From (Judah) shall come the cornerstone…
Zechariah now turns his focus to reminders of the sins and mistakes the Jews had made in earlier times which had led to their Babylonian exile. Chapter 10 opens with this directive: “Ask rain from the Lord in the season of the spring rain, from the Lord who makes the storm clouds, and he will give them showers of rain, to everyone the vegetation in the field” (10:1). During their years of pagan idolatry, the Israelites had prayed to Baal, the false god of weather and fertility, for rain (cf. 1 Kings 18). By directing his generation to ask the one true God for rain, promising that He would answer their prayers, and reminding them of the “nonsense” of following “household gods” (cf. Gen. 31:19, 34; 1 Sam. 19:13) and the “lies,” “false dreams,” and “empty consolation” of the fraudulent “diviners” who claimed to see the future (10:2a), the prophet was encouraging his people to go in a different direction than their ancestors, the right path which follows and trusts God. Because of their blind allegiance to things which they themselves had made (cf. Hab. 2:18-19; Is. 44:9-20), the ancestors of the Jews of Zechariah’s day were like wandering sheep without a shepherd (10:2b). So the prophet reminded his peers of how angry God had been with those who had been Judah’s religious and governmental leaders in years past (10:3a), referring to the latter with the Hebrew term for male goats (cf. Matt. 25:32ff).
He then gave them an encouraging message: “…for the Lord of hosts cares for his flock, the house of Judah, and will make them like his majestic steed in battle. From him shall come the cornerstone, from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler – all of them together. They shall be like mighty men in battle, trampling the foe in the mud of the streets; they shall fight because the Lord is with them, and they shall put to shame the riders on horses. I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph. I will bring them back because I have compassion on them, and they shall be as though I had not rejected them, for I am the Lord their God and I will answer them. Then Ephraim shall become like a mighty warrior, and their hearts shall be glad as with wine. Their children shall see it and be glad; their hearts shall rejoice in the Lord” (10:3b-7).
While there is some application to the intertestamental period, this is primarily a Messianic prophecy. Ephraim and Joseph (synecdoches of the ten northern tribes who had been conquered by Assyria) fighting alongside Judah fits the historical fact that a remnant of that long-disposed kingdom returned from captivity during the 400 years before Christ (see Luke 2:36 for evidence of this) and would be of benefit to Judah in her resistance of Seleucid and Grecian pagan influence. However, the prophecy’s ultimate fulfillment would be found in Christ and His church. Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s spiritual temple under the new covenant, the church (Acts 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 2:4-8; Eph. 2:19-22; cf. Matt. 16:16-18; Is. 28:16; Ps. 118:22; Matt. 21:42), which is also described as spiritual Israel in the New Testament (cf. Rom. 2:28-29; James 1:1; Gal. 6:16; Lk. 22:30). Just as tent pegs anchor a tent, “we have an anchor that keeps the soul steadfast and sure while the billows roll,” and that anchor is Jesus (Heb. 13:5-6; 1 Pet. 5:6-7). He has all authority, puts rulers in their places, and is King over them (Matt. 28:18; Rom. 13:1ff; 1 Tim. 6:15). Both Christ and His church are depicted in the New Testament (with imagery similar to Zechariah’s) as fighting a spiritual war against Satan (2 Cor. 10:3-5; Eph. 6:10-18; 1 Thess. 5:8; Jude 3; Rev. 1:16; 6:2; 19:11-13). Whatever victories the church has in this spiritual war are because Jesus is with us (John 15:4-5), and those within the church shall certainly rejoice because of the salvation given to them by God’s grace (Phil. 4:4-7). It strengthens my faith to see – in us – the fulfillment of these prophecies.