The Glorious Return of the King
In the last 150 years, there have been major wars fought and won across the globe. Major and minor conflicts that pulled in some of the world, a large portion of the world, or maybe just a couple countries. I looked it up, ad here are some of the wars that have been fought since 1900:
The Boer War ended 1902
The 1WW from 1914-1918
The Russian Civil War from 1917-1922
Irish war for independence from 1919-1921
Spanish Civil war from 1936-1939
The Arab revolt in Palestine from 1936-1939
The Second World war from 1939-1945
The partition of India in 1947
The Korean War from 1950-1953
The Kenya Emergency from 1952-1960
The Suez Crisis in 1956 (Imperial War Museums, n.d., para 4).
In case anyone was counting, I just named 11 conflicts that have happened within the span of 60 years, from 1900 to 1960. Of those, most were major or at least somewhat major conflicts, and some were the biggest wars the world had ever seen. Even within the last 20 years we’ve seen major conflict. The Afghan started after the twin towers fell in 2001. I don’t know how many times Russia has tried to invade Ukraine, but I know this current conflict is only the worst of their attempts. The Global Coalition to fight ISIS was formed in 2014 and continues.
It might be hard for us to wrap our minds around this much conflict in our world. We live in a very insulated bubble here in Canada. Though we have conflict, we have not seen all out war in the last few decades in the same ways the Ukraine, Russia, the Middle East and Africa have. It’s a somewhat foreign thing for us to imagine being at the epicenter of conflict.
This was not the case for Israel. In ancient times, there was always somebody looking to take their land. Before the kings it was usually the Philistines, or Moab, or the Amorites. King Saul died in battle, and King David was forever fighting somebody for something. In fact it was because of God working through David that Israel captured their capital city - Jerusalem. Israel and Judah split in two under the ruler of Rehoboam. As the centuries past, the Babylonians, the Persians and Meades, Greece, and Rome were constantly capturing and fighting and pillaging. War was, for the Israelite, a common thing, at least for many decades of the nation’s history.
Zechariah prophesied to a people who had returned to their homeland after decades of exile. They were people who’s fathers or even themselves had seen the great conflict that lead to the destruction of Jerusalem and Judah. Even if they could not wield a bow or a sword, they had seen someone who could. So war and the tools people used for it were foreign things to God’s people in the Old Testament.
Today though, we’re going to check out a passage of Scripture that details a time when the God’s coming King will do away with conventional weapons of war, and instead establish His Kingdom through the Holy Spirit. Today we’re looking at Zechariah 9:9-10. I’ll read it now, you are welcome to follow along with me.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
As we talked about already, God will do away with the instruments of war when the new reign of the King comes. We read here in this passage about the coming King, who will come to Israel riding on a symbol of peace - a donkey. Zechariah speaks of this Messiah’s reign as one that shall cover the earth, and instead of weapons, He will reign by the Spirit of God.
My main point for today is this: Amid the world’s current conflicts, Christians can joyfully anticipate the coming reign of Christ.
Today we’re going to look at two points that Zechariah gives us to help shape our joyful expectancy of the coming King’s return. Our first point is:
Our Coming King is Triumphant and Gentle
Our Coming King is Triumphant and Gentle
Read verse 9 together with me:
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
At the start of this passage Zechariah tells daughter Jerusalem that her coming King will be righteous, bring salvation, be humble, and ride in on a donkey.
Now, I don’t know if you ever do this, but often when I’m doing my Bible reading for my personal devotions, if I don’t stop to ponder over a passage, I would just glance over most of this, and perhaps only link all these descriptors with one or two things. That’s I think is why we must take the time to actually stop and think about what the prophet is presenting to us, because all of what he is saying is very important.
Perhaps the most obvious connection here is the prophecy that the coming King will ride in on a donkey. We can quickly link that to the story of Jesus coming into Jerusalem the week before His death. If you turn with me to Luke 19, let’s take a look at verses 28-36 together:
And when he had said these things, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. When he drew near to Bethphage and Bethany, at the mount that is called Olivet, he sent two of the disciples, saying, “Go into the village in front of you, where on entering you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever yet sat. Untie it and bring it here. If anyone asks you, ‘Why are you untying it?’ you shall say this: ‘The Lord has need of it.’ ” So those who were sent went away and found it just as he had told them. And as they were untying the colt, its owners said to them, “Why are you untying the colt?” And they said, “The Lord has need of it.” And they brought it to Jesus, and throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. And as he rode along, they spread their cloaks on the road.
It was customary in Ancient Near Eastern times to have a processional at the ascension of a new ruler. If a ruler rode in on a donkey, he showed that he was not on a military campaign, and that he was interested in getting to know his people (Harrington, 2020, pp. 654-655). Jesus doing this showed not only that he was not interested in overthrowing the current powers that be, but that He also cared about His people. The fact that Zechariah says this King (who we have seen is Jesus) comes in humility is an interesting note. The Hebrew word translated humble here literally means “afflicted” (p. 654). Turn with me again if you will to Isaiah 53:4
Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted.
So we see that the coming King, riding in on a symbol of peace and benevolence will be afflicted. My main commentary for this sermon noted that the King would be triumphant and gentle (hence His riding in on a donkey). Yet this King also is afflicted. How can that be? Remember that Jesus was afflicted for us, even as we just read in Isaiah. Isaiah says that the suffering servant - this coming King - is afflicted because of us! Why? Because He has borne our sorrows and griefs, and was stricken on our behalf. So we see that the coming King will be afflicted in someone else’s place. This can only be understood in the context of Jesus, who was afflicted for us, and took our punishment.
Look at the rest of the passage: Zechariah says the King will be righteous and “having salvation.” To be righteous is to be “free from guilt or sin” (Merriam-Webster, “Righteous”). What does this “having salvation” mean?
The Hebrew word for this is literally translated “saved,” and should be understood as an active Verb. In that case, it means “bringing deliverance” (p. 654).
So now we have an accurate picture: The coming King will be free of sin and guilt, bring deliverance, be triumphant and yet gentle, care about his people, and be afflicted. What a picture this is!
When Jesus rode in on that donkey one week before He died, I bet the people were thinking “we’re saved! This guy is finally gonna rid us of these Romans and give us back our land! It’s about time! Woot woot!”
We can joyfully anticipate the return of the King because He is triumphant and gentle. He is the saviour who brings deliverance. He is Jesus Christ. However, Zechariah gives us one more point to help us joyfully anticipate the coming King.what He was doing by riding into Jerusalem like He did (p. 655). Yet they didn’t see the whole picture. Have you ever wondered why one week later everyone is no longer on Jesus’ side as he stands on trial? I think it’s at least in part because they didn’t get what Jesus was about. They thought Jesus was going to make war on the Romans, but Jesus was about to declare war on sin and death instead (VanZandbeek, 2022, para 11).
This is our first point: The coming King is triumphant and gentle. He is the saviour who brings deliverance. He is Jesus Christ. However, Zechariah gives us one more point to help us joyfully anticipate the coming King.
Our Coming King will Restore Peace by the Spirit
Our Coming King will Restore Peace by the Spirit
Verse 10 is the second half of our passage for today. While verse 9 is fairly easy to exposit, verse 10 is trickier. Read it with me again.
I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim and the war horse from Jerusalem; and the battle bow shall be cut off, and he shall speak peace to the nations; his rule shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth.
Let’s first look at who Zechariah is talking about. Jerusalem was the capital of the southern Kingdom, after the nation of Israel split into Israel and Judah during the reign of King Rehoboam, Solomon’s son. Thus we know that God is talking through Zechariah to Judah. However, God is also talking Israel here. By the eighth century BCE, the Northern kingdom of Israel was little more than the size of the tribe of Ephraim. Israel is addressed here as Ephraim because that is effectively all it really was in that timeframe (Harrington, 2020, p. 656).
The coming King will cut off the war horse, the chariot, and the battle bow. These are three of the biggest weapons of war in the OT, but He says He will not use them. In the same breath he then promises peace not just in Israel and Judah, but throughout the entire earth, from sea to sea; to the ends of the earth! How does this work? This is another picture of the coming King, and a major reason for us to joyfully anticipate His return. He will rule and reign by divine authority, not human (p. 655).
In chapter 4 of Zechariah, we read how God says to Zerubbabel:
“‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.’” (Zechariah 4:6, ESV). Chapter 9:10 harkens back to this theme (Bullock, 2007, p. 386). The coming King will rule in the power of the Holy Spirit of God. He does not need conventional weapons, nor can He be undone by human wars and conflict. Instead, the coming King will bring peace over the whole earth and rule through the Spirit of God.
We should note: perhaps we can get a picture here of a Christ who is meek and mild and soft. While it is true that our Saviour is gentle, He will also bring peace with a “rod of Iron” as other Old Testament prophets note (Harrington, 2020, p. 655). Zechariah says later on in chapter 14 verse 17 that those who do not go up to the temple of God to priase Him will not have rain. Likewise Isaiah says chapter 11 verse 4:
but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; and he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked.
These are just a couple of passages that help us see that Christ will be a just King, and strong King. He will rule the nations with a rod of iron, and will not be tolerant of wickedness or unfaithfulness to God.
Think about our illustration from the beginning of this sermon. We counted 11 wars that happened within the space of 60 years. That doesn’t include some other smaller conflicts. Our world is desperately riddled with conflict and problems, unjust societies and violence. Peace is hard to find. Yet we find out peace by looking with anticipation to the day when Christ will return to rule in the power of God through the Spirit. When this happens, there will be no more wars, conflicts, violence, or injustice. Harmony will reign.
This is our second point, that we can joyfully anticipate Christ’s return because He will bring peace through the Spirit of God. The Creator of the whole earth will again establish His Kingdom here, and we will live in peace under the just reign of Christ.
As we come to the end of our time together today, let’s reflect on the coming King: In our first point we saw that He will be triumphant, and gentle. He will bring deliverance, be righteous, and care about His people.
In the second point, we caught a glimpse into how this King would restore peace and rule: Through the Spirit of God. He will reign in justice, and bring peace over all the earth through His rod of iron.
As I hope we have seen today, we have much to joyfully anticipate in the return of Christ Jesus, who is our coming King. Some of this has already been realized, as we have met the Saviour once already - the triumphant, yet afflicted, Saviour. Yet we still have much to anticipate as we look to the day when Christ brings the Kingdom of God in its fullness.
As we look at our world around us, we clearly live in a world bent on trying to tear itself apart. It seems we will find almost any reason we can to start a conflict. In fact, we don’t have to look at world wars for that. Some days, I want to start an argument with my wife just because I can! I feel argumentative. Our fallen nature means that on our own not only can we not establish an incorruptible government, but we also have no peace. We need Christ, to set us free from sin and death, to send the Holy Spirit to change us into His image, and to bring God’s Kingdom - free of evil and sin - in its fullness, and restore completely what we originally broke. We can joyfully anticipate Christ’s return because He will fulfill everything we just talked about. So as we live, work, learn and play in a world riddled with corruption and lacking peace, we can anticipate with joy the return of Christ, the perfect rule He will bring, and the peace that will transcend forevermore under His dominion.
This week, I challenge you to allow these conflicts and problems to be segues into sharing with others the hope found in Christ. Share with them how you have hope amid calamity. Help them refocus their vision on the One that truly matters. We, as the church, as Christ’s hands and feet to a dying world. Do not allow opportunities like these to pass by. People are in desperate need of this good news, and there is no better time to offer hope in Christ than when people see so much despare all around them. You are called and equipped through the Holy Spirit to speak hope into people’s lives. This week, point to the coming King through your words and actions, so that others might joyfully anticipate Christ’s return, and the Kingdom of God in its fullness that He will bring.