Eventually Israel would divide and fall. After four hundred years of a very up and down loose-knit confederation of tribes, led at times by various righteous savior-leaders, such as Gideon, Samson and Deborah, will God rise up to rescue Israel from her enemies. Then, around 1000 B.C., Israel would finally ask for a king of her own. The irony of their request was that Israel had the greatest monarch any nation could ask for–God himself was her protector and Sovereign. But just as other nations had a real live flesh and blood king, Israel wanted one too–a flesh and blood representative of God to keep her in line.Reluctantly, and knowing that not even a real, live flesh and blood king would keep her faithful to her treaty obligations, God did give Israel a king—Saul. But when Saul disobeyed God, God had the prophet Samuel anoint a new king-in waiting, a man that, despite his many flaws, Scripture describes as being a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam. 13:4). After David’s son, the great King Solomon passes on, tragically Israel divides into two nations (around 900 B.C.). The ten northern tribes retain the name Israel, while the two southern tribes take the name of the larger tribe, Judah.In over two hundred years as a nation, Israel will not crown one righteous king…zero for twenty. Finally, in the late eighth century, God unleashes his curses and a great and fierce super-power from the region of the northeastern Fertile Crescent, Assyria, besieged and conquered Israel. Her inhabitants are carried off and mixed with other conquered peoples, and Israel is no more.
At the same time, as described in Isaiah 37-38, in one night, God miraculously delivers King Hezekiah and Judah from the massive Assyrian army. In fact, Assyria never recovers from her massive, mortal wounds suffered in her blind attempt to besiege God’s city, people and king. A century later, Assyria will be conquered by the next Middle Eastern super-power, the Babylonians. But it was during these days of both God’s divine judgment and deliverance (700+ B.C.) that Isaiah, as well as, other Old Covenant or Testament prophets, inspired by God, were uttering their now famous prophecies concerning not only both Israel and Judah’s future demise, but their future forgiveness and restoration.
Ultimately, unlike her sister nation, Israel, which crowned not one righteous king even over two hundred years of existence, Judah, on the other hand will crown more righteous kings than unrighteous kings. However, she will have both, and the unrighteous will truly be unrighteous, leading Judah into incredible depths of sin, including the acceptance of the sacrificing of her children to foreign gods (See Lev. 20:2-5; 18:21; Deut. 12:31; 18:10; 2 Kings 3:27; 16:3; 17:17; 21:6; 23:10; Ps. 106:35ff; Is. 57:5; Jer. 7:31; 19:4-5; 32:35; Ezk. 16:20ff; 20:26, 31; Hos. 13:2), as well as, engaging in male-shrine prostitution in order to please her many gods (Lev. 18:22; Deut. 23:17; 1 Kings 14:24; 15:12; 22:46). And although she will outlast her sister nation Israel, by more than a century, she too, a Spiritual, legal and moral failure, will be besieged and conquered by the mighty Babylonians (@600 B.C).
Not all, but many of her most prominent families, including prophets Daniel and Ezekiel, will be carried off to Babylon as exiles. And for seventy years, a righteous and just God will take back what had been legally stolen from him. According to the Mosaic Law, every seven years, Israel was to rest her Land and thus allow God to provide for her in that year. These were to be called Sabbath years, or years of rest. For almost five hundred years, Israel and Judah had failed to honor the Sabbath year, thus seventy unobserved Sabbath years had accumulated on God’s divine books. In the end, God took back every one of them.
Finally, seventy years after Judah’s fall and Jerusalem’s destruction, the Babylonians were defeated by the Medes and the Persians, and the gracious Persian super-monarch, Cyrus, allows a remnant of the Jews to return to a devastated and desolate Land (Ex. 23:10-11; Lev. 25:1ff; Dan. 9:1ff; 2 Chron. 36:21; Ezra 1:1; Jer. 25:11-12; 29:10; Zech. 7:5).
Under the leadership of their governor, Zerubbabel, and almost a century later, Ezra the priest and Nehemiah, a cupbearer to the Persian king, Artaxerxes, the Jews will rebuild both their sacred temple and Jerusalem’s city walls.
Zacharias is proclaiming that his son, John (as the prophet Isaiah had prophesied over seven centuries earlier…as both Israel and Judah were either in the midst of… or about to enter into…their national and Spiritual free falls from grace…and in clear violation of the covenant which she had entered into with God seven centuries before, after her exodus out of Egypt and before she was about to reclaim her ancestral inheritance across the Jordan River) will prepare the way for the LORD’s return to his people, which means for all intense purposes, God is finally and fully forgiving his adulterous bride, his people, Israel for her past woeful Spiritual and moral indiscretions.Thus Zacharias’ son will give to God’s people, the knowledge of salvation and deliverance…How? by the forgiveness of sins.In other words, Zacharias is announcing to Judah that God’s promised and Isaiah’s prophesied forgiveness is about to take place. For the only way a righteous, holy and just God could dwell with his people in joy and gladness once again, is to forgive their sin, and NOT just personal sin, but Israel’s long history of national and Spiritual apostasy, which means, once again, for all intense purposes, Judah will no longer remain a pauper nation. Led by her promised Messiah, she is about to escape her long shame and humiliation.
No doubt, Zacharias’ the horn of salvation, from the house of David, would lead Judah to throw off her Roman domination and once again be a great nation, perhaps the greatest nation the world has ever seen…a righteous nation, ruled and led by God’s Messiah (or Christ in Greek; anointed one in English…after the tradition of anointing prophets, priests and kings for special service).
And Zacharias’ son, John, would be the voice, messenger or Elijah both announcing and preparing the way for God’s final forgiveness and ultimate deliverance. Thus the forgiveness being prophesied here is a national forgiveness. The salvation being prophesied here is a national salvation.
Now, can you understand why Zacharias’ prophecy was so crucial as well as, nationally intoxicating? What this small pauper, vassal nation is being prepped for is Spiritually-promised and prophesied universal greatness. Her long-suffering and national humiliation was about to end!