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Author:Rev. George van Popta
 send email...
 www.vanpopta.ca
 
Congregation:Jubilee Canadian Reformed Church
 Ottawa, Ontario
 jubileechurch.ca
 
Preached At:Ancaster Canadian Reformed Church
 Ancaster, Ontario
 www.ancasterchurch.on.ca
 
Title:A Great Leader
Text:Zechariah 10:4 (View)
Occasion:New Years Eve
Topic:Life in Christ
 
Preached:2008-01-06
Added:2008-01-19
Updated:2008-01-19
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Songs:
Ps. 110:1,2,3
Ps. 25:6
Ps. 118:6,7
Hy. 57:3,4
Ps. 2:2,3
Reading:
Zechariah 10
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ:

On this first worship service of the new year, we turn to a text of scripture which proclaims to us the kingship of our Lord Jesus Christ. As his people, we have lived under his benevolent rule this past year. And we continue, a new year, under his kind and merciful direction.

The prophet Zechariah ministered to the people of God after God had brought his people back from the Babylonian exile, back to the land and to Jerusalem. The LORD God had raised up Cyrus, king of Persia, to defeat Babylon. Cyrus had let the Jews return to their ancestral home. The people were, of course, very happy to be back home and to be allowed to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. But they did not know true freedom. They were under the dominion of the Persian King Cyrus.

Furthermore, the leaders of the nation were not providing good leadership. 10:3 mentions the anger of the LORD against the shepherds and leaders. Both the prophets Zechariah and Haggai chide the leaders among the Jews for their bad and abusive ways. For not giving good direction to God's people.

The prophet Zechariah directed the people's attention upward to the LORD God. He encourage them with the promise of God that the LORD was going to send them a great king. A king upon whom they could build their lives and suspend their anxieties, who would rise up to defend God's people and rule over them powerful and graciously.

Beloved, let our attention be directed to him as well. To our great King Jesus Christ—the foundation of our lives, the one upon whom we can depend in all our concerns in the coming year, who is our mighty king who will defend us and govern us.

I proclaim to you the Word of God under this theme:

IN THE PERSON OF THE SON OF GOD, THE LORD GOD HAS GIVEN US A GREAT KING

1. His heavenly source
2. His unique greatness
3. His royal commission

1. When we consider from where the one described in our text comes, we are immediately confronted with having to make an exegetical choice. The Hebrew says: "From him (not 'from Judah' but 'from him') will come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg… etc." The question is: Who is meant here? Who is "him"? From whom will the great king come?

We need to go back to v. 3 to help us decide. V. 3 mentions three persons: the bad shepherds of Israel (also called "the leaders"), the LORD Almighty, and the house of Judah (the church). It won't be the bad shepherds. So it needs to be either the house of Judah or the LORD. The NIV has made a choice for the house of Judah, and has made the choice clear by adding the name "Judah" to v. 4 even though it's not in the Hebrew. So according to the NIV, this great leader is going to come from Judah.

It's not a bad thought if we think about all the OT promises that the Messiah would be born from within the tribe of Judah. And we know that Christ was of that tribe.

However, it's not the best choice. In the context surrounding our text, there are two references to Judah, and both times they are in the plural. V. 3—"… the LORD Almighty will care for his flock, the house of Judah, and make them like a proud horse in battle." V. 6—"I will strengthen the house of Judah and save the house of Joseph. I will restore them because I have compassion on them." All the way to the end of the chapter, God's people are spoken of in the plural—"them" and "they."

But here, in our text, the prophet says: "From him (singular) will come…" We do well to conclude that the addition of "Judah" is not right. Rather, that "him" is the LORD Almighty, mentioned in v. 3. This great leader will come from the LORD. He will be a direct gift from God. That's how the LORD will care for his people (cf. v. 3).

The people of God needed a good and strong leader. They had come back from the exile in Babylon. They were weak. Harassed by neighouring nations and tribes. As we know from the books of Ezra and Nehemiah, books that describe the post-exilic years of the OT, they were not good years. The people were trying to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem, but they were being hassled by neighouring people.

The leadership from within Israel was poor. You see that in the first verses of Zech. 10. The people were going to the idols, the false gods, to seek a blessing upon the land. The shepherds, the leaders, were not leading them away from the idols and to the one true God. The LORD said that he was angry with the shepherds and was going to punish them. He himself would assume the care of his people. He would give them a good leader who could make them strong against every enemy.

When did God fulfill this promise? Well, there was an initial fulfilment with the Maccabees. The Maccabess were a Jewish national liberation movement that arose a couple hundred years later that fought for and won independence for the Jews from some very cruel oppressors. The Maccabees founded the Hasmonean royal dynasty and established Jewish independence in the Land of Israel for about one hundred years. Israel was strong and proud for a century.

But this was only an initial fulfilment. And although it lasted 100 years, it only lasted 100 years. 63 years before the birth of Christ, the land of Israel fell to the Roman legions and became nothing but a province in the Roman empire.

This prophecy of Zechariah was finally and fully fulfilled by Christ. When the Lord Jesus came to his people, then they were like sheep without a shepherd. It says that in Matthew 9:36. Matthew quotes Zech. 10:2. Matthew wrote: When Jesus saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. That's from Zech. 10:2—Therefore the people wander like sheep oppressed for lack of a shepherd.

By the time of the Lord Jesus, the church was right back to where it was in the time of Zechariah. Leaderless. Shepherdless. Wandering and lost.

God sent his own Son to be the great leader, the great shepherd, of the sheep. God gave him. He is from God. We commemorated that on "Christmas Day." Unto us a Child was born // To us a Son was given. As our text says, from Him (i.e., the LORD Almighty) comes the great leader.

The church has him forever. Never again will the church be leaderless and shepherdless—as God's people were in those hard days before the coming of Christ. As the author of the letter to the Hebrews wrote: [May] our Lord Jesus, that great Shepherd of the sheep, equip you with everything good for doing his will, and may he work in us what is pleasing to him…. The Shepherd has come. He has gathered his flock together. And today, through His Word and Spirit, he tends us and pastors us.

2. His unique greatness.

As our great leader, he is one of kind.

He is called by four different names in our text.

a. He is called "the cornerstone."

The cornerstone was the basic foundation stone of a building or a wall. It was carefully placed and the rest of the stones were oriented to it. In scripture, it is used figuratively to refer to a person. It becomes clear, that that person is Christ.

In Isaiah 28:16 the prophet said: So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts in him will never be dismayed.

This is a prophecy of Christ. Christ, the cornerstone of the church, was and is rejected by many. We are going to sing about that in Psalm 118: "The stone the builders had rejected Was chosen as the cornerstone." The shepherds of the OT rejected Christ, but he's the cornerstone of the church, of our lives. As Paul wrote in Eph. 2, we are built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. And Peter, quoting that text from Isaiah, says: For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame."

Trust in Jesus Christ, beloved. The one who trusts in Him will never be dismayed, never put to shame, never disappointed. He is the strong foundation upon which we build. We build our church life on him. We build our family life on him. We build our personal lives on him. Build on Jesus in 2008, and you will never go wrong.

When we build on the strength of our own wisdom, on a human foundation, we fail. If we build on earthly wealth, on worldly values, on secular ways of thinking, we will be standing on quicksand. If we make choices and decisions without factoring in the will of Jesus Christ as we have it in the Bible, we will go terribly wrong. We always go wrong when we go it alone without Christ. But if we stand on Christ and his word, we stand firm and strong. We stand on a firm foundation.

b. Then, our text calls him "the tent peg." From the LORD God Almighty comes the tent peg. What kind of tent peg is meant here?

First we should know that the word is simply "peg." This "peg" can refer either to a tent peg, or, to a peg in the wall from which items could be suspended. Basically, a hook. The NIV makes a choice by adding the word "tent." So it wants us to think of a tent peg which is used to hold down a tent.

Likely it is better to think of a peg driven into a wall from which you could hang things. Because of what we read in Isaiah 22. In Isaiah 22:20ff, we read about how God is going to establish a faithful man call Eliakim in the office of steward of the house of King David. God said about Eliakim: I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. I will drive him like a peg into a firm place … All the glory of his family will hang on him…. And yet, Eliakim will have that honoured place only for awhile. For the Lord goes on in v. 25: "In that day," declares the LORD Almighty, "the peg driven into the firm place will give way; it will be sheared off and will fall, and the load hanging on it will be cut down." The LORD has spoken.

This prophecy of Eliakim, the faithful steward of Isaiah 22, is picked up in the Book of Revelation, 3:7. In the letter of Christ to the Church at Philadelphia. Christ writes: These are the words of him who is holy and true, who (quoting Isa. 22) holds the key of David. What he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open.

Christ is the faithful steward over the kingdom of God. He is the one who bears the key. He is the fulfilment of the faithful Eliakim.
Christ is the peg in the wall (cf. our text). And he will never fall. Eliakim eventually fell. He was yanked out of the wall. But Christ will never fall.

That means, beloved, that you can hang everything on him in the year ahead. He is your access to the kingdom of heaven. He will never let you down. You can cast all your anxieties on him. No load is too heavy for Christ. He can bear your burden. He has infinite power. Hang your life on him; hang everything you are and have on your Lord Jesus Christ, the one God gave you to be the peg in the wall. When you suspend yourself on him, you are hanging on the one who will hold you safe and secure forever.

c. Then, he is the battle bow.

This is an instrument of war. It is used to shoot arrows at one's enemy. When our great leader is called a battle bow, then we recall to mind some of the battle songs of the Book of Psalms. We are going to sing Psalm 2. Psalm 2 says the Son of God, the LORD's anointed one, will break in pieces, like a potter's jar, those who rebel against God. He will smite them with a rod of iron.

Psalm 110 says that Christ will crush kings on the day of his wrath. He will judge the nations, heaping up the dead and crushing the rulers of the whole earth.

In Rev. 6 we read about our King, the Lord Jesus Christ riding forth as a mighty warrior in defence of the honour of God and in defence of the church. In his vision, John sees a white horse! (Rev. 6) Its rider held a bow, and he was given a crown, and he rode out as a conqueror bent on conquest.

In Revelation 19, John sees the white horse rider again. A white horse rider called Faithful and True. He rides forth to judge with justice and to make war. His eyes are like blazing fire, and on his head are many crowns. He has another name: the Word of God. The armies of heaven follow him, riding on white horses. Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations. "He will rule them with an iron scepter." He treads the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God Almighty. On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.

It is our Lord Jesus Christ. Our great leader. He is also a battle bow. And he will execute the vengeance of God upon rebellious man.

Once God was at war with mankind. The Great Flood was an act of war against man who had rebelled against God beyond any proportion imaginable. God warred against mankind by raining down upon them for 40 days and 40 nights. By drowning everyone but the believer Noah and his family. But then God hung up his bow. That's what God said in Gen. 9:13—I have set my bow in the clouds. Our English translations add the word "rain." I have set my rainbow in the clouds. But its just the word "bow." The same word as in our text. God hung up his bow. He entered a time of cease-fire. Even to this day, whenever we see the bow in the skies (formed by the sunshine of grace filtering through the rain of judgment), we can remember that God has ceased his fire. Even more important, as it says in Gen. 9:16, whenever God sees it he remembers the cease-fire. We live, now in the time of long-suffering patience on the part of God. He is putting up for now with man's arrogance and rebellion. But the time of the white-horse rider is approaching. Christ, the King of kings and Lord of lords is coming with a bow in his hand to execute final vengeance and wrath upon the rebellious and disobedient. Upon all who refuse to repent of their sins and bow in humility before God. As Paul wrote in Rom. 2:4, man is storing up wrath.

Beloved, now is the time to repent of sin. Jesus has come once. He was born in Bethlehem, born to die in Jerusalem. To die for our sins. He is coming again, not as a baby, but as a warrior, with a bow in his hands. Now is the time to repent and turn to him in faith and humility.

d. And, says our text, he is coming as ruler.

A rather strange word is used here for ruler. Strange, because it's a word that in other contexts has negative connotations. It's word that describes an absolute ruler, a tyrant, one who exacts tribute from others. It is used in Zech. 9:8 to describe an oppressor who leads his marauding forces to overrun God's people. Why is this word used to describe Christ?

Exactly because Christ is a warrior, a man of action, very determined to achieve his goals. And he will overrun God's enemies. Think again of Psalm 2. Christ will overturn those restless raging nations who so haughtily scheme against Christ and the church. He will cast down those who raise a battle cry against him. He will in fury scorn them. They will perish in his wrath and his quickly kindled blaze of anger.

But all who trust in Him the LORD will cherish; He will defend and bless them all their days. Because he is the absolute ruler upon whom all sovereignty rests.

This is the great leader whom God has given us, beloved: The cornerstone upon whom we stand; the peg upon whom we depend; the battle bow who will destroy all his and our enemies; The mighty ruler who defends and preserves us in the redemption he obtained for us.

3. We need yet to speak about Christ's royal commission.

Our King commissions us to fight in his war.

We need to make one more little correction to the English translation of our text. The word "together" which starts v. 5 (in the English translation) belongs to verse 4. In the Hebrew of our text it's the last word of v. 4. I don't know why they put it with v. 5. The end of v.4 should be translated as: "From him every ruler together."

We are included in that reference to "every ruler." We share in the anointing of Christ. Together with him, we too are kings. In him and with him, we are rulers.

The rest of the chapter describes what the co-rulers of Christ will do: They will be like mighty men in battle. The LORD himself will be with them. The LORD will strengthen them. He will have compassion on them. He will answer them. They will be glad and rejoice.
And though they are scattered across the face of the earth, they will remember the LORD. And though they pass through trials and tribulations, God will bring them through it all. They will be strong and in the LORD's great Name they will walk.

That's talking about us, beloved. We are co-rulers with Christ. We have a task in this world to rule with Christ. Wherever God has placed you, you have a royal commission, a royal task in the year 2008. We exert the claim of Christ there where we each are. Where we live, where we work, where we study, where we play. All of that belongs to Christ. He is the sovereign ruler. And as co-sovereign, we each rule over that part of the universe, and bring it into submission to Christ. We do so forcefully. As the Lord Jesus said in Matthew 11;12, "The kingdom of heaven is forcefully advancing, and forceful men lay hold of it…"

That will determines how we will study, and work, and make our business deals in the new year. That will determine how we will manage our households, and families, and our personal lives. Our leisure and recreation time. It will determine everything. No part of life is left outside of that. Bring it all into submission to Christ the King.

He came once. He is coming again. Let's make ready and be ready for that great day when he, our great Leader, will lead us to our eternal home. AMEN



* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. George van Popta, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://ancasterchurch.on.ca/sermonaudio/Jan0608AM.mp3

(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. George van Popta

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