Sunday, April 5, 2020

Verse of the Week: Zechariah 9:9

Verse of the Week: Zechariah 9:9

(The majority of the footnotes are taken from the Ryrie Study Bible, to clarify additional verses quoted in this writing.)

                Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
                Behold, your king is coming to you:
                He is just and endowed with salvation,
                Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
                Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

Today we observe what is known as Palm Sunday. Palm Sunday is the Sunday before Easter, the day we observe for the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. (I prefer Resurrection Day or First fruits but for sake of what many are familiar with we will call it Easter.) Palm Sunday is a remembrance of when our Lord entered Jerusalem riding on a donkey.  It is the first day of Passion Week or Holy Week. It is the last week of our Lord’s life before His crucifixion and resurrection from the dead.
This day is important for Christians. This is one of the few events recorded in the Gospels that is written in all four Gospels. Events which are recorded in all four Gospels deserve special attention for the lessons they contain for the believer. However, we are not going in this direction. Instead we are going back in time, about 500 years before Christ, and examine the prophecy concerning His triumphal entry.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
                Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem!
                Behold, your king is coming to you:
                He is just and endowed with salvation,
                Humble, and mounted on a donkey,
                Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9:9

                Rejoice…Shout- The first two lines are written utilizing a literary device used in poetry called synonymous parallelism. This involves the repeating of the same idea in successive lines. The first half of a verse will make a statement, and the second half will essentially say the same thing in different words. The statements are “parallel” in that they are juxtaposed, or side by side, and they often share similar syntax. You are reading the same thought but with slight changes in the wording. But by repeating what you have said you have reinforced the thought and should be given the thought more attention.

                He…Humble…Even- The last three lines are written utilizing a literary device used in poetry called synthetic parallelism. In synthetic parallelism, which is not really parallelism at all, related thoughts are brought together to emphasize similarities, contrasts, or other correlations.[1] We see a progressive flow of thought that builds as each line is added.

                Rejoice greatly- Literally, “dance with force,” “go around and around.” This is a celebration. Something wonderous has happened that has caused the people to break out in dance. Think of David when the Ark of the Covenant was being brought home:

14 And David was dancing before the LORD with all his might, and David was wearing linen ephod.
15 So David and all the house of Israel were bringing up the ark of the LORD with shouting and the sound of the trumpet.
16 Then it happened as the ark of the LORD came into the city of David that Michal the daughter of Saul looked out the window and saw King David leaping and dancing before the LORD; and she despised him (compare Michal’s reaction with the reaction of the Jewish elders when Jesus entered in the city) in her heart. 2 Samuel 6:14-16

                Greatly carries the idea of exceedingly. Look at how David carried himself before the ark. Now the people have Someone greater than the ark to dance about.

Why were they rejoicing? We will soon find out.

Shout- “Raising a shout,” “give a blast” like on a trumpet. Make some noise people, the king has come.

Daughter of Zion…Jerusalem- This the same people that inhabit the same location: Jerusalem. This is not an occasion for the Gentiles. This is for the Jewish people and their long-awaited Messiah.  This would be one of the clues as to the fulfillment of this prophecy where it was to occur, Jerusalem.

Behold- Pay attention. Pay attention to the words that Zechariah is writing. This is a future event and you need to know what to look for. Pay attention because this is big. When we see the word Behold we are being prepared for something so very important that we must not overlook it.

It is impossible to capture from just reading the passage, but the style that Zechariah is writing this is as if he was there witnessing the event.

Your king- This is why the women are to rejoice. This is why the woman are to shout. Their King has come.

Here we find an agreement between Orthodox Judaism and Orthodox Christianity. Judaism understood this to mean what it says, a king is coming for them to rule over them. This king will be identified by the method that he enters the city and the response of the people. Christianity maintains the same interpretation but believes that Jesus has fulfilled this verse. He is the One who rode into Jerusalem before His death on a donkey. He is the One who rode into Jerusalem to the acclaim of the people. Is there anywhere we see this as occurring anywhere in history apart from Christ? The Jewish writer and commentator Rashi wrote:

Behold! Your king shall come to you. It is impossible to interpret this except as referring to the King Messiah, as it is stated: “and his rule shall be from sea to sea. We do not find that Israel had such a ruler during the days of the Second Temple.[2]

Is coming- Future. This is a prophecy for something that will occur after this writing. They were given the signs to look for to be able to identify who this king would be. This prophecy would not be fulfilled until God was ready in time for it to be fulfilled. We cannot force it to happen as some tried to do during the time of Christ:

Jesus therefore perceiving that they were intending (about) to come and taken Him by force, to make Him king,[3] withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15

                The King will come to them one day, but it will be God’s timing and in the fulfillment of His perfect will.

To you- To the Jewish people, in particular Jerusalem’s inhabitants were this prophecy would occur. This prophecy was not given to the Gentiles.

He is not coming for His own pleasure or benefit. He is coming for the sake of His brethren.

He- Though calling Him a king earlier should have been the only identifier needed for His gender, the Holy Spirit added that the King will be a “He.” Maybe the Holy Spirit looked down the road 2,000 years after Christ and knew this needed to be put in because we have about 57 genders in our vocabulary (sarcasm, though maybe with a grain of truth).

Just- He is righteous. He is in right standing with God, in fact in perfect standing with God. Jesus is right in conduct. Jesus is right in character. Jesus is right in His deeds. By being a King that is righteous, His kingdom will also be characterized by righteousness:

                5 “Behold, the days are coming,” declares the LORD,
                When I shall raise up for David, a righteous Branch;[4]
                And He will reign as king and act wisely
                And do justice and righteousness[5] in the land
                6 “In His days Judah will be saved,
                And Israel will dwell securely;
                And this is His name by which He will be called,
                The LORD our righteousness.’ Jeremiah 23:5, 6

Endowed- Having the ability to offer Himself up to suffering and death at the hands of His enemies in order to deliver or save others. The only way this could happen is by His perfect righteousness. This is a unique proof that He was in possession of that indispensable prerequisite for the justification of guilty sinners.
With salvation- Were the crowds thinking of Isaiah:

As a result of the anguish of His soul,[6]
He will see it and be satisfied;
By His knowledge[7] the Righteous One,
My Servant, will justify the many,
As He will bear their iniquities. Isaiah 53:11

                Probably not, they were more in tune with thinking of the hated Romans and the desire to be saved from them. The crowds did not understand the need for spiritual salvation before the physical salvation could occur. Jesus had offered them physical salvation when His ministry began but it was contingent upon one word, “REPENT”.

From that time Jesus began to preach and say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven (millennial kingdom) is at hand.” Matthew 4:17

                However, repentance was the last thing on their minds. Instead of trusting in Jesus, they trusted in their ancestry from Abraham:

And do not suppose that you can to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our Father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Matthew 3:9

“The common teaching of that day said that the Jews participated in the merits of Abraham, which made their prayers acceptable, helped in war, expiated sins, appeased the wrath of God, and assured a share in God’s eternal kingdom. Consequently the people were started when John and Jesus preached the necessity of personal repentance.”[8]

                What they did not understand is that by the death of Jesus salvation did come to the people. Not just to the Jews but to the entire world. When Jesus returns in His Second Advent[9] He will give the Jewish people the physical deliverance they have been longing for.

Humble- Poor, afflicted, wretched? How can our Messiah be described by these words? At His first coming Jesus reflects the dual nature of the Messiah in the aspect of the Suffering Servant (Isaiah 53 gives this graphic description of Him). He was poor during this life. His parents sacrificed two doves in the temple for His redemption price which only the poor offered. He was raised in the carpentry profession. Unlike today this was not a hugely profitable business to work in. (On top of that Joseph had to support himself, Mary, Jesus, 4 other sons, and probably 3 or more daughters). At one point he didn’t have somewhere to sleep. At His crucifixion the only thing of value was his garment. Even in death Jesus was buried in a borrowed tomb.

Mounted on a donkey- Most likely there were Roman guards somewhere along the path. When word got out about the gathering of people and the excitement of what was happening Rome would have been there to investigate and make sure there was not threat to Rome or to peace in the city. What a strange sight for them to behold. What would motivate them to proclaim someone riding on a donkey as king? When a victorious general would return, he would carry booty, he had prisoners to show off, he had slaves that would be ready for the slave market. Some of the victory parades would last up to three days. Not so with Jesus. No prisoners, no slaves, no captured loot from an opponent. Just a humble man demonstrating that He would be a different kind of King.

Even on a colt- This may be a Hebrew expression of speech that would denote and emphasize that the animal is a purebred. The foal has never been ridden. The Messiah is not riding a magnificent stallion that had been bred since birth for warfare. Far from the fact. The donkey was an animal of peacetime as they carried much when people were traveling or merchants who used them to carry their inventory.

The foal of a donkey- Jesus was on a lowly animal that was only ridden by someone who had no rank or worldly position. As mentioned above, this would be the animal of a poor person. If one of Israel’s kings had ridden on a donkey it would have indicated he had lost his crown any authority he had once possessed. The donkey was considered a best of burden, a burden-bearer:

                [10]28 “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
          29 “Take My yoke[11] upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you SHALL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS.
                      30 “For my yoke is easy, and My load (burden) is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

This has also been a problem for many Jewish thinkers. The idea of a king entering Jerusalem, ready to get rid of the Roman conquerors, and he is riding a donkey. Part of the difficulty for the Jewish people comes from the teaching of the Babylonian Talmud:

“If they (Israel) will be righteous (the Messiah will come) on the clouds of heaven (Daniel 7:13); if they will not be righteous (he will come) as a poor man riding upon an ass (Zechariah 9:9)… King Shabur (Sapur) said to Sh’muel: “You say that the Messiah will come upon an ass; I shall send him a well-groomed horse.” He answered, “do you, perchance, have a horse of a hundred colors?”[12]

                As mentioned above, Matthew 3:9 demonstrates that the people thought they were righteous by being the offspring of Abraham. Since at His first coming Jesus did not ride in on a horse, but on a donkey, obviously He could not be the Messiah.

                The answer to the question is not either/or. It is both. The Messiah has fulfilled the first half when He came to the earth as a humble, lowly man. He paid the price for sin and enabled each of us who believe and trust in Him to be a citizen of the kingdom that He offered the Jewish nation. At His Second Coming He will come in power, majesty, and glory. He will come on the clouds and every eye will see Him. Messiah will rule the nations as presented by Zechariah 9:10:

                                And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim,
                                And the horse from Jerusalem;
                                And the bow of war will be cut off.                          
                                And He (Jesus) will speak peace to the nations;
                                And His (Jesus) dominion will be from sea to sea,[13]
                                And from the River to the ends of the earth. Zechariah 9:10

                I hope you have enjoyed this look at Zechariah 9:9. Please be sure to share it with anyone you believe would benefit from it. I would encourage you to spend some time today and look at the four Gospels and read their accounts of the Triumphal Entry of Christ.

[2] The Judaica Press Complete Tanach, Rashi Commentary, online version
[3] Jesus had to escape from the enthusiasm of the crowd, which would have forced Him to lead them in revolt against the Roman government. Jesus refused to become a political revolutionary.
[4] Literally, a shoot, a Messianic title signifying the new life that Messiah will bring. “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and adornment of the survivors of Israel.” Isaiah 4:2
[5] He will secure righteousness for His people.
[6] His whole being, including His soul was involved in the offering.
[7] By knowledge of Him. See Romans 3:26.
[8] The Ryrie Study Bible, Matthew 3:9 note.
[9] This is not the Rapture of the Church. The Rapture will occur first, then a brief period of confusion, followed by a covenant between Israel and her enemies facilitated by the Antichrist which inaugurates the seven-year tribulation. At the end of the seven years Christ will return in power and glory delivering Israel from annihilation. This return is typically known as the Second Advent or Second Coming.
[10] This great invitation; extended to all is threefold: (1) to come and receive salvation; (2) to learn in discipleship; and (3) to serve in yoke with the Lord.
[11] The yoke involves instruction under discipline. Yet, in contrast to the teaching of the scribes, Jesus’ yoke is easy. Through the ages these verses have been among the most beloved in the New Testament.
[12] Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 98a
[13] The fulfillment of this prophecy of universal peace awaits the second advent of Christ.

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2 Peter 2:14-22