Praise Pure Ministry

The Nations Will Worship the Lord
Zechariah 14:12-19

Lola S. Richey ©ALL RIGHTS RESERVED May 5, 2013

And it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. Zechariah 14:16 (NKJV) Found close to the end of the Old Testament, among what are called the "minor prophets," is the book of Zechariah. The prophet Zechariah was one of three postexilic prophets along with Haggai and Malachi that ministered to the Israelites. These Israelites were returning to the Promised Land from Babylonian captivity to rebuild God’s Temple and their nation. Israel had been punished with Babylonian captivity due to their years of disobedience to God and God’s covenant (the Law). After years of God’s punishment, God gave Israel a new start and new hope. God punished Babylon and rose up Persia as the new world power. King Cyrus of Persia issued a decree in 538 BC that allowed the Israelites to return to their homelands (see Ezra 1). The prophets Haggai and Zechariah were among the returning Israelites who returned to the Promised Land under the leadership of Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the high priest. Zechariah’s message is dated in the eighth month, in the second year of Darius. This would be November, 520 BC, two months after the prophet Haggai began his ministry. Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai (Ezra 5:1; Ezra 6:14) but continued his ministry long after Haggai (Nehemiah 12:1-16; Haggai 1:1; Zechariah 1:1; Zechariah 7:1). How long Zechariah was active in ministry is uncertainty. Apparently Zechariah was a young man (Zechariah 2:4) when he began his ministry. The Bible states that Zechariah was “the son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo” (Zechariah 1:1, 7) and was both a priest and a
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prophet. The name Zechariah means “the Lord (Yahweh) remembers” or “the Lord has remembered.” The ancient Israelites returning to the Promised Land from exile and captivity faced many challenges and a disheartening scene. Their once beautiful land lay in ruins. Everything of value, including God’s Temple, was destroyed. Nevertheless, the people were excited to be home. Upon returning to the Promised Land, the people went to work rebuilding God’s Temple and the nation. The returning Israelites laid the foundation for the new Temple (538~536 BC; see Ezra 5:16). So, the returning Israelites started the Temple rebuilding project and the nation with excitement but soon abandoned the rebuilding efforts. The people faced trouble finding shelter and received constant attacks from the Gentiles now occupying the land of Israel. The ruined Temple site remained neglected for nearly two decades. Also during these two decades, the Israelites experienced economic suffering, political oppression and harassment, and spiritual emptiness (see Haggai). Eventually, God called the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to encourage the people to the physical rebuilding of God’s Temple and wholehearted worship of God (Haggai 1 – 2; Zechariah 4:6-10). The prophet Haggai’s ministry lasted for only four months in late 520 BC. During these four months, Haggai challenged the Jewish community to rebuild God’s Temple in Jerusalem. The people responded favorably to Haggai’s message and began to rebuild the Temple that same year (Haggai 1:12-15). Moreover, the people began to experience again the blessings of obedience. Haggai’s message also pointed
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forward to the Messianic age. The prophet Haggai saw that the King was coming as the Desire of All Nations (Haggai 2:1-9). The prophet Zechariah accompanied Haggai’s ministry but Zechariah’s message went far beyond those physical walls and contemporary issues. Zechariah called the people to spiritual renewal, repentance, and obedience (Zechariah 1:3-6; Zechariah 7:8-14). He encouraged the people to a faithful and everyday obedience in God. Even more, Zechariah encouraged the people with visions of glorious things to come. Zechariah announced a message of hope to Israel that their King or the Messiah was coming and He would establish His final Kingdom on earth (Zechariah 9–14). The Messiah would return to this new rebuilt Temple (Zechariah 9:8-10), Israel would be rescued from her enemies (Zechariah 12:1-14), and God’s eternal Kingdom would be established in Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:9-19). The King is introduced as coming in a humble manner, bring salvation but being rejected by His own people, the Israelites (Zechariah 9:9-10, 16; Zechariah 13:7). When the nations gather for battle against Jerusalem, the Israelites will finally recognize the Messiah “Whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10) and will emerge in victory. All nations will then come to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 14:16). The King that Israel and the nations worship will be Jesus Christ as He makes His second advent. The second advent of Jesus Christ is the coming of God to earth (Revelation 3:11; Revelation 16:15; Revelation 22:7, 20). The rebuilding of God’s Temple by the Israelites was just the first part in a magnificent plan for Israel and the nations. So, Zechariah's book begins with a
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call to repentance (Zechariah 1), but it ends with a vision of a holy nation, worship, and God’s glorious Kingdom (Zechariah 14). The ancient Israelites during Zechariah’s ministry never lived to see the glorious plans promised, but God’s program for the future was dependent upon their work lead by the prophet Zechariah. Hence, it was absolutely essential that Israel do their work in rebuilding God’s Temple and faithfully seeking God. Despite the exile and Babylonian captivity, God continued to love Israel and promised a glorious future for His people. God is still jealous over Jerusalem and the Jewish people, and He will fulfill His promises (Zechariah 1:14-17; see also Psalm 122:6). However, God through the prophet Zechariah also warned the people not to repeat the same sins that lead the previous Israelite generation into punishment and exile from the Promised Land of Israel (Zechariah 1:1-6). Earlier, the Israelites committed scandalous social and moral sins against God and their fellow neighbors (see Amos and Micah). Zechariah called the people to turn from their sins in genuine repentance, spiritual renewal, and the faithful worship of God. Only sincere and wholehearted spiritual renewal would bring genuine worship and God’s blessings (Zechariah 6:9-15; Zechariah 7:8-10; Zechariah 8:3-8, 15-17). The book of Zechariah is one of the most difficult books of the Old Testament. Zechariah 14 stands out as the most difficult of all chapters from Zechariah because nothing in Zechariah 14 fits historical events. This chapter has a wide range of opinions regarding interpretation, and Biblical scholars disagree on how to comprehend the images in Zechariah 14. To some scholars,
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the disasters portrayed – a mountain splitting in two, a day without light or cold, people rotting on their feet (Zechariah 14:4, 6, 12) – take on added significance in an age of nuclear weapons and possible greenhouse effect. Others interpret these images in more symbolic ways. Regardless, Zechariah 14 makes clear that the end results of the earth’s chaos will be good news for all true followers of God. The language of Zechariah 14 discusses end times and corresponds with many of events in the book of Revelation. Zechariah’s language, like that in Revelation, is highly symbolic and apocalyptic. This language makes the book of Zechariah difficult to determine what is to take place literally and what is symbolic, happening only in type or in the spiritual realm. Zechariah 14 does describe the great campaign that Christians call the “Battle of Armageddon” (Revelation 14:17–20; Revelation 16:14–16), when the nations of the world will gather against Jerusalem for battle. Zechariah 14:12-19 involves a strange description of God’s judgment on the world. Zechariah 14 reveals that God will judge and purify the nations as the “Divine Warrior” and condemns the evil ones (Zechariah 14:16-19). God will bring a devastating and grim plague on the nations that fight against God and God’s people (Zechariah 14:12-13, 15; see also Isaiah 37:36). A similar plague will strike all the animals to prevent the people from using them as escape and support (Zechariah 14:15). Thus, the animals belonging to God’s enemies share the same fate of their masters. In other words, God will destroy all hostile nations that come against Him as the true and living God. Zechariah’s use of
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the word “plague” in Zechariah 14 is similar to “herem” in the book of Joshua to reflect that God will ultimately destroy all sin and purify Jerusalem into a city after His own holy heart. This “plague” terminology against the nations in Zechariah 14:12-15 is also linked to the notions of sin in Deuteronomy and the Deuteronomistic literature. These verses of chapter 14 describing the plague may belong with Zechariah 14:3 or possible Zechariah 12. Yet, the “plague” recalls God’s judgment against Egypt at the start of Israel’s history as a nation. In addition to the physical suffering inflicted by the plague, God will send among them a supernatural confusion (Zechariah 14:13). Each will fight the other and become the other’s worst enemy and chaos will reign supreme! Amazingly, Zechariah 14 also describes the blessings that come to those nations that learn God’s righteousness and worships God with a pure heart (Zechariah 14:16). The surviving Gentile nations will join the faithful remnant of Israel in the Feast of Booths – which is the Feast of God’s epiphany – to worship God as their King (Zechariah 14:16, 19). The Feast of Booths is also called the Feast of Tabernacles and Feast of Ingathering. This Feast celebrates the time the Israelites lived in temporary shelters when God brought them out of Egypt (Exodus 23:16; Exodus 34:22; Leviticus 23:42-43; Deuteronomy 16:13-16). Also, this Feast honors God’s care of Israel during their desert wanderings after the exodus (see also Psalm 81:3). The Feast of Tabernacles is the last and greatest festival in the Hebrew calendar, gathering up into itself the year’s worship, thanksgiving, and fellowship (Leviticus 23:33–44; Deuteronomy 16:13–15; Deuteronomy 31:10; Nehemiah 8:17, 18; Ezekiel
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45:25; Revelation 20:1–6). The Israelites celebrated the Feast of Tabernacles when they returned from the Babylonian exile (Nehemiah 8:14–18). The Feast of Tabernacles was one of the three feasts that God required the ancient Israelites to attend in Jerusalem (Deuteronomy 16:16). The prophet Zechariah predicts the celebration of the Feast of Tabernacle by all nations when the Messiah’s Kingdom is established during the millennial Kingdom of the Messiah. The Feast seems to speak of the final, joyful regathering and restoration of Israel, as well as of the ingathering of the nations. The faithful Gentiles from the nations will join with faithful Israelites in this joyous celebration (Zechariah 14:16). Incorporation of the Gentiles (non-Jews) into God’s covenantal people is a recurring theme in Zechariah. Zechariah indicates the Gentiles will fully participate with the Israelites in the millennial Messiah’s Kingdom. The ingathering of Gentiles with the Israelites in Jerusalem to worship the King and observe the Feast of Tabernacles also fulfills Isaiah 56:6-8 and God’s purpose to make the Gospel known to all nations (Romans 16:26). The Feast of Tabernacles will be the only feast celebrated during the millennial Kingdom of the Messiah. This Feast foreshadows the joyful and fruitful millennial Kingdom, and the only Feast still applicable during Messiah’s reign. The Passover was fulfilled with Jesus’ death at His first advent; the Day of Atonement, in acceptance of Jesus’ salvation; the Feast of Firstfruits, in Jesus’ resurrection; and Pentecost, with the arrival of the Holy Spirit. However, the Feast of Tabernacles as a festival of thanksgivings
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celebrates the harvest of human souls for the Lord (see also John 4:35). So, the Feast of Tabernacles will be celebrated while the Kingdom is in progress. So, thanksgiving and celebration will characterize worship in the Messianic age (Zechariah 14:16; see also Isaiah 51:3; Jeremiah 33:11). Those nations who obey God will participate with Israel in the physical and spiritual blessings and worship of God. Worship will be central in the life of heaven and Messianic age (Revelation 4:8-11, Revelation 5:9-14; Revelation 7:9-17; Revelation 11:15-18; Revelation 15:2-4; Revelation 19:1-10). So, worship must be central in the life of everyone today (Colossian 3:17). Worship simply means giving honor and reverence to God. But not all nations will come and worship God as the one and only King and the hearts of many will remain unchanged and harden. Despite the celebration, rebellion and punishment continues even during the Messiah’s reign (Zechariah 14:17-19; see also Deuteronomy 28:22–24; Ezekiel 34:26; and Revelation 20:7–10 for a final rebellion at the end of the Millennium). Some nations will refuse to take part in the Feast of Tabernacles and worship the King. Yet, the King will exercise His justice (Zechariah 14:17-19). Nations that will not send their representatives to Jerusalem to worship will be disciplined by getting no rain for their land. This is the same way God disciplined Israel when she refused to obey Him. No rain was one of God’s curses for covenant disobedience (Deuteronomy 28:22-24; see also Zechariah 9:11-10:1). Thus, God will withhold His rain from those Gentiles nations who refuse to worship

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Him. The withholding of rain would mean that there would be no crop the coming year. Remember, though the millennium is a time of peace and blessing, it is also a time when the Messiah will reign over all the earth "with a rod of iron" and will judge disobedience (Psalm 2:9; Revelation 2:27; Revelation 12:5; Revelation 19:15). Not to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles would be equivalent to despising the blessings of the King, and this is a serious transgression (see Romans 1:18). Interestingly, Zechariah 14:15-17 anticipates disobedience in the millennial Kingdom of the Messiah. The people of Israel who enter into the millennium are regenerated but not yet glorified. These people will continue to have sin natures and will have to deal with the fruit of that sin nature in the ways proscribed by the King. In fact, God’s plague will be the punishment to any nations that refuse to worship the King at Feast of Tabernacles (Zechariah 14:17-19). God intends that all peoples of the earth should participate in the Feast of Tabernacles. This Feast honors the conclusion of God’s plan of all ages—the fulfillment of all of His promises to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3). To disobey worship is to incur God’s wrath. The human heart is ever the same regardless of the dispensation! The book of Zechariah served much the same purpose for postexilic Israel as the book of Revelation served for the early church. John’s vision in Revelation of a new Jerusalem prevailing over wicked Babylon (Revelation 18, 21) was an encouragement to first-century Christians. Many early Christians had seen or heard of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 66–70.
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Likewise, Zechariah’s prophecy of a new Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:10–11) must have been an encouragement to the postexilic Israelites who had witnessed the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The theme of Jerusalem versus the nations binds the four messages of Zechariah’s second prophecy together as the nations are gathered against Jerusalem at the beginning (Zechariah 12:1-9) and the end (Zechariah 14:1-15) of the prophecy. Zechariah 14:1-3 simply stated that the Lord would fight for Israel, but the specific means was not given. But Zechariah 14:12 gives the means by which the Lord will execute vengeance upon Israel’s enemies: it will be a plague where the Lord will destroy all the people that have fought against Jerusalem. This plague will consume away people while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes will consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth—they will literally rot away! Some feel this may be an ancient prophetic description of the ghastly effects of modern warfare. Zechariah 14 also reveals a time of reversal as the nations’ wealth comes to Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1, 14) with great quantities of gold and silver. In other words, the Lord’s Temple will receive “the treasures of all the nations” (Zechariah 14:14; see also Micah 4:13 and Haggai 2:7-8). The gold, silver, and clothing reverses the situation of Zachariah 14:1. The enemy seemed victorious at first, but God will strengthen Israel to make them victorious at last and Israel will fight at Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:2, 14). That Israel is victorious over the enemy is indicated by the fact that the wealth of all the Gentiles shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in great abundance. Whereas
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in the first part of the battle the Gentiles divided up the spoil of Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:1), in the end the spoil comes entirely to Israel, not only what was theirs in the beginning, but all that the invading army has brought along from its other victories (Zechariah 14:14). Zechariah’s prophecy mixes judgment with blessing for Jerusalem. The prophecy’s main point is the cleansing of the people of Israel (Zechariah 13:1) and concludes with God’s universal Kingdom (Zechariah 14:16-21). God will transform the created order and establish the long-awaited Kingdom of the Lord over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). All nations will worship the King, Jesus Christ (Zechariah 14:9, 16, 21). The Holy Bible clearly states the literal return of the Messiah (Zechariah 14:4; see also Acts 1:11). “And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall there be one Lord, and His Name One" (Zechariah 14:9). As the Lord is the King over all the earth, the work of world evangelization will be accomplished and all things will be consummated in the Messiah (Zechariah 14:9). No longer shall there be many world religions or many names for God (cf. Deuteronomy 6:4) as the prayer of Matthew 6:9-10 will finally be answered as “Thy kingdom come,” and we shall reign with Him (Revelation 5:10; Revelation 20:6). Finally, the nations will “worship the King” (Zechariah 14:16–17). The King’s reign will be universal ("over all the earth"). The Lord God will be the only God worshiped and His Name will be the only Name honored. (See Psalm 72; Jeremiah 30:7-9).

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Zechariah’s vision of the Lord’s return to His people is the same message that was given by other Old Testament prophets (see Isaiah 52:8; Joel 3:21). Many times the Holy Bible encourages everyone to watch for the Day of the Lord (Zechariah 14:1). The Day of the Lord will bring God’s judgment, wrath, and terror for the wicked that rebelled against Him and God’s people (Zechariah 12:4; Zechariah 14:13; see also Isaiah 22:5). However, God’s salvation and deliverance will come to the faithful on the Day of the Lord (see Amos 5:18; Matthew 19:28-30; Luke 13:23-30). In conclusion, Zechariah 14 closes with visions of judgment, salvation, and God’s universal Kingdom here on earth. Zechariah 14 tells of the Messiah’s coming and crowning as He establishes His Kingdom as King over the whole earth (Zechariah 14:9-15). Then, the Lord Himself would intervene and rescue His people (Zechariah 14:3-4) and punish their enemies with a terrible plague (Zechariah 14:12-15). Even more, God the King will make changes in the heavens (Zechariah 14:6–7) and the earth (Zechariah 14:3–5). He will cause a river to flow that will restore and refresh the land (Ezekiel 47). Israel would be restored as God’s people, and Jerusalem would be exalted as the center of civilization and worship (Zechariah 14:16-17). There will be one Lord that will be worshipped and loved (Deuteronomy 6:4-6) and many of Psalms will be fulfilled (see Psalms 47–48, 93, 97–99). God’s people will possess a holy and blessed world purged of all God’s enemies and evil. The chronological order of these future events of Zechariah 14 is not clear. Yet, the Holy Bible is clear that only the faithful Gentiles and Israelites will escape God's divine wrath and
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receive God’s eternal blessings (Zechariah 14:5, 16; see also Matthew 24:1620). Any nation who will not join in this great Feast of Tabernacles of worship with God will undergo punishment (Zechariah 14:17-19). The “new” Jerusalem pictured in Zechariah 14 will be similar to the city revealed in Revelation 21 and 22 where God will be worship and His glory will fill the city (see also Isaiah 2:2-4 and Micah 4:1-3). Zechariah’s message encourages God’s people to hope in Messiah as the Sovereign King of Israel, who will bring justice and restoration. So, let everyone return to God and worship Him (Zechariah 1:3).

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References Believer’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995. Boice, James. The Minor Prophets. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2006. Packer, J.I. Concise Theology. Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 1993. King James Version Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1988. KJV Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1994. Kline, Meredith. Glory in Our Midst. Overland Park, KS: Two Age Press, 2001. Life Application Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2005. New Student Bible. New York: Zondervan,1992. NLT Study Bible. Carol Streams, IL: Tyndale House Pub., 2008. Spirit Filled Life Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991. Tarazi, Paul. “Israel and the Nations (According to Zechariah 14).” St. Vladimir’s Theological Quarterly 38 (1994): 181 – 192. The Amplified Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1987. Wiersbe, Warren W. Bible Exposition Commentary. Victor Books, 1989. Wiersbe, Warren. With the Word Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1991. Woman’s Study Bible. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1995. Word in Life Study Bible. Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1996. Zondervan NIV Study Bible. New York: Zondervan, 2008.

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