ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 4 : FROM BABYLON TO JERUSALEM
Zechariah 2 : 6-13
The visions which the prophet Zechariah records at the beginning of the book, dates from approximately 520 BC. A great many Jews had already returned to Jerusalem after an exile of 70 years in Babylon. Their first task was to restore the temple, but after a couple of months the work was stopped because of strong opposition from hostile people in the area.
The Lord then sent Zechariah and Haggai as prophets to encourage God’s people so that they could resume and finish the rebuilding process. The city of Jerusalem as such was also to be rebuilt. Although it was the task of Nehemiah to specifically rebuild the wall around the city.
Zechariah received a few visions (8 in total) from the Lord. We have already looked at the first three, and also at what the precise meaning of apocalyptic literature is and how it works. These visions were apocalyptic visions which were meant to give the nation of the Lord new courage and hope.
The third vision – at the beginning of chapter 2 – dealt with the Divine assurance that the city of Jerusalem would be restored, and the prophet also looked further into the future and saw the eventual New Jerusalem – of which Revelation 21-22 is talking. Fantastic vision!
Just for interest sake in brackets: It helps one to better understand a prophetic scripture like Zechariah when you see how he continuously moves between THREE time-slots, namely: 1 > His own time and immediate circumstances 2 > The time when Messiah/Christ shall come to earth the first time 3 > The time of the Consumation – the second coming of Christ.
The prophet continuously moves between these three times: The present time (his present time) as well as two moments in the future: when Jesus will come to earth the first time and when Jesus will come to earth for the second time. From where we are today in the 21st century, two of those moments are already in the past and the third still in the future. Zechariah therefore looked right past us into the future and saw the final End of time.
But when one reads his writings, you must in your own mind realize that he is moving between 1 > To encourage the Lord’s people of that time to rebuild the city of Jerusalem 2 > To show how the Messiah will come to establish the New Covenant, and how the Lord’s salvation will include people from all the nations and 3 > The fulfilment of everything when God’s dwelling will be with His people for eternity.
The passage we read does not contain a new vision, but a Divine summons addressed to the Lord’s people who are in Jerusalem. Based on the first 3 visions, the Lord is summoning His people. He makes an appeal upon their conscience. And He adds a couple of promises.
But this appeal/summons sounds very singular. He is telling the people who have already left Babylon and are already in Jerusalem: ”Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north! Come, O Zion! Escape you who live in Babylon!“ How can He summons people who have already left Babylon, to come away from there? What does it mean?
There is in fact a second peculiarity in this paragraph: There is a mysterious third person speaking here, apart from Zechariah and the Lord God who is giving the words to Zechariah.
At first one cannot quite put your finger on it, but when you have read the passage a couple of times you hear the following: Zechariah is the person who is speaking and writing. He is relating the Lord’s words. Good and well.
But then suddenly we hear someone speaking in the first person: “I” and ”My”. Someone who cannot be Zechariah, because He declares that: 1 > He was sent by the Lord Almighty 2 > against the nations that have plundered God’s people 3 > He will live among them in Zion (that is Jerusalem). How is it possible? Who is it speaking here? In verse 10 He calls himself “the Lord” (Yahweh). “For I am coming and I will live among you, declares the Lord”. Verse 9: ”You will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me”. This mysterious person is calling himself YAHWEH and in the same breath He says that YAHWEH SHABAOTH has sent him. He is therefore the Lord and yet differentiated from God. The Lord Almighty will send the Lord to live in Jerusalem. Are there then two Yahweh’s? Are there two gods who are called Yahweh?
This Person is of course nobody other than the Lord Jesus Christ – Yahweh the Son. The pre-incarnated Christ! It is Jesus BEFORE his birth at Bethlehem. He who told the Jews: BEFORE Abraham was born, I am (John 8:58). The entire book of Zechariah is full of prophecies of the coming of the Lord Jesus and now He is speaking here, and one has to listen carefully to distinguish Him from God the Father (here called the Lord Almighty).
No, they are not two Yahweh gods. When we study the testimony of the NT, we see that the ONE God consists of three Persons. They are distinguishable from each other yet are not three gods, but One God.
Is it not soul-stirring how the Holy Spirit led Zechariah in the rendering of these words? Out of himself as Jew and OT believer he could NEVER have come forth with something like this. This is God’s Word, God’s revelation, and THROUGH the mouth of Zechariah, the Father (Jahweh Shabaoth) and the Son (Jahweh) come with words for Israel and promises for the distant future. And should we allow the light of the NT to fall over this, we can so clearly see what is promised here.
It is through the intercession of the Lord Jesus Christ that God the Father – will not only bless and empower and help the Jews to restore the temple in 520 BC in Jerusalem – and deal with the surrounding nations who persecuted the Jews – no, not only that. He is looking FURTHER into the future. The prophet sees how God the Father in and through the Lord Jesus Christ will dwell IN His church. First He will physically live in Jerusalem. That is exactly what happened during Jesus’s earthly ministry. But He will also live INSIDE His people (verse 10). And we know that it is being fulfilled even today with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the life of every person who is converted to God.
In these few verses, a couple of precious truths are revealed:
1 > God’s people are precious to Him in both the OT and NT dispensations, and He does not like it when they are treated unjust. His redeemed children are the apple of His eye (verse 8). The eye is the most precious and sensitive organ. That is how He regards His children. Apple of His eye! Whoever touches them, is touching the apple of His eye – that is what it is literally saying here. That shows how concerned He is about people who are His. A person who is living on earth and who through repentance and faith in Christ has become a child of God, is a very precious person. You are a favourite. You are not like other people – not from the living God’s point of view.
2 > It does happen that the apple of God’s eye suffers because of unsaved people. That has been the case throughout the centuries. It sometimes seems as if God does not exist or that He allows all kinds of evil against His people. Blood of martyrs flows almost daily. God’s people at the time of the OT, and Christ-believers in the NT time are struggling and suffering and are harmed by godless people. Does God not care? He does. He surely does. This paragraph from Zechariah 2 is one of the places in the Bible that says it clearest. And there is not ONE SINGLE PERSON that has wronged a child of God in any way, that will not have to account for it. Not ONE! The great Day of reckoning is coming! It is going to be so easy, the living God will smite them by just raising His hand (verse 9). It will not take much effort. Then matters will be put right. There is right and justice that will take place. Matters will be set straight. The Lord God will not only get even with the evil nations that wronged His nation Israel, but also every person who wronged, persecuted, grieved, murdered, tortured, cursed, abused, robbed, slandered, maligned a NT Christ-believer. The Lord will without a doubt claim recompense. That does not apply only to the persecution of Christians by authorities such as the North Koreans or Chinese government, but also individuals who hurt and caused harm to God’s children at the office or at school. BE CAREFUL! The Lord will just raise His hand (v 9).
Oh, if I should be guilty of this, I would humble myself in sackcloth and ash in front of the living God in repentance before the long hand of the clock points to the next minute! Perhaps the Lord will decide to have mercy!
But also people who truly belong to the people of God must hear this urgent summons and take heed of it.
What do you think, what does it mean when the Spirit of the Lord, through the prophet, summons the people who have ALREADY left Babylon, to flee from Babylon? What does it mean?
He is of course speaking about the SPIRITUAL Babylon. They have already left the physical Babylon, but spiritually Babylon is still clinging to their hearts. Throughout the Bible, Babylon is a symbol of God’s enemies. Throughout. Right up to Revelation. Also here in verses 6-7 it talks about Babylon as a spiritual power – whom the NT calls the “world”. Keep in mind that the previous verses spoke about the New Jerusalem that God was going to establish. Now the Holy Spirit is saying through Zechariah‘s pen: “To be a resident of THAT Jerusalem, you must flee from Babylon. Escape. Get away from there. Make haste. Be done with Babylon, leave. Now!!”
It almost sounds like a call for a new exodus. The nation Israel’s entire history has always been signified by the exodus out of Egypt led by Moses – when the Lord delivered them from Egypt with the strength of His hand.
Now there is once again such a call for an exodus. Not out of Egypt. Not out of the oppression of a political power like the Pharaoh. Not out of the physical Babylon. But the spiritual turning to God away from the world and sin. The true children of the Lord did not belong to Babylon. They were children of Zion. So, why still remain in Babylon? Meaning a state of rebellion against the reign of God.
The NT tells us that the Jerusalem that the OT believers were longing for was NOT just an earthly city. Abraham (for example) looked towards the city with foundations of whom God himself was the architect and builder (Heb 11:10). The OT believers were longing for a better homeland – a heavenly one. It is God who prepared that city for them (Heb 11:16).
In this light one can understand Zechariah’s call as a summons of spiritual repentance back to God. Something one hears again right at the end of the Bible in Rev 22:17: “The Spirit and the bride say, “COME!” And let him who hears say, “COME!” Whoever is thirsty, let him COME; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life”.
If you are not yet saved and are still sitting in Babylon, then hear the call from the Spirit: FLEE! BEFORE IT IS TOO LATE! And it becomes too late very quickly, because the Bible says our earthly life is like a vapour to appear and to disappear just as quickly. Like a flower that today blooms, but tomorrow is withered. It is very quick, then you are laying in a fridge with a tag tied to your toe. And EVERYTHING you have been clinging to – the whole Babylon with all its attractions – is gone! It is not worth it, is it?
But also the person who is already saved in Christ must stop returning to Babylon. Because you are a citizen of the New Jerusalem. Why still enjoy the things of another city? The city of the living God is your home (Heb 12:22).
It is so wonderful to see the great leap the prophet makes in verses 11-13. He is looking right across all the centuries and he sees that which we are experiencing today in the New Covenant namely that people from many nations will be joined with the Lord and form God’s nation along with saved Jews. The new Zion.
Yes, when the Lord Jesus came to earth, He certainly did concern Himself with the Jews and lived in Jerusalem.
But Zechariah is looking further than that. He sees a new Judah and a new Jerusalem. The new nation of God consisting of the saved from both the Jews AND from the nations. THAT is the new Judah and the new Jerusalem.
We read this in Acts 15:14-16. At the first Synod in Jerusalem, James spoke up and said, “That God is now taking people from the nations to Himself, is a fulfilment of what the prophets have said, namely that God will rebuild and restore David’s fallen tent (the nation Israel)”.
OT prophesy that God will restore the Jewish nation and city of Jerusalem through Messiah, is fulfilled NOT in the literal physical Jews and literal city Jerusalem, but in the new nation of God consisting of Christ-believers from all the nations as well as believing Jews who are spread all over the globe!
And to think that Zechariah saw it in 520 BC. And it is happening exactly just like that – even up to today.
With who are we dealing here? Who is this mighty Person behind these Scriptures, prophesies and promises? Who is so majestic and Who is the One, sovereign and mighty and upon the throne? Who is able to say ahead of time what is going to take place, and TO FULFILL IT EXACTLY as it has been foretold centuries before?
If we know who He is, we had better be still.
When He appears out of His holy dwelling and starts to DO everything He promised here, then we must be still in His presence! It is like a great King who rises from His throne. When that happens, then his people know that they must be quiet. He is not our equal. He is not a comfortable old gentleman somewhere up above the clouds. If we understand who and what He is, we should be still and shudder.
Translated by Marthie Wilson