Zechariah’s twelfth chapter opens with the heart-stopping violence of warfare, a scene of howling destruction.
The Mountain of Megiddo (found in verse 11), Har Mageddon, is mentioned in several key battles in the Bible.
“The kings came, they fought;The Song of Deborah, Judges 5:19 (NRSV)
then fought the kings of Canaan,
at Taanach, by the waters of Megiddo;
they got no spoils of silver.
In his days Pharaoh Neco king of Egypt went up to the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates. King Josiah went to meet him; but when Pharaoh Neco met him at Megiddo, he killed him.Death of the beloved King Josiah, 2 Kings 23:19 (NRSV)
And they assembled them at the place that in Hebrew is called Harmagedon.Gathering of the world’s kings for a final battle against God’s people and God, Revelation 16:16 (NRSV)
The word of the Lord concerning Israel:
Thus says the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the human spirit within:
“See, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for all the surrounding peoples; it will be against Judah also in the siege against Jerusalem. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples; all who lift it shall grievously hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth shall come together against it.
“On that day,” says the Lord, “I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But on the house of Judah I will keep a watchful eye, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’
“On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot on a pile of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves; and they shall devour to the right and to the left all the surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem.
“And the Lord will give victory to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not be exalted over that of Judah.
“On that day the Lord will shield the inhabitants of Jerusalem so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, at their head.
“And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.”Zechariah 12:1-9 (NRSV)
Three Points to Ponder
If we read this prophecy as still future to us, then there are three points to take note of.
1. “On that day.”
Zechariah repeatedly used this phrase to refer to the Judgement Day of the Lord, still future to us.
2. The key location is Jerusalem.
The pivotal place of all these world events is Mount Zion, with Jerusalem as the central focus. For centuries Biblical scholars believed this passage was entirely symbolic because of how minuscule the chances looked for there ever being a nation of Israel again, let alone Jerusalem as the capital city. Yet the impossible has happened—Israel literally exists! Though Tel Aviv is the actual capital city, Jerusalem is still the religious center, and those of Jewish faith and descent have gathered in from all over the world to once again live in the promised land.
For many theologians, this represents a current-day partial fulfillment of the Feast of Trumpets
3. Jerusalem is a cup of reeling and a heavy stone.
Scholars read into the line, See, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of reeling for all the surrounding peoples, that world leaders will decide Israel has become an insurmountable problem. They will determine the only solution is to annihilate it.
There will be a siege of Jerusalem in Judah by armies from all the nations, which will launch the beginning of Armageddon, the war to end all wars. Years ago you and I might have viewed this scene as total fantasy. But continuing warfare throughout the Middle East makes the prospect of Armageddon look less symbolic and more possible.
However, according to Zechariah, God will intervene at the crucial moment by depriving the enemies of their strength, causing disunity among the world’s nations until they finally turn on each other destroy themselves. God will also empower Israel to resist and overcome their enemies.
The One Whom They Have Pierced
With the invading armies of the world destroyed, the Lord will then turn God’s attention to an even greater conquest, the hearts of Jewish people.
And I will pour out a spirit of compassion and supplication on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that, when they look on the one whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.Zechariah 12:10 (NRSV)
The spirit of compassion and supplication ultimately refers to the Holy Spirit because the Spirit alone provides the power to see the truth about sin, and about Jesus. God will pour out on the nation, high and low alike, God’s Spirit, the spirit of conviction.
The Apostle Paul looked forward to this day when he wrote,
So that you may not claim to be wiser than you are, brothers and sisters, I want you to understand this mystery: a hardening has come upon part of Israel, until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved; as it is written,
“Out of Zion will come the Deliverer;Romans 11:25-27 (NRSV)
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob.”
“And this is my covenant with them,
when I take away their sins.”
A partial fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy happened on the Day of Pentecost,
Now when they heard [Peter’s message], they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and to the other apostles, “Brothers,[i] what should we do?”
Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ so that your sins may be forgiven; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”Acts 2:37-38 (NRSV)
But the complete fulfillment of the prophetic Feast of Atonement is still to come, as described in Revelation the Apostle John received,
Look! He is coming with the clouds; every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and on his account all the tribes of the earth will wail. So it is to be. Amen.Revelation 1:7 (NRSV)
A Time of Mourning
The chapter ends with a description of the depths of all Israel’s grief, every individual, every family, every tribe, from the lowliest to the highest born.
On that day the mourning in Jerusalem will be as great as the mourning for Hadad-rimmon in the plain of Megiddo. The land shall mourn . . .Zechariah 12:11-12 (NRSV)
Their grief will be as sharp and poignant as when the people mourned over the death of King Josiah.
All Judah and Jerusalem mourned for Josiah. Jeremiah also uttered a lament for Josiah, and all the singing men and singing women have spoken of Josiah in their laments to this day. They made these a custom in Israel; they are recorded in the Laments.2 Chronicles 35:24-25 (NRSV)
Not just national remorse, but intense, personal, private sorrow as if an only child had been lost. Each will face his or her sorrow alone, even husbands and wives will be separated – their sorrow will transcend even the closest earthly ties.
The Lord Himself will be the deliverance of His people
Out of intense sorrow can come renewal, a change of heart, a settled conviction to turn away from what was and to commit to something new. So it will be for God’s people, Zechariah intimated. First there will be a time of crushing, but God will ultimately bring about healing, empowering, and victory.