On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty, and all who come to sacrifice will take some of the pots and cook in them. And on that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the LORD Almighty.” (plus vv.1-19 preceding)
So we come to the final study in Zechariah, the 22nd. Spurgeon preached 30 messages from this book, but spread them over thirty years while you have been confronted with this clump of sermons across only six months. Thank you for staying with me. I am glad you have had the entire text of each address offered to you so that you could read it later on. Someone told me this week that she had read last Sunday’s sermon twice, though she wasn’t in the congregation listening to it. Preaching from Old Testament books is a great challenge; so easily the sermon can slip into a mere glorified Bible study. The first thing I want to point out to you concerning this final chapter is this, that . . .
1. ONE PHRASE IS FOUND FREQUENTLY IN THIS LAST CHAPTER.
There is a unifying refrain in the last two chapters of Zechariah which is stated in three very simple words. They are repeated ten times. The refrain is “on that day.” You see it for the first time at the very opening of chapter 13, “on that day a fountain will be opened up . . .” Then verse two, “on that day I will banish the names of the idols.” Then verse four, “On that day every prophet will be ashamed of his prophetic vision.” Three times in that chapter that refrain is present. But in this final 14th chapter the phrase occurs a further seven times.
There is a day coming; it is certainly going to come; no power in earth or hell can prevent it, and Zechariah wants his hearers and readers to be aware of what it is that lies before them. The chapter begins with this tremendous affirmation of the certainty of this time; “The day of the Lord is coming” (v.1). It is utterly unavoidable; nothing man can do can prevent the day of the Lord coming. What will characterise this day? A series of the most vivid word picture-images then follow throughout the chapter each one casting some light on that day. Verse 4; “On that day the Lord’s feet will stand on the Mount of Olives.” Verse 6; “On that day there will be no light no cold or frost.” Verse 8; “On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem.” Verse 9; “On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name.” Verse 13; “On that day men will be stricken by the Lord with great panic.” Verse 20, “On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses.” Verse 21, “On that day there will no longer be a Canaanite in the house of the Lord Almighty.”
So I have evidenced my first point to you, that these three simple words “On that day,” are found three times in chapter 13 and 7 times in chapter 14.
2. WHAT IS THAT DAY THAT ZECHARIAH IS REFERRING TO?
It is the day that began with the fountain being opened to cleanse people from sin and impurity (Zech. 13:1). In other words, that day did not begin until the life and death of the Messiah. It began with the coming of the Son of God into the world. That was the beginning of the day, but it was not finally inaugurated until the Holy Spirit was poured out fifty days after Golgotha at Pentecost. The event of the arrival of the Lord of Glory in this world and his ascension and his giving the Holy Spirit – that was the dawn of the day that Zechariah is referring to here, the day to which we give the letters A.D. Anno Domine, that long day during which Christ’s influence began to move out from Jerusalem, to Judea, and to Samaria and to the uttermost corners of the earth. It is the day of the spreading reign or kingdom of the Lord Christ as it changes favoured men and women and is itself confronted with the opposition of the world, and the devil.
In the Old Testament there is a book entitled in English ‘I and II Chronicles’ but in the Hebrew it is called “events of the days,” and it describes all of human history from creation to the time of the author. It is entitled “the days.” What is the first word in the book of Chronicles? It is the name ‘Adam.’ So from Adam to the time of the writer those days, during those centuries, were chronicled, and so the English title was given to it, ‘Chronicles’. Then you have another similar phrase, ‘the latter days.” It is an Old Testament phrase and it refers to the destiny some time in the future of the nations and peoples of the world. You find the phrase in the prophecies of Isaiah (chapter 2) and Micah (chapter 4) and Hosea (chapter 3) prophecies of coming blessings for the people of God, days of peace and growth and spiritual prosperity which will characterise the latter days. Then Daniel (chapter 2) describes those last days as ones of tribulation and judgment on the world and suffering for the people of God.
In the New Testament the apostles tell us that since Jesus Christ has come then those last days have now arrived; we are now living in those last days. The letter to the Hebrews begins famously, “In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,” (Hebrews 1:1&2). Peter preaches to Jerusalem sinners on the day of Pentecost explaining to them what they were seeing then and there, that “This is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘In the last days, God says, I will pour out my Spirit on all people’” (Acts 2:16&17). Then again in his first letter Peter says about Jesus Christ that he, “was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake” (I Pet. 1:20). Or James in his letter (which is one of the earliest pieces of literature in the New Testament) is warning the covetous and the rich, “You have hoarded wealth in the last days” (James 5:3). So the period from the coming of Jesus Christ into the world until today, and then on after today till the end of the world is known as ‘the last days,’ or ‘that day’. The Bible is telling us that the last period in the history of the world has begun. God’s programme for the world has entered its final programme. So when this age or these latter days has ended there’s nothing else but ‘the age to come,’ and that will be inaugurated by the four last things, the resurrection, the day of judgment, the great separation and the eternal state of new heavens and new earth. So in this chapter Zechariah is speaking about what is going to characterisethis age in which we live, these last times, the day that every Christian has been given by God to live his life following the Lord Jesus. In other words Zechariah is writing in the final chapter of his prophecy about today, about what happens to us and all the Christians alive today all over the world in April 2014, and what has been the experience of every Christian during the last 1900 years, and what will be the blend of trials and blessings that will come to the church in the future.
3. IT IS IMPORTANT TO SPEAK ABOUT THIS BECAUSE OUR LORD DID.
Let me explain to you the importance of understanding this. Our message to the world is summarised like this, that God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son that whosoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life. His Son was Jesus of Nazareth, and he came into the world 2000 years ago, taught us the will of God and made atonement for our sins, and all who trust in him have the life of God in their lives. Yet we look around and what do we see? Heaven on earth? No. We see the bad news on T.V. at 1 p.m., full of foul murder in South Africa, the corruption of politicians in England, the folly of bankers, horrific civil war in Syria, and the unexplained deaths of 200-300 people on a missing plane, and so on and on. Then the 6 p.m. news is also repeated bad news, and the 10 p.m. news is again the same bad news and a bit more. Why is this? If God lives and his Son has come into the world and has all authority in heaven and earth, and we are living in his day . . . the day of the Lord . . . these last days . . . then why is there such death and suffering in the world?
We are soberly remembering what happened 20 years ago this month in Rwanda when between 500,000 and a million members of the Tutsi tribe were murdered by the Hutus. I read an article in the Spectator this week written by Aidan Hartley, a greatly respected, international reporter and commentator, who was there 20 years ago. These are his conclusions: “After covering continual violence in the years since 1994 across Africa and elsewhere, I personally find the countless promises of ‘never again’ amount to very little. Primo Levi said of Auschwitz, ‘It happened, therefore it can happen again.’ I don’t blame the church any more than I do African countries, the United Nations or Britain’s government at the time for failing to prevent genocide. It would be mistaken to believe intervention could have stopped Tutsis being massacred. In every hamlet on every hillside I met Hutu peasants who were handed no master plan for genocide: they murdered neighbours because they could, and they coveted cows or banana groves that did not belong to them. Based on most foreign interventions, we know it might well have caused alternative or even worse kinds of violence. In the aftermath, the Rwandans didn’t do a bad job of sorting it out themselves. My personal sense now is that there are no real political solutions to human wickedness. Ironically, as time has progressed, thinking long and hard about those churches, I have come to believe the only consolation is spiritual.”
That is what many of us also believe. There is human suffering, and many innocent and lovely people die. They die because mortality is written over all of us in a fallen and groaning world. There is the bias to sin in every heart, that no one has to teach young children to lie and retaliate and complain. They do that naturally in this fallen world. All mankind are sinners and indifferent and hostile to the claims of God. We live east of Eden, under the curse. That is why people behave as they do, M.P.’s, or athletes, the working classes or the upper classes, Europeans or Arabs, there is no difference, in capitalist countries or communist dictatorships, the hearts of men are all deceitful and desperately wicked. So men behave as abominably as they do.
But let me address the problem of suffering by reminding you that our Lord Jesus Christ warned us that suffering and persecution and pain would characterise the last days. He promised us nothing less, and that it would be through much tribulation that we would enter heaven. He spoke to his disciples in the Upper Room and he said to them these words, “In this world you will have tribulation, but take heart I have overcome the world.” He made such a future of the church clear to his people and for 2,000 years it has been exactly as he said.
Let us read some words of Jesus about the age we live in found in eleven verses in the gospel of Matthew chapter 24, and verses 4 through 14. “Jesus answered: Watch out that no-one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumours of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth-pains. Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
I think it’s over-simplifying to read those words and apply them exclusively to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70. That was certainly the cataclysmic public end to the Mosaic dispensation. Then it was all over, never to return, the tribes, the royal line of David, the chief priests, the judges, the temple, the Pharisees, the land, the feasts, the holy city, the ark, the veil of the temple, the seventh day of the week as a holy day, stoning for adultery, circumcision, the year of jubilee, the food laws – everything gone and finished! The whole edifice then and there crumbles to the dust and ends. God is no longer dealing with this world by the ceremonial and civil laws of the Old Testament. They have all outlived their purpose because Christ has come. God will never deal with the world again in that way. What was unthinkable to Zechariah and the Jews of his congregation was going to occur “on that day.”
But the Lord Jesus was not talking only about that cataclysmic event of the destroying of Jerusalem in the year 70. He was also referring to the whole day which stretched from his first coming to his second coming, and he tells us that during that time there would be two parallel providences taking place.
i] There would be the preaching of the gospel to the whole world, this testimony that Jesus Christ is great was going to be given to every nation, and so people would be converted in every age and every continent on earth. That is one prophecy Jesus made that is being fulfilled here and now as I preach to you. It is worth noting that because where are the Sadducees today? Nowhere! Where are the Essenes who lived under their Teacher of Righteousness near the Dead Sea? Nowhere! But Jesus is being preached in millions of churches in every part of the world at this moment.
ii] Then there would also be the very opposite; there would also be wars and rumours of wars, famines and earthquakes, many will turn from the faith and the love of most will grow cold. There is going to be no Utopia during that long day. There will be no heaven on earth, but the gospel will be preached and received everywhere. And also what is seen on the T.V.’s bad news every day.
4. THE CONCLUSION OF ZECHARIAH TEACHES THE SAME MESSAGE.
The spirit of Christ was in the prophets, Peter tells us. And so we would expect that there would be no conflict between what Jesus taught in the New Testament and Zechariah taught in his prophecy and so here in chapter 14. What do we find?
i] There will be the destruction of Jerusalem; “I will gather all the nations to Jerusalem to fight against it; the city will be captured, the houses ransacked, and the women raped. Half of the city will go into exile, but the rest of the people will not be taken from the city” (v.2). That is a statement that describes very clearly the comprehensive demolition of Jerusalem in A.D. 70.
ii] From Jerusalem Christ’s reign is going to spread and overcome all his enemies. Almighty God will vindicate the name of his holy child Jesus and in all the lands that have shown their hatred of his name he is going to gain the victory. He gains the victory in those places by building his church and saving his people there. In North Korea there is a vast underground church which continues to grow. In Muslim countries Christ has his people also meeting secretly. Jerusalem was conquered in A.D. 70 and the Roman legions raised their standards in the Temple. So Christ went to Rome and built a strong congregation of worshippers there. And Zechariah sees the Lord Jesus coming to Jerusalem and, standing again on the Mount of Olives. But now not as he was 2000 years ago, a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief, despised and rejected of men. In the great coming day he will stand like a colossus on the Mount of Olives splitting it like a man splits a log, and the nations who have inhabited it fleeing from there (vv.4&5). He has his congregation in Jerusalem today. Last week I put an account of a Jerusalem baptismal service written by Baruch Maoz on the Banner of Truth website and it was fascinating to read. Opposition and hatred everywhere from the orthodox, but Christ was honoured that day there, and Zechariah presents the reign of our Lord in wonderful vivid language, the mountain of pharisiaism that crucified him split in two by him alone. So in every part of the Roman empire the reign of Jesus Christ and his kingdom spread and out it goes further and further. Zechariah compares it to a bursting of the dams of heaven and the river that flows from the throne of God and of the Lamb comes pouring forth, east and west, summer and winter (v.8). So that over the whole earth there won’t be the gods of the Romans and all the heathen gods; they will be long forgotten. “On that day there will be one Lord and one name the only name” (v.9). There will be the new Jerusalem, which is the city of God, never to be destroyed: “Jerusalem will be secure” (v.11). That is Jerusalem our happy home, Jerusalem the golden with milk and honey blessed, Jerusalem of the new heavens and the new earth.
Then the destruction of all God’s enemies, the devil and the beast and the false prophet, is described for us in vivid language “This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. On that day men will be stricken by the LORD with great panic. Each man will seize the hand of another, and they will attack each other” (vv.12&13). God will not cease their destruction, punishing them for their hatred of his Son and bringing plagues on pagan hegemonies like Egypt as beforetimes he had done in Old Testament times (vv.17-19). You see what Zechariah is doing? He is explaining to his congregation in language they can understand that God is always going to stand by his people and destroy his enemies. When Peter talks about this in New Testament language he speaks of Christians being “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation.” Or as Paul tells Timothy “The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom” (2 Tim. 4:18) but the language of Zechariah is different when he says the same thing. The language and the imagery of John in the book of Revelation is even more elaborate and vivid, but its message is the same. Paul writes to the Romans and says to them, “The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” (Roms. 16:20) and he is bringing to them the same message of God’s omnipotence destroying his enemies. So there is going to be the destruction of Jerusalem, and then Christ overcoming his enemies, and then the third feature . . .
iii] There will be an extraordinary transformation of life for every true Christian so that no part of his life will be left untouched by the grace of God. Mr. Christian is a new creation; old things have past away and all things have become new. Mr. and Mrs. Christian will be filled with the Holy Spirit. Remember Paul praying for the Christians in Ephesus, and he prays in New Covenant language, the sort of praying you hear in this church on Tuesday nights for fellow Christians. Paul tells the Ephesians that he asks God that “you may be filled to the measure of all the fulness of God” (Ephs 3:19). Then he describes to them the Lord’s church as “the fulness of Christ who fills everything in every way” (Ephs. 1:23). That is New Testament language, but when Zechariah speaks about us being filled to the measure of all the fulness of God it is in a different way, but how wonderfully vivid and unforgettable is his description of the 24/7 believer, the 100% disciple, the person who presents his body as a living sacrifice to God, the follower of Jesus who says that since Christ is God the Son and has died for him then there is nothing he can do that is too costly to give to him. We find here in the closing words of Zechariah 14 the Old Testament view of comprehensive consecration – like Francis Ridley Havergal sings in her petition to God:“Take myself and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.”
See how Zechariah describes an individual believer who, whether he eats or drinks, does everything to the glory of God. Here is Zechariah’s vision of a Christian church or a gospel congregation of believers who are not lukewarm; they are out and out for God – full of God in everything they do; “On that day HOLY TO THE LORD will be inscribed on the bells of the horses, and the cooking pots in the LORD’s house will be like the sacred bowls in front of the altar. Every pot in Jerusalem and Judah will be holy to the LORD Almighty,” (vv.20&21).
This phrase in capital letters, ‘HOLY TO THE LORD’, where would you find it in the Old Testament? You would find it on the headdress of the high priest, but Zechariah says that there will be believers all over the world, in the midst of persecutions and famines and wars, whose lives are yet utterly dedicated to God so that this consecration, ‘Holy to the Lord’ will pervade everything in their lives, even the most trivial thing they have. When they decorate their homes, when they hang bells on the harness of their horses then the tinkling bells will have ‘Holy to the Lord’ inscribed on them. The righteousness of God is so pervasive in their lives that nothing they have or do is untouched by it.
There was a teenager I baptized here 48 years ago and he loved the fellowship of Christians, and when he left Aberystwyth he sought out fellowships where the gospel was preached and he found them. He was a blessing to them as he’d been a blessing to us, and it happened that the pastor of the church he was then attending needed a new car and what he did was to give to my young friend his old car. This young man had come from a poor home, and gifts at birthdays and Christmas were not excessive, and now someone had shown his affection for him by this gift of a car that was beyond his dreams. It overwhelmed him with humble praise. During the year that followed I was preaching in a rally and he drove me from it to his home, and when I got into his car I saw immediately what he had printed out on a wide-band Dymo Label in capital letters before the passenger seat on the dashboard. THIS CAR IS USED TO THE GLORY OF GOD. Even today he is abounding in the work of the Lord. He says still, “For to me to live is Christ.”
Now we don’t need to write such words on our cars, or on our homes, or on the clothes we wear, or when we play soccer on our kit, or write it across our laptops, or over our TV sets, or on the lintel of our front doors, but we can imagine those words being there. We should be conscious of our high calling, that our chief end in life is to glorify and enjoy God. Everything we do is to be holy to the Lord. When we do the cooking then the microwave and the frying pan are sacred to the Lord, as sacred in our estimation as the trays on which the bread and wine are passed around on Communion Sundays.
In some of the most beloved hymns the hymnists express their longing to live thus. There is for example the hymn of Horatius Bonar, “Fill Thou my life, O Lord my God, in every part with praise,” and he prays these like this,
Fill every part of me with praise; let all my being speak
Of Thee and of Thy love, O Lord, poor though I be and weak.
So shall no part of day or night from sacredness be free,
But all my life, in every step be fellowship with Thee.
To do everything as if we were doing it for our Lord Jesus – that is our magnificent obsession. You know the famous hymn of George Herbert in which you find these lines
A servant with this clause makes drudgery divine;
Who sweeps a room, as for Thy laws makes that and the action fine.
Think for a mini-second of the drudgery facing mothers and housewives on a Monday morning, washing and then hanging things on the line, preparing the food and washing up and knowing that this will never, never end. Then the thought, “But I do it all for him, to please him and serve him,” and the action is no longer mere drudgery but it is holy to the Lord. What Zechariah is pleading for is wholistic and comprehensive Christianity, not a religion that is kept for the hour of public worship, or reserved for certain religious duties, but one that is integrated into all of our lives. The Christian farmer, the Christian businessman, the Christian plumber, the Christian journalist does everything for God’s glory. HOLY TO THE LORD is inscribed on every task.
Among all the people who name the name of Christ there should be none who secretly are Canaanites at heart – Zechariah is talking in that last verse about the ungodly people whom God judged and destroyed when Israel entered the Promised Land. Are you wearing God’s colours? Do you say, ‘I am not ashamed of the gospel”? Then there is a constancy about your life, like the Christian coal merchant Billy Bray spoke about who had not cheated a single customer out of a lump of coal. We are people who say that Jesus Christ is our Lord, and that he is Lord of everything. The apostle Peter was once shown a large sheet full of animals and reptiles and birds and a voice said to him. “Get up Peter. Kill and eat.” And Peter replied, “Surely not, Lord” (Acts 10:14). Now that is an example of Christian defiance, of saying no and saying it to someone we bow to as Jehovah, our Lord.
You have seen the picture in this chapter, as it faithfully says what our Lord Jesus Christ was to speak of as he described these latter days in which we now live. It is an age of wars and earthquakes and famines and pestilence and persecution. It is a groaning world, but it is also one in which the gospel goes out and out into all the nations. It is a day when millions of people live their entire lives consistently for Jesus Christ. God prepares a feast of good things for us, but he does so in the presence of our enemies. We have to remember that we are always just one generation away from the church being extinguished. Our survival depends on the difference of our lives from the values and enthusiasms of the world that surrounds us and watches. That is how we will make most impact on the world, when ‘Holiness to the Lord’ is written on everything we think and say and do. Only in this way can we fulfil our calling to be the salt and light of the world. That will be the great evidence of God’s blessing resting on us when we cry to God each day that he will help us to live for him always, ever, and only.
13th April 2014 GEOFF THOMAS