JERUSALEM'S SIEGE AND ISRAEL'S SAFETY
We come to the second part of the last section, namely to chapters 12-14. [That this section is to be regarded as a parallel to the preceding section appears from the similar pronouncement, "The burden of the Word of the LORD." The similarity extends further for both oracles indicate upon whom the burden is to be laid: 9:1 "upon the land of Hadrach" and 12:1 "upon Israel."] Chapters 9-11 basically deal with events concerning Christ's first coming and chapters 12-14 deal with the period involving His second advent or His return to defeat Israel's enemies and establish His earthly kingdom.
Our text for tonight depicts Jerusalem being sieged for destruction by the nations and yet God keeps Israel safe through the precarious predicament (CIT). In the end times the allied armies of anti-Christian world powers will besiege Jerusalem. The repeated use of the term "in that day" seems to synchronize the event with "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jer. 30:4-7) and Daniel's "time of trouble" (Daniel 12:1). Although it will be a time of unspeakable anguish for Israel, the climax of all their sufferings and tribulation down through the centuries, YHWH will strengthen them in their great need and Israel will turn to Him who kept them safe and be saved through placing their faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
There are four points:
I. The Siege of Jerusalem, 12:1-3
II. Struck with Confusion or Supported with Strength, 4-5.
III. Divine Deliverance, 12:6-7
IV. Divine Strength and Destruction, 12:8-9
I. THE SIEGE OF JERUSALEM, 12:1-3
In verse 1 informs us that this oracle of God is to fall upon the nation of Israel. "The burden of the Word of the LORD upon Israel. (Thus) declares the LORD who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of a man within him."
The second predictive burden or oracle is accentuated and emphasized that it is the message of the Creator's and Sustainor's authority. First, by the use of the term burden (massa') indicating the freight weight of the message. It is a heavy-weight prophecy. Second, by the phrase Word of the LORD stating that it is a Word belonging to YHWH. The third emphasis is the pronouncement "declares the LORD," the usual wording for prophetic utterances (Num. 24:3 and 2 Sam. 23:1). The fourth is a threefold sublime description of the Omnipotent Creator. Because of this prophetic oracle's amazing predictions it needed to be strongly buttressed with divine authority.
The fourth statement of divine authority is portrayed with three participles of God's creative genius and power. The first is He "who stretches out the heavens." The phrase shows His omnipotent sway over the celestial sphere and the ease with which He lays out the heavens as a man might stretch a table cloth.
The second He "lays the foundation of the earth," demonstrates His absolute control over the terrestrial realm. The marvel that He has hung planets in space causes ceaseless wonder and praise to those who consider it. Physics may attempt an explanation of the heavens, but the actual laying them out is another thing completely.
The third is He "forms the spirit of a man within him." The word "forms" (yotser) implies careful shaping like that done by a potter. Science cannot see and only guesses at the spirit of man but God forms this delicate life-giving spark that animates what would otherwise be dead clay. When it is withdrawn man returns to the dust from which he came.
[The phrase "within him" shows that the individual, his makeup, and his functioning are important to God. Our Lord is not like a deistic god, who would create a universe and then leave it to work itself out.]
If we look above us, we see the heavens God created. If we look beneath us we see the earth that He founded, and if we look within us we find the spirit that formed us. The God of creation is the God who cares for us. [Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Com. OT Vol. 2. 471]
All three participles indicate continuous acts going on progressively in the present. Were God for a moment to cease His creative sustaining activity, all of visible and invisible creation would blaze back into ex-nihilo.
He that is performing works of such magnitude will see to it that these promises will be fulfilled. God is able to preform what He predicts.
Having established God's supremacy thought His unparalleled creative achievements the prophet goes on in verse 2 to look at other mighty works God will perform that will also challenge the man's small faith. "Behold, I am going to make Jerusalem a cup that cause reeling to all the peoples around when Judah is besieged as well as Jerusalem."
We are told to "behold." It is certainly thought provoking to consider why all the peoples would want to surround Jerusalem. [Jerusalem is mentioned 52 times in Zechariah and 22 of them occur in the last three chapters.] To describe "Jerusalem" situation she is first likened to a bowl filled with judgment. Forces move "all the peoples" to gather around Jerusalem. The nations plan to swallow her up. But instead of draining it they reel because of it. Reeling is ra'al from the root "to quiver, shake, reel, stagger." All who attempt to drink of this cup will be sent reeling.
The coveted prize of Jerusalem will cause peoples to siege it and become intoxicated on the pleasure of seizing it. But taking hold of this cup will cause them to become helpless, impotent (Isa. 51:17).
In verse 3 the image of a weighty stone is used describe Jerusalem as God declares what He will do. "And it will come about in that day that I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it will be severely injured. And all the nations of the earth will be gathered against it."
The imagery moves beyond them reeling to suffering severe self–inflicted injury. A stone of burden is a heavy stone, hard to lift, like a stone embedded in a field which is in the way. This stone cuts and wounds those who attempt to move it. Jerusalem is compared to this heavy, immovable rock, that the nations attempt to move but only hurt themselves in the process.
Stress is on the seriousness of the injury. The root is usually associated with cutting or gashing oneself, but here the idea seems rather of rupturing themselves or dislocating their backs when they try to lift it. The task of moving Jerusalem out of their way proves too great for the nations. [John MacKay, Focus on Zechariah.] The text will tell us that this occurs because of divine intervention and protection (vv. 4-5).
"All the nations" of the world will be perplexed with what to do about the problem of Jerusalem. We see this being fulfilled even today. Part two is that those who come against Jerusalem will be destroyed. History reveals that every nation that has ever tried to destroy the Jews has itself been destroyed. It will be the same when the nations collectively attack God's chosen people. [Wiersbe, Bible Exposition Com. OT Vol. 2. 471]
[The tiny land of Israel is an amazing phenomenon, explainable only in biblical terms. It began almost 4,000 years ago with the family of Jacob (or Israel) and his twelve sons. Most of the contemporary nations at the time-Elam, Chaldea, the Hittite empire, and others-have long been extinct as nations, but Israel is alive and well; and is in fact the very hub of international concern. It has, as God prophesied, become a "burdensome stone for all people."
Israel has indeed become a unique burden to the nations. The whole Muslim world insists that Israel be destroyed as a nation, but Israel is determined to maintain her present boundaries. For 1,800 years, "the wandering Jew" had no true home, yet survived. In accord with biblical prophecy, she had "become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead you" (Deuteronomy 28:37).
The city of Jerusalem itself, just since the time of Christ, has been controlled at various times by the Romans, Syrians, Arabs, Crusaders, Egyptians, Persians, and Turks; but never again by the Jews until our .own generation.
The problem of Israel and Jerusalem is apparently unmanageable to the other nations of the world and so must be resolved by God. Zechariah 12 also shows that it will indeed be solved "in that day"-the day when Christ returns. At that time, He says: "I will pour upon. . . the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him" (Zechariah 12:10). In that great day, says Paul, "all Israel shall be saved" (Romans 11: 26). HMM]
Notice that "all the nations" are gathered there. All the nations will be represented in the armies that will be gathered against Jerusalem. Rev. 16:13-15 indicates that the spirits of devils working miracles will gather this army there. (Ps. 118; Joel 3:9-12; Zech.14:2).
II. STRUCK WITH CONFUSION OR SUPPORTED WITH STRENGTH, 12:4-5
Verse 4 speaks of the great future battle against Jerusalem, most likely part of the battle of Armageddon, the last great battle on earth. "In that day" declares the Lord, "I will strike every horse with bewilderment and its rider with madness. But I will watch (open my eyes) over the house of Judah, while I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness."
Again "in that day" (bay yom hahu- ). It is an eschatological phrase that reverberates 14 times throughout chapters 12-14.
[It is a phrase which occurs sixteen times in the final three chapters of Zechariah, and gives cohesion the timing of all the events being described. They all belong to that time which was still future to the prophet — a time when the LORD's purposes for His people would be brought to fruition. It points to that new age which has its beginning in Christ, and stretches forward to its consummation at His return (2 Cor. 5:17; 2 Pet. 3:13; Rev. 21:5). At that time during the tribulation the people of God on earth will experience the fury of the devil ‘because he knows that his time is short' (Rev. 12:12). But though ‘the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together to make war' (Rev. 19:19), they will be defeated by Christ. Though Satan will deceive the nations in the four corners of the earth, and they march to surround Jerusalem, the city He loves (Rev. 20:7-9), they will be divinely overthrown. Zechariah is here presented with glimpses of the destiny of God's people. He relates them to his contemporaries so that they might believe and take courage. If they are on the LORD's side, they are on the side whose victory is assured and whose enemies will be utterly overthrown. [John MacKay, Focus on Zechariah.]
The imagery moves beyond them suffering severe self–inflicted injury to losing control of their equipment and their mental faculties. Special emphasis is laid upon the horse (sus) to show the power and resources of Judah's enemies. Poor little Judah could scarcely dream of possessing a military such as represented in the squadrons of calvary. If you pull for the underdog, you would be pulling for Judah.
Against this very formidable strength, God will exercise power. Dear believer, know full well that God will do this for you, your family, your situation, or your church should the need necessitate it, even today.
First God struck the horses with bewilderment (tim mahon from tamah): "to be dumbfounded, not knowing where to go, not sure what to do." Here it refers to a startled animal that is out of control.
Next He strikes the riders with madness, wildness, insanity. The rider smitten with madness also losses control of himself and acts irrationally. He would turn on his own fellows (see 14:13).
As the armies of the world converge there will be tremendous bewilderment. God will strike the enemies strength with blindness. The horses and their horsemen will be unable to follow the rules of discipline and training (or programming). Maddened riders (drivers or pilots) mounted on blind and bewildered steeds (tanks or aircraft) will only destroy themselves.
But God "will watch" or literally "open His eyes" over Judah. Why is Judah used? Judah is the designation of the nation that followed the king who was of the lineage of David, here indicating those that will follow the true Davidic King, King Jesus the Messiah. This blinding of the enemies forces and looking out for the house of Judah will at long last bring about the melting of their hard and rebellious hearts in true repentance which is seen in their "bitter weeping" set forth in the last part of this chapter.
Verse 5 states that even outlying regions will recognize that they have been uniquely blessed and supported by God. "Then the clans of Judah will say in their hearts, ‘A strong support for us are the inhabitants of Jerusalem through the LORD of Hosts, their God."
The clans or leaders of Judah will discern that it is the LORD who is their strong help. They will see the successful resistance of the enemy by the inhabitants of Jerusalem is through the power of God and that knowledge will come from their hearts and they will speak it forth with deep and genuine conviction.
When people of God are victorious through God it gives confidence to the rest of God's people that they too can depend on Him.
III. DIVINE DELIVERANCE, 12:6-7.
God will watch over His people and see that they are delivered. Verse 6 states that He will make the Jews like fire and their enemies like dry stubble. "In that day I will make the clans of Judah like a firepot among a piece of wood and a flaming torch among sheaves, so they will consume on the right hand and on the left all the surrounding peoples, while the inhabitants of Jerusalem again dwell on their own sites in Jerusalem."
Two similes describe the operation of God's power through the clans of Judah. The emphasis is on how God uses men, not on what men themselves achieve.
A fire pot is a vessel employed to carry hot coals for the purpose of igniting a fire. A good mass of hot coals under dry sticks of wood means the destruction of the wood. Secondly, to make the picture more dramatic a flaming torch among sheaves is added. A torch thrown among sheaves makes the fate of the sheaves quite hopeless. As the dusty dryness of grain explosively ignites with a touch of flames and twigs of dry wood are easily set ablaze with hot coals so Judah will consume her enemies around her in that day (Judges 15:3-5).
In spite of the battle raging all around the people of Jerusalem can dwell in their homes because God is "a wall of fire about them." The idea conveyed is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem need not even find special shelter from the enemy. A picture of security and confidence.
The outlying areas that first encounter the world's armies will also experience deliverance first as God remembers His servant David as verse 7 indicates. "The Lord also will save the tents of Judah first in order that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem many not be magnified above Judah."
The Lord is said to "deliver the tents." The picture is of the people outside the city walls who do not enjoy the protection that even a wall dwelling provides to defend themselves. Those who live inside the permanent dwellings of Jerusalem at least have some protection.
Those who are more defenseless and exposed living in tents in the open country will enjoy God's supernatural intervention first. Not only because they would be attacked before the city would be but so that the inhabitants of the more prestigious dwellings which are in the city would not become proud at their deliverance thinking their own arm brought it about. For the totally defenseless humble folks outside were delivered first. [Apparently the folks outside are designated Judah.]
The deliverance will so obviously be of God that the boast or glory for it will be given to God and to Him alone instead of even partially to themselves for both the city and tent dwellers.
IV. DIVINE STRENGTH AND DESTRUCTION, 12:8-9.
Verse 8 states that not only will God defend them, the people of Jerusalem will be given special powers. "In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David (will be) like God, like the Angel of the LORD before them."
What a gracious promise of God's assistance and deliverance to the Jewish remnant; for those who in their heart have made the Lord their strength. Again the reoccurring phrase in that day, the unusual day, the time of the great tribulation. The Lord will defend the inhabitants. Defend is yagen from ganah, "cover, surround, shield, defend." The Lord's intervention gives protection to the inhabitants. The Lord's defenses will be absolute safety.
Not only will YHWH defend them but He will girt the remnant with superhuman strength. The first advantage given is to the feeble, the tottering or staggering, those stumbling from fear or weakness. They are so weak they cannot even stand much less fight. They shall be as David, the great warrior and victorious conqueror of Israelite history. David leaped over walls and slew giants.
Those of the house of David will be like God (Elohim), supernatural in might and protection. They will be like God who in turn is explained as being like the Angel of the Lord who was the pre-incarnate Christ and welded the sword of the Lord of old (Ex. 23:20ff; Josh. 5:13ff; Isa. 37). God will be with them, go before them and give them supernatural strength.
Verse 9 expresses the LORD's determination, and gives His people a promise to rely on when they see all things around them seem hopeless from a human point of view. "And it will come about in that day that I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem."
Again the Lord dramatically reverts to the first person to speak of His destruction of Jerusalem's enemies. "I will set about" indicates that God will seek, in the sense of concentrating full attention upon, the attention and skill of a marksman intent upon hitting the bull's eye.
All the nations being represented in their armies that attacked and by their armies destruction.
Many times God stirred up trouble for His people because of their disloyalty but in that day He will destroy all the people of the nations that come against Jerusalem. Those who oppose God's people will not prevail forever.
The hold that evil has on humanity cannot be broken until there is this decisive conquest of it. When God make that happen, evil, pain, and oppression will be abolished.
God will not forget His people. He is a God who is watching and causing events to help His people come to Him. He does so today for the church by letting us individually and corporately face challenges that let us discover our need of Him. Even when the conflict is at its hottest we must judge the outcome not by the seeming strength of the adversary, but by the presence of the LORD who ‘will fight for you' (Ex. 14:14).
In the last days God will give the Jews a dilemma so great that it will cause them to turn to Him as their only hope, and He will receive this stiff-necked people with open arms, as He does any and all who call upon Him through faith in Jesus Christ from a sincere heart. Let us do now as Judah will do then and thank the Lord for His gracious deliverance in our time of trouble.