In a unique way Zechariah is one of the most important books in the Old Testament.
—Charlie Brown, Peanuts (1994)
All areas of life will be consecrated to the Lord: even the horses’ bells
will contain the inscription written on the High Priest’s miter.
—Kenneth Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion (1992)
In a Unique Way . . .
Zechariah wrote early in the Restoration Era while the Temple was being rebuilt. Unlike his colleague Haggai, who delivered direct and pointed sermons, Zechariah recorded apocalyptic visions of the future, visions that he himself understood only dimly. His words are wrapped in the images drawn from Old Testament history and liturgy and point to things both near and far.
Certainly, Zechariah speaks of the Messiah. He sees Him as the King who will come in humility, riding upon a lowly donkey, but whose dominion will reach to the ends of the earth (9:9). He sees Messiah as Israel’s Shepherd. He foretells His rejection and specifies the “wages” Israel’s leaders will appoint him—30 pieces of silver (11:13).
The last few chapters, though, give us Zechariah’s clearest description of the Messiah and His work. Zechariah sees the Messiah pierced and slain, but in His piercing God opens a fountain for sin and uncleanness (12:10; 13:1). Messiah, God’s Shepherd, will be smitten and His flock briefly scattered (13:7). Great tribulation will shortly follow. For God will gather all nations against Jerusalem, and the city will fall (13:8—14:2). Only then will He go to war against the nations.
The End of the Age
This is a prophetic summary of the last days of the Old Covenant era and the birth of the New. Jesus the Messiah gave His life on Calvary for the sins of His people. His side was literally pierced by a Roman spear (John 19:32-37). His disciples were scattered for a short time (Matt. 26:31-32), but upon His resurrection Jesus gathered them together and commissioned them to carry His Gospel to the ends of the earth (Luke 24; Mark 16). He ascended to heaven and poured out “the Spirit of grace and supplication” upon His people (Zech. 12:10; cf. Acts 2). The elect remnant within Israel received Jesus as their Messiah; the greater majority rejected Him and persecuted His Church (Rom. 11; Rev. 14). And so God brought destruction upon apostate Jerusalem (Luke 21; Rev. 11).
The armies that destroyed Jerusalem were Roman; they were drawn from every nation within the Empire (“all nations”). But they were also God’s armies (Matt. 22:7). He gathered them together against Jerusalem (Zech. 14:2). After a prolonged siege of horrific proportions, the city fell. Those within were slaughtered or enslaved. God’s wrath came upon them “to the uttermost” (1 Thes. 2:14-16).
Only then did God release His salvation in full force upon the nations. With Jerusalem and the Old Testament economy in ruins, the Gospel was revealed for what it really was and is: the proclamation of the saving reign of Jesus Christ over all the earth. And that is what the rest of Zechariah 14 portrays through Old Covenant imagery.
The Victory of the Kingdom
First, Zechariah sees the Mount of Olives broken and divided east and west so that the remnant of God’s people can flee the destruction. Then Zechariah describes the Day of the LORD itself. It begins in gloom, but as evening comes the light shines brighter and brighter. At evening it’s as bright as day (vv. 6-7).
After this Zechariah sees living water flowing out from Jerusalem toward both seas; that is, to the whole Gentile world (v. 8-11). The city and land are elevated as a great plateau or mountain, and God reigns unchallenged over all the earth. He sends plague and war against His enemies and destroys all the nations that raised their hands against His people (vv. 12-15).
Finally, Zechariah describes the aftermath of God’s holy wars. The nations that have made peace with God will come up from year to year to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles (v. 16). Tabernacles was the final harvest feast and came at the end of the liturgical year. It foreshadowed the ingathering of the Gentiles. As this part of the vision closes, Zechariah sees the kingdom in its everyday affairs at peace in holiness. The bells of the horses and the common vessels of the city are all “holiness to the LORD” (vv. 20-21). Everything unclean has finally been removed from His kingdom.
The Victory of the Gospel
These verses continue to foretell the work of the Gospel. With the destruction of Jerusalem and the Old Covenant economy, the living waters of the Gospel spread throughout the Gentile world. Jesus is revealed as King over all the earth (Luke 21:20-32; Rev. 11). His kingdom is exalted above all earthly kingdoms (Isa. 2:2-3; Dan. 2:44-45). The light of His Gospel gradually dispels the darkness of a world enslaved to sin (Isa. 49:6; Acts 13:47). The Gentiles hear in faith, and whole nations turn to the Lord and worship Him alone (Rev. 15:4; 21:24). Those who do not repent face the judgment of God’s enthroned Messiah (Ps. 2; Rev. 6:15-17).
And finally there are the bells of the horses. Horses’ bells are mostly ornamental. Unless you’re trying to find your horse in the dark, they’re of little consequence. And yet Zechariah sees that even these will be altered by the Messiah’s reign. They will bear the words “Holiness to the LORD,” the words that appeared on the miter of the high priest. The horses’ bells will be consecrated … to the service of God.
Furthermore, every common pot and bowl in God’s City will be sanctified to His service. In Zechariah’s vision, they don’t replace the altar, but they all function as if they have been touched by the altar. They are all “Holiness to the LORD” (14:21).
The Consecration of Our Common Culture
Culture is religious faith externalized. How we live our common lives is the product and fruit of our religious faith. For “out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45). As a man “thinks in his heart, so is he” (Prov. 23:7). And from the heart arise “the issues of life” (Prov. 4:23).
When we receive Christ by faith, when He is enthroned in our hearts, then everything we are and do ought to be formed and filled with His grace. All of our daily work ought to be sanctified to His service and shaped by the promises and precepts of His word. Whether we eat or drink or whatever we do, we ought to do it to the glory of God (1 Cor. 10:31). It isn’t enough that we write “Holiness to the Lord” on our cars, our computers, and our cash. These things ought to be “Holiness to the Lord.”
In other words, there is a great deal more to reforming a culture than stamping Bible verses or Christian slogans on its exterior, or swapping secular lyrics and images out for those that reflect the Gospel. The Gospel changes men’s heart, and cultural change must arise from such transformed hearts. It must be a Spiritual thing, the product of the Spirit’s work in the hearts of men and women through the Gospel.
In Zechariah’s vision it isn’t the outward judgment of God that sanctifies the culture … it is the growing light of the Gospel and the transforming “water of life” that flows out from Jerusalem. These judgments break down resistance and overthrow the enemy, but the consecration of culture — even of the horses’ bell — is the work of the Gospel of God’s grace in Jesus Christ.
For Further Reading:
Kenneth L. Gentry, He Shall Have Dominion, A Postmillennial Eschatology (Tyler, TX: Institute for Christian Economics, 1992). See, especially, ch. 20.
David Chilton, Paradise Restored, A Biblical Theology of Dominion (Tyler, TX: Reconstruction Press, 1985).
David Bruce Hegeman, Plowing in Hope, Toward a Biblical Theology of Culture (Moscow, ID: Canon Press, 1999).
Henry R. Van Til, The Calvinistic Concept of Culture (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1972 ).
Francis Nigel Lee, The Central Significance of Culture (N. p.: The Presbyterian and Reformed Publishing Co., 1976).