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).

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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.

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.”

Destiny

Almost from the start of his relationship with the people of Israel, God predicted that they would turn away from him and worship idols. It says in Deuteronomy 28:36-37 of Israel’s captivity, “The LORD shall bring thee, and thy king which thou shalt set over thee, unto a nation which neither thou nor thy fathers have known; and there shalt thou serve other gods, wood and stone. And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.” Later in the book of Deuteronomy, Moses predicted that the Israelites would return to the Promised Land (Deuteronomy 30:5). He said:

And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, and shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I  command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; that then the LORD thy Good will turn thy captivity and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee. (Deuteronomy 30:1-3)

Jeremiah prophesied a 70 year Babylonian captivity. He said specifically of Judah and Jerusalem, “And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations” (Jeremiah 25:11-12). Babylon’s punishment came at the hands of Cyrus king of Persia. His conquest of Babylon in 538 B.C. set the stage for the Israelites’ return to their homeland. It says in Ezra 1:1-2:

Now in the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, that the word of the LORD by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the LORD stirred up the spirit of Cyrus king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, thus saith Cyrus king of Persia, The LORD God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth: and he hath charged me to build him a house at Jerusalem, which is in Judah.

The Hebrew word translated charged in Ezra 1:2, paqad (paw – kad´) means to visit (6485). This word was used in Genesis 21:1 where it says, “And the LORD visited Sarah as he had said, and the LORD did unto Sarah as he had spoken.” The LORD visited Sarah in order to intervene on her behalf, “so as to demonstrate the divine intervention in the normal course of events to bring about or fulfill a divine intent” (6485). God’s divine intervention in the normal course of events through king Cyrus’ proclamation meant that the Israelites would return to the Promised Land exactly when Jeremiah predicted they would.

It could be said that destiny is the inevitable occurrence of something predicted or prearranged. Although God has given us a free will, meaning we are completely able to control our own lives, he somehow manages to accomplish his purposes anyway. In response to Cyrus’ proclamation, it says in Ezra 1:5, “Then rose up the chief of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all them whose spirit God had raised, to go up to build the house of the LORD which is in Jerusalem.” The statement, “all of them whose spirit God had raised,” suggests that God literally picked them up or caused these men to rise to their feet. There is no indication though that the men that left Babylon after 70 years of captivity were being forced to do so. They merely responded to Cyrus’ proclamation, and of their own free will, did exactly what God predicted they would hundreds of years earlier.

The secret

One of the unique characteristics of God’s relationship with his people is he doesn’t keep secrets from them. The Bible is filled with prophecies of future events that were shared exclusively with the Israelites until Jesus was born. One of the things that distinguishes God from all other beings is he knows everything; past, present, and future, and can reveal hidden secrets such as how the world we now live in will eventually come to an end. King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon was given the privilege of seeing in a dream how God intended to establish an eternal kingdom for his people. It says in Daniel 2:1-3:

And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him. Then the king commanded to call the magicians, and the astrologers, and the sorcerers, and the Chaldeans, for to shew the king his dreams. So they came and stood before the king. And the king said unto them, I have dreamed a dream, and my spirit was troubled to know the dream.

King Nebuchadnezzar perceived in his spirit that the dream he dreamed had a special significance. When it said his spirit was troubled in Daniel 2:1, it meant that God was communicating with Nebuchadnezzar. A literal translation of the phrase “spirit was troubled” would be, “the mighty penetrating power of the invisible God caused his spirit to come to life or his spiritual heart to start beating within him” (7307/6470). The type of dream Nebuchadnezzar had was a sign of his having acquired a supernatural, spiritual health because he had received a prophetic revelation directly from God. The only problem was Nebuchadnezzar didn’t know what the dream meant. He needed the dream to be interpreted for him.

Nebuchadnezzar didn’t have a relationship with God. In fact, it appears that he was unaware of God’s existence. His attempt to have his dream interpreted by magicians, astrologers, or sorcerers indicated that Nebuchadnezzar’s god was Satan. The reason Nebuchadnezzar was given a vision of the future was revealed in Daniel 2:30. Daniel said, “But as for me, this secret is not revealed to me for any wisdom that I have more than any living, but for their sakes that shall make known the interpretation to the king, and that thou mightest know the thoughts of thy heart.” God wanted Nebuchadnezzar to know that he not only knew the meaning of his dream, but could read Nebuchadnezzar’s mind and was aware of every thought that went through his head, even the things that Nebuchadnezzar couldn’t remember.

Daniel said of God, “He revealeth the deep and secret things: he knoweth what is in the darkness, and the light dwelleth with him. Daniel was referring to the profound mysteries of life that only God can unravel and illuminate in the human mind. Those who are separated from God cannot see the future. Even though Nebuchadnezzar’s magicians, astrologers, and sorcerers pretended to know what was going to happen and gave him advice regarding future events, they really didn’t know the truth. When Nebuchadnezzar saw the future in his dream, he realized that it was nothing like what he expected it would be. After Daniel told him what his dream meant, “Nebuchadnezzar fell upon his face, and worshipped Daniel, and commanded that they should offer an oblation and sweet odours unto him. The king answered unto Daniel, and said, Of a truth it is, that your God is a God of gods, and a Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets, seeing thou couldest reveal this secret” (Daniel 2:47).

The harvest

Jesus’ ministry on earth consisted of three primary activities: 1) teaching in the synagogues, 2) preaching the gospel of the kingdom of heaven, and 3) healing every sickness and disease among the people (Matthew 9:35). Thousands of people sometimes gathered to listen to his teaching. On one occasion, Jesus referred to his work as harvesting. It says in Matthew 9:36-37, “But when he saw the multitudes, he was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted, and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd. Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest is truly plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth laborers into the harvest.” On another occasion, Jesus told his disciples a parable about the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13:24-30) and explained the meaning of the harvest. It says in Matthew 13:37-40, “He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man; the field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one; the enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels. As therefore the tares are gathered and burnt in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.”

Joel’s prophecy about the judgment of Judah’s enemies contained a reference to the final battle between the Lord and all the nations of the world. He said, “Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about. Put ye in the sickle, for the harvest is ripe: come, get you down; for the press is full, the fats overflow; for their wickedness is great. Multitudes, multitudes in the valley of decision: for the day of the LORD is near in the valley of decision” (Joel 3:12-14). I believe Joel used the phrase, “valley of decision” figuratively to refer to the separation of believers from non-believers or as Jesus put it, to separate the wheat from the tares. In the final battle between good and evil, some who were thought to be believers in Jesus Christ may actually turn out to be members of Satan’s kingdom. Perhaps, some who have worked for Satan will switch sides and follow the Lord. Decision implies that a determination will be made at that time. The only way to know for sure whose kingdom someone belongs  to is to wait for the harvest.

 

Restoration

Joel’s brief prophetic message portrays the entire process of the nation of Israel’s restoration from beginning to end. It begins with a complete devastation of the land (Joel 1) and concludes with eternal blessing for God’s people (Joel 3:18-21). In between, was a transformation that started with Israel’s invasion by an army that Joel said looked like “the morning spread upon the mountains” (Joel 2:2). Afterwards, there was a call to repentance. Joel instructed God’s people to, “blow the trumpet in Zion, sanctify a fast, call a solemn assembly: gather the people, sanctify the congregation, assemble the elders, gather the children, and those that suck the breasts: let the bridegroom go forth out of his chamber, and the bride out of her closet” (Joel 2:15-16).

Joel portrayed an instantaneous interruption of all activities. His call to repentance was one that could not be delayed, even for a moment. The reason for his urgency may have been an awareness of impending doom, such as a nuclear missile that was about to be launched. Joel’s incredible insight was no doubt the result of his prophetic gift. I’m sure the message he was given was very troubling and it caused him a great deal of distress. Even though Joel may not have understood all the details of what was about to happen, his urgent plea for repentance showed that he believed the end of Israel’s existence was near. Unlike the warnings given by Jeremiah and Ezekiel before the nation of Judah was taken into captivity, it appeared that the people would respond and were ready to repent. Joel stated, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people” (Joel 2:18).

Joel’s incredible prediction seems to be associated with the transition from the great tribulation to the millennial reign of Christ. What is clear about his prophecy is that the events he described have not yet taken place. One of the most intriguing aspects of the transformation of God’s people that will occur is recorded in Joel 2:28-29 where the LORD says, “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions: and also upon the servants and upon the handmaids in those days will I pour out my spirit.” Some scholars believe God will pour out his spirit before the great tribulation in a last ditch effort to expand his kingdom on earth. What seems to be more likely is that God’s people, the nation of Israel will finally acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah and will be restored to their place of prominence in God’s plan of salvation.