A restructure is common when a new leader takes office. Zechariah’s final chapter envisions a restructure of creation as it comes under divine sovereignty. The heart of the chapter is this: The Lord will be king over the whole earth (14:9). And changing the king changes the kingdom.
In an alien world, Star Trek’s Spock would say, “It’s life, Jim, but not as we know it.” Zechariah is not seeing an alien planet; he’s seeing the removal of everything alien to God’s intentions for life on earth, the terraforming of our planet.
With impressionistic brushstrokes, Zechariah paints an image of God’s reign transforming everything:
- It’s topological. God’s footprint makes a path through the mountains (14:4-5).
- It’s cosmological. God’s glory changes night to day (14:6-7).
- It’s horticultural. God’s life is life-giving water for creation (14:8).
- It’s structural. God’s exaltation gives everything its place beneath him (14:10).
- It’s political. God’s sovereignty gives the nations their place in relation to him (14:12-19).
- It’s everyday. Devotion to him transforms everything, from how we decorate our animals, to how we prepare our food (14:20-21).
We won’t go through all of these in detail, but here’s the first one:
Zechariah 14:4–5, 10 (NIV)
4 On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south. 5 You will flee by my mountain valley, for it will extend to Azel. You will flee as you fled from the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah. Then the Lord my God will come, and all the holy ones with him. …
10 The whole land, from Geba to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem, will become like the Arabah. But Jerusalem will be raised up …
The Arabah was the rift valley that included the Dead Sea, the lowest place on earth. But verse 10 is not asking us to redraw contour lines on our maps. Zechariah sees God’s Mountain rising to prominence above every other place. No other proud mountain raises itself against God’s reign. Divine order is restored to the earth. It’s a familiar metaphor in the prophets (e.g. Isaiah 2, Micah 4).
The nation of Israel was born when God delivered them by splitting the Sea and establishing his reign over them in the Sinai covenant. But that nation no longer existed. The kingdoms of the world had overpowered them. They needed a new exodus, to have God reigning over them again.
Zechariah pictures God splitting the land, as he had split the sea. His footstep creates a way of escape where there was not way, deliverance for his people, re-establishing his nation under his reign. Prominent mountains are no obstacle: they quake and fume at his presence, melting away like wax before the ruler who endures (Psalms 18:7; 46:2-3; 104:32; 97:5). The God who had split the sea to remove the obstacle blocking his people could also bring down the proud mountains and rescue his people out of oppression, into this reign.
Jesus believed he was called to lead his people in this new exodus, deliverance from the reign of evil, re-establishing the kingdom of God. Facing the temple mount, he spoke of God moving mountains (Mark 11:23). On the Mount of Olives he taught about the reign of God being re-established through him, even quoting the latter chapters of Zechariah (Matthew 24:30).
Some commentators have limited Zechariah’s words to Jesus’ second coming, a future time when the whole earth is under divine kingship. I think they’ve missed the point that Jesus has already re-established God’s reign. It isn’t fully here yet, but it is here.
Jesus is the Christ, the God-appointed ruler for the earth. He led the new exodus, out of the reign of sin and death, into the kingdom of the Son. He split the earth open, rising from the grave to the throne — the great salvation for God’s people. He brought the world that was BC (Before Christ) into the years of our Lord’s reign (Anno Domini). He calls the nations to obedience under his reign, and he will reign until all his enemies are under his feet.
So picture the world that is being reborn in the reign of our Lord:
- The proud mountains move aside, quaking at his footsteps as he leads the great rescue of humanity (14:4-5).
- The days of light and darkness are overpowered by his presence, as he leads us into the unending day of the Lord (14:6-7).
- Like the waters flowing from the divine presence in Eden to water creation, he is the life-giving water restoring all the people of the east and the west (14:8).
- What has been in high places is being brought low, so everything finds its place beneath his exalted throne (14:10).
- The nations are no longer able to dominate the reign of God (14:12-15).
- The nations will ultimately honour the king, the Lord Almighty, celebrating the feast of the Creator/Deliverer, for creation won’t support them if they don’t (14:16-19).
- No aspect of life will be outside his reign. From how we decorate the animals to how we prepare out daily meals, every aspect of life is devoted to the Lord, with nothing unclean in his presence (14:20-21).
All of this because the Lord reigns (14:9). That’s what Christ is restoring to the earth.
Open Zechariah 14:4-21.
Image: The Judean wilderness east of Jerusalem, where God said he would make a way. (Photo by Allen Browne, 2014).
What others are saying
John Goldingay and Pamela J. Scalise, Minor Prophets II, UBCS (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2012), 310–311 (emphasis original):
14:9 / The prophet succinctly states two core beliefs about God that are central and pervasive in the ot; the Lord is king, and the Lord is one. The consummation will come, as the prophets have declared, because these things are true. And when it comes, these truths will be known everywhere. The Lord will be king over the whole earth is an assertion that repeats a theme from prophecy and the book of Psalms (e.g., Jer. 3:17; Pss. 93; 96; 97; 99). The nations of the earth will respond with worship and serve the king (Zech. 14:16). On that day, furthermore, there will be one Lord, and his name the only name. The emphasis on the Lord as one and only is most familiar from Deuteronomy 6:4. The names of the idols will have to be removed (Zech. 13:2), and the peoples of the earth will acknowledge the Lord alone as God.
Joyce G. Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary, TOTC (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972), 223–224:
Using symbolic language still the prophet is depicting ‘Utopia’. For him the essential is that God should be King, not only in the life of the individual, but of the whole human race. When that condition is fulfilled everyday life will be ‘holy to the Lord’, and all human problems solved.