Saturday, December 23, 2017

Behold Your King Is Coming to You: Unlocking the Meaning of Zechariah 9:9-10

Image result for jesus triumphal entryIn a previous post, I discussed the true significance of Isaiah 53 in relation to Messianic prophecy, revealing how Isaiah 53 foretells of a divine Messiah who would absorb the wrath of God on behalf of God's people. I noted that one of the most compelling reasons to take the Bible as divinely inspired is the subtle consistency (over 1500 years and across different genres of writing) of its portrait of the coming Messiah and of the nature of the Triune God. 

In this article, I want to highlight yet another beautiful Messianic prophecy, and explore its implications for the Messiah's identity and mission. Our text is from Zechariah 9:9-10, a well known text which foretells of Israel's king coming to Jerusalem with salvation, mounted on a donkey.  
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. 10 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 speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Here, we see that Israel's king, who is to come and establish peace on the earth, is to be a human who rides on a donkey (to ride on the back of a donkey, he must be physical). But Zechariah also tells us something else that is very important in relation to Israel's coming king. Turn over to Zechariah 14:1-9:
Behold, a day is coming for the Lord, when the spoil taken from you will be divided in your midst. 2 For I will gather all the nations against Jerusalem to battle, and the city shall be taken and the houses plundered and the women raped. Half of the city shall go out into exile, but the rest of the people shall not be cut off from the city. 3 Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations as when he fights on a day of battle. 4 On that day his feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives that 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 move northward, and the other half southward. 5 And you shall flee to the valley of my mountains, for the valley of the mountains shall reach to Azal. And you shall flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. 6 On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the Lord, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light. 8 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. 9 And the Lord will be king over all the earth. On that day the Lord will be one and his name one.
This refers to a time yet future when all nations will be gathered for battle against Jerusalem, but God Himself will intervene against Israel's enemies. Verse 4 states something very intriguing: the feet of Yahweh will stand upon the Mount of Olives. For Yahweh's feet to stand upon the mount of olives, He must join to Himself a physical body -- for a non-material being has no feet. It seems that this allusion is intended to be taken literally rather than metaphorically, since the feet touching the mount of olives is responsible for the mountain literally being split in two from east to west. Thus, here we see a picture of Yahweh himself clothed with a physical body. Verse 9 further tells us that in that day "the Lord will be king over all the earth." Thus, the king of Zechariah 9:9-10, whom we read of coming to Jerusalem with salvation, physically mounted upon a donkey, appears to be Yahweh Himself. Here we thus see a foreshadow of the incarnation where, in the person of Christ, God will take upon Himself human flesh.

Notice that Zechariah 14:5 states that "Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him." The New Testament interprets this reference to Yahweh to in fact be the person of Christ Himself. When we turn to 1 Thessalonians 3:11-13, we read,
11 Now may our God and Father himself, and our Lord Jesus, direct our way to you, 12 and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13 so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.
The connection between verse 13 and Zechariah 14:5 should be obvious enough. The conclusion, then, that Paul affirmed Jesus to be Yahweh, is thus inescapable.

We also see a fascinating connection between Zechariah 14:4 and Acts 1:6-12:
6 So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 9 And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight. 10 And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes, 11 and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.” 12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey away.
Notice that verse 12 indicates that Jesus' ascension into heaven took place at the mount of olives, and the angels in verse 11 told the disciples that Jesus will come back in the same way in which they saw him go into heaven. Thus, when Jesus returns, his feet will again touch the mount of olives. Thus, the book of Acts makes Jesus out to be Yahweh, connecting Him with Zechariah 14:4.

Moreover, since Mark 11:1-10 / Matthew 21:1-11 / Luke 19:28-40 / John 12:12-19 all narrate Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem and connect it to Zechariah 9:9-10, all four gospels represent Jesus as claiming to be Israel's king who has come with salvation, and thus Jesus claims to be none other than the God of Israel who is identified as "king over all the earth" in Zechariah 14:9.

In future posts, I will continue to highlight some of the treasures of the Scriptures in respect to their portrayal of the Messiah. Stay tuned!