Zechariah 12 – 22 Apr 2012
In Zech 11, if you recall, we studied about how the Jewish age would come to an end.
Some of you have conveyed to me that the sermon was difficult to understand.
Others have indicated that you appreciate the deep spiritual content.
Well, I thank you for the valuable feedback.
I will try to explain difficult spiritual truths as simply as possible.
But I also want to encourage all of you not to shy away from challenging scriptural truths.
Heb 5:12 reminds us that it is necessary to have a spiritual diet that is beyond just spiritual milk alone.
We should not remain spiritual babies forever.
Do talk to the Church leaders whenever something is not clear.
That way, we will be like the Bereans in Acts 17:11.
They searched the scriptures whenever they were not sure of a scriptural truth.
This is a behaviour that we ought to emulate.
Now, from Zechariah 9 to the end of the book, we are dealing with prophetic visions.
A lot of imageries are being used in these chapters.
Do remember that whenever the prophets referred to Israel, they were generally talking about Christians.
Whenever they referred to Jerusalem, they were generally talking about the Christian Church.
And by “Church”, we are not referring to EBENEZER Church per se.
We are referring to the universal Church of Jesus Christ, made up of Christians everywhere in every day and age.
Please keep your bibles opened to Zechariah 12 and refer to the verses as I explain their meaning.
Here in chapter 12, Zechariah tells us 2 things concerning the Christian Church.
1) In verses 1-9: Zechariah tells us that Jesus will defend & protect the Christian Church.
2) In verses 10-14, Zechariah tells us how to recognise the people that belong to the Christian Church
Let us turn to 1st thing that Zechariah tells us – that Jesus will protect His Church, verses 1-9.
Those who are using the NKJV, I want to tell you that verse 1 is more appropriately translated as:
“The burden of the word of the LORD concerning Israel” and not “against” Israel.
This “word of the LORD”, in this case, is a “burden” because it is an important truth that must be conveyed.
In Zech 11, there was a prophesy pertaining to the end of the Jewish age.
The levitical system of temple worship would be abolished.
And this would usher in the era of the Christian Church.
But what is it going to be like henceforth?
God will not let us rely on any hearsay or guess work.
God Himself will tell us what things will be like.
Verse 1 – “The LORD, who stretches out the heavens, lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him” tells us that He will protect His Church.
And in verses 1-9, the Christian Church is pictured like a city under attack.
Its enemies will attempt to crush it using all ways and means.
But verse 5 tells us “The inhabitants of Jerusalem will have their strength through the Lord of hosts”.
Because it is the LORD who will defend Jerusalem from all these attacks.
But how will God defend Jerusalem?
A total of 4 different imageries are presented here in verses 1-9 to show us how God will defend the Church:
1. First, we are told that God will defend His Church by making it like a “cup of strong liquor” – verse 2.
I have seen many people who like to challenge each other as to who can drink more.
They will mix whisky with cognac and beer so that it becomes a potent drink.
And they will cheer the one who can drink it and stay standing.
I’ve seen it in the army; I’ve seen it in the commercial world.
And it seems that this is increasingly common amongst young adults today.
I want to warn the young people in our midst to stay clear of such activities.
Proverbs 23 warns us against taking such intoxicating drinks.
God will make the Church like a cup of very, very potent liquor to those who try to destroy the Church.
When a person takes a sip of this strong liquor, they will immediately collapse from its potent content.
And this is the first imagery of how the LORD will strengthen His Church when enemies try to attack it.
2. Secondly, God will strengthen His church by making it like “a very heavy stone” – verse 3.
In my younger days as a combat engineer, we don’t use cranes when we construct bridges.
About 8 or 10 of us would manually carry different parts of the bridge and assemble them together.
Now, each bridge part can weigh 1 ton or even more.
And sometimes we underestimate the weight of some of these bridge parts.
When we try to lift it, our backs will be hurt and we will drop the bridge part immediately.
I’m glad they don’t construct bridges like this manner anymore.
Because a lot of servicemen have been injured or lost their fingers doing this.
And verse 3 tells us that God will defend His Church by making it like “a very heavy stone”.
So anyone trying to lift this stone will get injured or break his back trying to do it.
Even when nations attempt to lift this stone, they will be left divided and helpless – verse 3.
3. Thirdly, God will defend His Church by “striking every horse with astonishment and blindness… “- v 4.
In 2 Kings 6, the prophet Elisha was pursued by the Syrian army.
Elisha prayed and God struck the Syrian army with blindness in answer to Elisha’s prayer.
Elisha then led them to the king of Israel to be taken prisoners.
The king of Israel wanted to kill the Syrians but Elisha reminded him that he must not kill his prisoners.
And the Syrians returned home and no longer harassed Israel.
Israel had victory without having to use a sword.
Verse 4 gives us the idea that God will defend His Church in the same manner.
We don’t fight our enemies using physical weapons or strategy.
Our weapons are simply prayer and the presence of God.
And God will defend His Church.
4. Fourthly, God will defend His Church by making it like “a fiery torch in the sheaves” – verse 6
In those days, they don’t have electric torches.
They use fire as torches.
They use a long stick with combustible material at one end.
Place this burning end into a pile of hay and the hay will catch fire.
Meanwhile, the fire continues on this torch and will not be extinguished.
God will defend His Church such that the enemies will be destroyed and burnt.
Yet, the Church remains intact with its light still shining bright – verse 6.
So those were the 4 imageries Zechariah provided to show how God would defend His Church.
Do you believe what Zechariah said?
Well, two thousand years have passed since our Lord Jesus ascended into heaven.
His Church has been preserved and even strengthened although it faced all kinds of different threats.
Do you remember there was a country called the Soviet Union?
It tried to stop Christianity from propagating.
But now, there is no more Soviet union.
But the Church survived all that persecution and continues in the commonwealth of independent states.
Albania in the 1960s pronounced itself as a godless state.
Romania tried to crush the Christian Church.
What has become of these 2 countries?
Their leaders and government are no more.
Yet the Church continues in these 2 states.
Nearer to where we live: China tried to clamp down on Christianity in its communistic regime.
But now there are more than 70M Christians all over China.
That’s why verse 6 says “The inhabitants of Jerusalem will find their strength in the LORD of hosts, their God” .
And verse 9 – “I will destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem…”
And verse 8 – “The one who is feeble among them in that day shall be like David….”
The Church may seem like a weakling against the forces of the world.
But it shall be like David who defeated Goliath because it is the LORD who is its defender.
So, be encouraged even as we face many different challenges today because the LORD is our defender.
My friends, the Church today is under attack by the devil just like any other time in history.
But the trials and temptations we face are a little different than those of the first century Christians.
The first century Christians faced persecutions with threats against their lives.
Heb 12:4 tells us that we “have not yet resisted to bloodshed, striving against sin.”
Today, we face a war against the corruption of our minds by the values of the world.
Jesus reminds us in John 15:19 that while we “live in the world”, we are not “of the world”.
And as we live in the world, we are to be “wise as serpents” but “harmless as doves” – Matt 10:16.
We will compete with the world for the same jobs to make a living.
But we will not compete in the same way as the world competes.
In all my career, I was surrounded by non-Christian colleagues do not have to read the bible everyday.
So they spend their time reading materials that make them more knowledgeable for their careers.
They do not have to prepare sermons, bible studies or go for Church activities.
So they have more time for their families.
So they have more time to do networking and grow their careers.
They don’t have to give tithes or offerings.
So they have more money to buy what they want.
It all seems that Christians are so disadvantaged isn’t it?
This is exactly what the devil wants you to think and feel.
The devil will tell you that you are missing out big time in what the world is enjoying.
But remember what Jesus said in Luk 18:29 .
“Assuredly I say to you, there is no one who has left house or parents or brothers or wife or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, who shall not receive many times more in this present time and in the age to come eternal life.”
Christians may appear to be disadvantaged, but there is an invisible hand that will work things out for their good.
If you are a a professing Christian, never complain about your circumstances.
Your situation is there because God is sovereign.
The revealed will of God tells you to pray that God will work things out for His glory.
Pray that God will help you to be very disciplined in how you spend your time and live your life.
Pray that God will help you be wise in how you handle your circumstances.
And as you do that, the apparent disadvantage you have as a Christian fades away.
Your struggles are then turned to joy.
John Piper once said this: “Christianity is not a religion of restrictions. It is a faith of joy in God.”
What the non-Christians will never understand is the peace and joy of the presence of God that Christians get.
So how do we recognise the people who belong to the Church of God?
This is our second heading for today & what Zechariah tells us in verses 10-14.
There are 3 distinct characteristics brought about by the Holy Spirit in Christians being listed here:
1) First, there is a spirit of grace (you see this in verse 10)
The Apostle Paul put it like this in 1 Cor 15:10: “I am what I am by the grace of God” .
In other words, he is saying “whatever I have managed to achieve is not my doing”.
It is the grace of God upon me.
I am reconciled to God because He sent Jesus to die for my sins.
I am alive now because God is gracious to me to give me life.
If I do well in life, it is because God enabled it.
I am spared from sin because it was God spared me and sustained me.
Gal 6:14 – “God forbid that I should glory, except in the Cross of my Lord Jesus Christ…”
This is the Spirit of Grace that the Holy Spirit will put into Christians.
And with this, they go about their Christian life humbly and graciously.
Even if they are of high intellectual or social standing, there is no air of superiority around them.
2) Secondly, there is a spirit of supplication
Rom 8:15 tell us that – “…you received the spirit of adoption by whom we cry out Abba father”.
Christians begin their born again status by prayer.
The Holy Spirit enables them to cry out to God for the forgiveness of their sins.
The Holy Spirit sustains their interaction with their heavenly Father through prayer.
Christians are praying people.
To put it more scientifically, prayer is a leading indicator of spiritual life in you.
If you are not a praying person, there is every reason to doubt your spiritual state.
3) Thirdly, there is a spirit of mourning
Pastor Stuart Olyott told this story about a man who had been attending his Church in the UK.
This man said that he had been thinking about the crucifixion of Jesus.
And he was increasingly having a burden in his heart that he was the cause of Jesus needing to die.
And this burden was bringing great grief to his heart.
It was the kind of grief that led him to turn from his sins and live his life desiring to please God.
And Pastor Olyott knew that the Spirit of God was working in his heart.
My friends, are you a professing believer today?
If you are, do you find the above 3 characteristics vibrant in your life?
If any of these characteristics are not vibrant in your life, examine your hearts and see where you have faltered.
Return to God and enjoy the sweet fellowship of His Spirit that you miss.
I know that there are many seated in this room who have heard the gospel many times but have not professed faith.
I want you to ponder over these 3 characteristics of Christians and examine your hearts.
Talk to the Church leaders so that we can help you determine what God is doing in your life right now.
Let us summarise what we have covered today.
Zechariah tells us that Jesus will defend & protect the Christian Church.
God has been faithful and will continue to be faithful.
Zechariah tells us how to recognise the people who are part of the Christian Church.
Are you in the Christian Church or are you out of it?
Let us examine ourselves.