The historic fulfilment of this prophecy, recorded in all four gospels, shows the people’s rejoicing and exultation turning to rejection and enmity. Furthermore, their expectation of a rampant lion-king turned to exasperation as this rather lowly king came riding into Jerusalem. They dreamt of majesty not meekness.
Israel had had no king since their captivity. When God presented them with their prophesied Messiah they rejected Him. He failed to measure up to their mental image of Him; no beauty, no form, no comeliness, Isa. 53. 2. They were looking for an Alexander the Great kind of Messiah, 9. 1-8, not the atoning type, ‘having salvation’.
A large multitude of the common people rejoiced and shouted as their King commenced His ‘triumphal entry’ into Jerusalem. They strewed their garments and palm branches along His pathway and hailed Him, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David: Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest’, Matt. 21. 9. All the inhabitants of Jerusalem could manage was ‘Who is this?’ The chief priests and scribes were ‘sore displeased’ at the children in the temple chorusing, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’. Soon their chanting would resound, ‘Away with him, crucify him’. ‘We will not have this man to reign over us’.
How unique the description of their King. Most kings were corrupt but He is just and righteous, not only intrinsically but practically. He was accompanied by salvation. In context, this would have been Israel’s deliverance but, because they spurned their King, they will have to wait until ‘he appear the second time unto salvation’, Heb. 9. 28. His position is one of lowliness, of meekness and humility. His chosen method of transport underscores His lowly disposition. At His second advent, it will be the great white war steed, Rev. 19. 11. Is it not amazing that all creation and every creature were subject to Him, even the ass, but not Israel, not mankind! The hymn-writer concluded, ‘Only man is vile’!
Israel, in apostasy, unlike the ass, refused the authority and control of its Messiah.1 How sad! Israel, ‘my firstborn’ were akin to the ass of Exodus chapter 13 verse 13. The firstborn was set apart for God. The ass, however, being unclean could only be set apart for the Lord if a sacrificial lamb was offered for its cleansing. If no lamb was offered the ass’s neck was broken. Israel rejected the One who came, having salvation, and fell under the judgement of God in AD 70 when Jerusalem was sacked and burnt. They lost their land, they have no king, they are ‘not my people’, their house is left unto them desolate until the fountain is opened for sin and uncleanness, 13. 1.
The posture of Christ is literally ‘sitting’ rather than ‘riding’. The seated position speaks of authority. People stood to read but sat to teach. Revelation chapters 14-20 depict Christ sitting on a white cloud, horse and throne, emphasizing His authority. This scene is a fulfilment of the prophetic word; the wild ass was subject to Christ; the disciples and onlookers with the temple children all declared that He was the Son of David and acknowledged their King. The leaders of the nation disapproved as predicted.
Between verses 9 and 10 we have to fit in this present church age; for verse 10 takes us forward to events following the second advent.
(a) The Invincibility of the King, ‘I will cut off’
Ephraim represents the ten tribes and Jerusalem the two-and-a-half tribes into which the nation was divided after the demise of Solomon. In this connection, Ezekiel takes the sceptres of Ephraim and Judah and holds them together as one to illustrate the reunion of the divided nation, Ezek. 37. 19. Contextually, Christ will disarm the whole of a reunited nation.
(b) The Imposition of Peace, ‘He shall speak peace unto the heathen’.
His speaking is with the voice of authority. He is not negotiating peace, He is demanding peace. Armaments of war are converted into agricultural implements. Peace reigns for 1000 years. The heathen, Gentile nations, are subject to Christ’s sovereignty as much as Israel.
(c) The Imperiousness of Messiah, ‘His dominion shall be …’.
The extent of the fifth and final world empire is established. The quote is from Psalm 72 verse 8. The river is indubitably the Euphrates which figures in Bible prophecy. The devil, in the temptation in the wilderness, offered all the kingdoms of this world to Christ. But Christ had a much better offer from Jehovah, Ps. 2. 8.
‘Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Doth his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch
from shore to shore,
Till moons shall wax
and wane no more’,
The division of the Nation into two kingdoms will be reversed. The sorrows of the tribulation will be swallowed up in peace. The sway of Antichrist will be terminated as the King of kings reigns. The scattering of the Jews to the four quarters of the earth will be reversed, ‘Turn you to the stronghold, ye prisoners of (the) hope’, 9. 12.