Reading: Zechariah 2-3
Good morning everyone. This morning I would like to take our words of exhortation from the prophecy of Zechariah.
First let's get a little background on this man. There's not much written about him in Scripture but what there is gives us enough of a picture. Zechariah's name means Yah has remembered, and appropriately enough he comes on the scene when Israel needed a reminder that God does remember their troubles. His first introduction is found in Ezra 5, which we will look at in a moment.
In Ezra 3 we find that the foundation of the temple had been laid (v. 8 & 11) in approximately 537 BC. While the people were progressing on the building of the temple their Samaritan enemies started making trouble for them (4:1) preventing them from working on the temple and this lasted through the rest of the reign of Cyrus, the entire reign of Cambyses 2 and Pseudo-Smedis and all the way to Darius Hystaspes (4:5), a period of about 10 years. At this point the two prophets Haggai and Zechariah are introduced, during the second year of Darius (5:1). As a side note, it still took another four years to finish the temple (6:15).
In Ezra 5:1-2 we see the result of the work of the prophets.
Then the prophets, Haggai the prophet, and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophesied unto the Jews that were in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, even unto them. Then rose up Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Jeshua the son of Jozadak, and began to build the house of God which is at Jerusalem: and with them were the prophets of God helping them.
Did you see the words at the end of verse 2? What were the prophets doing?! They had their hands in the work of rebuilding, too.
The only other set of verses in Ezra that mentions the prophets are found in 6:14-15. Their message must have been powerful, like the example they set.
And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel, and according to the commandment of Cyrus, and Darius, and Artaxerxes king of Persia. And this house was finished on the third day of the month Adar, which was in the sixth year of the reign of Darius the king.
Zechariah is called "the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo", and from what we read in Nehemiah 12 he was of the priestly line, like Ezekiel before him (Ezekiel 1:3).
Now if you join me over in the prophecy of Zechariah we can find out what was said. The book of Zechariah is broken into two sections; chapters 1-6 are in the second year of Darius and chapters 7 through 14 are in the fourth year. Today we are going to take a quick look at the first section, the one that encouraged the returned exiles to take up the work of building the temple again.
Zechariah 1 begins with an exhortation to the people, an exhortation that we can take to heart. Let's read verses 1-6.
Zechariah 1:1-6 - In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers. Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.
Note how God sets conditions on his mercy in verse 3: "Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts". This is the same message we get from James in James 4:8-10.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness. Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.
This has been God's message since the beginning.
Deuteronomy 4:29-31 - But if from thence thou shalt seek the LORD thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul. When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the LORD thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice;(for the LORD thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them.
Isaiah 55:6-7 - Seek ye the LORD while he may be found, call ye upon him while he is near: let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the LORD, and he will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for he will abundantly pardon.
If we look at 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 we find that this is the consistent teaching of the apostles too. Our past can be forgiven, but we must repent and seek God before he will turn to us.
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God. Some of you once lived this way. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. - NET
If we go back to Zechariah 1 we see that the people of Zechariah's day were in danger of falling for the same false ideas their ancestors proclaimed, that God was ignoring them and prophets like Zechariah were wrong. They were under heavy persecution and God wanted them to learn from it rather than being disobedient, like their forefathers.
What follows this exhortation is a series of visions about God's work with Israel. They are as follows:
These visions were meant to encourage Zechariah's listeners to remain faithful and that God had a purpose with them that would eventually lead to the peace of the Kingdom being restored to Israel.
In the first vision we find that the angel of LORD asks God about Israel and specifically about Jerusalem.
Zechariah 1:12 - Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?
The answer that comes would have elated the hearts of Zechariah's contemporaries. God will fight Judah's enemies (the red horse); God's house will be built; the cities of Judah will prosper and be spread abroad; Zion will be comforted.
Zechariah 1:14-17 - So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.
Little did they realize that these prophecies had a further future application, when the world would truly be at rest (Zechariah 1:11) and Jerusalem will be God's chosen city once again (Zechariah 1:17 cp. Matthew 5:35), the city of the great king.
The second vision, found in 1:18-21, was meant to remind the Jews of the prophecies of Daniel (Daniel 2 & 7) which he had been given in Babylon a mere 33 years earlier. The four horns are equal to the four beasts, but notice the vision also has four carpenters, who remove the oppressing powers.
This portion may have reminded them of Ezekiel's prophecy of the four living creatures (Ezekiel 1:4 - 3:14). These are vehicles of God's will, working out His judgments (Psalm 18:6-15; 80:1; 99:1) on the nations. These living creatures are symbolic of the multitudinous Christ body of the future age, the ones who will take the kingdom (Daniel 7:27); the ones who are spoken of in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 5:8-10). These are the ones who follow the carpenter of Nazareth who will not only throw out the horns but will also build up Zion in the ways of the LORD (Jeremiah 3:14-18). What words of comfort!
The vision we read of in our readings this morning follows naturally the previous vision of the removal of the Gentile powers from Jerusalem. Again Zechariah's audience was re-introduced to another familiar character (2:1), the "man with a measuring line in his hand". Hopefully their minds went to Ezekiel's prophecy of the building of the Temple in Ezekiel 40-48, some 50 years earlier. The same man who builds the temple will build Jerusalem (Zechariah 2:2) into a city where God, through his son can dwell (2:10).
For us it is truly a glorious vision since we are so close to that time. Look at verse 11: "many nations shall be joined to the LORD in that day", not just Israel. This will be the fulfillment of the Abrahamic promise, "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed". Flesh will be subdued before the King of glory, and all the earth will keep silence before him, for the Lord Jesus, God manifest in the flesh, will be in his Holy Temple (Habakkuk 2:20; Zechariah 2:13).
The last vision we will consider this morning is found in chapter 3. Here we have Joshua the high priest pictured standing before God with Satan standing at his right hand. Remember the historical context in which Zechariah prophesied. This is the key to the primary interpretation of this vision.
The temple was being rebuilt, but the priesthood and the high priest both needed to be restored. The last high priest had been Seraiah (2 Kings 25:18; 1 Chronicles 6:14-15) who was in office when Nebuchadnezzar had taken Jerusalem. This vision was to show that God approved of Joshua as high priest and that the Samaritan adversaries (satans) were no match against God's will. Also enfolded in this vision is something for us.
When God directly speaks to Joshua and his fellows (v. 8) he said that they were men of sign; Joshua was to symbolize "my servant the Branch" who is Jesus Christ and Joshua's fellows were to symbolize the immortalized saints, Jesus' fellows (Psalm 45:7). This is the time look forward to. Jesus has had his garment changed from being sin prone to being clothed on with that divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) which we are promised if we are obedient (1 John 3:1-3).
Let us keep the vision of that time clear in our minds and purge our thoughts of self so that we might serve our God eternally in the age to come.
Written by Matthew Smith
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