Rest

God designed the world to operate in a state of perpetual motion. The fact that the earth rotates at an approximate speed of 1000 miles per hour on a continual basis demonstrates that humans are wired for activity, but there is also an innate need for us to rest. The example God gave us in his work of creation was six days of activity followed by one day of rest. It says in Genesis 2:3, “And God blessed the seventh day, and sanctified it because that in it he had rested from all his work which God created and made.” The Hebrew word translated rest, shabath (shaw – bath´) is where the word Sabbath or the concept of a day of rest comes from (7673). God intended rest to be a part of our lives, but very few people understand why it is important.

God did not need to rest after he created the world. The purpose of his rest was to acknowledge the completion of his work, to see that it was finished. The process of ending is important because it shows us that it is possible to complete something from a standpoint of perfection. In fact, the Hebrew word translated perfect, tamiym means complete (8589). When Abraham was 99 years old, the LORD appeared to him and said, “I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect” (Genesis 17:1). In other words, God was saying he wanted to bring Abraham to a place of rest or his life to a point of completion. Closely related to the idea of completion is purpose or destiny. When we walk before the LORD, we arrive at the destination he has predetermined to be our place of rest, our perfect ending.

When the Israelites entered the Promised Land, God wanted them to enter into his rest, which means he wanted them to end up at the same place he was. You could say that God’s temple was his house or his place of residence, but it was really just a marker for the entrance of his Messiah into the world. In order to ensure that his birth would occur and not be overlooked by his chosen people, God designated a specific location for his Messiah to be born. In a sense, you could say that location was God’s place of rest,  but technically it was Jesus birth, and subsequent death, that marked completion of God’s work of salvation. When Jesus died on the cross, he said, “It is finished” (John 19:30).

There was really only one requirement for the Israelites’ Messiah to be born. God’s people had to occupy the territory he had designated for an inheritance to Abraham and his descendants. The problem was that the Promised Land was inhabited by other people and the Israelites couldn’t get rid of them. The ongoing battle between Israel and its surrounding neighbors continued until the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Babylonian king, Nebuchadnezzar. After they were released from captivity, the Israelites were reluctant to return to their homeland because they feared being overtaken again. The Jews were dispersed throughout the Persian Empire when Esther became queen. After Haman the Agagite’s plot to kill all of God’s people was uncovered and stopped, it says in Esther 9:16 that the Jews had rest from their enemies.

The defeat of Haman brought rest or completion to the Jews because his death fulfilled the last Old Testament commandment as well as prophecy related to the Israelites’ occupation of the Promised Land before the Messiah’s birth. It says in Deuteronomy 25:17-19, “Remember what Amalek did unto thee by the way, when ye were come forth out of Egypt; how he met thee by the way, and smote the hindmost of thee, even all that were feeble behind thee, when thou wast faint and weary; and he feared not God. Therefore it shall be, when the LORD thy God hath given thee rest from all thine enemies round about, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee for an inheritance to possess it, that thou shalt blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven; thou shalt not forget it.”

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Rejection

The prophet Zechariah’s final vision was received late in his ministry and focused on the events that would take place as a result of the Jews rejection of their Messiah, Jesus Christ. A key aspect of this prophecy was the betrayal of Jesus for thirty pieces of silver. It says in Zechariah 11:12-13, “And I said unto them, if ye think good, give me my price; and if not forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver. And the LORD said unto me, Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prised at of them. And I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the LORD.” Following this prediction, Zechariah was told that a foolish shepherd would be raised up to take the place of the Jews true Messiah. This man known as the Antichrist is described in Zechariah 11:16, where it says, “For, lo, I will raise up a shepherd in the land, which shall not visit those that be cut off, neither shall seek the young one, nor heal that that is broken, nor feed that that standeth still: but he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their claws in pieces.”

Jesus’ second coming will bring sorrow to the Jews because then, they will realize their tragic mistake. It says in Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and 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, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.” The great tribulation will be a time of testing, when the Jews will have one final chance to declare their allegiance to Jesus. During that time, it says in Zechariah 13:7-9 that God will strike back against the Antichrist’s rebellion. “And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God.”

In the final section of Zechariah’s prophecy was a picture of the coming Day of the Lord, the time period when Jesus will rule over the entire earth. Zechariah said, “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…On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 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. 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. And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one” (Zechariah 14:4,6-9).

His arrival

In preparation for their Messiah’s arrival, God cleared the way for his people to experience a different kind of life in the Promised Land. For centuries, the Jews had lived in fear of being overtaken by their enemies. God intended to remove the threats to his people’s existence in one fell swoop. The agent of His judgment was Alexander the Great who not only turned the Jews world upside down, but also transformed the world into a single united kingdom through a series of military campaigns that lasted ten years. Alexander was able to overthrown the Persian Empire in its entirety and established a Hellenistic civilization that was still evident in the world until the mid-15th century A.D. God told his people, “And I will encamp about mine house because of the army, because of him that passeth by, and because of him that returneth: and no oppressor shall pass through them anymore; for now have I seen with mine eyes.

Zechariah’s announcement of the Messiah’s arrival was quoted in the New Testament as Messianic and as referring ultimately to the Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem (note on Zechariah 9:9). He said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” (Zechariah 9:9). This picture of Jesus’ entry into the city of Jerusalem just before his crucifixion shows that his arrival as the Jews Messiah was linked more so to his death on the cross than to his birth in Bethlehem. The  purpose of the Messiah’s arrival was to make a way for God’s people to live in peace and prosperity. Clearly, the only way that could happen was for Satan to be defeated and the kingdoms of this world to be overtaken by Jesus, the King of the Jews.

Speaking of Jesus’ authority on earth, God said, “And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:10). In other words, the Jews would no longer have to engage in military battles to conquer their enemies. Jesus’ authority would be their key to overcoming the world. The picture of deliverance God gave his people was one of hope. He said, “As for thee also, by the blood of thy covenant I have sent forth thy prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water. Turn ye to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee” (Zechariah 9:11-12). The Hebrew word translated hope, tiqvah is derived from the word qavah which means to bind together. “This word stresses the straining of the mind in a certain direction with an expectant attitude…a forward look with assurance” (6960). God wanted his people to once again expect him to do a miracle on their behalf, which would be the resurrection of Jesus from the dead.

Expectations

In a series of ten promises, God revealed his intent to restore Jerusalem to its former state of glory. Referring to the capital of Israel as if it were his wife, God said, “I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury” (Zechariah 8:2). The name Zion is associated with the Messiah’s kingdom on earth. It is mentioned 37 times in the Psalms, primarily by King David, who said, “Oh that the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion! when the LORD bringeth back the captivity of his people, Jacob shall rejoice, and Israel shall be glad” (Psalm 14:7). In another psalm written for the Levitical choir, it says, “Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King” (Psalm 48:1-2). The mention of the great King in this psalm is a reference to the Messiah, Jesus Christ who is expected to one day rule the world from this centralized location known as Zion.

Even though the remnant of people that returned to Jerusalem were living in harsh conditions, God expected them to believe things would change radically after their Messiah was born. The LORD depicted a scene quite different from anything his people had experienced while they were living in captivity. He said, “There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (Zechariah 8:4-5). What might seem like ordinary life, was probably beyond the imagination of those living in the rubble of the once great city of Jerusalem. Zechariah proclaimed, “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in my eyes? saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 8:6). In other words, God wanted his people to expect a miraculous transformation of their city because he was the one that had created the earth and everything in it.

Rather than keeping the Ten Commandments and observing all the statutes and ordinances that he had laid out for them when they were delivered from bondage in Egypt, God had a short list of expectations for the remnant of people that returned to Jerusalem. He said, “These are the things that ye shall do; speak ye every man truth to his neighbor; execute judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD” (Zechariah 8:16-17). God expected his people to be different than the rest of the world. One of the reasons God chose the descendants of Abraham to be his people was because he wanted the world to see the positive difference he made in their lives. After concluding his ten promises, God let his people know that they should expect to be recognized as his children. Speaking of the time period known as the millennial reign of Christ, God said, “In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (Zechariah 8:23).

 

Integration

The prophet Zachariah’s final night vision depicted the world after the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. It began with the entrance of four chariots into the Holy Land, of which Zechariah asked the question, “What are these, my lord?” It says in Zechariah 6:5, “And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” The angel’s reference to the Lord of all the earth indicated that Jesus’ conquest over Satan had already taken place. We know now that it was the Lord’s death on the cross that defeated his adversary Satan. Because Jesus died for the sins of all humanity, he was able to claim the entire world for his kingdom. The angel said to Zechariah, “Behold these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country” (Zechariah 6:8).

The north country represented all of Israel’s enemies because that was “the direction from which most of Israel’s foes invaded their nation” (note on Zechariah 6:8). What the angel was telling Zechariah was that the threat of conquest had been eliminated. We know now that the nation of Israel became extinct in the first century after Jesus’s death, but was reestablished on May 14, 1948. Since that time, God has supernaturally protected the nation of Israel from destruction. What is yet to be accomplished is spoken of in Zechariah 6:12-13 where it says, “Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH;  and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne: and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

The picture of “The BRANCH” sitting on a throne in the temple of the LORD is a depiction of the millennial reign of Christ. What was shown in Zechariah’s prophecy was that there would be an integration of the roles of king and priest. The Messiah was expected to be a king, but what the people didn’t realize in Zechariah’s time was that the Messiah would also replace the high priest and would be the spiritual leader as well as the political leader of the world. The Messiah’s ability to integrate what we sometimes refer to as the sacred and secular aspects of life is due to his twofold blessing of peace (Zechariah 6:13). Jesus was given authority over all that is sacred in the world because he was born the Son of God. Jesus also inherited the world and was given authority over Satan and every kingdom on earth because he lived a perfect life and died for the sins of everyone, including those that reject him as their savior.

Zechariah showed the people that their hearts were still hardened toward God. The LORD told him, “Speak unto all the people of the land, and to the priests, saying, When ye fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh month, even those seventy years, did ye at all fast unto me, even to me?” (Zechariah 7:5). While God’s people were in exile, they went through the motions of worship, but their hearts were not right with him. God wanted to see a different kind of behavior from his people, some evidence of change in their lives, but there was none. God reminded them of their obligation to “execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother” (Zechariah 7:9). Then he said, “but they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear. Yea, they made their hearts as an adamant stone, lest they should hear the law, and the words which the LORD of hosts hath sent in his spirit by the former prophets: therefore came a great wrath from the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 7:11-12).

God explained to his people that it was their own rejection of him that made it necessary for him to implement a revised plan of salvation. Although God intended to restore Jerusalem, there would be a period of time when Israel would not be the center of his attention. In order to incorporate everyone into his plan of salvation, God intended to spread the good news of his free gift of salvation through a different method. What we refer to today as the gospel, the story of Jesus’ birth, death, and resurrection, was entrusted to both Jews and Gentiles. Just before his ascension into heaven, Jesus told his disciples:

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world. (Matthew 28:18-20)

 

A picture of salvation

Zechariah’s eight night visions gave him an intense insight into what lay ahead for God’s people. His first three visions focused on God’s relationship with the remnant of Jews that had returned to the Promised Land. Zechariah’s next four visions focused on God’s relationship with the rest of the world. In particularly, Zechariah was given access to God’s heavenly throne room, in order to show him how the intercessory process of salvation worked. It says in Zechariah 3:1-2:

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, the LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: Is not this a brand pluckt out of the fire?

The Hebrew term translated resist in Zechariah 3:1 is satan (saw – tan´). Satan means to attack and figuratively refers to an accusation (7853). One of the ways the word satan is translated is adversary and the person Satan is sometimes referred to as our adversary, also known as the devil. The interesting thing about God’s response is that he merely states, “the LORD rebuke thee” (Zechariah 3:2) and that’s the end of Satan’s argument. To rebuke someone means that you chide or scold him. Basically, what the LORD did was tell Satan to shut up.

The picture of a brand being pluckt out of the fire indicated that Joshua was not selected randomly, but was intentionally chosen as an instrument of God. Joshua’s selection by God meant that Satan no longer had any power over him, he couldn’t damage his reputation or say anything bad about him in the presence of the LORD. It says in Zechariah 3:3-4, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will cloth thee with change of raiment.” The association of sin with dirty clothes makes is seem as though the damage done by sin is only superficial, but in reality, Joshua’s garments were ruined, they had become rags that were useless to him. The change of raiment that Jesus gave him was in essence, the shirt off his own back. Joshua was temporarily covered with the LORD’s righteousness because Jesus had not yet died on the cross.

The LORD referred to Joshua as a “stone that I have laid” (Zechariah 3:9), one that he would use to engrave or open up a pathway to salvation for everyone. One way to look at what happened to Joshua was the initial establishment of Jesus’ ministry to save the world. The remnant of Jews that returned to the Promised Land were like seeds that were planted, and expected to take root, and eventually when the Messiah was born, they would bear fruit and be the first to become disciples of Jesus Christ.

Zechariah’s fifth vision contained a personal message for Zerubbabel, the grandson of King Jehoiachin who was taken into captivity in Babylon. Zechariah said, “This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6). Essentially, what he was being told was that God’s people would not succeed without spiritual assistance from God. Zerubbabel was asked, “For who hath despised the day of small things?” (Zechariah 4:10). This question referred back to the rebuilding of God’s temple. “Some thought the work on the temple was insignificant (Ezra 3:12; Hag 2:3), but God was in the rebuilding program and, by His Spirit (v.6), would enable Zerubbabel to finish it” (note on Zechariah 4:10).

Zechariah’s sixth and seventh vision began to tie in the larger objective within God’s plan of salvation to the rebuilding of the temple. At the end of Jesus’ parable of the husbandmen (Matthew 21:33-40), he said to the religious leaders that were listening, “Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes? Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof. And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder” (Matthew 21:42-44). Jesus’ comment was most likely a reference to his ability to take away Joshua’s sin(Zechariah 3:9) and yet his gift of salvation, full pardon, was being rejected by the men that had benefitted from the rebuilding of God’s temple. The Jews thought they were the only ones God intended to save, but Zechariah’s visions made it clear that God was concerned with the salvation of the entire world.

Zechariah was told concerning a flying roll or giant banner that stretched across the sky, “This is the curse that goeth forth over the face of the whole earth” (Zechariah 5:3). Although God’s commandments were given to the Israelites, there was no exclusion of the rest of the world with respect to their validity or enforcement. By making the Jews aware of the laws that governed his universe, God was allowing his people to avoid punishment by obeying them, rather than violating his commandments through ignorance. According to Zechariah’s vision, “every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it” (Zechariah 5:3).

Zechariah’s seventh vision showed that not only must flagrant, persistent sinners be removed from the land, but the whole sinful system must be removed and would be centralized or contained temporarily within the boundaries of a place known as Babylonia, a land of idolatry (note on Zechariah 5:5-11). Revelation 17-18 depicts the final judgment of Babylonia or Babylon. It says in Revelation 18:2-3,21:

Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird. For all nations have drunk of the wine of the wrath of her fornication, and the kings of the earth have committed fornication with her, and the merchants of the earth are waxed rich through the abundance of her delicacies…Thus with violence shall that great city Babylon be thrown down, and shall be found no more.

Spiritual insight

The prophet Zachariah could be the most fortunate of all the Old Testament prophets because he was given an extremely close and in-depth look at God’s plan of salvation. There are numerous prophecies contained within Zachariah’s book that show without a doubt that Jesus was the Messiah. Although Zachariah was a contemporary of Haggai and was called to preach at almost the exact same time, the messages of these two men were very different. Haggai spoke in a very practical way about the need for God’s temple to be rebuilt, while Zachariah focused on the bigger picture and shared the spiritual insight he gained from eight visions he was given of God’s transformation of his earthly kingdom. The first thing Zachariah pointed out was that God was not finished with the Jews. They would be restored to his favor and would eventually triumph over their enemies.

Zachariah’s first interactive experience in the spiritual realm involved an interpreting angel that enabled him to understand the activities he was witnessing. The initial scene appeared to be a spiritual outpost where God’s messengers gathered to report their findings on earth. The messengers reported to a man identified as “the angel of the LORD” (Zachariah 1:11). “Traditional Christian interpretation has held that this ‘angel’ was a preincarnate manifestation of Christ as God’s Messenger-Servant” (note on Genesis 16:7). Zachariah 1:11 states, “And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold, all the earth sitteth still and is at rest.” Looking at Zachariah’s eight night visions as a progressive unfolding of future events, it is likely that the messengers’ report of stillness and rest referred to the period of time when the Medo-Persian Empire existed. For the most part, God’s people were allowed to do what they wanted to during the reigns of  kings Cyrus, Darius, Ahasuerus, and Artaxerxes (538 – 432 B.C.).

Zachariah’s second vision showed that the temporary rest God’s people enjoyed would come to an end when God began to restructure the kingdoms that existed on earth. Daniel’s prophecy revealed that the Medo-Persian Empire that had conquered the Babylonians would be replaced by the Greek Empire, and then, the Roman Empire would be established (Daniel 7:4-7). Each of these kingdoms would become more terrifying than the first, until finally, God would cut-off the Gentile kingdoms (Zachariah 1:21). Zachariah’s third vision revealed that God’s people would flood the borders of Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s birth (Zachariah 2:4-5). Apparently, God would supernaturally enable people to return to the Promised Land that had not previously done so (Zachariah 2:9). According to Zachariah’s prophecy, God’s eternal kingdom would begin to be established on earth during the ministry of Jesus; the evidence being a voluntary joining of all the nations into a single spiritual kingdom. It says in Zachariah 2:11, “And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto thee.”