Saturday, December 23: Zechariah Longs for the King

Zechariah 9:9-10 (ESV)

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.
 I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim
    and the war horse from Jerusalem;
and the battle bow shall be cut off,
    and he shall speak peace to the nations;
his rule shall be from sea to sea,
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.

God’s covenant people had lived under a variety of kings, some of whom were good and who turned the people back to God, but many of whom were evil and turned the people away from God.  They had suffered the deprivations of the Assyrian invasions, then were carried into captivity by Babylon.  Now, at the time of Zechariah’s prophecy, some had returned to Jerusalem.  Yet they were still under the rule of another foreign kingdom—Persia—and thus still waiting for David’s descendant to rule over them.  Even though they had rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem and had reconstructed the temple, life was difficult, and certainly nothing like the incredible peace, security, and wealth they had enjoyed under Solomon.  Had God forgotten his people?

In the middle of Zechariah’s prophecy, the Lord assures the people, no, I have not forgotten you; your king will come to you!  These are probably the most familiar verses in the entire book.  First the king is described as righteous.  That is, he will be just and righteous in his rule, exactly what Israel’s kings should have been but were not.  Secondly, he is described as having salvation; that is, he shows himself to be a savior, a deliverer, one who possesses salvation.  Third, he is humble, mounted not on a warhorse but on a donkey, not what you would expect of a king.  Finally, he brings peace, and not just peace to Jerusalem but to the nations, to the ends of the earth.

Those same four attributes characterize the ideal king pictured in Psalm 72.  And yet, if David and Solomon could not fully and faithfully embody such a king, how could any mere human being do that?  The answer, of course, is that no mere human being can.  “Christ is the only person in all history whose character and experience answer to the description of the ideal king in this prophecy” (David Baron).  Alexander the Great conquered the known world with breathtaking speed, yet after his death it would be riven by internal frictions and fall apart.  Jesus would not shed the blood of others to conquer a kingdom; he would give his own blood to gain a kingdom that would never fall, that would never be succeeded by yet another power.  Jesus—not Assyria, nor Babylonia, nor Persia, Greece, or Rome—would bring a true and lasting peace.

As Matthew and John note in their gospels (Matthew 21:4-5; John 12:14-15), Jesus was the fulfillment of this prophecy.  “He is peaceful, yet he conquers the world.  He is gentle, yet he overcomes.  He is meek, yet he is vindicated.  He is humble, yet he turns the world upside down” (Bryan Gregory).  This is the Jesus whose birth we will soon celebrate.  Worship this king, who has come and brought peace, peace with God, peace between fellow believers, “peace to those on whom his favor rests” (Luke 2:14).  Rejoice greatly!

Born thy people to deliver,
born a child and yet a King,
born to reign in us forever,
now thy gracious kingdom bring.
By thine own eternal spirit
rule in all our hearts alone;
by thine all sufficient merit,
raise us to thy glorious throne.

(Charles Wesley)

© 2023 Stephen A. Hoogerhyde.