Question: "What is the meaning of "holy to the Lord" in Zechariah 14:20?"
Answer: In Zechariah 14 the prophet speaks of a time when the Messiah will rule in Jerusalem on earth. In that time, the nation of Israel will be delivered from its enemies, and judgment will come upon those who have opposed the nation. The nation of Israel will fulfill its “holy to the Lord” mandate (e.g., Deuteronomy 7:6), as predicted in Zechariah 14:20: “And on that day there shall be inscribed on the bells of the horses, ‘Holy to the LORD.’ And the pots in the house of the LORD shall be as the bowls before the altar” (ESV). Even the most mundane of implements—like bells on the horses and cooking pots—will be “holy to the Lord.”
There is a time coming when the Messiah will be the King over all the earth (Zechariah 14:9). In that time, there will be no curse on Israel, and the people will live in security (Zechariah 14:10). On the other hand, the Messiah’s rule will begin with an intense time of judgment, plague, and death against those who have warred against Jerusalem (Zechariah 14:11–15). Among the nations will be people who are not judged, and they will journey to Jerusalem to worship (Zechariah 14:16–19). It is in those days that bells on the horses will say, “Holy to the Lord” (Zechariah 14:20), and even common, everyday cooking pots will be holy to the Lord of hosts (Zechariah 14:21).
These passages are an important reminder that the Messiah will one day rule over all; they also illustrate how important holiness to the Lord is. While those days of Messianic reign have not yet arrived, holiness to the Lord is important even today. In fact, the holiness of believers is so important to God that, before the foundations of the world, He chose us to be in Christ and to be holy and blameless in Him (Ephesians 1:3). And believers in this age, collectively referred to as “the church,” are growing together into a holy temple in the Lord (Ephesians 2:21). Like the Holy One who called us, we are to be holy ourselves, Peter explains (1 Peter 1:15–16).
The concept of “holy to the Lord” is not just about the distant prophetic future. While there are certainly literal fulfillments to take place in the future, “holy to the Lord” is God’s expectation for every believer. Positionally, believers are holy to the Lord, and it is no surprise that Paul, for example, challenges believers to walk in the manner of that calling (Ephesians 4:1).