Zechariah was both prophet and priest. His prophecies began two months after Haggai’s first message around 520 B.C. His message full of visions was given to a people who were discouraged and going about slowly in the task of rebuilding the temple of God. Zechariah made the people lift up their eyes from their present misery to see through their eyes of faith a glorious future for Zion (Jerusalem). More than any other prophet than Isaiah, Zechariah predicted the events of Jesus’ life so precisely.
Comment: “In this comparatively brief book Jerusalem is named forty times. The book is primarily concerned with apocalyptic visions of the end times. It is difficult to read these chapters and others throughout the Bible without realising that the Jews in general, and Jerusalem in particular have central roles still to play in God’s plans” –The Bible in Outline published by Scripture Union.
The Opening Message Zechariah opens with a call to the people to return to God so that He could return to them (1:3). The people were warned not to be like their forefathers who did not listen to God or His prophets and therefore went into captivity. The enduring nature of God’s Word even when people pass away is emphasized. The people repent when they heard this message (1:6b).
A Series of Visions
These visions involve dialogues with an angel who talks back and forth with the prophet!
Vision #1 The Angelic Horseman (1:7—17)
The vision shows a man riding a red horse standing among the myrtle trees. The world is pictured as at peace. But all is not well with Jerusalem and Judah. The angel asks God when He was going to show mercy to Jerusalem. Then God spoke kind and comforting words. The main thrust of what God spoke was, “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion . . . I will return to Jerusalem with mercy . . . My towns will again overflow with prosperity . . . the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem” (1:14—17).
Vision #2 Four Horns and Four Craftsmen (1:18—21)
The four horns represent the kingdoms of the earth that destroyed Judah and Jerusalem. The four craftsmen represent God’s destroying agents who would destroy the world powers. The message clearly is that even when God’s people seem to be totally destroyed; God will act on their behalf and again cause them to triumph.
Vision #3 A Man with a Measuring Line (Chapter 2)
God shows Zechariah the future when it would be impossible to measure the walls of Jerusalem because it would then be “a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it,” and God Himself would be “a wall of fire around it,” and He would “be its glory within.” (2:4, 5). Even though nations had plundered Jerusalem, God assures the people that the plunderers will not go unpunished, “for whoever touches you touches the apple of his [God’s] eye.” The command is given to the Daughter of Zion to shout and be glad for God Himself was coming to live among them.
Vision #4 Clean Garments for the High Priest Joshua (Chapter 3)
This is a dramatic vision. Joshua the High Priest is seen dressed in filthy clothes and standing before the angel of the Lord. Satan stands at his right hand to accuse him. It is interesting to note that the Hebrew term “Satan” as well as its Greek equivalent “Diabolos” mean “Accuser.” [Satan is described as “accuser of our brothers, who accuses them before our God day and night” in Revelation 12:10.]
The filthy garments of Joshua represented the sin of the people. And the Lord said to Satan that Joshua (representing the entire people) was like a burning stick snatched from the fire; i.e. to say that they were redeemed out of the furnace of affliction even though they were a terribly sinful people. The filthy clothes are removed and with new rich and clean garments Joshua is clothed. A promise is given but based on one condition: “If you will walk in my ways . . .” (3:7).
Joshua and others with him are said to be symbolic of things to come. In particular Joshua is symbolic of Jesus Christ who is introduced as “My Servant, the Branch.” He is also represented by the stone set in front of Joshua which has seven eyes (or facets) on it. And God promised that He would remove the sin of that land in a single day referring to the future sacrifice of the Lamb of God. The long range effect of that sacrifice would be peace and prosperity for the nation pictured as people sitting under their vine and fig trees.
Vision #5 The Gold Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees (Chapter 4)
There is an immediate reference here to Zerubbabel and the temple he was rebuilding. But there are references to the end times also. For example the two olive trees (in the immediate context referring to Zerubbabel the governor and Joshua the High Priest) are shown to be “the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth” 4:14); a theme taken up in the form the the Two Witnesses in Revelation 11 (see Rev. 11:4 in particular). The gold lampstand represented God’s house or the light-bearing qualities of His people or the Church as is clearly shown in Revelation 1:20.
The message was that the people were not to be discouraged by small beginnings (Zech. 4:10). God who had caused Zerubbabel to begin rebuilding the temple would also cause him to complete it. It will be achieved, “ `Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty” (Zech. 4:6b NIV). The difficulties that looked like mountains would be crushed to be like level grounds as Zerubbabel proceeded with his task (Zech. 4:7).
This vision is also a remarkable prophetic portrayal of the Holy Spirit (symbolized by the golden oil) who alone gives power (see Acts 1:8) to the Church to be God’s Witnesses on earth and shine its light in this dark world.
Vision #6 The Flying Scroll (5:1—4)
There is definitely consequence for sin. It is symbolized in this scroll which contains a curse. In particular it talks about “the thief” and those who “swears falsely by my [God’s] name.” The curse is going to bring sure destruction to those for whom it is intended. The flying scroll denotes removal of sin by destroying the sinners.
Vision #7 The Woman in a Basket (5:5—11)
Symbolically, the removal of wickedness and sin of Judah is shown. Wickedness is taken away to the land of Babylon. Wickedness is represented by the woman sitting inside the basket and it is shown to be carried away by two women “with wind in their wings.”
Vision #8 The Four Chariots (6:1—8)
The two mountains of bronze represent the unchangeable counsels of God. The four chariots are “administrative forces of righteousness” (G. Campbell Morgan). It is interesting to note that the angels of God are also called “chariots of God” as in Psalm 68:17. So God’s agents work in this world according to His unchangeable counsels. It is again important to note that they go out “from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world” (Zech. 6:5). They patrol the earth executing God’s judgement on Israel’s enemies.
The Coronation Scene: The Rule of Christ Prefigured (6:9—15).
“The visions are followed by a symbolic act of crowning the high priest (6:9—11). Gold and silver brought from Babylon was wrought into a crown and placed on the head of Joshua the high priest. By this act, the two great offices of priest and king are united. This is a type of Christ the King who will sit on His throne of glory as a priest when He returns to earth to set up His millennial kingdom” — What the Bible Is All About, Dr. Henrietta C. Mears.
Jesus Christ, the One who builds the temple of God is shown here as the Branch. “Zerubbabel, a descendant of David, was now, 520—516 B.C, engaged in rebuilding the Temple. He was assured that he would bring it to completion, 4:6—9, with mystic hints of yet Another Temple to be built by the “Branch,” with the help of “many from afar,” 6:12—15. The “Branch” was to be of Zerubbabel’s (David’s) family, the kingly line. But here Joshua, the Priest, is crowned, and is represented as the “Branch,” sitting on the throne of David, 6:12—13; a symbolic merging of the two offices of King and Priest in the Coming Messiah” — Halley’s Bible Handbook.
Questions About Fasting (Chapter 7)
Two years later the people of Bethel sent a delegation to Zechariah to ask whether they should keep the fast of the fifth month (our July/August) as in years past. Now this question is interesting because the Jews themselves had instituted this fast to remember the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple. Now that the temple was nearing completion, they were asking what’s the point in keeping the fast any more?
God’s reply shows us what true fasting is all about: “Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another. Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien or the poor. In your hearts do not think evil of each other” (Zech. 7:9b, 10 NIV). The people’s refusal to listen to the words of God are also made mention of here.
The Lord Promises to Bless Jerusalem (Chapter 8)
God speaks of His jealousy for Zion and that He will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. The lovely and grand picture of men and women of ripe old age with cane in hand sitting in the streets of Jerusalem while the streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there is drawn for us (8:4, 5). It is added that it might seem marvellous to the few people living in Jerusalem at the time of this prophecy; but it would not seem marvellous to God. He continues to promise blessing on all their labour; so the message is “As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong” (Zech. 8:13 NIV). To have this come to pass the people are asked to make their profession of religion practical by speaking the truth to each other (8:16). And God makes them look forward to that day when the fasts would become “joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah” (8:19). The fasts would be turned into feasts!
The Coming of Zion’s King (Chapter 9:9—17) and the Restoration (10)
The beginning of this chapter foresees Judah’s struggle against her enemies. Against this backdrop is presented Zion’s coming King. This is quoted by the New Testament writers when Jesus rode into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday to shouts of “Hosanna” and “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” (Matthew 21:5, John 12:15).
After having shown us the beginning of the kingdom; in one quick move the prophet shows the people the triumph of the end. That is described as “He will proclaim peace to the nations; His rule will extend from sea to sea” (9:10b) and in the section beginning, “Then the Lord will appear over them; his arrow will flash like lighting.” (9:14).
Then the prophet speaks of God restoring the people of Judah who at the moment were just a few left. “The Lord their God will save them on that day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in a crown” (Zechariah 9:16 NIV).
Parable of the Shepherds (Chapters 11, 12, 13)
Two Shepherds are pictured in Zechariah 11. The first Shepherd speaks of Jesus Christ who cared for people (11:7) and the second Shepherd is called “a foolish shepherd” who does not care for the people but eats the meat of the choice sheep (11:16), possibly a reference to the coming Antichrist.
In between, there is a reference to the betrayal of the good shepherd, who was sold for thirty pieces of silver, the common price of a slave. Matthew quotes this and applies it to Judas Iscariot betraying Jesus and Matthew 26:15, 27:9,10.
The rejection of their True Shepherd (see John 1:10, 11/Luke 13:34), “The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them” (11:8b) led to the breaking of the staff called Favour which was the agreement of God’s protecting care. The breaking of the second Staff called Union (v. 14) brought about the postponement of their reuniting in the land. The Shepherd is also shown to be someone close to God who is struck (13:7) which Jesus directly applied to Himself (see Matthew 26:31).
Other Messianic Prophecies
The house of David will be like God (12:8) when God will fight for Jerusalem. The proclamation of God concerning Jerusalem, “a cup that sends all the surrounding peoples reeling” (12:2) and “an immovable rock for all the nations. All who try to move it will injure themselves” (12:3). We are seeing this happen right in front of our eyes.
“They will look on me, the one they have pierced” (12:10) is a clear reference to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. Then His hands and legs and side were pierced. The prophecy looks forward to the time when the Jewish people will recognize their Messiah in Jesus and mourn in recognition of His sacrifice. That day is still future since the Jews are yet to accept Jesus Christ.
“On that day a fountain will be opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and impurity” (Zech. 13:1 NIV) talks of the future when Jesus comes again.
Chapter 14 describes the last great war. The location will be Jerusalem (14:2). “Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights in the day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives” (14:3, 4a NIV). Clearly the disciples were told that “This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way, you have seen him go into heaven.” The place from which He went up was the Mount of Olives (see Acts 1:10—12).
Zechariah talks about the plagues that will be inflicted on all the nations that fight against Jerusalem (Zech. 14:12—15). Remember, these plagues were described 2500 years ago. It reads like a newspaper account of a nuclear holocaust; doesn’t it?
All will be characterized by holiness when the Lord reigns. Even ordinary things like pots will be holy to the Lord.
People from all lands will go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord Almighty.
Living water will flow out from Jerusalem during that time (see Ezekiel 47 and Revelation 22)
“The Lord will be king over the whole earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name” (Zech. 14:9). (See also Philippians 2:9—11).
Life Lessons from Zechariah
The clear message is that the future is God’s. He knows what is yet to come. We are also given a glimpse of what is going to happen. The Lord will be king over the whole earth and His name will be the only name then. He will rule in Jerusalem. This will happen when Jesus Christ would come back and His feet stand on the Mount of Olives. Till that time Jerusalem will an immovable rock and a cup that sends all people reeling. The prophet foresaw all this 25 centuries ago and we read of it in newspapers and see it in television. Recently someone was commenting that nearly 50% of all U.N. Resolutions concerned the tiny state of Israel! The description of nuclear warfare should tell us that God knows what is happening and is yet to come. Let us eagerly look forward to the second coming of Jesus Christ, who will come in power and great glory! TURN TO GOD, THE COMING KING!
Zechariah 1:3 Return to Me
Zechariah 3:4 Take Off His Filthy Clothes
Zechariah 4:10a Who Despises the Day of Small Things?
Zechariah 6:5 Going Out from Standing in the Presence
Zechariah 7:9,10 Do Not Think Evil of Each Other
Zechariah 8:9b,13 Object of Cursing to a Blessing
Zechariah 8:13 As You Have Been an Object of Cursing
Zechariah 9:9 Rejoice Greatly, Shout, See, Your King Comes to You
Zechariah 9:12 Return to Your Fortress
Zechariah 10:6 As Though I had Not Rejected Them
Zechariah 10:11a, 12 The Surging Sea Will Be Subdued
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