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Come Thou Long Expected Jesus

Coming in Peace

by Jordan Jarrett

Today's Reading

Zechariah 9:9-10

“Born thy people to deliver, born a child and yet a King…”

Despair and division have consistently defined the tattered nation of Israel throughout biblical history. The words “chosen people” were probably almost insulting to say around the Jewish people during their nearly 70 years in captivity. This period followed King Nebuchadnezzar’s siege of Jerusalem, leading to what we know now as the “Babylonian Exile.”

The nation that was supposed to have “descendants as countless as the stars” eventually was split in two, into the Northern and Southern kingdoms. God’s promise looked dim to a nation that fell in and out of obedience to Him, but they never fell out of His love, as he repeatedly proved in His constant provision through Israel’s history.

Though the people of Israel had so little hope at the time of their captivity, they looked forward to one promise of God. Out of faith in His constant provision, and perhaps out of sheer necessity to survive, they knew the King was coming, one who would inevitably set them free.

In stark contrast to the likes of Nebuchadnezzar, this King would come in peace to bring peace. In an era of kings asserting their power and commanding respect through conquest, this concept laid out in Zechariah 9:9-10 was difficult to grasp, especially considering the puzzling imagery used in these verses:

"Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion! Shout, Daughter Jerusalem! See, your king comes to you, righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey. I will take away the chariots from Ephraim and the warhorses from Jerusalem, and the battle bow will be broken. He will proclaim peace to the nations. His rule will extend from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth."

First, look at the way God’s people are addressed here: “Daughters of Zion,” “Daughter Jerusalem.” These are intimate terms used about Jerusalem, the city established on Zion’s holy hill, to assure God’s people that they are loved, not forgotten or forsaken.

Their King would be coming to set them free.

And He would not come mounted on a horse like the conquering kings of the day, who did such to enhance some noble and proud image of stature. Instead, He would come mounted on a donkey. And ironically, He would cut off the glorious chariots and horses of all other warring rulers, and reign “from sea to sea and from the River to the ends of the earth.” The “River,” according to various commentaries, likely refers to the Euphrates located in Babylon — where the Israelites’ captivity began. If that’s so, what further irony this beautiful passage presents.

This King would not only reign, but he would also proclaim peace to all nations and all people – not just all Jews, but to the Gentiles as well. Peace would surely follow this King’s lead.

In hindsight, we can see how this messianic promise pointed to Jesus Christ (John 12:12-19). The excerpt from Zechariah is just one of about 127 Messianic predictions we can find scattered in the Old Testament. Can you imagine being one of the Israelites, hoping for the promised Messiah, but not having a clear idea when, where, or how He would arrive? You could only cling to the promise that He would come.

This promise of the Messiah in Zechariah is reminiscent of God’s promise to bless Abraham with countless descendants in Genesis 12:1-3. Later, during King David’s time, we hear the promise of an eternal reign in 2 Samuel 7:16. Neither of these promises came to pass in these men’s lifetimes, but the world has waited and seen them come to fruition.

As we reflect on the advent season, let us remember Christ’s birth. Let us not forget the history, the promise, and the hope that led up to His arrival in perfect peace to save us from the captivity of our sin.

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