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Communion Presbyterian Church ARP

Prisoners of Hope - Zechariah 9,10

Zech 9:1 The burden of the word of the LORD

à The burden of the word of the LORD is preaching through an extended section from Zechariah’s last chapters, of which, the material is impossible to outline!  The best sermons of this portion of Zechariah tend to dissect the thematic material and then bunch them together to reveal the repeated themes: The Destruction of Israel’s enemies, the Divine protection of Israel, Israel’s Spiritual cleansing, the Exaltation of Jerusalem, Israel’s Future prosperity, and the final Establishment of eternal holiness.  But Zechariah’s material doesn’t come to us in such an orderly way.  It’s all mixed together with layer upon layer of references to Israel’s history, geography, religious convictions, and their future eschatological hope.

à Our preaching section today is so unique that some English translations, will arrange this literature in a “song stanzas” format, like a psalm.  It is an indication of the poetic nature, of this sort of a ‘stream of consciousness’ prophetic song, written to recall the future expectations for a revived Israel under the leadership of a Messiah.  And this is a great point…

à Though the book of Zechariah may be among the most confusing passages of the OT, the NT apostles quote regularly from this section of Zechariah, finding fulfillment passages for Jesus Christ as the prophesied Messiah.  The confusion of Zechariah can be cleared up in large measure when we see them as a presentation of Jesus Christ and the fullness of his salvation being brought to the ENTIRE world!

à So WARNING:  Preaching straight through chapters 9 & 10, as we are about to do, is not recommended.  SO I will highlight what we should be looking for before we read it so we can have a close eye on what to expect.

à à What we will read in the first 8 verses of Zechariah 9, is the common theme of both the judgment and salvation of God for those who are His enemies and those who are his His elect: BUT WAIT!  It starts off full of judgment but in the end, there is a HUGE PROPHETIC TWIST that HAPPENS (MAP)

9.1 The burden of the word of the LORD is against the land of Hadrach, and Damascus is its resting place. For the LORD has an eye on mankind and on all the tribes of Israel, 2 and on Hamath also, which borders on it, Tyre and Sidon, though they are very wise. 3 Tyre has built herself a rampart and heaped up silver like dust, and fine gold like the mud of the streets. 4 But behold, the Lord will strip her of her possessions and strike down her power on the sea, and she shall be devoured by fire. 5 Ashkelon shall see it, and be afraid; Gaza too, and shall writhe in anguish; Ekron also, because its hopes are confounded. The king shall perish from Gaza; Ashkelon shall be uninhabited; 6 a mixed people shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of Philistia.

à WOW, Tyre was a city built on an small island off the coast and IT DID become a wealthy and prominent society on the Mediterranean.  But this historic trading partner of Israel is going to go down in flames, and all the coastal cities to the south will see the destruction and fear for their life!

 

à OK, so far so good, judgment upon foreign nations who are full of pride and wickedness – BUT WAIT… How will God treat these nations who are the neighbors of Israel???  HE IS GOING TO CONVERT THEM!

7 I will take away its blood from its mouth, and its abominations from between its teeth; (speaking of some abominable religious practices that the Jews despised. These people, in the Jewish mind deserved God’s judgment!  A good Jew reading the first 6 verses of chapter 9, would be saying, “Right on, wipe these evil pagans from the earth!”  But in verse 7…)   it too (speaking of these nations and towns) shall be a remnant for our God; it shall be like a clan in Judah, and Ekron shall be like the Jebusites.

à “WHAT?  These disgusting, prideful, uncircumcised Gentiles are going to be included in “the remnant?”  They will be considered a CLAN (or leaders) of Judah?  They will become like the Jebusites? 

à The Jebusites were the people from whom David took Jerusalem and made it his capitol city.  It was a Jebusite who owned the land where the future temple would be built, King David bought it from a Jebusite.  The Jebusites were citizens of Jerusalem, AND NOW, Zechariah is telling us that the Philistines are going to be welcomed into God’s Holy City?

à This IS what Zechariah is declaring in a judgment / salvation passage!

 8 Then I will encamp at my house as a guard, so that none shall march to and fro; no oppressor shall again march over them, for now I see with my own eyes.

à No more oppressors to Jerusalem because they will have been conquered by -- CONVERSION!  Only God can do something like that!

 

à But how will God do this?  He will send the King of CONVERSION!

 9 Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.

à Here it is, the all time, #1 most quoted passage on Palm Sunday.  Jesus riding into Jerusalem with the people cheering, “Save, we pray! Son of David!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” 

à And how does the King of Conversion ride on, into Jerusalem?  On a humble donkey, announcing a new battle plan – (TWIST!!) THE elimination of Israel’s might!

à Listen to the King’s Battle plan for victory.  It is FAR more humbling than Yelling CHARGE! On a lowly donkey!

10 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim (Plan A:  Go to battle without chariots [Ephraim being another name for Israel]) and the war horse from Jerusalem (Plan B: disband the cavalry, which even today, is the true power of a land force); and the battle bow shall be cut off (Plan C: Disable the most powerful weapons of striking the enemy at a distance… Do you see what is going on here?  Ronald Reagan would be rolling in his rotunda.  This is not peace through strength, this is turning weapons into plowshares!  This is confidently saying, ‘it is not by might, nor by power; but by My Spirit, says the Lord!’), and he (The Donkey Rider) shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.

à The future humble King will reign by humbly establishing his peace over the whole earth.  We might want to remember this every time we celebrate Palm Sunday (Anniversary) – Jesus is the King of Conversion, coming to make the impure enemies of God, the clans of Judah and residents of the New Jerusalem!  He does it by judging what is wicked in himself, on the cross; and transforming his remnant into everything that He loves!  That is conversion!

à So when Jesus rides into Jerusalem in humble stature, it speaks of his plan to convert the nations with the weapons of ordinary means: words of hope, prayers for mercy, acts of grace for those who should be destroyed.

à On that first Palm Sunday, Jesus comes announcing peace and fulfilling this passage of Zechariah.  And so we temper our own mission as a church with this knowledge of God’s humble means by which to convert those whom we might be tempted to raise imprecatory prayers.  But our true prayer would be to see people changed by grace and included in God’s future kingdom!  WE KNOW A DAY is coming for judgment – but let’s pray for the conversion of men like Saul who became the apostle Paul!

 

à So, we’ll now read what the Final Victory of this King will look like…

11 As for you also, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit. 12 Return to your stronghold, O prisoners of hope; today I declare that I will restore to you double.

à Here, the Lord remembers His unique covenant oaths made with Israel, often ratified by the shedding of blood.

à Again, we see the fulfillment of Christ in passages like this. Those who have been defeated and depressed, held as prisoners in giant pits, (namely the bottomless pit of sin) will be told to return to a fortress – never to be taken captive again since Christ is their stronghold!  And as a further blessing, those who serve the Lord in battle will be rewarded with the spoils of HIS victory – restored double.

13 For I have bent Judah as my bow; I have made Ephraim its arrow. I will stir up your sons, O Zion, against your sons, O Greece, and wield you like a warrior's sword.

à Here is a controversial verse for a few reasons; but for our message today, and because God will be CONVERTING foreign nations who had been profane to Israel, suddenly, Greece is set to receive the bow and arrow and sword of Israel.  Why are they so evil?

à Just as Tyre, a distant land was judged, so too in this section, Greece represents a distant land to be judged, just like the far reaches of Assyria and Egypt, later mentioned.

 

14 Then the LORD will appear over them, and his arrow will go forth like lightning; the Lord GOD will sound the trumpet and will march forth in the whirlwinds of the south. (Now, this sounds like the book of Revelation, return of Christ language!)  15 The LORD of hosts will protect them, and they shall devour, and tread down the sling stones, and they shall drink and roar as if drunk with wine, and be full like a bowl, drenched like the corners of the altar.

à And here is the language of victorious armies who have so overwhelmingly triumphed in battle that the blood of their enemies will be splattered everywhere.  (Sounds like a George Patton pep rally!) And so when Christ rides the white horse in Revelation 19 with His robes dipped in blood, this speaks of the complete victory and triumph of Christ over all of His and our enemies.

 

16 On that day the LORD their God will save them, as the flock of his people; for like the jewels of a crown they shall shine on his land. 17 For how great is his goodness, and how great his beauty! Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the young women.

à And how appropriate to again, complete the Jewish Eschatological Hope of this section with three features we’ve learned to expect: 1 – the gathering for judgment and salvation; 2 – a portion of the saved will be a great number of the Gentiles; 3 – the New Age of God will be a New Israel complete with feasting and joy.  And how can we not notice the elements of the Lord’s Supper here in both the grain and wine?!

 

This leads us into Chapter 10 and since we have repeated themes of Judgment & Salvation by the work of a Messiah, this will go quickly.  As we’ve discussed previously in Zechariah, Judgment is coming, But Israel must judge herself first to avoid being judged with the rest of the world, so the matter of idolatry must be addressed.  IDOLATRY? In Israel?  Well, we’re getting close to 2 decades without the temple being completed; so people are bound to find “new ways to worship…”

10:1 Ask rain from the LORD in the season of the spring rain, from the LORD who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone, the vegetation in the field. 2 For the household gods utter nonsense, and the diviners see lies; they tell false dreams and give empty consolation. Therefore the people wander like sheep; they are afflicted for lack of a shepherd.
à The only thing that idolatry has done for Israel is to encourage the empty dreams and prophecies of liars.  The reason why those idols were even allowed in the homes of the Israelites is because those assigned to the leadership of the nation did not stand against them.  If the leaders profit more from idolatry than from faithfulness to God’s word, Lord have mercy on that nation! (church!)

 3 "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 majestic steed in battle.
à Interesting picture to think of a sheep becoming a noble stallion… but the King of Conversion can change hearts from ‘sheepish following’ to ‘confident champions!’

à Here again is the promised Messiah who will convert hearts from Idols to truth…
 4 From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler- all of them together.
à Here we have 4 descriptions of the Messiah, a cornerstone, a tent peg, a battle bow, and a ruler who will lead others: A foundational anchor of strength!
à But how he will lead the other rulers?  He will make them like He is!
 5 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 put to shame the riders on horses. 6 "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. 7 Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the LORD. 8 "I will whistle for them and gather them in, for I have redeemed them, and they shall be as many as they were before. 9 Though I scattered them among the nations, yet in far countries they shall remember me, and with their children they shall live and return. 10 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. 11 He shall pass through the sea of troubles and strike down the waves of the sea, and all the depths of the Nile shall be dried up. The pride of Assyria shall be laid low, and the scepter of Egypt shall depart. 12 I will make them strong in the LORD, and they shall walk in his name," declares the LORD.
à So let’s review what God promises his remnant.
Although they have been punished, God has not rejected His people, Because of His promises to Abraham, God will redeem a future remnant, and they will enjoy the favor of the Lord so that young and old alike will be present in the Promised Land. Now remember, the land promised to Abraham extended from the Nile to the Euphrates river (MAP) and the Lord is promising that those who had been scattered beyond this geography will be brought back, and so many people will be brought back, as many as the stars in the heavens, there will not be enough room for them -- they will not seem like a remnant of people, but will appear to be the fullness of Israel.  Not even the rivers or the seas will keep them from making it to their appointed grounds.  And the hostilities of those lands far off, which had oppressed and subjugated the people of God, they will be laid low, so that the children of God will be victorious.
à There is a spiritual application to all of this!

Christ came and converted his disciples into prisoners of Hope.  At first, they thought they were defeated once again at the spilled blood of Jesus.  Just another verse in the prophet’s song of judgment upon Israel.  But that was the blood of a new covenant –Jesus rose again!  And with that resurrection is the announcement that all the prophetic passages of Israel’s future glory for a remnant people is now more than a hope… it is real!  And the Israel once bound by two rivers will now extend over the entire earth, and all who follow Christ will feast on His blessings!

 

 

 

This is what it means to be a prisoner of Hope!  I know there are songs and books with this title… courtesy of Zechariah 9.   It’s a wonderful paradox though, isn’t it?  People think they are free; but if they have no hope, they are captive to fear and loss.  But even the one in jail can be truly free if they are a prisoner of Hope.  The one imprisoned by Hope is never isolated, because God is with them; is never doubting because God works all things together for Good; is never anxious because God makes all things beautiful in His time; is never fearful because God is all powerful; is never dissatisfied because God’s grace is sufficient.  Never hungers and thirsts, because God is their supply.

If we share the conviction of the eternal remnant, we know that we have a future reality awaiting us based upon the victory of Christ – but in the meantime, we do not fixate on the things that seem to keep us locked down.  We must recognize that we are bound to bringing about God’s glory and vision to this world.

Paul coming to make Christians prisoners – did they pray for conversion?

Maybe conversion of our enemies should be what keeps our thoughts captive!

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