THE MESSAGE OF ZECHARIAH
CHRIST OUR KING COMES
THERE is no doubt as to whom these next two verses refer, and there is no commentator who would dispute this. These verses refer to our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We have this assurance confirmed by Matthew quoting from these verses in chapter 21:4,5, and quoting them as the being fulfilled when Jesus entered Jerusalem on a donkey on the Sunday before he was crucified. This prophecy was always accepted by the Jews as referring to their Messiah, and this understanding was only dropped after Christians used this prophecy to show that Jesus was the Messiah King they were looking for. The prophecy is beautifully descriptive of Christ the Messiah and also descriptive of his work for us. Let us consider this revelation.
CHRIST BRINGS JOY.
The coming of Christ is held up to us in this prophecy as cause for great rejoicing. The people who have cause for this joy are described as the Daughter of Zion and the Daughter of Jerusalem. The Jews saw this as referring to them as a nation, but this is not the true understanding of this description of those who find great joy in Christ. The Daughter of Zion is one who is a true citizen of Zion, and the Jerusalem mentioned is not really the earthly city of Jerusalem, but the heavenly Jerusalem, which is the city of the redeemed who have been redeemed by Christ the King. Those who rejoice over Christ are those who have trusted Christ and submitted to him totally as their King and God.
People find joy in all sorts of things, but there is no greater joy than the joy the children of God, the daughters of Zion as they are called here, find and experience in Christ our Saviour. In these two verses the joy was in contemplating his coming. Our joy in these verses is the knowledge and experience of his coming, and the blessing that his coming brings to our lives. The prophecy looks directly at the events of Palm Sunday, but even if this event never took place, the verses would be fulfilled in Christ, because his coming takes in the time between his birth and his ascension, and included not only his life, but his death, resurrection and return to heaven. The coming of Christ to this earth to live, die and rise again for us brings blessing so great that the joy of knowing these blessings, and the Saviour who has brought them, is beyond anything else in all the world and all history.
JOY IN CHRIST.
The joy in the coming of our Saviour Jesus Christ is described in these two verses. Let us look at what these verses tell us of Jesus, and of the joy he brings us.
a. Personal coming.
The first thing that brings joy is this personal coming. Although Jesus came into the world to save the world, the joy he brings through his work for us is very personal to everyone who receives this joy. He comes to each believer personally and calls them into his love, and gives them faith to believe on him and know him. Just as Jesus, at the beginning of his ministry, called each disciple to follow him, so he calls every person who believes. We would not believe if he did not give this personal call. This is something different to the general call to repentance and faith which goes out in preaching. There is such a general call, but if this call is to be effective, it must be accompanied by this personal call by Jesus, which is accompanied with irresistible grace so that we respond in faith, being enabled to see Jesus and love him and receive him as the one who saves our souls. The call is the giving of life so that we have new sight and vision which causes us to understand the gospel and be drawn to it as the great blessing and salvation which we need. Without this personal coming of Jesus to a soul personally, there is no knowing this joy.
b. He comes - righteous.
The king promised, even Jesus Christ, comes as a righteous king. This terms righteous refers to him as a king and is descriptive of his rule. His rule will be a righteous and just rule. The guilty will be judged and punished. The righteous will be affirmed and blessed. As a righteous king he will defend his people in righteousness, and sin, evil and corruption will have no place in his kingdom, and will be put down. Although Christ is king now and reigns from the throne of God, his righteous rule in its fullness will only come when he returns in justice at the end of the world. His complete justice will be executed then with sin and Satan being cast out, the unrighteous punished and cast out, and the righteous welcomed into his everlasting kingdom. Though his complete righteous rule will only be realised in its completeness at Christ's second coming, he is still reigning in righteousness, and recording all wrong and evil for the judgement on that great day of his return in glory. As a righteous king, he is also remembering his people, and their faith and righteousness will be vindicated on that day.
That our king comes in righteousness is a great comfort in the injustice and evil we see all around us in our world. Evil can and does escape justice today, but the king notices all, and that injustice and sin will not go unpunished for the coming king is also an omnipotent king before whom all will have to bow and submit to his throne.
c. He comes - having salvation.
If the coming king was only to come as righteous, then we would have much to fear. We would be fearful because it is a fact that none of us, whatever our standard of righteousness, come up to the standard that Christ the King requires and calls righteous. As such and before this king we would have to suffer condemnation because he judges and rules with perfect righteousness, and no sin can go unpunished. So it is with great joy we read of our coming king that he comes 'having salvation'.
The word in the Hebrew which is translated in our versions as 'having salvation' actual has the meaning of 'saved'. In this meaning our king comes as 'saved'. This has been felt as inappropriate in the context. A king coming in righteousness and reigning in power does not need to be saved, so the secondary meaning has been prefered of 'having salvation', which gives the meaning of the king not only reigning in righteousness, but who also comes to dispense salvation.
I believe both the meanings of the word in the Hebrew, 'saved' and 'having salvation', are meant, and they blend beautifully together. Our king comes 'saved' by God in the great work he came to do, which was to be a Saviour of his people, and give his life as a ransom for their sin. So the coming king made himself responsible for the sins of his people, and accepted the just punishment and judgement for those sins, which he as king pronounced justly against them. He then passed sentence upon himself and pronounced on himself the full punishment for the sin of his people, and so suffered the eternal death such sin deserves. That our king comes 'saved' speaks of the fact that he was saved out of that punishment and judgement, because God pronounced that he had fully met in his body the penalty for the sin of his people, and so was raised from the punishment, that is raised from death, and so was victorious over sin and death for his people. So he comes saved - that is the victor for his people.
So our righteous king as saved also comes having salvation to bestow freely on his people who trust him and receive him as their king. He comes with a complete and perfect salvation to bestow on us, for he has done all that is necessary for our complete forgiveness and acceptance as righteous before his judgement seat. So when we stand before his throne of justice, because he has met the payment for our sins, he pronounces us righteous and accepted, and he welcomes us into his kingdom of peace. There could not be anything more wonderful than our king coming in this way. It truly is productive of great joy.
d. He come - gentle.
This aspect of our coming king, who came at Bethlehem, and died on the cross, and rose again, is particularly full of blessing for his people. The word in our version translated 'gentle' can also be translated as 'meek' and has the meaning of accepting humiliation. This is what Jesus our king accepted. He accepted humiliation for our sake. He accepted the humilation of taking our nature, laying aside his glory as God, and coming into this evil world. He accepted the humiliation of being accounted sin for us, though he knew no sin. He accepted the humiliation of sinful human beings who spat on him and treated him as evil and as scum, and he did it out of love to save us who humiliated him and were the cause of his humiliation. He accepted the humiliation of the death of the cross where God his Father humiliated him by laying on him all our iniquity, and causing him to suffer all that that sin deserved. He suffered the humiliation of God his Father forsaking him in hell.
That Jesus our king came in humiliation is that which moves our hearts with adoration and love. That he would do this to saves us who are so unworthy and vile is a wonder above all wonders, but because he did we rejoice in the wonder of his love and mercy for us, for because he accepted humiliation we are redeemed by it.
This aspect of our king is put so well by the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:6-11 - "Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death, even death on a cross."
e. He comes - riding on a donkey.
This part of the prophecy was fulfilled to the letter when our king rode into Jerusalem on a donkey, but this is not the only fulfillment of these words. The riding of donkey speaks of poverty and of peace. Although donkeys were used for kings before the time of Solomon, they were never used so afterwards. The donkey was an indication of poverty. A donkey not being an animal ridden in battle, it also spoke of peace.
Jesus came in poverty, and accepted poverty for his people. If he had been born in a palace, his coming would be wonderful, but we as ordinary people and the poor of the earth would feel he was far above us and that he did not come for us but for the rich and important. That Jesus came in poverty shows he came for all, even the poor and humble of the earth, and his salvation is also for us.
That he came on a donkey shows he came in peace and to bring peace. he won peace for us by his cross, and by faith we receive his peace and will reign in glory with him in peace. He truly is the prince of peace.
THE DESC RIPTION OF HIS KINGDOM.
In verse 10 we have a description of the kingdom of our coming king who came at Bethlehem. In his life on earth he seemed to have no kingdom, though he told the Jews and Pilate that his kingdom was not of this world. In this verse we have his kingdom described. There will be no war and fighting in his kingdom , for all the machines of war will become obsolete. This is the meaning of the first three clauses. Horses and chariots of war will be non existent, so will bows to kill, in his kingdom. Under his reign there will be universal peace which will extend over the whole of the earth. Some interpret this to mean that there will be a reign of peace by Christ on this earth at some point in the future, which will cover the whole earth. All will be compelled to obey him as king even if they do not accept him as king. I can't see this as a reality, firstly because the Bible in other places does not lead us to expect such an earthly reign, and secondly, if there are still elements of people, though subdued, who hate Jesus the king, there can't be total peace, for they would always be seeking ways, though always defeated, of opposing Christ's reign. Matthew 24 does not lead us to expect such an earthly reign, nor does the book of revelation.
The reign of peace that is described here is the final reign of Christ after the judgement and the end of this world, and is descriptive of the reign in the new heaven and earth, wherein will dwell righteousness. Because our king judes righteously, and has won salvation for his people, and accepted humiliation and poverty for his people so that they may be saved, those who by faith are received as subjects of this king of peace, can look forward to being part of this reign of peace.
There is every reason to call the people of faith to rejoice and to rejoice greatly when we see the greatness of the king, who is our king by faith, who was prophesied as coming and has come in just the way described. We are safe under his kingly ruled, We are redeemed and made his subjects. This kingdom promised is our kingdom, and one day we will reign with him in peace in his glory.