The final message of Zechariah concerns an assault on Jerusalem by all the nations of the world. It is not possible to find a literal fulfilment of the description of the attack and its consequences. This means it describes either an assault on the city in the future (and many imagine it refers to a final battle just before Jesus returns) or an illustration of attacks on God’s kingdom and his deliverance of his people.
Perhaps it is easier to consider the consequences in order to find out what is meant. In verse 8, we are told it will be the time when living water flows from Jerusalem to the whole world. And in verse 9, it will be the time when the Lord will become king of all the earth. We know when Jesus became king – it was at his exaltation, and we know that one effect of his reign was that living water (the Holy Spirit) began to flow throughout the world.
The battle for the city is described in cataclysmic terminology – how else would one describe a visit by God who has come to fight for his people? There will be massive changes caused by a great earthquake (vv. 4-5) and there will be a complete adjustment of day and night (vv. 6-7). The city will be captured but only 50% of the populations will be taken into exile, but to where will they be taken? Then the entire land will be turned into a plain apart from the city of Jerusalem which will be higher than the rest of the country (v. 10). It is only a problem if we want to interpret the predictions literally, but since most of Zechariah’s visions and predictions have elements that cannot be literal, why should we take this earthquake, absence of darkness, elevation and exile literally?
Instead, what we have here is a picture of how permanent security will be provided by God for Jerusalem and its inhabitants. He will engage in conflict against their opponents and all their enemies will be destroyed comprehensively apart from those who choose to participate in the worship of God (vv. 11-19). The worship of God will be purified and everything in the city, even the bells on the horses, will be set apart for God (vv. 20-21).
The question that should be asked of this chapter is, ‘Where and what is the Jerusalem of God?’ The author of Hebrews tells us that it is the church (Heb. 12:22-24). A great battle was fought to provide its security and great changes have been the consequence. The victory includes the ongoing spread of the Living Water throughout the world and he turns enemies into residents of the city. The common activity of the citizens is to worship their God wholeheartedly.