This chapter start with a weighty word regarding to Israel regarding their enemies. God is telling His people, that He will be their defender and avenger. He names specific cities which are part of the empires who have attacked and oppressed them, and He is reassuring them that he will deal decisively and severely with those people and places that have been a stench to them. In v. 8, there is this declaration from the Lord that He will stand watch personally to guarantee their safety from enemies such as these... he will never allow them again to be overrun in the manner of Babylon, Assyria and the like.
But God's Salvation is not mere protection... it includes peace and prosperity and flourishing. Not only will he defend them. But he will send a ruler to govern them and guide them into the future that He will secure for them. v. 9 points toward a humble future King who will usher in a new era, a new beginning, and a new Kingdom.
This King will not only rule Israel, but he will bring peace and security and salvation to the whole earth. And he won't do so through the the traditional, expected weapons of war. He will dispense with the earthly way of kingdom expansion. He will not come in military conquest or coercive force. He will come in righteousness and peace, in humility and sacrifice, freeing captives and those living in fear through the blood of a new covenent.
This section fulfilled in Jesus' triumphal entry, recorded in all of the gospels... where Jesus comes into Jerusalem, riding on a donkey, as he moves toward the cross. It is through Jesus' humility and sacrifice that Israel's enemies are defeated, that sin is atoned for, and it's thorugh his resurrection that victory is secured and salvation is unleashed.
The last section of this chapter points toward the day of Salvation, when the work of redemption is completed. Through this saving act, God's scattered people will be gathered. The good shepherd will preserve his flock and give them a future, because they are his treasured possession.
Zechariah 9 tells us something surprising and compelling about the kind of Savior and Salvation that God was sending, and the kind of future He was securing for his people... and all that is imagined here is ours through Christ and his finished work. This future for Israel then, is a present reality for us. This is possible for you and me right now to live in the midst of. I wonder if you have entered into that, and if you are experiencing the daily reality of it... you can, by grace through the empty hands of faith in Jesus. Whatever your past or current regrets, we can enter into this Salvation and better future today. And we can live there.
This chapter continues to fill out the picture which Zechariah began painting in chapter 9, of the future messianic servant who would come to establisha new kingdom of a different quality and kind. God criticizes the leadership and governing of Israel as a people to this point and promises to care very personally for the restored Israel. God characterizes himself as a shepherd to a flock that has been wandering aimlessly for lack of a true shepherd. They've been oppressed and deceived and exploited rather than led and cared for and loved.
But this new King and Kingdom will confront the old patterns and established paradigms. This new King and Kingdom will embody and enforce a whole value system, with a new culture and new customs. This new King and Kingdom will restore hope and joy and humaneness... this new King and Kingdom will galvanize and unify and dignify God's people again.
Assyria is dealt with severely. Israel's earthly enemies are overwhelmed by a new empire, Persia. God does have compassion on Israel and they do finish rebuilding the temple and later on the city of Jerusalem. Geo-political Israel build a new foundation. But other earthly forces enter the fray. The Roman Empire will emerge in less than 200 years. The Kingdom God is pointing toward is not ultimately the geo-political kingdom of Israel...
These are hints toward the messianic Kingdom, which is inaugurated at the coming of Jesus. He is the true King and the Good Shepherd. And those who are gathered to God through faith in Christ are his flock who live under his care. God will yet make a spectacle of earthly governing authorities, worldly power structures and the coercive forces through which men try to establish their own rule. God will deliver his people from the darkness of their own assertion and brutality to the joy of his loving protection and security.
Zechariah was anticipating this future kingdom for the sake of Israel's hope and faithfulness in their own generation. But, brothers and sisters, we can enter into the present reality of this Kingdom for the sake of the world and the advancement of God's Kingdom in our generation. Jesus brought this kingdom into the now, and we, who belong to him by faith, are citizens of that Kingdom, called to embody the values, customs and culture of His Kingdom as his ambassadors to the earthly kingdoms we inhabit. This is the calling of the global Church and the responsibility of every local church: to be a Kingdom outpost or embassy, located within a foreign land, as a safe place for those who are already citizens of God's Kingdom, and as faithful representatives of God's Kingdom to those surrounding us.
We do this personally and collectively. And we do this by continually abiding in and being strengthened by the grace that is in Christ. We trust in the finished work of Christ alone for our citizenship, and we renounce our former allegiance to earthly assumptions and associations. And we lean into and rely upon God's Spirit, to lead us into the joy of living under the authority of God's Son... and we do this together, as God's people.
This chapter points toward the corruption of Israel's leaders, and yet also to Israel's rejection of an alternative leader, namely, the promised King and Shepherd from chapters 9-10. Israel is being ravaged by exploitative leaders who are in it for their own power and gain, and the Lord despises them. He would gladly replace them and give his people the Leader they need who would love them and care for them at every level, and bring peace.
But His people don't want to be led. They want to be indulged. They want to be accommodated. The word of the Lord is anticipating Israel's rejection of the Messiah and God's judgement on them by giving them over to their own corrupt will and desire.
This is one of the scariest trends of God's judgement throughout Scripture... when he gives a people over to their desires and removes himself from the equation as a protecter, provider, defender and Savior. God will not force himself upon us. If we really want life without him and on our own terms, he will give that to us. He will remove his hand and allow us to live for ourselves and natural impulses and to suffer the reality of a life without his gracious presence and loving kindness.
There is judgement in such a withdrawal... but there is also love, even in this. This is often the mechanism by which God makes us totally aware of our brokenness and need for him. By giving us over to life without him, we may yet come to a place of desperate desire for him. I wonder if you've been through that for a time, or if you've watched people you love go thorugh what seems to that kind of season... I have. It's brutal. But sometimes we need to sit in that ourselves, or watch others suffer through such an existence, in order to feel our need.
Jesus has come to shepherd his people and he will chase down the wandering sheep to be sure. But he won't imprison you in the flock. He will allow you to leave and try your hand at life without a shepherd or life under abusive or neglectful shepherds. His heart is always to see a return to sheepfold. We need to nurture a loving submission in our own lives personally and pray diligently for those we know who might be drifting or wandering or outright resisting. May we all come to the end of ourselves so that we can live in glad dependence and loving surrender to the one who loves us perfectly and leads us into life.