Week of October 3

The True Source of Lasting Hope

Read: Zechariah 7-9; Luke 13
“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”
Zechariah 9:9, ESV


Does our focal verse seem familiar? I hope so, because it is quoted by gospel writers upon Jesus’ triumphal entry into Jerusalem at the dawn of Holy Week. Those authors cite our focal verse in Zechariah 9:9. That Old Testament chapter declares God’s holiness which demands that He judge sin and expel it from His kingdom. Only after God deals with sin may He offer salvation to His people! Do you see what I see in Zechariah? Let’s dive into God’s word today and marvel at His purpose to save sinners like us.

Let's See What the Bible Says

We find ourselves in the same river but following a different current when we reach Zechariah 9. Chapters 1-8 are penned in Hebrew prose and utilize metaphors, symbolism, personification, and metonymy; chapters 9-14 are mainly poetry. The prophet makes use of parallelism which is built upon the interplay of word pairs (NAC). These later chapters contain two oracles: the coming and rejection of the Messiah (9:1-11:17) and the coming and reception of the Messiah (12:1-13:9; EBC). Overall, Zechariah helps us to recognize that God is sovereign over all He has made, and He requires submission from His creation!
True Worshipers Love God and Their Neighbor
God challenges our wrong belief (7:5-6). He confronts the people with His word: “When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves?” (7:5-6). God was exposing the deepest motivations for their religious activities. The “70-year” Babylonian exile had ended, and God expected His people to have learned that He accepts sacrifices that are offered from a worshipful heart (1 Samuel 15:22-23; Isaiah 1:11-7; Hosea 6:6; cf. Romans 12:1-2).

The point was that religious observance like fasting was fine to observe, but it must be accompanied by righteousness and justice, or it brings no pleasure to the Lord (Isaiah 1:10-17; 58:1-7). And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’” (7:8-10). In other words, we cannot claim to love God and not love the neighbor that He fashioned in His image.
God’s Discipline Prepares Our Hearts for His Mercy
God chisels away at our hard hearts. Zechariah 7:12-13 says, “They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore, great anger came from the Lord of hosts. “‘As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,’ says the Lord of hosts.” Their forerunners had hard hearts and God warned the current generation to take care of their spiritual condition. These people were settling into the same routine that their ancestors had embraced.

Notice that the same was characteristic of the attitudes in Jesus’ day. Jesus had healed a woman that had been ill for 18 years, “But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, ‘There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day’” (Luke 18:13; cf. also 1 Corinthians 11:17-22 and abuses). The same holds true in our day, which we will examine below.

God calls us to repentance. “‘Thus,’ says the Lord of hosts: ‘I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath’” (8:2). God responds to the threat of judgment by giving emphatic assurances of certain future blessings. Chapters 7 and 8 provide us with a balanced theology between poles of judgment and promise (NAC). There also is an ongoing tension between sin and blessing in the entire Old Testament. The high note is that God demonstrates unchanging faithfulness to His covenant and to Israel (cf. Deuteronomy 28:1-14). There is one more thing to consider.

The promised Messiah holds the key to God’s forgiveness. The confirmation of God’s message of hope and peace is wrapped up in the promised Messiah (9:9-10). He will bring peace (Luke 2:14) and will be a man of peace unlike the kings in Zechariah’s day. The Messiah would soon emerge and will be worthy of worship because He will: be “righteous,” “have salvation,” “be humble,” and will enter Zion “riding on a donkey.” The latter meant that He would not enter as a conquering military ruler on a horse, but as a king of peace who would issue in a kingdom of peace (9:9-10; Matthew 5:9). God’s Messiah would bear the penalty for sin and open the door for God’s love to pour through into our lives (John 3:16-17).

Let's Deepen Our Walk

I think that most of us have watched the classic 1939 movie, “The Wizard of Oz.” How could any of us not get goose bumps when Judy Garland sings, “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”? The song expresses the longing that we all have for a better place, and it touches our hearts.

The movie challenged Dorothy, the Scarecrow, Tin Man, and Cowardly Lion not to look to the Wizard and his miracles for “the wonderful things he does” but inside themselves to find that for which they are searching. The movie theme fit well with America as it was emerging from the Depression, and its core message of populism and inner strength could be expressed through the American spirit.

However, as great as the movie is, it is not so great for moral change. Our passage today teaches us that what is needed for redemption and hope is not found within us, but comes as God’s gift to us! Here is the path to finding lasting hope.

Here are several thoughts for our spiritual growth. First, God will expose our deepest motivations for our religious activity. Ancient Judah, prior to and following the exile, simply went through the motions of their faith. God challenged them from His jealous love and called them to true holiness! He does the same for you and me today. His holiness demands it, and we are made better for it. Secondly, today we learn the warning signs that our hearts are “stony.” Our Christian nation and individual Christians show that we are rebellious whenever we “turn our backs” on the Lord and His word, “stop up our ears,” and develop “hearts of flint.” Thirdly, God shows us His mercy by changing our hearts and giving us a message of hope and peace that is wrapped up in the promised Messiah.

Let's Think and Discuss

1. Take a moment to reread Zechariah 7 and examine your worship. The prophet Zechariah provides us with three simple steps to true worship. Ask God to correct wrong belief, to soften your heart, and then answer His call to repentance. Celebrate His mercy and praise Him for it!

Now, ask yourself if you have been focused on worship (e.g., fasting) to the neglect of caring for the helpless. Begin to practice holistic worship.

2. For families: Sometimes squabbles erupt within families, and peace is nowhere to be found. This passage is a great three-step solution to finding peace again. Zechariah 7 teaches us to face our wrong belief or behavior, to soften our hearts, and to repent of our rebellious attitudes and actions. This truly is a matter that may be resolved in the heart as we make decisions either for right or for wrong, for the good of others or for rebellion and selfishness. Parents, we can teach our children the way to handle disputes according to God's plan. We can also model this plan so that they can see it in action.

May all your paths be straight,
Larry C. Ashlock