April 2nd 2023: Nathan Munday

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The king is Coming

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.

Zechariah 9:9

This precious prophecy, the coming of the promised king, was given 500 years or so before the events in the gospel of Luke (Luke 19:28-38). Why do the disciples always refer back to Zechariah’s prophecy? When we approach these old texts in the Old Testament, it’s like coming into a building: the ground level here is in Zechariah’s time. Go upstairs and we see elements of the prophecy fulfilled before Jesus came. Go upstairs again and we see some prophecies are fulfilled in Christ when He came. Go out to the roof top and we can look forward to some prophecies still to be fulfilled, especially the end of this lovely chapter.

We live in a time of sadness in Wales; we don’t shout and praise as in verse 9. Many of us are even fearful of raising our voices. Many of us live as if the King has never come and that the King will never come back again. The prophecy Zechariah has been given is a vision of how the church will one day be restored. Paradise will be restored through that King. The King will bring joy and give us boldness. In ancient times their hope was found in the same King, Jesus Christ, just like we hope in Him today.

In this verse we see:

  1. The promise of a humble King
  2. The Righteous King
  3. Our Saviour King.

Is He your Saviour? He’s mine and I thank God for that.

  1. The promise of a humble King.

We have a king in Wales called Arthur. Prophecies are usually grand. He is talked of as Arthur the sleeping Lord, a mighty character of mythology who will one day arise and restore Wales. Arthur is never going to restore Wales! There is only one King, one name under heaven by which we must be saved. Whether He is your Saviour or not, one day, we will all bow the knee and confess He is Lord.

But the man is on a donkey in Jerusalem. Imagine we’re in that passage in Luke (Luke 19:28-28). Palm leaves are being swayed. People are cheering, ‘Hosanna.’ Help. Save. Why? The one they’re calling Saviour is coming towards Jerusalem. He takes pity on prostitutes and the outsiders. He even raises people from the dead. He loves children. He doesn’t turn them away when they’re crying. Imagine standing with this crowd. The Messiah is coming closer. Is He on a chariot? No. Is there a triumphal arch ready to welcome Him? No. Are there white stallions in the afternoon sun? No. He’s on a colt. The attention to detail is phenomenal.

In Luke’s story let’s ask people what is going on.

Excuse me. Why are you cheering?
              The King has come.
But He’s on a donkey!
              Yes, He’s riding a donkey like the kings of old. He will surely save us from the Romans.
A conqueror on a donkey. Really? You’ve been waiting for this?
              Oh yes, we’ve been waiting for years (tears running this man’s cheek). It’s been tough  
             but things are going to get better.

The triumphant entry of this humble King is no surprise. Prophets had foreseen this very event. He’d come on a donkey. But the people had forgotten that bit.

What is His name? Some call Him Shiloh, some Jehovah Jireh, others call Him the Messiah, the anointed One. Do you know this man – the Lion of the tribe of Judah? But when He was born in a manger, He wasn’t called these grand things. The angel said to Joseph, ‘You shall call His name Jesus.’ Why? Because He would save the people from their sins.

Our text tells us that this King would be humble, a lowly donkey rider. He would be an unlikely king. His kingdom will be one of peace.

2. The promise is of a righteous King.

This King is not just lowly, he is just. This promise is of a righteous King. Let’s delve deeper now. Go back further than Zechariah to an ancient death bed. Some of the oldest words in the Bible talk of a humble, righteous King. Back in Genesis 49:10-12. Jacob is dying. He blesses Judah and starts looking forward saying,

10 The sceptre shall not depart from Judah,
Nor a lawgiver from between his feet,
Until Shiloh comes;
And to Him shall be the obedience of the people.
11 Binding his donkey to the vine,
And his donkey’s colt to the choice vine,
He washed his garments in wine,
And his clothes in the blood of grapes.
12 His eyes are darker than wine,
And his teeth whiter than milk.’

Jacob says to Judah, ‘You shall be king until the one to whom it belongs appears.’ Shiloh (v.10) means someone greater is coming, someone not just for the Jews. He is for you and me. Someone greater is coming whose Kingship extends beyond Israel – it extends to Roch. Isn’t that wonderful?

What does that Kingdom look like? It is a picture of plenty. The King is described as having dark eyes and white teeth – the ancient idea of beauty and perfection. Old Jacob, on his deathbed, was trusting in this King. Old Jacob mentions a donkey, the stained garments that would reappear in Isaiah. This relates to judgement, humility and the death of the servant King.

Let us return to Zechariah. Chapter 9, verses 1-8 uses the language of judgement. It mentions nations and kings. In their midst is little Israel, now a kingless nation. The Judeans are instructed to look for this coming King, that death bed vision that Jacob had. This would be a ruler that God would send. He is just. That is always repeated. The prophecy was relevant for the people of Zechariah’s time. The coming King is righteous and having salvation. The King is declared righteous by God. The King is both accused and attacked by the enemies but is vindicated and saved. This vision of the King didn’t just see this tall, good looking fellow. They saw a wounded man, but this King will not fail. Isaiah says,  

“Behold! My Servant whom I uphold,
My Elect One in whom My soul delights!
I have put My Spirit upon Him;
He will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.”

Isaiah 42:1

The king who establishes justice is none other than the One whom God is pleased in. The real King, after God’s own heart, was obedient. Even today I have sinned (illustration of worrying about being late whilst held up in traffic). Jesus never sinned. He achieved perfection. Isaiah saw Him as a bridegroom figure, decked in robes of righteousness. That clothing I don’t have by nature.

He was attacked. He was accused. He was killed. Yet by His stripes we are healed. The Bible says that even our good deeds are like filthy rags. We need new clothes, spiritually new clothes. Only the King can do this. That comes from sacrificial death, the perfect righteousness from the King of righteousness. The cloak that Jesus weaved for us, through His obedient life, is stained red. It’s a spiritual covering given to every Christian. Because of it, we can rejoice.

3. Our Saviour King

He not only came with righteousness, He came with salvation. This means you can be saved. You are going to die one day, you need to be saved. You need to be perfect before a perfect God. Only Jesus can help you.

When we speak about our Saviour, we often distinguish between His person and His work. Jesus is qualified to be our Saviour and Lord because of His person. He is perfect, as verse 9 celebrates. But it is in His work on the cross that He actually achieves our salvation.

And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

Zechariah 9:10

The work of the King on the donkey is that He brings peace to you and I. The key to understanding this verse is that Israel was to be different from other nations (Deuteronomy 17). Verse 10 tells us that the Lord will take away worldly sources of strength from His people and lead them to trust in Him. Many of the Jews were waiting for a conqueror, even though He was on a donkey.

“As for you also,
Because of the blood of your covenant,
I will set your prisoners free from the waterless pit.”

Zechariah 9:11

That special relationship, a covenant between God and His people, involves the shedding of blood. 

What was His great work?

Your ultimate enemy is sin, with its power and penalty of guilt. It has a hold on us. Isaiah 63:1 gives us a glimpse of King Jesus who is both the humble donkey rider as well as the great conqueror on the cross. He was fighting death itself.

“Who is this who comes from Edom,
With dyed garments from Bozrah,
This One who is glorious in His apparel,
Traveling in the greatness of His strength? –

“I who speak in righteousness, mighty to save.”
Isaiah 63:1

The coming King is righteous. He saves. This is the same man who Zechariah saw in his vision, the same man riding on a donkey, the same man dying for you on the cross, the King who conquers sin by means of the cross, by His own blood, to fulfil God’s covenant of grace. He died and shed His blood to pay the price for sin.

What do these verses mean to me?

Isaiah 9:10 sees a people restored to God in faith. They no longer trust in their army of flesh and chariot, but in the Lord God of Israel.

And the horse from Jerusalem;
The battle bow shall be cut off.
He shall speak peace to the nations;
His dominion shall be ‘from sea to sea,
And from the River to the ends of the earth.’

In the same way sinners must turn to Jesus in faith. We become Christians, when we believe and turn from the ways of the flesh and the world, trusting in Him alone because of the blood, we are free from that pit of corruption, the pit of guilt, the pit of being separated from God. Are you separated from God? Don’t you want to be liberated from that pit? The psalmist writes, “He brought me up also out of an horrible pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and established my goings.” (Psalm 40:2). Is that your testimony? This is, in a posh word, justification. We are declared righteous, not because of what we have done, but because of what He has done.

What do these verses mean for you?

Because the sinless Saviour died
My sinful soul is counted free
For God the Just is satisfied
To look on Him and pardon me.’

Hallelujah! What a Saviour!

‘Behold Him there, the risen Lamb
My perfect spotless Righteousness
The great unchangeable I am
The King of glory and of grace.

One with Himself, I cannot die
My soul is purchased by His blood
My life is hid with Christ on high
With Christ, my Saviour and my God.

Before the throne of God

We’re no longer tied to Adam and that doom that was before him. Zechariah was given a glimpse of how these wonders would come to be. The coming of the King saves me from everlasting death and hell. The coming of the King meant the shedding of blood. May faith must not be just in a teacher, not just in a good Jew. No. My faith must be in a crucified Saviour! Do you know this King? Do you know this Saviour? Who can lay a charge against God’s elect? I beg you, if you’ve never known Jesus, taste, see. He is good. He is the King on the donkey, but He is also my righteousness. He is my Saviour and my God.