Lowly and Riding on a Donkey Zachariah 9:9-12
You may recall from our current study of Ezra-Nehemiah, that Zachariah is a contemporary of Ezra, who preached a revival in Ezra 5 leading to the reconstruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. He lived in a time when some Jews were returning to Jerusalem to reestablish Jewish worship, and a Jewish cultural city, on the ruins of Jerusalem. It was a bitter and low time for Judah. The neighboring city-states oppressed and worked against their new immigrant oppressors. The ruling Persians, while believing in equality and commerce, were to busy keeping peace in other parts of the empire to be concerned about the squabbles between insignificant client states in Palestine. Israel was poor, insignificant, and seemingly forgotten in a big commercial world of money and power.
The Jews worked hard to make ends meet, and wondered about all the glorious promises made through the years of being Gods chosen people to rule the world in righteousness. Had God forgotten them? Was He not in control of His world? Had He lost interest in the world and gone off to a far corner of the galaxy to start some new project?
That is the world of Zachariah. His very name rings out of faith in the old promises. It means zachar, to remember, and -iah, the first syllable of YAHWEH, the proper name for God from the burning bush (Ex 3:13-14). Despite the gloom of the present, Zachariah’s very name proclaimed the faith that Yahweh would keep His word. Zachariah’s 14 chapter book emphasizes the fact that while the present may look bad, Yahweh will keep His word, and give Israel everything He has promised them.
This is a truth we need to remember in our day. Regardless of all the gloom of life on this earth today, God will ultimately conquer evil and establish everlasting peace.
Visualize with me Jerusalem in Zachariah’s day, a ruin of a city, whose walls even in his day were piles of granite rock torn from their foundations. A few people live there. Most of those on its streets are farmers from other villages, buying and selling goods to keep life and limb together. There is a courtyard and a Temple in the center of town, and offerings are made there every morning and evening. Otherwise, it is just a dirty ruin with a few hundred people making shelters out of the old ruins. Zachariah’s prophecies said, despite the lowliness of the city now, it will be greater than it has ever been.
Our passage today, Zachariah 9:9-12, shows us a vision of this lowly wall-less city being visited by the great Messiah. Visualize with me the triumphal parade as Messiah enters the city. The young girls and children throng to the city’s main thoroughfare as the King marches in followed by all the soldiers (young men) in a great victory parade.
But wait, no big conquering army follows? The King is merely riding a donkey into the city. The modern equivalent would be expecting a great military leader in a very long stretch limo, followed by tanks and troops to demonstrate his power. But alas, here comes a guy, wearing dungarees, and driving a rusty beat-up 1950’s vintage Chevy pick-up (or Ford if you prefer) with a wooden back floorboard in a state of disrepair. What a contrast!!
Nevertheless, this farmer-yokel has destroyed the “chariots of war” waiting in Ephraim and the “warhorses” in Jerusalem. He is not what the crowd was expecting. They were looking for a conquering King, and they found a common man, who vanquished the enemy.
On this calendar day, almost 2,000 years ago, the crowds cheered for their “hero,” hoping He would conquer the Romans and establish everlasting peace with Jerusalem as its capital. Instead He came for another reason, to free men and women held captive in the pit of sin. Empty wells were a common place to temporarily keep prisoners of war captive in ancient times. Here come the conqueror who frees the captives from the wells and sends them back to their fortresses.
This salvation is provided “because of the blood of my covenant with you, [therefore] I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit. Return you to your fortresses, you prisoners of hope” (9:11-12). Christ or Messiah must come to deal with our sin problem before He could save us from a sin filled world.
The people in Jesus’ earthly life longed for political freedom. Christ was there to provide them freedom from sin. Ancient Judah misses their Messiah, because they were looking for the wrong type salvation. People today miss Him also, because they are looking for salvation from their circumstances, or themselves, or some other situation. God came the first time to save us from our sins. And next time to save us from a sin filled world. Galatians 4:4-7, “But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship. Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So, you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir.”
Hallelujah let us close in prayer.
CH Jim Odell