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Nations Punished, Then Restored
This chapter goes back to consider the The Great Tribulation from another viewpoint. "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming (v.1). The day of the Lord stands in contrast to "man's day" (1 Corinthians 4:3 - JND). "Man's day" is the present time when God is allowing man to express his own opinions and to some extent have his own way. This day will culminate in man's bold challenge to God's authority by placing "the abomination of desolation" in the temple area of Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15)-an image in honor of the Roman Beast - the leader of the revived Roman Empire (Revelation 13:14-15). Thus man's proud defiance of God will rise to its most lawless height. Then the day of the Lord will burst upon the world in all its awe-inspiring solemnity. God will openly intervene in the affairs of mankind, first for judgment, then for blessing. In that day the spoil taken by the enemies will be divided in the midst of the city. The spoil will not be taken out first, but the enemies will be so complacent in having totally subdued the city that they will take all the time they want in dividing the spoils among themselves in the city.
God will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem (v. 2). Following the setting up of the "the abomination of desolation" at the middle of the seven years, the Lord will send the King of the North, also named "the Assyrian" (together with a large alliance of nations) against Jerusalem, as "the rod of His anger" (Isaiah 10:5-6). Daniel 11:40-41 speaks of this, saying that the King of the North "shall come against him (the antichrist) like a whirlwind," and will "overwhelm them and pass through."
The Lord Jesus, in speaking of this time, urges the Jews to flee out of Jerusalem when they see the idol set up there (Matthew 24:15-18). Some will no doubt do so, but others will be left. The city will be taken, the houses plundered and the women ravished. The Jews will suffer dreadfully, for it will be "the time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7). We have seen (Zechariah 13:8) there will be great bloodshed. Also half of the city will be taken into captivity, the other half allowed to remain. Some years ago a news report told of a French agency discovering in Syria complete plans for a sudden thrust into Israel, which involved removing half of the population of Israel into Arab lands and replacing these with Arab residents. As yet Syria has been restrained by God from doing any such thing. They have found Israel too strong and militant. It may be that in the six day war they hoped to do this, but God gave Israel a decisive victory. But when God sends the King of the North against His people Israel, He will take away all the strength of Israel, so they will be totally defeated. Jerusalem will be left in a greatly weakened condition as the King of the North continues his advance southward, taking control of the land of Egypt and its treasures, and of the Libyans and Ethiopians (Daniel 11:40-43).
After the King of the North subdues Egypt, Libya and Ethiopia, he will hear troubling news out of the east and the north that will cause him to rush back to Jerusalem (Daniel 11:44-45). Therefore the time in between verses 2 and 3 of Zechariah 14:1-21 covers most of the 3 1/2 years of the Great Tribulation. At the end of the tribulation the Lord Himself will go forth to fight against those nations that have desolated Israel (v. 3). Though God has sent the King of the North, the Assyrian, to punish Israel, yet the Assyrian did not in his heart mean to do the will of God, but wanted "to destroy, and cut off not a few nations" (Isaiah 10:7). Therefore the Lord Himself will fight against the Assyrian and his confederate nations.
This great battle will take place, not at Armageddon, but at Jerusalem, for the Lord's feet will stand upon the Mount of Olives at Jerusalem (v. 4). This will fulfill what an angel told the disciples after they had seen the Lord Jesus taken up to heaven (Acts 1:9-11). Just as He ascended from the Mount of Olives at Bethany (Luke 24:50-51), so He will come to Israel at the same place.
At this time His coming will be with powerful signs, for the Mount of Olives will be split in two, leaving a great valley between the two sections. A great earthquake could cause this, whether the one spoken of inRevelation 16:10; Revelation 16:10, is difficult to decide. At any rate, three occasions of great significance to Israel are attended by great earthquakes, the death of the Lord Jesus (Matthew 27:50-51), His resurrection (Matthew 28:1-6), and the future great occasion of His returning to Israel. All of these events are intended, not only to shake the earth, but to shake people to their depths.
The citizens will be terrified and will flee as they fled from an earthquake in the days of King Uzziah. That particular earthquake does not appear to be mentioned anywhere else except in Amos 1:1. In panic people will do anything without considering what is wise. Where do they think they can go to avoid an earthquake? They think only of getting away from the place where it first shook them. Why not appeal to the One who created the earth and holds it under His control? How much better it is to calmly face our troubles in communion with God than to try to run away from them. God's intention in shaking us is to drive us into His own sheltering presence. Jerusalem's inhabitants evidently will take advantage of the newly-made valley to escape.
"And Jehovah my God shall come, and all the holy ones with Thee" (JND). This connects with verses 3 and 4: it is not in chronological order, but rather indicates the events spoken of are connected with the Lord's coming. How clearly this verse teaches that Jesus is Jehovah! He comes "with His holy ones." This does not necessarily refer to human believers, as does Revelation 19:14 where the armies in heaven follow the Lord Jesus in His great conquest at Armageddon. More likely, these "holy ones" are angels as seen in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8, "when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels."
"It shall come to pass in that day that there will be no light; the lights will diminish" (v. 6). Joel 3:15 speaks of this literal phenomenon, "The sun and moon will grow dark, and the stars will diminish their brightness." See also Mark 13:24-25. This reminds us of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. When he met the Lord Jesus on the road to Damascus he was immediately a changed man, but was blinded, not seeing the light for three days. Israel's conversion will be similar. To begin with, the light will be obscured because of their years of being away from God: they will feel the darkness of their natural, unbelieving state before everything is cleared before their wondering eyes. It will be "a day known to the Lord" (v. 7), for He knows how to translate a sinful people from the darkness to the light through exercise of soul regarding both the darkness and the light. "At evening time it shall happen that it will be light." When the light normally fades, the power of God intervenes to bring Israel the light that has eluded them for centuries. How often it also happens that in the eventide of one's life, the light of God breaks into the soul! This is marvelous mercy.
After the light comes there will be no lack of refreshment for the nation. Jerusalem being the center of God's dealings on earth, God will cause water to spring up in that city, forming two rivers, one going east to the Dead Sea, the other west to the Mediterranean. Ezekiel 47:1-8 speaks of the waters issuing from under the threshold of the temple and going eastward, causing the Dead Sea to be transformed from salt water to fresh. Ezekiel mentions only the river flowing east, though Zechariah speaks of a westward river also. This phenomenon signifies the fact that Jerusalem will be God's earthly center from which blessing flows to the whole earth. Far higher than this is the truth taught in Revelation 22:1, that a river of the water of life will flow out from the throne of God and of the Lamb in the midst of the heavenly city, with unceasing spiritual refreshment.
"And the Lord shall be King over all the earth," not over Israel only, but over all nations. Again, God's king is the Lord Jesus (cf. Psalms 2:6-8), and Scripture calls Him "Jehovah." Significantly it is added, "In that day it shall be, The Lord is one and His name one." Israel then will realize as never before, the truth the Lord Jesus declared to them, "I and My Father are one" (John 10:30). Having rejected Christ, they blindly accuse Christians of having two gods (or three, if they have heard of the Trinity), but they will consider it wonderful when their eyes are opened to recognize that in Christ "dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Colossians 2:9). They will recognize the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as being revealed in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. His name also will be one. The unity of His name has been declared before, as inIsaiah 9:6; Isaiah 9:6, "His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace." These are not considered names, but one name. Thus there is unity in the persons of the Godhead and there is unity in His name.
At this time all the land will be changed into a plain from Geba to Rimmon (v. 10). Geba was in northern Benjamin (Joshua 21:17) and Rimmon in southern Judah (Joshua 15:32). Evidently the earthquake will greatly change the contour of Judah and Benjamin, leaving much more fertile land. "Jerusalem shall be raised up and inhabited in her place." Jerusalem will be the one high spot in the land of Judah, just as it will be given the place of prominent dignity among the nations. Then we are told the boundaries of the restored city. Benjamin's gate, the first (or former) gate, the corner gate, the tower of Hananeel and the king's winepress apparently encompass the whole inhabited city from east to west and from north to south. Such a description proves that Zechariah is speaking of the literal earthly Jerusalem, not the "new Jerusalem" ofRevelation 21:10-27; Revelation 21:10-27.
What a relief for that city when its inhabitants are not periodically driven out, when there is no longer any fear of destruction and carnage, but all will have the assurance of safety and stability (v. 11). Thank God, permanent blessing depends on the permanency of the value of the work of Christ on Calvary, which Israel had so long refused, but will recognize and appreciate then.
Verses 12-15 go back (as prophecy often does) to consider other matters that precede the blessing of Jerusalem. The Lord will inflict a fearful plague upon those nations that have fought against Jerusalem, that is, the King of the North and his allies. "Their flesh shall dissolve while they stand on their feet, their eyes shall dissolve in their sockets, and their tongues shall dissolve in their mouths" (v. 12). When the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was reported that people suffered results similar to these, their flesh withering and their eyeballs draining out of their sockets while they stood on their feet.
But in this case we should not hastily conclude that nuclear warfare will be the means of the affliction, for the Jews in Jerusalem would not likely drop a nuclear bomb in the vicinity of their city. Also, Joel 3:16 tells us, " The Lord also will roar from Zion, and utter His voice from Jerusalem." He will go forth at the head of Israel's armies. Then verse 14 says, "Judah also will fight at Jerusalem." Would they be able to fight at all if nuclear bombs had been dropped nearby?
Another element also appears in this victory over Israel's enemies. The Lord will cause panic to overtake the attackers, so they will fight among themselves, not realizing what they are doing. This being true, together with the Lord going forth and Judah fighting and the plague inflicted on the enemy, it is plain that nuclear warfare is not involved. Still, it will be an awesome culmination of the time of trouble such as the world has never seen before (vv. 12-14)
The inhabitants of Judah, having been broken down in true repentance before the Lord, and born again, will fight with an energy divinely given. Christians today have no such commission to fight physically. They are to bear the oppression of evil men rather than to fight against them (1 Peter 3:13-19). We have a heavenly inheritance (1 Peter 1:3-4). But Judah will be fighting for their own earthly inheritance, and at that time this will be perfectly right. The warfare of Christians is not carnal (of the flesh), but spiritual (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).
The huge armies invading Israel will bring with them so many supplies that Israel will be made wealthy by the abundance of gold, silver and clothing they take as spoil. God not only enables His people to gain the victory, but enriches them also. It is a lesson for us. When we give the Lord Jesus His true place, as Israel will then, He gives us strength to defeat the power of the enemy and will use the occasion to enrich us as well, not materially, but spiritually. The exercise of terrible distress throughout the experience of the Great Tribulation will issue not only in victory over the enemy, but in abundance of lasting blessing.
Israel's victory at the end reminds us of the grace and power of God on behalf of King Jehoshaphat when a great multitude came against him from Moab, Ammon, Syria and Mount Seir. "Jehoshaphat feared, and set himself to seek the Lord and proclaimed a fast throughout all Judah" (2 Chronicles 20:2-3). With confidence in God they went to battle. Instead of stirring up bitter enmity in the soldiers' hearts, Jehoshaphat appointed singers to praise the beauty of holiness, saying, "Praise the Lord, for His mercy endures forever" (vv. 21-22). Then God spread confusion in the ranks of the enemy and they fought against one another until they were all killed, with Israel not having to fight at all. The spoil was so great that it took Israel three days to gather it (vv. 23-25).
Verse 15 tells us that the same plague of verse 12 will affect the horses, mules, camels, donkeys and any other animals of the enemy. This reminds us of God's instructions to Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3, that not only was Amalek to be destroyed, but all their animals also. Since man's sin has badly affected all animate creation, that creation suffers with him (Romans 8:20). On this smaller scale, the animals that people have identified with their own rebellion against God will suffer the same judgment as the rebels.
THE GREAT TRANSFORMATION
How Israel will marvel at the amazing change, in so short a time, that has transformed the struggling, suffering city of Jerusalem into the metropolis of the whole world! More than that, those remaining of the nations, formerly her enemies, will voluntarily come up to Jerusalem each year to keep the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 16) and to worship the King, the Lord of hosts (the Lord Jesus). How welcome will be the contrast of calm, settled peace to the former constant turmoil and unrest of the Jewish people! Of course it will be representatives of those nations who come.
The Feast of Tabernacles is singled out because it is the last of "the feasts of Jehovah" listed in Leviticus 23:1-44 and signifies the full accomplishment of God's counsels concerning Israel. It looks forward to the day of millennial blessing which Israel will then have entered upon (Leviticus 23:33-43). That feast of seven days was a time of great rejoicing after the harvest had been gathered in. Israelites were to make booths of branches of trees and live in them during that week. This teaches us that Israel will have wonderful safety as well as pleasant weather during the Millennium. There will be no thieves to break in nor cold and storms to assail them, nor danger from animals, nor apparently any infestation of insects.
This will not however be the perfect state, as eternity will be. People will still have sinful natures, but the Lord Jesus will be in authority, ruling in righteousness. If any nation decides not to recognize Jerusalem as God's center, not sending representatives to the city to give honor to the King, the Lord of hosts, then God will withhold rain from that country. Since Egypt does not depend on rain but is watered by irrigation from the Nile River, then if she sends no representatives to Jerusalem, she will be afflicted by a plague. What plague is not mentioned, but Egypt has in the past learned that God knows how to inflict the kind of plagues that greatly distress the nation (Exodus 7:19 to Exodus 12:30). During the one thousand years of peace while the Lord Jesus is reigning, the generally favorable circumstances in the world will be interrupted only by some individuals refusing to give honor to Him. The many who have not been born again will still retain an attitude of resentment against authority, even though that authority is kind and considerate. They will be ready to rise up in rebellion as soon as Satan is loosed from his prison and goes out to deceive the nations (Revelation 20:7-9).
The last two verses dwell on the marvel of the change in Jerusalem. Even the bells on the horses will be engraved with the inscription, "Holiness to the Lord." Israel will be "a holy nation." Holiness will mark, not only their persons, but what they possess. There will be no separation between secular and spiritual life: all will be for God, just as Christian lives should be today. Even pots would be "like the bowls before the altar," that is, daily eating utensils would be used as dedicated to the Lord.
The last sentence in Zechariah is an arresting one, "In that day there shall no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." There is more instruction in this than merely the banishing of a literal Canaanite. The name means "a merchant," and the house of the Lord in Israel has been plagued by a spirit of merchandising throughout its history, so that the Lord Jesus spoke with good reason, "Do not make My Father's house a house of merchandise" (John 2:16). At last that house will be fully purified from the defilement of those who take advantage of Jewish religion to further their interests of greed. If the Lord's honor will be first in all the relationships of the people, including business, their business will not then infringe on the Lord's rights in His house. May we also in our day, hold God's house, the Church of the living God, in due respect, giving the Lord Jesus the supreme honor of which He is worthy.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Zechariah 14". Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent