Jerusalem is once again the scene of riots and violence, and it appears that the Government of Israel is either unwilling or else unable to take the necessary action to stop it. There certainly is an unwillingness on the part of Israel to act with sufficient determination, and the reason for their weakness is not difficult to identify as leading world powers issue the usual calls for “restraint” and “justice” etc. The pope, who calls himself “Francis,” visited the city just a few weeks ago, but now has fallen silent; he did not condemn the murder of three Israeli teenagers near Hebron and he has not called upon the Palestinian rioters to behave themselves in a more civilized and decent way. They claim that the death of a Palestinian teenager was a revenge attack by right-wing religious Jews, but there is no proof of that – but the case was a handy means of pushing back the sympathy for the three murdered Israeli teens.
We all have access to the news reports and can make our own judgments about the prejudices and bias that is projected. But for the Bible believer there is guidance as to what lies behind the news stories. Of particular relevance is the fact that the Creator of all things is involved in bringing about His own purpose through these events. In the prophecy of Zechariah chapter 12 we read this:
“The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it” (verse 1-3).
At a time – and in such an age when the world does not recognize the reality of the Creator, this is telling us that the Creator has revealed his purpose and has spoken – this is his “burden” (the word literally means “oracle” or utterance). Gesenius’ lexicon tells us that the word is meant in a good sense, and the Companion Bible says that the passage is “concerning Israel’s affliction and final deliverance.”
But what is this “utterance” telling us?
“BEHOLD,” Look! Take Note! Here is something to arrest our attention. The Creator tells us that He will “make” Jerusalem a cup of trembling!
Now just check out that word “trembling” – it is Strong number 7478, and has the idea of intoxication, drunkenness (reeling). Many have translated this as “a cup of poison” (e.g. the Hebrew Tanach).
Arabs violent protest.
So the Creator says that He will make Jerusalem an issue that makes the people round about irrational, mad, drunk with hatred! In other words people’s minds are poisoned! And it is “the people round abut” (neighbours) who are drunk with hatred. This is “when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.”
What is this “siege”? The word carries the idea of distress, says Gesenius. This is “a period of threatening” says the Companion Bible. This describes the situation today. Look at a map which includes Israel’s neighbours – How many friends does Israel have? She is surrounded – besieged – by enemies.
But in Zechariah 12:2 and 3, we can see two stages featured. First, Jerusalem is an issue poisoning all the peoples round about. Secondly Jerusalem becomes “a burdensome stone for all people. The word for “people” in verse 3 is Goy, that is Gentiles who are “gathered together against it.”
This prophecy is parallel to the one in Joel 3:1-2,
“For, behold, in those days, and in that time, when I shall bring again the captivity of Judah and Jerusalem, I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.”
Judah and Jerusalem are at the centre of the controversy; a controversy sparked by the return of the Jews to their ancient land – this is what the troubles in the promised Land are all about. So the Creator says:
“And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.”
This expression “a burdensome stone” is interesting. Jerusalem is to be a STONE OF BURDEN that will “cut” or “break” in pieces the people of the earth that are gathered together against it.
This is the “stone” that we read of in Daniel 2:34.
This “stone” is in process of development – of being cut out without hands – it is “the stone of Israel” (Genesis 49:24); “the shepherd and stone of Israel.” It is this stone – the Jerusalem stone – which is called the city of the Truth which will smite the enemies of Israel: As we read again:
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain” (Zechariah 8:2-3).
Thus the stone will become a great mountain and fill the whole earth (Daniel 2:35). So it is that while violence and rioting fills the streets of Jerusalem today, the day is coming when the City of the truth, as a stone of burden, will smite the nations, and become the centre of the kingdom of God upon earth under the reign of the shepherd King, Jesus the Messiah.