The World Can Offer No Comfort
The message of a false teacher will usually be one of comfort here on this earth. Motivated by the need to comfort people (whatever their motive) they will say things like everyone can be healed or you can be prosperous or there is no hell or everyone will be saved in the end. In other words, they will tell you want you want to hear. This kind of comfort only gives false hope. The message of a false teacher then is always one of comfort for people here on this earth. This leaves one with no way to navigate through this world. Avoiding discussion about sin and the judgment of a holy God we all are accountable too will never offer wisdom for living or a peace that passes understanding. They comfort in vain the ones needing true comfort. God says He will bring his people back and provide them with true comfort. That comfort can only be caused by repentance and redemption.
FALSE TEACHERS DELIVER ERRONEOUS COMFORT 1-3
Hope for the Future 1
Things have been bleak as the entire history of Israel can attest. But there is hope now in light of their restoration from exile. All His people need to do is ask for rain from the Lord v 1. He will give them ‘showers of His blessing’ if they do. The ‘spring rain’ refers to the sustained rains in the spring of the year. The result of the exile had been a time of drought of a ‘pit without water’ Z 9:11. But now is the offer of hope that this rain of blessing will come once more to the land. Now this is possible because God makes the ‘thunderstorms’. The outcome will be ‘green vegetation in the fields’. Just like we begin to see in our spring season. This is what God’s chosen people can look forward too.
Falsehood and emptiness 2-3a
This was not true then. The nation suffered under a crisis of leadership. Throughout her history, Israel resorted to illicit forms of religious channels to direction and decisions. The Teraphim v 2 (small household idols eliciting info from the spirit world) and Diviners (inspecting animal livers or shaking of arrows (Eze 21:21) and supernatural disclosure through dreams were means of determining the times and seasons. All of these were forms of illicit revelation and each is soundly condemned as only provoking sin, lies, and falsehoods. The outcome ‘the comfort these provide has been in vain” empty and without warrant. The result of this abysmal search for spiritual guidance is an aimless wandering of the people of Israel. The revealed Word of God through the prophets was not adequate. So like nomads the nation and its leaders left their moorings and pursued direction with out a compass and charts. Whether the people or the kings that led them, both the shepherds and the sheep were lost, helpless, living with only a false hope. King Saul used divination in 1 Sam 28:3-7. As did Ahab (1 Kgs 16:31; 22:6ff), Ahaziah (2 Kgs 1:2), Ahaz (2 Kgs 16:15), and Manasseh (2 Kgs 21:6). God was angry about this wicked leadership v 3a. He would punish those responsible. They should have functioned as shepherds of the people instead they were ‘he-goats’ not shepherds.
LESSON: The message of a true shepherd will not be about comfort now! That message will always be about suffering now, caused by sin, and a future comfort only brought about by redemption and repentance. Instead of assisting people here and now to navigate through life with wisdom and peace, they will fill people with false hope by lies, sin, and falsehood. We cannot bring heaven to earth and never will. The world’s answer, though, is not to deal with sin but to go to therapy. The problem is not with God and sin but with your need to self-actualize, become prosperous, or fix this world. This has become the message of the church as well. If you remove accountability to God and the reality of sin, you comfort people in vain!
RIGHTEOUS LEADERSHIP ESTABLISHS GOD’S RULE 3b-7
God will visit 3b-5
With things better than they were in the distant past, the present situation is only a harbinger of things to come. The best is yet ahead. God’s visit to the house of Judah v 3b will turn them into a force to be reckoned with—mighty charger of war. Zechariah foresees Judah as the source of 4 thongs—each of them in reference to the Messiah: (1) the cornerstone—a leader (Eph 2:20; (2) the Peg—a stout hook on which Judah’s future fortunes hang; (3) the battle bow speaking of conquest; and (4) every oppressing ruler will come from—David and all his descendents. When God establishes His dynasty on the throne of Israel once and for all he will ruthlessly put down all opposition making Judah seem an oppressor to her enemies who are made to submit against their will. These rulers of Judah will be like warriors treading in the mud of the streets. Since God is with them there is no possibility of escaping and even seasoned Calvary will be embarrassed by defeat. The mighty and the proud will be humbled and dejected.
God will bring back 6
Here again is reference to the ‘house of Judah’ and additionally the ‘house of Joseph’. God says he will ‘strengthen’ the one and ‘save’ the other. The point is that they will be brought back to full restoration as His people—not just from bondage and exile but also from all her enemies. The reference to Israel as ‘Joseph’ reminds them of that deliverance from Egypt they continue to celebrate in Passover. Their future deliverance will be like an ultimate Exodus a paradigm from oppression and bondage and slavery when Messiah’s reign is established! When this happens God says it will be motivated (1) by His compassion on them. This is the basis of their return and (2) it will be as though God had never rejected them. Their will no longer be any shame or regret or judgment. (Watched a documentary on a murder of a girl who had taken the shift of another friend at a Kentucky Fried Chicken and was killed in a robbery. The friend believed the other family never forgave her even tho she was innocent of anything. That is, until 20 plus years later when the murdered girls mom met her again and said the family never blamed her. She said I was like free from that oppression I had lived with.)
They will rejoice 7
Ephraim is a reference to the northern Tribes who also will also be included in this grand occasion. The northern tribes heart will rejoice as with wine as well as her offspring. Together they will exalt the Lord and celebrate His triumph over all opposition. So God will bring back all of His people to the land—both the southern and northern tribes who are there today in Israel. In the Galilee and Judah. This could be the fulfillment of Zechariah 10 still awaiting the complete fulfillment with Messiah as King.
LESSON: We can expect that God will orchestrate world events to dictate the return of His people and the coming of the Messiah to reign on the earth in Jerusalem. God only has one people but he has two programs. Every believer is from the spiritual seed of Abraham—that is, has come to believe the promises of God by faith. Eventually all things will culminate in the everlasting Kingdom of God. God’s work with the nation of Israel in the future is keeping His Word to Abraham and his physical posterity who are the original cast members of that promise. Through that nation, on that throne, a repentant people and a righteous nation will one day govern the entire world as God had always intended that nation to become.
GOD WILL REGATHER AND RESTORE HIS PEOPLE TO THE LAND 8-12
God will whistle 8-9
The people will return as a result of the call of God not the will of the people. The process of re-gathering will begin with a whistle. When they do re-gather in the land they will multiply as they did in the days of Moses. Once pitiable, they will become mighty and innumerable. This restoration will come to pass even though Israel like so much seed is sowed among the nations v 9. Once God stimulates Abraham’s seed that seed will pick itself up from wherever it has fallen and will gather back to God who had planted them to germinate among the nations in His judgment. They and their children will be restored back to the land, back to God, like the valley of dry bones (Eze 37) God will give them new life.
God will restore 10
Alive again, God will return them to the land v 10a from the ‘land of Egypt’. Here again is the Exodus motif as a paradigm for their ultimate deliverance. The reference to Assyria in v 11 brings Israel’s greatest antagonists to light. Egypt and Assyria represent the most persistent hostile foes epitomizing bondage and exile for Israel (Isa 19:23-25). God will amass a second Exodus that will be global in scope a His people return and are restored. The destination of this future Diaspora is Gilead and Lebanon. Neither of these territories is in the confines of the Promised Land. So these will accommodate the overflow of population. The land will be so populated that refugees will have to find a place of residence even in the outskirts of the land increasing her boundaries as a result.
God’s Sovereign Rule 11-12
God defeats mighty powers and their elimination will be distressful to Israel. The enemy will not go down to defeat without a fight. His people will face determined opposition a sit were ‘pass through a sea of distress’. God will strike a decisive blow by smiting the seas (imagery again referring to the original Exodus)—the Nile will dry up, Assyria’s pride is humbled, and Egypt loses its scepter. The point is that all earthly powers and dominions will give way as God takes up His own sovereignty. He will exercise this sovereignty through His redeemed people v 12 whom he will strengthen for this task. The world now becomes occupied territory until all evil is eradicated and suppressed by force. This force is likened to His people in His name walking to and fro on the earth to assert His lordship over it in all realms. God will triumph and restore His people.
LESSON: God’s peace is a return from suffering. There will be suffering even for God’s people. It is His plan for us now. Any attempt to avoid it or ignore it or replace it counters what God uses today to mature us, give us wisdom, and glorify His character. Suffering will be part of God’s plan until He brings it to a complete and abrupt end. Today we obtain joy by passing through distress not by avoiding it. False teachers will always have a message of comfort here on the earth. Not now. Not yet. But He will.