Knowing God Through Zechariah (Part 1)
In 520 BC, Israel's condition was somewhat similar as it is today
She was a small nation without a temple & surrounded by powerful enemies in need of spiritual renewal
Let us review briefly Israel's history.
In 605 BC Nebuchadnezzar with his Babylonian army invaded Israel. During this invasion they took the finest young men back to Babylon.
Those who remained behind continued living as before.
In 597 BC Nebuchadnezzar returned to quell the futile revolt of some Jewish dissidents.
At this time many were killed and again many were taken away.
At this time again, Neb. Installed a 21 year old king named Zedekiah who was a descendant of David.
All remained peaceful for about 10 years until in 587 BC Zedekiah persuaded by false prophets made an alliance with Egypt to fortify Jerusalem, thus breaking his agreement of loyalty to Babylon.
Thus angered, Nebuchadnezzar returned again laying siege that lasted some 18 months.
The enemy this time was not so peaceful with Israel.
This time they murdered, raped and pillaged, taking everything of value, taking also with them all the temple furnishings, destroying not only the temple, but the city to.
Many years went by and the people soon began to feel comfortable in their new homes.
After all, they were well looked after, most were well employed and lived on good fertile soil.
They were so comfortable that they soon forgot their spiritual heritage neglecting to worship Yahweh their God.
But as always a small remnant continued to worship God, praying day and night for deliverance from Babylon and the opportunity to return home and rebuild their beloved temple.
In 537 their prayers were answered in the defeat of Babylon by the Persians under King Cyrus who issued a decree for them to return home to build a new temple.
After 18 years little progress was made in the rebuilding of the temple.
So God sent them two prophets, Haggai & Zechariah to call the people to repentance and to get on with the task of rebuilding the temple.
In 520 BC the prophet Zechariah began to speak Gods Word faithfully to his contemporaries and his words still speak to us today.
Many of his prophecies spoke of a promised messiah who would be their deliverer & king.
Many of the prophecies have been fulfilled, many yet are still to come to pass.
Today we will have an overview of the first 8 chapters of the book of Zechariah.
These 1rst 8 chpts reveal how God was preparing His people for the coming Messiah.
In these 8 chpts we find 7 messages about His power, love, wisdom & holiness to prepare them for their deliverer & king.
If the people would listen and take to heart these messages, they would be well prepared spiritually to receive their Messiah.
Message One: God Overrules In The Affairs Of The Nations
Within 3 visions as told by Zechariah from 1:7-2::13, God assures the people that He is in charge.
These three visions carry a comforting message.
Vision # 1 THE MAN AMOUNG THE MYRTLE TREE Zech. 1:7-17
In this vision, Zech. Sees a group of mounted horses among myrtle trees in a ravine.
An Angelic rider reports, "And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest." v:11 (King James Version)
However, this was not good news because the angel knew that the Messiah would return in troubled times, not in times of peace.
He further knew that before the Messiah would return to rule the earth, that God would shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land. Hag. 2:6-7 (King James Version)
So the angel asked the Lord, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem Zech. 1:12 (New International Version, ©2010)
God's response "I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt." v:16 (New International Version, ©2010)
The next vision describes how He will do this.
Vision # 2 THE FOUR HORNS & FOUR CRAFTSMAN Zech. 1:18-21
In this vision Zech. Sees four horns on the head of animals representing 4 nations that would devastate Israel.
The next part of the visions is four craftsmen whose mission is to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people. Zech. 1:20 (New International Version, ©2010)
These four nations were of course four pagan nations whom God used to fulfill His purposes in preparation for the Messiahs coming.
Vision # 3 THE SURVEYOR Zech. 2:1-13
In this scene Zechariah sees a surveyor who announces that he is going to measure the length & breadth of Jerusalem, a city that had become so large & secure that it expanded to beyond its walls without any fear.
God said that He would "be a wall of fire around it" Zech. 2:5 (New International Version, ©2010)
This promise provided the Jews a powerful incentive to return home.
In addition the Lord promised a time would come when He would ...come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the LORD. And many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee. Zech. 2:10-11 (King James Version)
In summary of these three visions, God assures His people that he had great plans for their nation and that He would over rule any plans of any nation who wished to bring destruction to her.
Message # 2 Gods Love Is Unconditional Zech. 3:1-10
In this 4th vision God tells His people that even though theirs sins had made them unfit to be a nation of priests, Ex. 19:6, they yet still remained the object of His unconditional love, and that one day they would be made clean and be fit to be a kingdom of priests.
Vision # 4 THE HIGH PRIESTS DIRTY CLOTHING & REPLACED WITH RICH GARMENTS
In this vision Israels High Priest is standing before the angel of the Lord.
But Satan, the accuser of the brethren he is, accuses Joshua of being unfit for this priestly office.
Here we see Joshua standing there with filthy garments representing the sinfulness of the nations.
Satan in fact was saying that because her garments were so dirty, Israel was unfit to be a priestly nation.
But the Angel of the Lord said: The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire? Zech. 3:2 (New International Version, ©2010)
Satans accusations were groundless.
God in His unconditional love had snatched these people from the fire of captivity in Babylon.
The following scene gives us a visualization of the way God will qualify the people of Israel to be that Kingdom of priests, worthy of that high calling.
The angel of the Lord instructs some bystanders to strip off the filthy garments, saying See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you. V:4 (New International Version, ©2010)
Joshua was then clothed in clean High Priestly garments, including the turban with the gold engraved plate reading, Holy to the Lord. Ex. 28:36; 39:30 (New International Version, ©2010)
Joshuas change of clothing represents what God will do to Israel in cleansing her from sin and reinstating her as a nation of priests.
This vision closes with the Lord speaking of the coming Messiah as the Branch Is. 4:2,11; Jer. 23:5;33:15; Zech. 6:12, and as a Stone Ps. 118:22-24; Matt 21:42; 1 Pet. 2:7-8, having Seven Eyes. (Zech. 3:9 King James Version)
Through Him the nation will be spiritually cleansed, Zech. 3:9 and enjoy a time of material abundance. V:10
This turn around will not occur until Israel repents and once again believes and obeys Him.
Even though the people have rejected Him all these many years, God will not reject them.
He will fulfill His promises to then some day.
Message # 3: Gods Ways Are Higher and Nobler Than Our ways Zech. 4:1-14
Although the temple which the people were rebuilding was small and unprentious in comparison to what the former temple had been, God told them not to be discouraged because He often works His ways through the ordinary and modest ways.
VISION # 5 THE GOLDEN LAMPSTAND # TWO OLIVE TREES
In this vision Zechariah sees a golden lamp stand with a large bowl sitting on top with 7 lamp stands arranged around it, connected by a channel.
On each side of the lamp stand stood an olive tree, whose braches hung over the bowl keeping it filled with oil.
The key to understanding this vision is the fact that the bowl was being provided with oil even though nobody was picking the olives to press them.
The two olive branches represented 2 who would serve the Lord. V:14 (New International Version, ©2010)
One of these two was the civil leader Zerubbabel and the other high pries, Joshua.
God is able to accomplish His purposes using mere mortal man, for He says, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit. V:6 (New International Version, ©2010)
On other words, it does not matter that Israel is a small nation.
What matters is that the Lord God is in it.
So he said to me, This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty.
What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of God bless it! God bless it! Zech 4:6-7 (New International Version, ©2010)
This warning was given so that the people would not be surprised when the Messiah that would come, would appear in a surprising and modest humble way.
It was given to remind them that God could work out His purposes through small and humble ways.
It was through another prophet that God said: "For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts." Is. 55:8-9 (King James Version)
Message # 4 God Demands That His People Be Spiritually Clean Zech. 5:1-11
The people came back from Babylon cured from idolatry, but came back being self centered and spiritually dry.
Haggai, a contemporary of Zechariah rebuked them for being a prosperous people living in luxury, yet allowing the temple to go unfinished.
Yet even in this, they saw themselves still deserving of Gods favour.
The sixth and seventh visions are sent to correct this serious misconception.
Vision # 6 The Flying Scroll Zech. 5:1-5
In this vision he sees a scroll measuring 30 feet by 15 with writing on both sides.
One side pronounces a curse on all who break the 8th commandment; Thou shall not steal. (Ex. 20:15 King James Version)
The other side condemns any who would break the 9th commandment to not give false testimony.
Verse 4 tells us that the Messiah will, enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely (Zech. 5:4 New International Version, ©2010) eliminating any who disregards Gods moral laws in spite of repeated warnings.
This warning unfortunately went unheeded by the people of the time.
Vision # 7 The Woman In A Basket Zech. 5:5-11
Here he sees a measuring basket with a heavy lid on it.
A woman attempts to climb out, but is shoved back in by an angel of th Lord who says, This is wickedness. (Zech. 5:7 New International Version, ©2010)
The two woman with wings like those of a stork fly away with the basket to Babylon to build a house for it.
The woman represents the religious commercial evils of the pagan world, evils which Israel had clung on to through their commercial and sexual permissiveness and religious compromise.
This fleeing to Babylon has both historical & prophetical significance, for it is to this city that men first united to de-throne God. Gen. 10:10-11; 11:2
And it is to this city that rev. 17 & 18 sees Babylon as the origin of religious and commercial systems that are against the one true God.
Message # 5: God Will Repay Those Who Abuse Israel Zech. 6:1-8
In the first vision God affirms His authority and power over all nations.
In this last vision, he declares that he will subdue all nations who have abused Israel.
Vision # 8 The Four Chariots
Here we see four chariots hitched to four powerful horses whom are red, black, white and spotted.
These are coming out of two bronze mountains.
The angel identifies them as four spirits[a] of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. (Zech. 6:5 New International Version, ©2010)
Bronze represents judgments in both the serpent of bronze Num. 21:19 and the bronze altar 27:2
The colour of the horses also reminds us of the 4 horses of the Apocalypse of revelation those duty it is to bring judgment upon the world.
These four horses set out to deliver judgments to the nations of the world who have abused Israel.
Note-that when the chariot which headed north, the angel of the Lord said, "Look to those going towards the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north." (Zech. 6:8 New International Version, ©2010)
When these messengers of judgments have completed their tasks, all will be ready for the coming Messiah.
Message # 6 Gods Messiah Will be Israels Priest & King Zech. 6:9-16
In the 4th & 5th visions we saw that the 2 servants, the priest and the civil ruler would foreshadow the likeness of the Messiah.
Now with the placing of the crown on the high priest, Zechariah shows us that the Messiah will combine both of the offices of priest and king.
The Command To Put A Crown On Joshua
In the morning after Zechariahs 8th vision, he is commanded to go to the home of a man named Joshua to meet three other men whom have come from Babylon with gifts of silver and gold for the new temple.
From this he is to fashion a crown and place it on the head of the high priest Joshua.
Joshua understands the symbolism of this and removes the crown which is later placed in the temple as a reminder of Israels coming Messiah whom would be both king and priest.
Interestingly, Joshuas name also means, The Lord saves, as does Jesus the true Messiah.
Joshua is informed that the Messiah will one day come and build a new temple. Read Zech. 6:12-13
The prophecy continues saying, Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the lord, and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent Me to you. Zech. 6:15 (New International Version (©1984))
This coming together of gentiles to help build the temple will be a confirmation to the pole that their Messiah is Lord & savior to all whom believe & trust in Him.
The closing conditional statement; This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God, Zech. 6:15 (New International Version (©1984)) is viewed by some that the promise of Israels restoration and the earths renewal under the Messiah rule have been cancelled because of Israels pas disobedience and judgment.
However it is clearly stated that God Himself will make sure that Israel does indeed meet these conditions in the last days. Read Ez. 36:22-27
Message # 7 God Looks For Obedience And Despises Empty Ritualism Zech. 7-8
The people of the day thought that they could win Gods favour by their ritualistic observances.
They failed however to live moral, pure, humble, kind and compassionate lives.
The arrival of a band of Jews from Bethel with the question of fasting gave God the opportunity to repeat Zechariahs message of the former prophets whom said that God hates empty ritualism and expects obedience from His people.
The Question About Fasting 7:1-3
Two months after his last night visions, the Jews are visited by other Jews who come questioning their observance of the 5th month of fasting as they had done while still in captivity.
This is one of the four fasts, which the leaders had instituted as reminders of 4 significant events.
1) Nebuchadnezzars siege of Jerusalem
2) The Breaching of the walls by the Babylonians
3) The destruction of Solomons Temple
4) The assassination of the governors appointee Gedaliah as recorded in Jer. 41:1-3
Now freed from captivity the people wondered why they should continue these rituals.
God did not give a yes or no answer.
Instead He led Zechariah to respond with 4 messages.
1) a rebuke
2) a command
3) a promise of restoration
4) an assurance of world wide renown
1st Question: When you fasted and mourned, was it for Me that you fasted?
2nd And when you were eating and drinking, were you not feasting for yourselves?
While in captivity many of the Jews observed these fastings as nothing more than a kind of holiday, not really caring or observing the real purpose for these observations.
In Gods 2nd message to the people God commanded the people to repent and change their social, moral and ethical ways.
he told them to
1) administer true justice
2) show mercy & compassion
3) to not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the alien, or the poor
4) not to think evil of each other.
He was reminding them that He had been angry with their ancestors for their wickedness and obstinacy.
So He abandoned them to their own resources and allowed the destruction of their country.
When I called, they did not listen, so when they called, I would not listen, This is how they made the pleasant land desolate. V:13-14 (New International Version (©1984))
In the 3rd message God declared that He would one day restore Israel spiritually and physically with Jerusalem gaining the name, City of truth. (Zech. 8:3 King James Version)
He promised them that he would dwell among them, that the people would live to a ripe old age, that the children would play safely and the land would yield a bountiful harvest and that the nation would no longer have to fear their neighbors but be respected by them.
Since this was their destiny, they should now speak the truth rendering truth and sound judgment and quit their evil ways. V:16-17 (New International Version, ©2010)
In the 4th message God promised that a time would come when the Jews would be celebrating their festivities with such joy that the Gentiles would send delegations to Jerusalem to join them in their worship, for they will have heard, that God is with you V:23 (New International Version, ©2010)
In Summary Then We See That
In the vision of the craftsmen we can see how God can use even those who rebel against Him to further His purposes.
In the vision of the Golden Lampstands, we see that God can confound human wisdom by using the lowly, foolish, weak and despised, (1 Cor. 1:26-31) to cary out His purposes.
In the vision of the flying scrolls we see Gods holy hatred of sin and His moral obligation to punish all who refuse to repent.
In His response to the question of fasting, we see Gods hatred of religious pretense.
In the self -serving fasting of Israel we see our own tendency to self-centeredness our worship service.
In the failure of Israels care for the disadvantaged, we see our own sad neglect of the very people who need our help & love the most.
In their reproach, the Israelites brought on Gods name by their conduct, we see how we often misrepresent Him to a watching world.