11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
and fill it with Ephraim.
I will rouse your sons, Zion,
against your sons, Greece,
and make you like a warrior’s sword.
14 Then the Lord will appear over them;
his arrow will flash like lightning.
The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet;
he will march in the storms of the south,
15 and the Lord Almighty will shield them.
They will destroy
and overcome with slingstones.
They will drink and roar as with wine;
they will be full like a bowl
used for sprinkling the corners of the altar.
16 The Lord their God will save his people on that day
as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
like jewels in a crown.
17 How attractive and beautiful they will be!
Grain will make the young men thrive,
and new wine the young women.
(Zechariah 9:11-17 NIV)
As we finish up chapter 9 today, we see God intervening on behalf of His people. Here is an outline that summarizes the chapter:
- vv. 1-8 – God begins in northern Persia and conquers everything on the way to Jerusalem
- vv. 9-10 – The king will arrive in Jerusalem among great celebration, bringing peace to the city, to the region, and to the known world
- vv. 11-17 – God will intervene to defend, protect, and provide for His people
Verse 11 starts with “as for you”, implying that there is an “also” in the statement. This is a reminder of God’s covenant relationship made with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21), continued with Moses (Exodus 24:5-8), and now extended to the returning Jewish exiles.
While those words were for the ancient Jewish people, we also see Jesus use this same blood/covenant phrase at the Last Supper (Mark 14:24). Through Jesus, this “also” is extended to us, as Jesus offered His blood as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.
Verse 11 also uses the phrase “waterless pit” to depict the captivity of God’s people. Remember how Jeremiah’s adversaries threw him into an abandoned cistern to die, and how God stirred up compassion in a servant to speak to the king to rescue Jeremiah so he would not die there (Jeremiah 38:1-13)? The “waterless pit” (cistern) is used to describe the desert conditions of the Jewish people being held in Babylon and other remote locations. To be prisoners set free showed God’s action on behalf of His people, to deliver them from death to life. Likewise, Christ’s death and resurrection offers us deliverance from death to life, but we must accept His free gift of life – He will not force it on us.
In verse 12, the Lord shows that the prisoners must respond to God’s offer. Faith in God and His offer begets (leads to) action. And what is that action? Returning to the Promised Land, the “fortress” (walled city) that God Himself protects using a wall of fire around the city (Zechariah 2:5). God promises a double blessing to those who will step out in faith and obey. God had promised the double blessing as a compensation for past sorrows (Isaiah 61:7).
While the nations (including Judah) were disarmed (v. 10), God was not (v. 13). The Lord depicts Judah (the southern tribe) as His bow, and Ephraim (Israel, the northern tribe) as His arrows, signifying that both were necessary to accomplish His purposes (you need both the bow and the arrows to have and use the weapon).
The Lord uses stormy weather (lightning, thunder, winds, v. 14) to portray His conquering march through the nations (vv. 1-8). There will be bloodshed of the enemies, and the Lord will protect and defend His people (v. 15).
God uses an analogy of a king’s crown to describe His love for His people. God’s “crown” is His promised land for His people, and the “jewels” in that crown are God’s people, sparkling as precious gems throughout the land (v. 16).
Finally, God paints a picture of the hope, blessing, and bounty He is about to provide to His people. He describes a place where there is peace in the land, where the harvest is good, and young men and women flourish (v. 17).
May we remember that we are beautiful and precious in God’s sight! As followers of Jesus, God sees us redeemed and whole through the lens of Christ, not as sinful, wicked people, as His enemies. Our acceptance and confession of Christ as Savior and Lord has taken away our condemnation and given us new life in Christ.
If you have never taken that step of faith today, do you see yourself as a prisoner dying of spiritual thirst, longing to be set free from the waterless cistern of life? Do you see God’s offer of salvation awaiting you, a free gift?
If you see yourself as that prisoner, what is holding you back from accepting His gracious offer? Are you willing to take that step of faith today, to take Him up on his offer to rescue you from your hopelessness of sin and despair? Only Christ can take us out of that pit leading to death and give us new life.