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“Sing, Daughter of Zion”

Zechariah 2:10-13; 9:9-12
Bob DeGray
March 24, 2002

Key Sentence

Does your heart rejoice over His presence?


I. The Promise of His Presence (Zechariah 2:10-13)
II. The Impact of His Presence (Zechariah 9:9-12)


        Palm Sunday is a bittersweet celebration. On the one hand there is the recognition of Jesus as Messiah and King and the one whom the prophets foretold. There is the celebration of his coming and of his presence in Jerusalem. On the other hand, even as we picture that great moment, we know that it will all be turned to tragedy within a few days. The same crowd that cries “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord” will cry “Let his blood be on us and on our children!” The joy at the gate of Jerusalem will turn into tears at Gethsemene, to despair at the foot of the cross - and then to joy again at the empty tomb. It’s a heart rending, roller coaster week.

        So how should we feel about Palm Sunday? Certainly we sense the irony, the fickleness of the crowd, their misplaced expectations and the betrayal that will follow. But I don’t think we should dismiss the triumph of that moment from our minds, because on Palm Sunday Jesus acted out the central parable of the Scriptures, which is “God with us.” The prophecies of this event in Zechariah make it clear that the message of that donkey ride is the presence of God with man, and they call Jerusalem and all her people to rejoice in that presence. By extension, they call us to do the same. So the question I’m asking this morning is simply “Does your heart rejoice over his presence?” Is joy in his presence a basic part of your daily Christian experience.

        The two short passages of Zechariah we’re studying are from chapters 2 and 9. They are linked by the fact that they begin with an exhortation to joy. Zechariah 2:10 “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming and will live among you.” Zechariah 9:9 “Rejoice greatly O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem!” We’ll see in these two passages both the promise and the impact of His presence. And though our outline only has two points, by the end of this message I want us to have found in this text at least five good reasons to rejoice.

        But before we look at the specific verses we need a little background on Zechariah. I’m drawing not only today’s lesson, but the one at our communion service Thursday night and the lessons on Easter Sunday from this rather obscure Old Testament prophet. So you ought to remember something of the context of Zechariah before these messages begin. Zechariah is the next to the last book in the Old Testament. So it is rooted in the historical events that close the Old Testament. The exile of the people of Judah to Babylon is ending, and a group has returned to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple. But having completed only the foundation and the altar this group gets discouraged and stops work. Sixteen years later God commissions two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to encourage the people to finish the work.

        The prophet Haggai’s message was narrowly focused on encouragement to rebuild the temple, and on God’s promises about the temple. Zechariah has a wider message which includes many picturesque images of future events for the people of Israel. In Zechariah 1 we see a man among the myrtle trees, riding a red horse. In chapter 2 we meet an angelic figure with a measuring stick whose task is to measure the future city of Jerusalem. In chapter 4 the image is of a gold lamp stand and two olive trees. In chapter 5 a flying scroll, a woman in a basket. Each of these images is a snapshot of present or future Israel. In chapters 9 to 14 Zechariah gives a more sustained series of prophecies about the coming Messiah and about the end times. This Easter we’ll be looking at brief excerpts from chapters 2, 3, 6, 9, 12 and 13.

I. The Promise of His Presence (Zechariah 2:10-13)

        Today we’ll start in chapter 2, with one of this book’s many promises of God’s presence. Zechariah 2:10 "Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you," declares the Lord. 11"Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. 12The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. 13Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling."

        Zechariah occasionally begins a section with the application, as he does here: “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion”. I’ve mentioned before that the Hebrew language has more terms for expressing joy than most other languages, even ours. In the two sections we’re looking at today four different words that convey four different kinds of joy are used. The first one is ‘shout for joy’ or literally ‘give a ringing cry’. This is public exuberance. You can compare this in our experience to the jubilance of a crowd when their team wins a big game. The other one here is ‘be glad’, which is one of the most common of these words, used 148 times in the Old Testament. It has the thought of an internal joy welling up: it is associated with the heart. So we are to feel this joy within and it is to burst forth with shouts of joy. Notice too that these verbs are imperative. I don’t know how you command someone to have joy, but that’s what we find here, and we’ll try to deal with that command this morning.

        The imperative is addressed to the “Daughter of Zion.” If you check this phrase in the Old Testament you’ll find it usually refers to Jerusalem, specifically to the people of Jerusalem, who are at times called to mourn and at times to rejoice. By extension it applies to all of Judea, and by further extension to us, because as God’s people we too have a vital interest in what he is doing, both his blessing and his judgment. We are called to mourn over his judgment and, as here, to rejoice over his blessing.

        What is that blessing? It is, as I said before, the central blessing promised by Scripture, the presence of God with man. “I am coming, and I will dwell among you.” God makes this promise over and over again, and he fulfills it in various ways throughout Scripture.

        First, he makes his presence specially known in the tabernacle. In fact the word ‘dwell’ here is from the same root as the word ‘tabernacle’, but used as a verb. ‘I am coming and I will tabernacle among you.’ Later, of course, the greatest fulfillment yet of this promise occurred when Jesus came. John tells us, ‘the word became flesh and tabernacled among us’. He dwelt among us as ‘Immanuel’, God with us.

        We call that the first coming or first advent of Jesus, and since that time we have the tremendous privilege of God dwelling with us through the Holy Spirit. Jesus said “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever__ the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you.” God’s Holy Spirit is with us.

        But soon even more promises of his presence will be fulfilled in Christ’s second coming, in his thousand year reign, and in eternity. Some of what we see in Zechariah 2 and some of what we will see in Zechariah 9 will only be fulfilled in that great second advent. Like many prophecies of the messiah, there is a mixture here of the first and the second: some things have already been fulfilled, and some are still to come.

        Verse 11: “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” Is that first or second coming? Both. People from many nations, every tribe and tongue and people, are being joined with the Lord in these days, in the days between first and second advent. And isn’t that a great phrase ‘joined with the Lord’. The underlying Hebrew word talks about people bonding to each other - allies, marriage partners, covenant partners. It is used of a permanent attachment of one person to another, and it is used very specifically and repeatedly of Gentiles and foreigners, non-Jews like you and me, who bind themselves to the God of the Jewish people. That has been happening since the first coming and will culminate in the streaming in of the nations to Jerusalem at Christ’s second coming.

        The second half of the verse is interesting too: “I will dwell among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” Who is talking here? A rabbi might tell you that it’s the Messiah, and I would agree, but the parallel words in verse 10 came from the Lord himself. So this is saying ‘I, the Lord, am coming, and I’ve been sent by the Lord Almighty.’ When the messiah says this, he claims to be God. In fact he is the Lord - Jesus, but he is also sent by the Lord - the Almighty.

        Do our hearts rejoice in this promised presence? Verse 12 and 13 “The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. 13Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” Verse 12 anticipates the second coming, when he will be enthroned in Jerusalem and reign for a thousand years, fulfilling God’s promises to Israel.

        Verse 13 gives a bigger picture, as all mankind, literally all flesh, is commanded to keep silence in his presence. This verse inspired one of our Christmas carols: ‘Let all mortal flesh keep silence, and with fear and trembling stand. Ponder nothing earthly minded, for with blessing in his hand. Christ our God to earth descendeth, Our full homage to demand.’ With all mankind, we are to watch in silence and awe as God comes, filled with wonder over what He is doing. In the first coming he tabernacled among us in the person of Jesus. In the second coming he will take up his throne and reign among us in the person of Jesus. That’s the promise of Zechariah 2.

II. The Impact of His Presence (Zechariah 9:9-12)

        In Zechariah 9 the prophecy becomes more focused and we see details of his coming to Jerusalem at the climax of the incarnation. We see the impact of his presence. Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice greatly, O Daughter of Zion! Shout, Daughter of Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and having salvation, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. 10I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth. 11As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. 12Return to your fortress, O prisoners of hope; even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.

        Notice how the two prophecies are linked by their exhortation to the Daughter of Zion, the daughter of Jerusalem. Two more Hebrew words for rejoicing are used, and the application is again placed at the section’s beginning. Rejoice greatly and shout. The first word comes from a root that pictures people circling around the object of their joy. It is used both of heart gladness and of joyful expression of that gladness. The classic use of this word is when the Psalmist writes “This is the day that the Lord has made, let us ‘rejoice’ and be glad in it. The other word, translated ‘Shout’ is similar to the ringing cry we saw in Zechariah 2, but is a different word, and can mean a shout of alarm or fear as well as one of joy or anticipation. This is the word used at Jericho when Joshua said ‘Shout’. They all shouted and the walls of the city came down. That is the kind of shout we are to use in our joy over his presence.

        Let me pause and reinforce this application. Though these commands are addressed to the people of Jerusalem, they apply to you and me. How many kinds of joy do you know in the Christian life? What kind of rejoicing do you do because of the presence of Jesus? These joys can only come by focusing with your heart on who God is and what he has done. Don’t read Scripture with just your mind - address it to your heart. Don’t listen to music with just your ears - listen with your heart. Don’t walk around with your eyes down - look up, look at what God has made and what has done for you and call your own heart to joy. Use all your senses to tell your heart what God has done, and expect your heart to respond in joy. The beauty of this joy is it can be yours regardless of circumstances. Your world can be falling apart and you can still know the joy of His presence, his comfort, his care, his love.

        The reason this can happen is that we have objective reason for our joy. Verse 9, again: “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! For behold, your king is coming to you; He is righteous and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Both horses and donkeys were known in Israel, of course, but in the early days horses weren’t common, and donkeys were used by the judges and the early kings. Later horses were used by Israel’s enemies, so that war-horses meant fear. Thus the donkey became the symbol of a king arriving in peace, while the war-horse became the symbol of a conqueror. Jesus, in the fulfillment of this prophecy, was arriving in peace. In his second coming, Revelation says, he will conquer on a white horse.

        Both Matthew and John specifically quote this verse, Zechariah 9:9, in their Palm Sunday narratives. Matthew then says: “A very large crowd spread their cloaks on the road, while others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. The crowds that went ahead of him and those that followed shouted, "Hosanna to the Son of David!" "Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!" "Hosanna in the highest!" They recognized him as king - the Son of David - and as more than king - the one who comes in the name of the Lord. But in connecting Jesus’ arrival on the donkey with Zechariah 9:9 they should have also recognized the character of the promised king: righteous and humble and bringing salvation. Certain Hebrew kings, like David, were righteous, in that they administered justice in a fair way. Some of these kings were also humble, even in the sense this word usually carries of being poor or afflicted. Again, David speaks of himself that way. But no Hebrew king had ever been able to offer salvation. Rescue yes, at times, but not true salvation.

        Only the messiah foretold in Scripture has all these qualities. We see them most clearly in Isaiah’s Suffering Servant. He is the ultimate possessor of righteousness, humility or affliction, and salvation. In Isaiah 9 the child to be born will establish David’s throne in righteousness and justice. In Isaiah’s ‘Branch’ prophecy, which is very close to Zechariah’s heart, the shoot from the stump of Jesse brings righteousness. In Isaiah 40-55, we are told over and over that this same Servant brings salvation. Isaiah 46:13 “I am bringing my righteousness near, it is not far away; and my salvation will not be delayed. I will grant salvation to Zion, my splendor to Israel.”

        Again, both of these things are associated with the servant’s affliction, or humility: Isaiah 53:4 “Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. 5But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed.” Verse 7: “He was oppressed and afflicted;... he was led like a lamb to the slaughter.... By oppression and judgment he was taken away.” But, verse 11: “After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities.”

        The point of all that is that the king riding in on a donkey, the one who is righteous and humble and brings salvation need not have been a surprise to the people of Israel. The Zechariah prophecy and the Isaiah prophecies are closely linked, and someone should have figured out that this servant king was going to suffer affliction in order to bring salvation and righteousness. Most of them didn’t figure it out, but we can, and it ought to cause us to shout for joy, and rejoice as gladness wells up in us.

        Another reason to rejoice is that this king on a donkey really is a king of peace. Verse 11: “I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the war-horses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” Once again, there has been a subtle shift here from the first coming of the Messiah to the second, but the connection is in the peace he brings. He comes on a donkey, and bans war-horses entirely. He disarms the nations. There no need for war anymore, for he proclaims peace to all the nations and his reign extends to all the earth.

        All this will happen during the thousand year reign of Jesus in Jerusalem, but that doesn’t make it meaningless for us because he also brings peace within and peace with God. Isaiah says of the Suffering Servant ‘the chastisement that brought us peace was upon him.’ Paul teaches us in the book of Romans that having been justified by faith in Jesus, we have peace with God. We are no longer enemies, rebels and foreigners in God’s sight, but we become his people, and he gives us his peace.

        Furthermore, we have peace with others because of our peace with God. Paul explains this in Ephesians 2: “Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)__ remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility [between Jew and Gentile] by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace.” The prince of peace who rode into Jerusalem is the one who gives peace in our hearts, reconciles us with others, and will return to bring peace to the whole world.

        How does he make this peace? Ephesians said it was through his blood and that’s what Zechariah says too. Verse 12: “As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you, I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.” Through his blood Jesus has set the prisoners free. Someday he will set the people of Israel literally free, but in the first advent he did the greater thing of setting people from all nations spiritually free through the blood of his new covenant.

        Jesus paid the price to free all who will believe in him from slavery to sin, from that waterless pit that sin works so hard to keep us in. It is this very bloodshed that make his triumphal entry bitter-sweet. The people see him coming to reign - he knows himself to be coming to die as a sacrifice. But a kingdom would have meant nothing without that sacrifice that rescues us.

        Verse 12: “Return to the stronghold, O prisoners who have hope; This very day I am declaring that I will restore double to you.” Again, the specific fulfillment of this is in the second coming of Christ. But notice a couple things that we can apply. First, the stronghold to which they literally return is Jerusalem, but the stronghold to whom we return is God: ‘a mighty fortress is our God.’ He is our rock and our refuge Second, those who were once prisoners of sin are now possessors of hope. That’s true for us as well. Romans 5:1 and 2 says “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.” We rejoice because we are not possessor of an unshakable hope. Third, we rejoice in our reward. The people of Israel will be given double for all they have suffered, but we are given more than double because of his suffering for us. We are given eternal life, adoption, righteousness, peace, hope, resurrection and reward by this one who sets us free.

        Isn’t it amazing that we find this truth in this obscure Zechariah prophecy? And yet this is so typical of what we find when we study the prophets: literal promises to Israel that are tidings of comfort and joy when applied to our hearts.

        In ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ Lucy tells Linus to give her his blanket. He responds “Give me one good reason why I should?” Lucy says “I’ll give you five good reasons.” Linus says “Those are good reasons.” Well as I close today, I want to remind you of this command: Rejoice over his presence. And I to give you five good reasons why you should rejoice this Palm Sunday and every Palm Sunday:
(1) The king has come and the king is coming to dwell with his people.
(2) The king you see on that donkey came in humility, willing to be afflicted for our sake.
(3) The presence of the king means righteousness and salvation for us.
(4) The presence of the king means peace and hope for us.
(5) The presence of the king and all these benefits are available to you now through faith in Jesus. We receive them through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in our hearts.

        Those are five good reasons that your heart and mine should rejoice in His presence as we celebrate Palm Sunday.