Feed The Flock of Slaughter…Zechariah pt 15

Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the mighty are spoiled: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the forest of the vintage is come down.  There is a voice of the howling of the shepherds; for their glory is spoiled: a voice of the roaring of young lions; for the pride of Jordan is spoiled. Thus saith the Lord my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter;(Zechariah 11:1-4)

We have seen Zechariah’s prophetic  preview of the coming centuries, in which Jahweh would fulfill the “good and comfortable words” which Zechariah had been given to the remnant which had returned to rebuild ruined Jerusalem after the captivity.

The Gentile powers would be defeated, especially those “horns” which would rule and oppress Israel in her exile, and would be found guilty of ‘furthering the affliction” which God had laid upon his people.

Furthermore  Jahweh himself would come unto the chastised nation of Israel, as a lowly King, riding not upon a battle steed, but on a colt, the foal of an ass, and bearing salvation. He would throw out the treacherous Shepherds, those abusive, faithless leaders who had led Israel into the pit of apostasy and judgment. The LORD would come as the good Shepherd for his purpose was to rebuild and restore the Holy people. Under his leadership Israel would be transformed, a regathered nation of mighty warriors, trampling down their enemies, and glorifying God!

All of this would come to pass under the restorative ministry of the Shepherd himself, who is the LORD of the covenant, the one who had come to them as a lowly King.

But what if Israel and Judah were to reject Him at his coming? What if the nation failed to receive Him, and refused to follow him, favoring their own Shepherds? Zechariah 11 is the vision of just such a circumstance, and the consequences of such for the nation .

An invasion is seen in vs 1-3, coming as always from the north, Lebanon is opened up to the conquerors, as also the Golan Heighths, (Oaks of Bashan). The forests are burned, the wood is stripped , (presumably for siege engines),  even the heavy thickets along the Jordan River are removed!

There is a deeper , spiritual understanding to this prophecy as well, as is often the case in Biblical prophecy.

Prophetically, “Lebanon” is a reference to the Holy Temple of the LORD, since it was built of Cedar Planking from Lebanon. “Open thy doors Oh Lebanon…the fire devours your Cedars”. The Temple would again be destroyed, in the judgment coming.

What Zechariah predicted, the destruction and burning of the Temple, literally happened in 70 AD, and on the same date as in 536 BC, Tisha Ba’Av!

The trees here in Zechariah’s vision, could just as well represent also the various classes of the people of Israel, the lofty ruling “Cedars” of the temple apparatus, the common “Oaks” and the lowly people of the land, the “thicket”. The entire nation is slated for destruction, a Judgment which is all encompassing draws nigh.

How did this people become designated as “the flock of slaughter” ? What happened to bring this upon them?

Thus saith the Lord my God; Feed the flock of the slaughter; Whose possessors slay them, and hold themselves not guilty: and they that sell them say, Blessed be the Lord; for I am rich: and their own shepherds pity them not.  For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbour’s hand, and into the hand of his king: and they shall smite the land, and out of their hand I will not deliver them.(Zechariah 11:4-6)

The “possessors” of verse 5 , refer to the Gentile buyers and sellers of the Jewish people, those powers into whose hands the nation has fallen, and at whose mercy or the lack thereof the nation seems to be bound. These rulers feel free to do as they wish to Israel and have no sense of guilt in doing so, whether they be Greek, Seleucid, Roman, Ottoman, English, Sunni Muslim or whoever.

“Their own Shepherds pity them not…”, the people of the flock are doubly oppressed, for not only do the Gentiles rule them callously, but even their own civil/religious rulers, who ought to have fed and comforted them in their affliction, leave them weak, sick scattered and vulnerable as they exploit them to whatever extent possible after the Gentile exploitation.

We cannot but think of the situation 5 centuries after this prophecy, in which at the time of the coming of the Messiah to the people, Caesar, Pilate and the odious Herod family were the “Shepherds” who had charge of the flock, and were aided by the Annas/ Caiphas high priestly cabal, and the Zaducaic apostate Priesthood, which held the “common people” of Israel in utter contempt.

Judgment  did come in the first century, when after long patience, and even specific Divine intervention such as had never occurred before in history, the people of Israel for the most part, persisted in unbelief and deep apostasy.

Therefore Zechariah predicted, God would give the nation over to civil war,  For I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith the Lord: but, lo, I will deliver the men every one into his neighbor’s hand. 

Furthermore, Zechariah predicts that they would disavow God as their King. “I will deliver every man..into the hands of his King”, notice God referred to “delivering every man to His King” . Evidently He saw that the nation had chosen another King. 

And it was the preparation of the passover, and about the sixth hour: and he saith unto the Jews, Behold your King! But they cried out, Away with him, away with him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Shall I crucify your King? The chief priests answered, We have no king but Caesar.(John 19:14-15)

It was the High Priest himself , who in his official capacity as representative of all of Israel, denied God as King. He being the very embodiment of the nation, means that the nation itself disowned the Kingship of her God.

Israel died that day, and ultimately was dismantled, scattered across the globe, but kept in state for all of the world to see.

In fulfillment of prophecy, she is currently being re composed, as Zechariah and all of the prophets assured us that she would; first the bones, then the flesh and finally the Spirit of God coming back into the nation, bringing the long awaited resurrection.

Zechariah predicted it, they would be turned over to “their King…” for him to do with Her as He pleased.The worst calamity for Israel  to date occurred in 70 ad, but forty years previous to it, God sent His own Son to plead with the people, and to attempt to Shepherd them.

 And I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands; and I fed the flock..(.Zechariah 11:7)

But in mercy, as a last measure,  the LORD himself came to his own, to be a Shepherd unto any who would allow it among the apostate nation.

There certainly was a remnant, for Zechariah saw a little flock, the “poor of the flock” who followed the Shepherd, listened to Him and who “Knew the Word of the LORD ” when they saw it happen.For a brief time, the Shepherd fed all of the doomed flock, but out of the larger flock emerged a little congregation of true followers, “the poor of the flock”.

The Shepherd of Zechariah’s vision carried two staffs; the one He called “Favor” and the other,”Unity”, for in God’s grace Israel lived and remained as one nation in spite of her many sins.

Three shepherds also I cut off in one month; and my soul lothed them, and their soul also abhorred me.  (Zechariah 11:8)

The ministry of the Shepherd would be marked by opposition, between himself and the three false Shepherds. The civil authorities in the first century were Roman, and Edomite(Herod and Pilate), the religious authorities were the corrupted establishment of Caiaphas and Annias and the Zadducees. The teaching “shepherds” were the scribes and Pharisees. From the beginning of Jesus’ ministry there was a mutual loathing among these, the true Shepherd versus the false ones.

All of these offices are going to be fully realized in the person of the Messiah, He would be Israel’s teacher, and their Priest and King! Had they received him, they would remain in Favor and Unity, but as it is, the staffs were broken, and within forty years of rejecting Him, the nation fell apart, never to be seen again, until 1948 ad, in a very diminished form.

Then said I, I will not feed you: that that dieth, let it die; and that that is to be cut off, let it be cut off; and let the rest eat every one the flesh of another. And I took my staff, even Beauty, and cut it asunder, that I might break my covenant which I had made with all the people. And it was broken in that day: and so the poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord.(Zechariah 11:9-11)

Zechariah saw that there would come a decisive break, the people would reject the Shepherd decisively, the Shepherd would be stricken and the sheep scattered, and as a result all of the horrors of 70 ad,(siege,cannibalism,captivity and death) would come to pass.He would have saved them from it, but they wouldn’t have it.

The only ones among the nation who knew what was really happening, were ‘the poor of the flock’. They knew it was the Word of the LORD.

 

 

 

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The Shepherd King of Israel…Zechariah 14

Zechariah 9-11 are of one section, as are Zechariah 12-14, the first speaks of the first coming of the Messiah, the lowly King riding on a foal as a contrast to Pagan conquerors which the God of Israel had used, as his scourge, to chastise the nations which had afflicted Israel in her lowliness, and even to deliver Jerusalem itself, as a token of her final deliverance.The second section takes us to the end of time, long after the coming of Messiah to the nation, as a Shepherd to a poor flock.

Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field.  (Zechariah 10:1)

What the LORD would do for the people, if they would but ask Him! The reference would be to weather patterns which any resident of the Holy Land would recognize, for in Israel there are two distinct seasons of rain, called the former and the latter rain. The former rains are essential for the new plantings, the latter for the perfection of the crop for harvest, but in the middle season is a long period  of aridness.

Should that latter rain fail, it was to be interpreted as a token of the displeasure of God. The Holy Land was made to be morally sensitive.The absence or presence of rain was not merely a matter of  shifting weather patterns, it was always to be seen in Israel as a theological issue.

Jahweh says to the returned captives, trickling back into the broken and arid land, (which once flowed with milk and honey), ‘Ask for rain, literal and spiritual! Ask of the LORD in the time of the latter rain’! God is good!

For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. (Zechariah 10:2)

Such is the history of the chosen people. In the beginning, the LORD gave to Israel such showers of blessings, and exalted His people, by dwelling in the midst of them, the temple being the visible manifestation that the nation was in fellowship with God, and the fruit of prophets, priests, mighty Kings, deliverances, and the ongoing service of mercy through the forgiveness of sins was evident.The Nations of this barren world streamed to Zion! Rain was there.

But the Holy people apostatized, and often listened to idols, teraphim, a kind of oracular divination idol,  a way to hear from the spirit world , when, because of Israel’s apostasy, there was no vision, or word of any prophets.

Eventually, the rain ceased, the harvest was past and as Jeremiah predicted, Israel was not saved! This is why they “wandered and were oppressed”.in Babylon and beyond.

But the LORD of Israel beckons Israel to ask Him again for the Latter Rain again, the LORD would renew his people, He would pour out his blessings again, the nation could once again bear the fruit of Life, and be a light to the ends of the earth, with the arrival of the King Messiah.

Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the Lord of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle. Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together.( Zechariah 10:3-4)

The plan is that when Messiah restores his scattered and wounded flock, He himself come from the midst of them, and would be their strength, restoring the nation, which will no longer be as a harassed sheep, but instead as the LORD’s own battle horse.

Out of ‘him’, from Judah, would emerge the Lion, the ultimate ruler of all. He would be for those who believe in Him the anchor,   the sure peg in the wall. Messiah would be the true cornerstone of God’s own house,  and as the victor and champion of his people, the battle bow who destroys all of their enemies!

He would also come as a compassionate, true shepherd, and deliver the flock from  the faithless shepherds of Israel. He himself would round up the scattered flock and bind up their wounded souls, as Ezekiel also attested by the Spirit of God.

Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my flock at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the flock; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; for I will deliver my flock from their mouth, that they may not be meat for them.  For thus saith the Lord God; Behold, I, even I, will both search my sheep, and seek them out. As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered; so will I seek out my sheep, and will deliver them out of all places where they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day.(Ezekiel 34:10-12)

There is so much He was willing to do for the nation under the coming Shepherd, Messiah.Zechariah, like all of the prophets, paints a beautiful prophetic picture of the possibilities under the reign of Messiah.

And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the Lord is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded. And I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them; for I have mercy upon them: and they shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the Lord their God, and will hear them.  And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord.(Zechariah 10:5-7)

All of Israel will be united in the days of Messiah, they will come from the four corners of the earth where he had scattered them, He will save them, and be their Shepherd King.

In his mercy, he will heal and forgive each one, “it will be as though I had not cast you off…”, and he will hear their prayers and bless them again.

I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them: and they shall increase as they have increased.  And I will sow them among the people: and they shall remember me in far countries; and they shall live with their children, and turn again.  I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria; and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon; and place shall not be found for them.  And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up: and the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.  And I will strengthen them in the Lord; and they shall walk up and down in his name, saith the Lord.(Zechariah 10:8-12)

As though they were coming out of tombs, the people of Israel, and Judah shall stream out of Egypt, Assyria,Lebanon, Syria, and from wherever else Jahweh had scattered them, in the Day Messiah comes to shepherd his people.

This was the prophetic intention, that Messiah should come in lowliness as King and Shepherd , to restore Israel , forgive her, call her home and and heal her hurts.

All that was required of Her was that she recognize the true Shepherd and go after Him.

 

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The Lowly King of Israel…Zechariah 13

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.  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.  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 you to the strong hold, ye prisoners of hope: even to day do I declare that I will render double unto thee;(Zechariah 9:9-12)

Zechariah saw the coming of Alexander the Great, and described details of his Syrian campaign accurately, two centuries before it commenced. From this perspective it becomes manifest that God used Alexander as his scourge on the Gentile Powers who had helped “further the affliction of His people”. From his invasion of Hadrach, on into Damascus,(which had been one of the the Persian King’s storehouse cities), Alexander then sent a detachment to Sidon, which surrendered immediately.

Exactly as Zechariah predicted, Alexander then went to lay siege to Tyre, one of the most formidable and richest merchant cities in the world.Tyre had moved itself from a coastal city out into a securely fortified island, and had in the past,successfully resisted sieges lasting five years (The Assyrians) and then 13 years (the Babylonians), due to her wealth and the clever engineers she employed, to build defensive siege weapons.

It was during Nebuchadnezzar’s 13 year siege, that Tyre mover herself out to an Island. The Babylonians were shocked, when they had finally breached the walls, after so many years, to find the city deserted and the people of Tyre safely fortified on an Island further out to sea. Lacking a sufficient naval force, Nebuchadnezzar abandoned Tyre’s ruins.

… Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise.  And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets.  Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire.(Zechariah 9:2-3)

Notice Zechariah predicted the wealth ofTyre and the smug security and confidence in her own wisdom, two centuries before.

Alexander the Great took up where Nebuchadnezzar had left off, when he razed the ruins of the coastal city of Tyre, in one of the great engineering feats of the Ancient world, pushing the rubble of the abandoned city of Tyre out into the sea thus forming a causeway, which allowed his troops to attack, sack and burn the new Tyre in a span of seven months! This also fulfilled a specific prophecy of Ezekiel,

In the eleventh month of the twelfth[a] year, on the first day of the month, the word of the Lord came to me:  “Son of man, because Tyre has said of Jerusalem, ‘Aha! The gate to the nations is broken, and its doors have swung open to me; now that she lies in ruins I will prosper,’  therefore this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against you, Tyre, and I will bring many nations against you, like the sea casting up its waves.  They will destroy the walls of Tyre and pull down her towers; I will scrape away her rubble and make her a bare rock.  Out in the sea she will become a place to spread fishnets, for I have spoken, declares the Sovereign Lord. She will become plunder for the nations,  and her settlements on the mainland will be ravaged by the sword. Then they will know that I am the Lord.(Ezekiel 26:1-6)

That God used Alexander the Great, as He used Nebuchadnezzar, Cyrus, and many other pagan Kings and conquerors, just underscores the message of the Psalm, which states that “…the wrath of man shall praise Him…” who is Sovereign and rules among the affairs of nations and Kingdoms.

But the real purposes of God are wrapped up in a King of another kind. Zechariah saw him approaching Israel, 500 years before his coming, “Behold Thy King Comes unto Thee…”.

Unlike the violent and perverted Alexander, this one shall be truly great, for He is just(Righteous) , bringing the long awaited salvation to Israel. He comes not as Alexander, with awesome military power and speed, bristling with a multicultural army of conquerors, but in humility, (lowly) riding not on a battle Steed, but on a colt, the foal of an Ass.

This is the one whose ultimate effect would be to deliver Israel once and for all from war, and the humiliation of Gentile reign, captivity and conquest. His reign shall be righteous and shall extend to the ends of the earth, He shall command peace to the warring nations of the earth, and in Him, the turbulent sea of human history shall be calmed and stilled at his command.

Multitudes, not only of Israel but of every nation shall find deliverance from the pit that they were destined for, because of their sins. They shall go free “through the blood of the covenant”, and flee into the refuge He has prepared for them, as “prisoners of the Hope” which he reveals.

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The Gentile Powers Overthrown…Zechah pt 12

The burden of the word of the Lord in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the Lord.  And Hamath also shall border thereby; Tyrus, and Zidon, though it be very wise. And Tyrus did build herself a strong hold, and heaped up silver as the dust, and fine gold as the mire of the streets. Behold, the Lord will cast her out, and he will smite her power in the sea; and she shall be devoured with fire. Ashkelon shall see it, and fear; Gaza also shall see it, and be very sorrowful, and Ekron; for her expectation shall be ashamed; and the king shall perish from Gaza, and Ashkelon shall not be inhabited  And a bastard shall dwell in Ashdod, and I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. And I will take away his blood out of his mouth, and his abominations from between his teeth: but he that remaineth, even he, shall be for our God, and he shall be as a governor in Judah, and Ekron as a Jebusite (Zechariah 9:1-7)

 

We now come into the last two sections of the prophecy of Zechariah. chapters 9-11 form a whole and cover the destruction of the Gentile powers which have scattered and oppressed Israel and Judah, as well as the first coming of the King Messiah in lowliness and bringing salvation. The last section chapters 12-14, concern the vision of Israel’s fail trial, conflict and deliverance at the second coming of Messiah.

Zechariah 9 is a remarkable pre-telling of a historical event which would occur two centuries later, in the invasion of the Holy Land by Alexander the great. After all, what is prophecy but the foretelling of History.

Nearly two centuries after Zechariah prophesied, Alexander came into Syria, via Hadrach, a city near Damascus, in 323 bc, he then took Damascus and set up his headquarters there,, (Damascus shall be the rest thereof…). From there he followed the prophesied route precisely as  Zechariah envisioned it, taking the cities of Tyre and Sidon,, then proceeding south into the Holy Land, destroying Gaza and Ashkelon, vassals of Tyre, and destroying Ashdod,  former cities of the Philistines.

While He was besieging Tyre, Alexander sent a letter to the Jewish High Priest demanding supplies and even auxiliary troops to aid him in the siege. Josephus tells us that the High Priest refused, citing his treaty obligation to Darius the Persian King, as the reason for his refusal. Alexander was livid and vowed to come to Jerusalem and make all men know that He would be the only Sovereign that men should keep oaths to.

He also had already arranged a treacherous alliance with Sanballat of the Arabs and a large group of Samarians and apostate Jews, allowing them to build a rival temple in JIsrael, and preparing them to join him in the destruction of Jerusalem.

But according to an account by Josephus, when the time came that Alexander had finished his sieges of Tyre and of Gaza and had conquered Ashdod,  he turned to Jerusalemwith all of his fifth column of Arabs, Samarians and apostate turn coats.

In the meantime the High Priest of Israel, Jaddus, also had a dream, commanding him to set out the entire priesthood in Holy Array and to go out to meet Alexander, leaving the city open,

[11.326] and Jaddus the high-priest, when he heard that, was in an agony, and under terror, as not knowing how he should meet the Macedonians, since the king was displeased at his foregoing disobedience. He therefore ordained that the people should make supplications, and should join with him in offering sacrifice to God, whom he besought to protect that nation, and to deliver them from the perils that were coming upon them;

[11.327] whereupon God warned him in a dream, which came upon him after he had offered sacrifice, that he should take courage, and adorn the city, and open the gates; that the rest should appear in white garments, but that he and the priests should meet the king in the habits proper to their order, without the dread of any ill consequences, which the providence of God would prevent.

[11.328] Upon which, when he rose from his sleep, he greatly rejoiced, and declared to all the warning he had received from God. According to which dream he acted entirely, and so waited for the coming of the king.

[11.329] And when Jaddus understood that Alexander was not far from the city, he went out in procession, with the priests and the multitude of the citizens. The procession was venerable, and the manner of it different from that of other nations. It reached to a place called Sapha, which name, translated into Greek, signifies a prospect, for you have thence a prospect both of Jerusalem and of the temple.

[11.330] And when the Phoenicians and the Samarians that followed him thought they should have liberty to plunder the city, and torment the high-priest to death, which the king’s displeasure fairly promised them, the very reverse of it happened;

[11.331] for Alexander, when he saw the multitude at a distance, in white garments, while the priests stood clothed with fine linen, and the high-priest in purple and scarlet clothing, with his mitre on his head, having the golden plate whereon the name of God was engraved, he approached by himself, and adored that name, and first saluted the high-priest.(Josephus, Wars of the Jews)

The fifth columnists were almost drooling to commence the betrayal and slaughter of the Jews, but were instead amazed to see Alexander dismount and approach the High Priest, kissing his hand and bowing in worship, when he saw the Priestly procession….

[11.332] The Jews also did all together, with one voice, salute Alexander, and encompass him about; whereupon the kings of Syria and the rest were surprised at what Alexander had done, and supposed him disordered in his mind.

[11.333] However, Parmenion alone went up to him, and asked him how it came to pass that, when all others adored him, he should adore the high-priest of the Jews? To whom he replied, “I did not adore him, but that God who has honored him with his highpriesthood;

[11.334] for I saw this very person in a dream, in this very habit, when I was at Dion in Macedonia, who, when I was considering with myself how I might obtain the dominion of Asia, exhorted me to make no delay, but boldly to pass over the sea thither, for that he would conduct my army, and would give me the dominion over the Persians;

[11.335] whence it is that, having seen no other in that habit, and now seeing this person in it, and remembering that vision, and the exhortation which I had in my dream, I believe that I bring this army under the Divine conduct, and shall therewith conquer Darius, and destroy the power of the Persians, and that all things will succeed according to what is in my own mind.”

[11.336] And when he had said this to Parmenion, and had given the high-priest his right hand, the priests ran along by him, and he came into the city. And when he went up into the temple, he offered sacrifice to God, according to the high-priest’s direction, and magnificently treated both the high-priest and the priests.

[11.337] And when the Book of Daniel was showed him wherein Daniel declared that one of the Greeks should destroy the empire of the Persians, he supposed that himself was the person intended.note And as he was then glad, he dismissed the multitude for the present.

But the next day he called them to him, and bid them ask what favors they pleased of him;(Flavius Josephus…)

The High Priest presented to Alexander the Great, the book of Daniel, showing him the prophecies which detailed him, as Isaiah’s book was once shown to Cyrus, another pagan conqueror, predicted of, and used by God.

Zechariah predicted this two centuries before it occurred, and it happened exactly as the prophet said it would, although this prophecy is a multiple fulfillment prophecy.

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 any more: for now have I seen with mine eyes.(Zechariah 9:8)

We are coming again to a time when Israel is threatened by all of her neighbors, particularly with events once again in Damascus, and the area around, as well as Southern Lebanon,(Tyre and Sidon) ,Hezbullah, and her vassal state, Palestinian Gaza, raining missiles on the Holy land, and once again, “The eyes of all are directed to the God of Prophecy…”.

Soon we will behold the emergence of a new “Alexander the Great:, an AntiChrist figure shall arise and have dealings with the Holy land, this prophecy is timeless and as relevant as ever.

Once again God will save Israel by His mighty power for all of the world to see and to believe or perish! Maranatha!

 

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I Have Purposed To Do Good To Jerusalem…Zechariah 11

But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the Lord of hosts.  For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.  And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.  For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:  So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.  These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord.(Zechariah 8:12-17)

In the previous chapter, a delegation had been sent from Bethel to Jerusalem, with an inquiry of the Priests and Prophets of the temple, which was being re-built, “Should we yet observe the Feast of Mourning, Tisha B’Av? Now that the new temple is nearly functional, is it necessary to observe the mourning?”

Instead the Prophet Zechariah called upon the delegation and all of Israel for all time, to deeply and personally repent, softening their hearts towards the LORD and seeking his power to amend their ways. This would be much preferable than an annual day of ritual mourning.

Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Execute true judgment, and shew mercy and compassions every man to his brother: And oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart.  But they refused to hearken, and pulled away the shoulder, and stopped their ears, that they should not hear.(Zechariah 7:9-11)

Zechariah chapter eight is the positive answer to the question of the delegation, for it reveals God’s desire and purpose towards Jerusalem,Israel and Judah, should they heed the message of repentance, and truly be restored to God.

The LORD is the one who laid upon his disobedient people the terrors and humiliation of the seventy year captivity, and furthermore, He is the one who would eventually deal even more harshly with them, destroying the Temple again in 70  ad and scattering the nation from one end of the earth to the other, to endure a long night of centuries of pogroms,holocausts,exile,persecution,rejection and banishment.

He “sought to do evil to them” and thus he did.

But the same LORD who justly punished Israel for her apostasy as He promised he would, will soon “seek to do Good to them”, with the same zeal and care as in the scattering.

Jerusalem has a glorious future, it shall teem with Jewish life, and the peoples of the world will one day stream into her to hear the Word of the LORD, as Isaiah and Micah also agreed would happen,

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:  And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also.  Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; 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 8:20-23)

God will literally turn her fasting into feasting, the rough garment shall be put off and the Bride shall adorn herself with Jewels again! Awake,Awake, come up out of the dust Zion, for God will favor you yet again, you shall live and not die, and declare the good works of the LORD!

Thus saith the Lord; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; 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. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of hosts.(Zechariah 8:3-6)

The Gentiles will indeed gather, they will assemble to destroy her once and for all, but God remembers his people and will save them from all of the places where the flock has been scattered,

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;…And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.  For thus saith the Lord of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the Lord of hosts, and I repented not:(Zechariah 8:7,13-14)

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Tisha B’ Av, or True Repentance?…Zechariah pt

In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, the month of Kislev.  The people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-Melek, together with their men, to entreat the Lord  by asking the priests of the house of the Lord Almighty and the prophets, “Should I mourn and fast in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?”(Zechariah 7:1-3)

Notice that Zechariah carefully dates this prophecy, rooting it in a historical incident, two years after the night of visions of Zechariah 1-6.

A delegation of Jews comes from Bethel to inquire of the Priests and Prophets of the Temple(in process of being rebuilt), as to whether or not they should continue to keep the day of fasting and mourning, commemorating the destruction of the previous temple, now known as “Tish B’Av, (the ninth of the month Av).

A detail to note before we get into the Divinely given answer, is that these dignitaries were sent from Bethel, which means “House of God”, but which became an idolatrous house of God in the days of the split between Northern and Southern Kingdom of Israel. It was at Dan and Bethel that Rehoboam the Northern King erected Golden calves , that the cities might be rival places of worship, to the true house of God in Jerusalem.

Now ‘Bethel” sends a delegation to the true house of God, showing that they were now in proper order, they had learned the bitter lesson of both the Northern captivity to Assyria and the later Babylonian captivity as well.

I think it noteworthy also that though Jewish, the names of the delegation are Babylonian, shortened names, for example Sharezer is part of an idolatrous prayer, originally it would have been “Nergal Shar-ezer” , “may Nergal protect the King!”. The original Sharezar was among the Babylonian nobles who actually destroyed the Temple. Nergal is a Babylonian God.

Thus this delegation of Jews, now humbled and properly inquiring of the Lord in his temple, yet bear in their own names the painful and humiliating chastisement that God inflicted upon the nation.

The question is , Should we Jews keep the fast of Tisha B’Av?

I believe this to be critical turning point issue for the Nation of Israel, in the days after the Babylonian Captivity, and that it is as relevant today, in the days since the destruction and scattering of the second temple as it has ever been.

I wrote in earlier articles, which I quote here, to describe Tisha B’Av , an event which is truly heartrending and of which there seems to be an almost supernaturally self re-enforcing , self fulfilling element to the date, the fast and to subsequent historical events,

I quote from an earlier article,

For all of Israel, a solemn day commences at sundown, Saturday ,August 13, till sundown the 14th of August. It is called Tish B’Av (the ninth of the month of Av) in the Jewish calendar. The day is marked by fasting, mourning and solemn prayers by pious Jews around the world, in commemoration of both the Babylonian destruction of the Temple, in 586 BC, and the Roman destruction of the Temple on the same calendar day in 70 AD.

Not only had those two horrors occurred on that day, but there have been many,many other incredibly horribly occurrences which concern the Jewish people,on this same calendar day through history.

Incredibly , it was on the ninth of Av that;

* The Sages tell us that the 10 Spies discouraged Israel from occupying the Land God gave them, resulting in the forty years wandering in the wilderness.

* 586 BC, Nebuchadnezzar fulfilled the prediction of Jeremiah, destroying the Temple in Jerusalem, killing one hundred thousand Jews, and carrying hundreds of thousands of others off, into Babylonian captivity.

* 70 AD, Titus fulfilled the predictions of Jesus, surrounding the city of Jerusalem, imposing a siege and finally on the day of TishB’Av, destroying the Temple, not leaving One stone upon another.

Two and a half million Jews were killed in this war, by famine, disease, infighting and One million Jews were killed in that war, much of the nation was exiled, and 100,000 Jews sold to Roman slave markets.

* On this date in 135 AD, Tish B’Av, the Bar Cochba revolt was crushed, killing over 100,000 Jews.

* 133 AD, Turnus Rufus plows site of the Temple. The Romans then built on the Holy Site the pagan city of Aelia Capitolina .

*1095 AD, On TishB’Av of that year was the date Pope Urban II called the first crusade, which resulted in the killing of more than ten thousand JEws, and the obliteration of Jewish communities in Germany.

* On TishB’AV 1290, all Jews were expelled from England , property was confiscated and killings of Jews occurred.

* In 1492 on the same date, TishB’Av, all Jews were expelled from Spain, by order of the “Holy order” of the Inquisition. There were forced conversions, family separations, pogroms, and much loss of property.

*In 1914, on Tish B’Av , Britain and Russia declare war on Germany. First World War begins. The First World War led to the Second World War and the Holocaust. Over 400 pogroms immediately following the war in Hungary, Ukraine, Poland and Russia.All but one-third of world Jewry would perish.

*On TishB’Av 1941, Hermann Göring ordered SS general Reinhard Heydrich to make all the necessary preparations for the Final Solution.

*TishB’AV, saw the 1942 mass deportation of Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to the Treblinka concentration camp begin.

* On TishB’Av 1994, the deadly bombing the building of the AMIA (the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, Argentina) which killed 86 people and wounded some 300 others.

* On TishB’Av 2004, at the Democratic National Convention, Barak Obama was catapulted from relative obscurity to national fame, after giving a speech which electrified the convention. He would go on to become the most avid anti Israel president in American history.

There are many many other calamities that have befallen Israel upon this tragic day. I believe there are several conclusions we can glean from the uncanny circumstances of the day.

* TishB’Av points to the veracity of the Word of God. Moses warned that should Israel break faith with God, That they would be scattered across the Gentile world,

And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other; …And among these nations shalt thou find no ease, neither shall the sole of thy foot have rest: but the LORD shall give thee there a trembling heart, and failing of eyes, and sorrow of mind:…(Deuteronomy 28:64-65)

Should they keep it up, year after year mourning, fasting once a year? Breaking a glass at every wedding for the destruction of the Temple? It looks and sounds pious, but is it the same as truly turning to God? God answers negatively in Zechariah 7, in language very reminiscent of Isaiah’s condemnation of Israel’s “fasting”,

Then the word of the Lord Almighty came to me:  “Ask all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth and seventh months for the past seventy years, was it really for me that you fasted?  And when you were eating and drinking, were you not just feasting for yourselves?  Are these not the words the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem and its surrounding towns were at rest and prosperous, and the Negev and the western foothills were settled?’”(Zechariah 7:4-7)

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Behold the Man Whose name is the Branch…Zechariah pt 9

And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying,  Take of them of the captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah;  Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;  And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, 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. And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.  And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.(Zechariah 6:9-15)

The previous eight visions, given to Zechariah in sequence in one night, reveal the ultimate purpose of the God of Israel, Judah and Jerusalem. God has a purpose which will not be thwarted by Israel’s sin and apostasy.He will bring Israel back into the Land, destroy those Gentile powers which have scattered her, and He will restore the city of Jerusalem, and glorify it by dwelling once again in the midst of it.

Furthermore in spite of the judgment which she has endured and of the hatred and persecution from her enemies, Israel will fulfill her ultimate ministry as the Lord’s Candlestick, shining in a darkened world, and revealing the glory of God to all nations.

The sins of Jerusalem and Judah would be born by a High Priest Jeshua, until the wrath of the Holy God is satisfied, and the adversary is rebuked.

Even the meaning of the name of the Prophet proclaims this, for Zechariah means “Jahweh has remembered”.God has not forgotten his people or the city where He put his name, indeed they are the very “Apple of His eye”.

Judgment begins in the house of God, but ultimately the flying scroll which proclaims a commandment from each of the two tables of the Law of Moses enters into the house of the entire world, bringing complete judgment upon all of the houses of the ungodly. The sin which corrupted Israel, will in the end be removed, carried away to Babylon and the welcoming house the Kings of the earth have prepared for it.These events ultimately lead to Armeggedon, the final battle.

Now that these visions have been discussed, Zechariah is led, to call for three prominent Jews who had come from Babylon bearing gifts of silver and gold for the temple which Zerubabbel was building. They were to take those offerings to a craftsman, who would fashion silver and gold crowns to set them on the head of the current high Priest, Joshua.

There stood God’s High Priest, the same one seen in the vision of chapter three, now crowned with a crown composed of silver and Gold. High Priests did not wear crowns, they wore Mitres, a special turban. Kings wore crowns. The two metals are holy , both are prominent in the temple.  Gold represents deity, and the glory of God, whereas silver is the precious metal which represents redemption.

What we are seeing here is a prophetic/symbolic picture of an event which will occur at the very  acme of the events Zechariah saw in his visions, the crowning of King Messiah, the Priestly King!

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.(Phillipians 2:9-11)

Next Zechariah is instructed to give this message at this occasion,

*Behold the Man…Whatever Joshua the High Priest thought, he must have known that this prophecy could not have been referring to Him, but must have looked long past him in prophetic time to another. Joshua was Priest, he was not a King also and couldn’t be said to “sit on his throne and rule”. How could a Priest also be a King? The only scriptural idea for this combination was in the story of Melchizedek, a King/Priest of another order.

The Lord hath sworn, and will not repent, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.(Psalm 110)

*Whose name is the Branch…lit,”The Branch is His name”… The Messiah has already been reffered to as “the Branch” in an earlier vision of Zechariah, (Zech 3:8). Remember that in the vision of chapter three, Zechariah and the Priests of Israel are reffered to as “Signs”, pointing to an ultimate reality to come, a servant called “The Branch”.

Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at(SIGNS): for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch.(Zechariah 3:8)

The Branch, is the title for Messiah given in Isaiah 4, in reference to the glorification of Messiah after the Day of the LORD.

In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel.(Isaiah 4:2)

Jeremiah refers to the Branch of David, the one coming to shoot out of the severed trunk of David’s tree, and who will fulfill all of the promises made to the house of David.

Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.  In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, The Lord Our Righteousness.(Jeremiah 23:5-6)

The Kings  of Judah, during the time of Jeremiah, were all sons of David, but they led the nation into such decline, it began to look like the promise would fail, as the last sons of David were led into Captivity in Babylon. At the time of the prophecy of Jeremiah 23, the King was named Zedekiah, “Jahweh is Righteous” but this “son of David” was totally unrighteous.

But Jahweh promised a “Shoot” , a Righteous Tsamach(Branch) to arise and truly be called “The LORD our Righteousness”. In His day Judah would be saved and Israel would finally rest in Jahweh.

  • He shall grow up out of His place, David Baron is helpful here, with the Hebrew, “He shall Branch up from under Him…”. The Messiah comes from both regal and lowly origin, but He shall shoot out of lowliness to the highest places, as Isaiah observed, “Who has believed our message and to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed , for he grew up before him as a tender shoot, and as a dry root out of parched ground…”(Isiah 53)
  • He shall build the Temple of the LORD and shall bear the Glory of it…Remember that between the two of them, Joshua the High Priest, and Zerubabbel the Governor (and descendant of David), were engaged in the rebuilding of the temple. But this vision makes plain that the “King” and Priest were but foreshadows of a superior KING?PRiest and anointed one who would come and build an ultimate temple  to God, and glorify it and rule from it.
  • …and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both. Between the two Divinely ordained offices, King and Priest of God, Shalom for all men will come to pass , for the council that brings men into Peace with God, shall come to mankind through his work and in his temple.

What is the temple of the LORD, but a God ordained symbol of the ongoing communion between God and His people! This man “the Branch” will combine in himself the offices of KING and Priest and through his work, men will come from near and far and enter into an eternal and blessed communion with God forever.The Crowns were to be a sign and the other sign would be that foreigners would come and participate in the building of the present temple being constructed by Joshua and Zerubabbel.

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