aisle and “prayed the prayer of salvation”.
I was one of those people at one time. When I was going to school at the U of A, I was sitting out on the mall one day and a young man came by and shared the gospel with me and asked me if I wanted to accept Jesus. But he never explained the need to make Jesus my Lord or talked at all about repentance. So when I repeated the prayer that he instructed me to pray, I thought I was a Christian. Fortunately, I later came to see that what I had done that day fell well short of what the Bible reveals is necessary for salvation.
Perhaps today you are a lot like I was then. In one or more aspects, you have fallen short of what is required for God’s salvation. Maybe you’ve trusted in Jesus, but you’re still trying to earn favor with God in some way by your actions. Maybe you’ve never made the commitment to put Jesus in charge of your life. Or maybe you’ve never mourned over your sin and experienced genuine repentance.
If that’s the case, then during the response time, I urge you to take whatever steps you need to in order to experience the fullness of God’s salvation. If you’d like to talk to Pastor Dana or I some more about that, let us know. That is something we’d love to do.
• Finally, there are probably some here this morning who have never made any kind of commitment to Jesus. Perhaps you even believe that Jesus died on the cross and rose from the grave. But you’ve never made the commitment to trust in that work alone as the means of your salvation.
If you’re in that group, then it is our prayer that you won’t leave here this morning until you’ve taken the steps to make that commitment in your life. Again, I encourage you to talk to one of our pastors or elders and make sure that you understand that decision completely before entering into a lifetime of being a Christ-follower.
If you’d like to follow up in any way this morning, you can do that in a number of ways. See Pastor Dana or me after the service and let us know you’d like to talk about this some more. Or you can fill out the information on the flap of the bulletin and place it in the offering plate. Or go to our website for some more information on how to begin a relationship with Jesus and there is a place there where you can also contact us.
It seems appropriate this morning to end by reading together the words of Paul from his second letter to the church at Corinth:
Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift!
2 Corinthians 9:15 (ESV)