The Christmas Gift of Repentance
Zechariah was written around 500-600 BC and is similar in prophetic style to the books of Daniel and Revelation.
It is the longest of the Minor Prophets.
It has 8 fulfilled Messianic Prophecies, lagging behind only Isaiah and the Psalms in numbers.
Zechariah was a prophet of comfort to a weary and discouraged remnant of Jewish families.
His prophecies centered around the need to complete the rebuilding of the Temple. When the spiritual house is in ruins, all the other aspects of life are subject to question and ruin.
Who can forget the enthusiastic cry to rally the remnant back to the work of building the temple in Zechariah 4: 6 So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' Says the LORD of hosts. 7 'Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone With shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" ' "
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.
The word Advent derives from the Latin word meaning coming. The Lord is coming. We may reflect that every year at this time we celebrate his coming , so that in a sense we can lose the feeling of expectancy and joyful anticipation, because at the end of the season, everything seems to return to pretty much the same routine. If that is the case, then our preparation may have been lacking and we have therefore been robbed of much of the true meaning of this season.
While Advent was devised as a season during which to prepare for the arrival of the Christ child in earnest repentance and humility, those days are mostly over. Today, Advent is a time of preparing a Christmas celebration that is about Christ’s birth, of course, but also is dominated by feasts, presents, family gatherings and all the rest.
During this time, this year, let us not only look backward, or even look around, but also look AHEAD, for the same message that was given on that first Christmas, is true today, “The Lord is coming!”
1. Messiah's first advent (Zech. 9:1-9)
The coming of God's Son to this earth wasn't heaven's "Plan B" or a hasty decision by the Father after our first parents sinned.
The plan of redemption was settled in eternity, before there ever was a creation.
1 Peter 1:20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. The coming of the Lamb of God was "foreordained before the foundation of the world"
Revelation 13:8 “…He was "the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world"
Zech. 9:1-8 describe the march of Alexander the Great and his army through the area north and east of Palestine. Alexander defeated the Persians in 333 B.C. at the Battle of Issus and then turned to conquer the leading cities in Phoenicia. Daniel had predicted Alexander's success; he compared him to a winged leopard (Dan. 7:6) and a fighting he-goat (Dan. 8). It's been said that prophecy is history pre-written, and both Daniel and Zechariah wrote some of that history.
The statement in verse 1 about "the eyes of men being toward the Lord" may mean that Alexander's victorious march caused people to look to God for help, but it could also mean that God's eyes were on the nations and especially on His people Israel.
Merrill Unger suggests that as the people were watching Alexander, they were actually watching God at work, for "history is His story."
Zechariah 9:8 I will camp around My house Because of the army, Because of him who passes by and him who returns. No more shall an oppressor pass through them, For now I have seen with My eyes.
But Zechariah had promised that Jerusalem and Judea would be spared.
But why all this concern over the conquests of Alexander the Great?
His conquests helped to prepare the world for the coming of Jesus Christ.
By building Greek cities, encouraging his soldiers to marry women from conquered nations, and spreading Greek culture and the Greek language, he unified the known world, and when the Romans took over, they found an empire all prepared for them.
Greek was the language of literature, and our New Testament is written in the common Greek language of the people of that day. The combination of Greek culture and Roman government, roads, and laws was just what the early church needed for the spread of the Gospel.
However, the promise in verse 8 goes far beyond the time of Alexander, for it states that God is always protecting His people and His house. No one can touch them without His permission.
In the centuries since Alexander's conquest, the Jewish nation has suffered often because of invaders, and Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. But the day will come when Messiah will reign and no invader will be able to threaten God's people let alone attack them.
Presentation of the King (v. 9).
Remember our text: Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey— riding on a donkey’s colt.
This prophecy was fulfilled when Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem on what we traditionally call "Palm Sunday," and the event is recorded in all four Gospels (Matt. 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-11; Luke 19:29-44; and John 12:12-19).
This is the only public demonstration Jesus allowed during His ministry, and He did it to fulfill Scripture.
When Zechariah put this prophecy about Jesus right after his prophecy concerning Alexander the Great, he was obviously inviting his readers to contrast the two conquerors.
Alexander's arrival brought fear to people, but the Jews were commanded to rejoice and shout because their King had come.
Jesus was righteous in all that He did, and His purpose in coming was to bring salvation to those who would trust Him. How different from Alexander!
Alexander rode a mighty steed and proudly led a great army from one victory to another, but Jesus rode a lowly donkey and came in humility.
The people who welcomed Him were common peasants who laid palm branches and garments before Him on the road. The great people of Jerusalem didn't welcome Him, but little children sang to Him in the temple.
Jesus could have brought judgment, but instead He brought grace and forgiveness (John 3:17).
Instead of making a grand oration, Jesus beheld the city and wept over it;
Instead of slaying His enemies, He went to a cross and died for them!
Galatians 4: 4 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. 6 And because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying out, "Abba, Father!" 7 Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son, and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.
Remember our text: Rejoice, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious.
The RHONE RIVER begins its journey in the Switzerland Alps, some 5000 feet above sea level. It is one of the most important commercial waterways in France, stretching more than 500 miles in length. The river that glistens and sparkles through France, however, is much different than it was at its origin. As it begins its voyage, glacial clay is picked up from the Rhone Glacier in the Alps making the Rhone River very milky and murky and dirty in appearance. Just before it enters France, the Rhone River empties into Lake Geneva, and a wonderful transformation occurs, a wonder of nature, picturing to us a transformation of souls in the spiritual realm. Most of the clay sinks to the bottom of the lake, and the Rhone River emerges clear and blue!
Our lives are much like that river. Shortly after we begin our journey in life we find ourselves corrupted and polluted by the sins of the flesh. If the Lord hadn’t intervened in His mercy, we would’ve been destined to live out our sojourn unclean. But thanks be to God, when we come to the Lord Jesus Christ, He washes us and cleans us and throws our "sins into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:19). The blood of the Lamb is much more effective in its working than Lake Geneva is with the Rhone River! Our sins are completely blotted out, forgiven, forgotten; and no sign of them ever emerges again! (Autoillustrator.com, THE RHONE RIVER).
The promises of Zechariah and Paul to the Galatians, is that God has a plan of salvation, redemption, life changing experiences for every one of us.
The Advent Story, the Birth of Jesus Christ shows us all the wonderful changes that can take place.
Mary’s life was dramatically changed with the announcement of the Angel.
Joseph was challenged to “man up” if you will to fulfill God’s call.
Shepherds were awakened from their sleepy hillside to welcome the newborn baby.
Wise men were drawn by the announcement of a new King.
An innkeepers heart was made larger than his inn.
A Tyrants, was threatened by the cry of an infant.
A world was given a new sense of wonder.
The visions of God showering His people with the riches of divine treasure must first be prefaced by the message that travels parallel down the track, arm in arm with divine blessings.
Zechariah is prophesying near the end of Judah’s captivity to the Babylonians. They have been enslaved for 70 years because of their disobedience and turning away from God.
Zechariah 1:1 In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, 2 "The LORD has been very angry with your fathers. 3 Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Return to Me," says the LORD of hosts, "and I will return to you," says the LORD of hosts. 4 Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds." ' But they did not hear nor heed Me," says the LORD.
The appropriation and enjoyment of God’s promised blessings must be preceded by genuine repentance.
Zechariah’s prophecies of assurance and blessing will only be realized by heart changing repentance
Divine grace cannot be divorced from human responsibility.
The bestowing of the riches of covenant grace are for those who are genuinely willing to turn away from sin to follow God alone.
If the call to repentance is not individually and corporately heeded by individual, church wide and national repentance, then neither will the blessings which Zechariah proclaims throughout the book be ours.
Until we are ready to obey God rather than self or the world we have no avenue to ask God to open up His storehouse upon us!
The way of the Lord must be prepared before the Lord comes down.
Repentance and blessing walk hand in hand.
Let us also realize who received this call to repentance. It was the faithful remnant who returned to the Promised Land.
Matthew 3:1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!"
Mark 1:14 Now after John was put in prison, Jesus came to Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, 15 and saying, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
The message from the manger is “Repent”. The message of the cross is “Repent”. The message of the Bible is “Repent”. The message of Radiant Life is “Repent”.
Repentance, after all, isn’t about feeling bad or saying “I’m sorry.” Rather, it’s about a re-orientation, a change of perspective and direction, a commitment to turn and live differently. And so, we are challenged not to define ourselves or limit ourr hopes based on our ancestry or piety but rather to dream a larger hope and grander vision and to work toward a better world by “bearing fruits worthy of repentance.”
Mary and Joseph “repented” when they gave up their own plans to obey God’s plan.
The Shepherds “repented” when they ‘made widely known the saying which was told them concerning this Child” Lu 2:17
The Wise men went home by a different way.
The innkeeper found a place to room the baby
King Herod refused to repent and suffered the loss.
Will we repent of our own sins, negligence, prejudices, lack of love.
Repentance is more than just a heavy heart, guilty feeling, sorrow for my past. It is a 180 degree turnaround in plans, goals, ambitions, ideas, desires.
God is ready and willing to forgive any that call upon Him.
On a bright Sunday morning in 18th century ROBERT ROBINSON was walking despondently down a busy city street in London. The sound of church bells reminded him of years past when his faith in God was strong and the church was an integral part of his life. It had been years since he set foot in a church-years of wandering, disillusionment, and gradual defection from the God he once loved. That love for God- once fiery and passionate- had slowly died within him, leaving him dark and cold inside.
Robert Robinson heard the clip-clop, clip-clop of a horse drawn cab approaching behind him. Turning, he lifted his hand to hail the driver. But then he saw that the cab was occupied by a young woman dressed for the Lord’s Day. He waved the driver on, but the woman in the carriage ordered the carriage to be stopped.
"Sir, I’d be happy to share this carriage with you," she said to Robinson, "Are you going to church?" Robinson was about to decline, but then he paused. "Yes," he said at last. "I am going to church." He stepped into the carriage and sat down beside the young woman.
As the carriage rolled forward Robert Robinson and the woman exchanged introductions. There was a flash of recognition in her eyes when he stated his name. "That’s an interesting coincidence, she said I was just reading a verse by a poet named Robert Robinson."
He took the book, nodding. "Yes, I wrote these words years ago."
The words would one day be set to music and become a great hymn of the faith, familiar to generations of Christians.
Come, Thou Fount of every blessing Tune my heart to sing Thy grace’
Streams of mercy, never ceasing, Call for songs of loudest praise.
His eyes slipped to the bottom of the page where he read:Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it- Prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, Seal it for Thy courts above.
He could barely finish reading the words. "I wrote these words - and I’ve lived these words. "Prone to wander..... prone to leave the God I love."
The woman suddenly understood. "You also wrote, "here’s my heart, O take and seal it." You can offer your heart again to God, Mr. Robinson. It’s not too late. It wasn’t too late for Robert Robinson. In that moment he turned his heart back to God and walked with him for the rest of his days."
That is what God was saying to His people. It’s not too late to return to Me and be healed and to be forgiven