December 11, 2015.
Daily Reading: Zechariah 1-7.
Background: Zechariah is one of the final Hebrew prophets and is a contemporary of Haggai (see Ezra 5:1) encouraging the returning exiles to continue rebuilding the house of the Lord. Though not much is known about the personal life of Zechariah, he does date his writings more specifically than other minor prophets, pinning his oracles to 520-518 B.C (at least for the first eight chapters). The book of Zechariah can be divided into two sections, chapters 1-8 which deal mainly with the rebuilding of the temple and chapter 9-14 which contains passages that are prophetic (containing prophecies dedicated to the Messiah) and apocalyptic (containing end of times prophecies) in nature.
Concepts and Connections.
Visions concerning the remnant: In this chapter, Zechariah puts forth a call and recounts two visions concerning the children of Israel and their captivity. At this time, some of the exiles had been allowed to return to Jerusalem to begin rebuilding the temple (see Haggai 1), but it was likely a relatively small number compared to the Jews that were still scattered abroad. Thus, Zechariah issues a call for the people of God to return to the Lord and not be stubborn like their fathers who did not heed the words of the prophets. The people that hear Zechariah’s call repent and acknowledge the working of the Lord in their captivity.
A few months later, Zechariah has a vision of a man riding on a red horse in the night, followed by red, sorrel and white horses. They patrol the earth and find rest, but the angel of the Lord asks the Lord how long He will continue to withhold mercy from Judah, citing the seventy years that Jeremiah had prophesied about their captivity (see Jeremiah 25:11, 29:10). Then the Lord declares His jealousy for Jerusalem and Zion, saying that His house will once again be built in Jerusalem and His cities will overflow with prosperity. The Lord would once again choose Jerusalem.
The second vision Zechariah describes in this chapter is one of four horns and four craftsmen. The horns represented the scattering of the children of Israel and Judah during captivity. The craftsmen, however, had come to terrify the horns and cast them down on the very nations that lifted their hands against Judah.
The measuring line: In this vision, Zechariah details the passion that the Lord has for His people and the mercy He is going to show to them among the nations. Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line who is about to go measure Jerusalem. However, an angle came forward to meed him and sent word to the man that Jerusalem would be inhabited as a city without walls. There would be no need to measure the city. The Lord would be as a wall of fire for protection around her. Then there is a call to any and all of the people of the Lord who are still in Babylon to come out of there and escape to Zion, for the Lord was for His people. He would plunder the the nations that plundered them. The people of God were to sing and rejoice, for the Lord had risen from His holy dwelling and had come for His people, to come and dwell in the midst of His people. Many nations will join the Lord as He would once again choose Jerusalem.
Joshua the High Priest and the coming Messiah: After the vision of the measuring line, Zechariah is shown a vision of Joshua the High Priest stating before the angle of the Lord, with Satan standing to accuse him. The Lord rebukes Satan and reclothes Joshua with pure vestments symbolizing the iniquity being taken from him. This is a prophecy that would be encouraging to the people who were rebuilding the temple under the guidance of Joshua and Zerubbabel (see Ezra 5:1-2). The Lord gives Joshua a sign of the coming Messiah, His servant, the Branch. The Lord sets a stone with seven eyes (seven is a number of God, a number of completeness), though which the Lord would remove the iniquity of the land in a single day. Christ, the Messiah, would indeed become the cornerstone of the Lord’s salvation (see Ephesians 2:18-22).
The golden lampstand: Just as Joshua the high priest was confirmed in the previous chapter, this vision is dedicated mostly to Zerubbabel, the governor of the returned exiles in Judah (see Haggai 1:1) and the Davidic figure for the returned exiles, being in the lineage of David. It was not by Zerubbabel’s own might that he would be a strong leader for the people of God, but rather through the power of the Lord would he level mountains. Zerubbabel was there when the foundation was beginning to be relaid, and he would see it through to completion after the work started up again (see Haggai 1-2). Then Zechariah asks about the olive trees on the golden lamp stand, and the angel gave him an answer that sounds very similar to the two witnesses that John describes in Revelation (see Revelation 11:1-14). These two anointed ones stand by the Lord.
The flying scroll and woman in a basket: This chapter contains two visions that seem to pertain to the judgment of the nations. In the first vision, Zechariah sees a flying scroll. This was the curse that went out over the whole land, judging all those who steal or swear falsely and consuming them. This is representative of the judgment of the law on those who do not abide by the word of the Lord. Then Zechariah sees a woman in a basket, a basket that is eventually carried to Shinar, representative of Babylon. The woman in the basket represents wickedness, and she is carried to Babylon by two other women, where wickedness finds her home. Babylon is also portrayed as a wicked woman in Revelation 17.
The four chariots and the Messiah: In this vision, Zechariah sees four chariots, each with horses of different colors, coming out from between two bronze mountains. The order of the color of the horses is red, black, white and dappled. The chariots are sent to patrol the earth, and they set the Spirit of the Lord to rest in the north country. Revelation has a similar vision of four horses that patrol over the earth, doing the will of the Lord (see Revelation 6).
The the word of the Lord comes to Zechariah to take some specific men of the exiles from Babylon to make a crown and set it on the head of Joshua the high priest, for this would be a sign of the coming Messiah, the Branch. The Messiah would build the temple of the Lord, bear royal armor and rule on His throne. Christ came to make a new covenant with the children of Israel and the nations of the world, and He sits on the throne of His kingdom today, as our Great High Priest, calling all who are afar off. It is interesting that Haggai and Zechariah seem to show the integration of the Davidic linage (see through Zerubbabel) of the Messiah and the new priesthood that would be established, after the order of Melchizedek (see Hebrews 1-8).
Justice and mercy: Two years after the previous prophecies take place, we see Zechariah again receives a word from the Lord, but this time it is in response to a question that is asked by the people of Bethel. Two of their men, Sharezer and Regem-melech, come to entreat the favor of the Lord and ask if they should keep the lament over Jerusalem that they had had annually for so many years while they were in captivity. The Lord gives a very interesting answer that says some things about His character. He asks a rhetorical question: Were you fasting and morning for Me? Or was it for yourselves you were mourning? He was making they point that they had long been warned of the wrath that was to come if they did not heed the words of the prophets. The former prophets went throughout the land and called for justice and mercy, but the people refused to listen. Because of their iniquity and stubbornness, the Lord brought them into captivity. Thus, when they were fasting and mourning for Jerusalem, it was not for the Lord- they had made their own decision to stay away from Him. Thus, their fast was not before the Lord. Instead of keeping a fast without understanding, they should rather heed the words of the former prophets, seeking justice, mercy and the will of the Lord.
Coming peace and prosperity: This chapter deals with the prophecy of peace and prosperity for Zion and the people of the Lord, for He was jealous with a great jealously for them. They would once again be restored to honor and see peace. Joy would run throughout the streets as the Lord was bringing His people back from a far county. This prophecy would have been one of comfort and hope for the scorned remnant that had returned to Judah. But the Lord was with them, the temple was being rebuilt, and His blessings would be upon His people. Thus they were encouraged to be strong. Just as He had purposed disaster on their father’s for their iniquity and brought it about, He had now purposed to being good to Jerusalem and Judah. They were not to fear, for He would surely bring it about. This is what they were to do, speak truth, render true judgments, make peace, love one another and love no false oath. He was going to turn their times of mourning into times of joy, and many nations would come to seek the favor of the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem. Many people from every nation would in that day find a Jew and go with them, for it would be apparent that God was with them.
1. Judgment on Israel’s enemies: Similar to other prophets, this section is an oracle against the enemies of the children of Israel who had so long oppressed and mistreated them. The Lord had not turned a blind eye to what they were doing, but had reserved judgment for them and their deeds. The oracle is against Damascus, Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, Philistia and more. All these nations had committed abominations and oppressed Israel, and judgment was upon them.
2. The Messiah and salvation: The people of Israel were told to rejoice, for their King was coming. This is a messianic passage, containing a prophecy that is quite well known and certainly fulfilled by Jesus. Jesus would come, wholly righteous and bearing salvation, but He would come with a humble heart (see Matthew 11:29). The specific prophecy made here is that of the triumphal entry, when Jesus would ride into Jerusalem mounted on a donkey colt (see Matthew 21:1-11, John 12:12-19). The Lord would restore Jerusalem and His people, and bring salvation. The latter portion of this chapter is the encouragement and assurance of this coming salvation for the people of the Lord.
Israel and Judah’s restoration: This chapter speaks to the restoration that the Lord was bringing about for His people, yet not on behalf of their leaders. The chapter opens with a call to rely on the Lord for blessings and provision rather than the lifeless idols of the nations around them. It was the Lord, and the Lord only, who could do these great things, for the idols were nothing. Then He makes a statement against the shepherds and leaders of the people, for they had caused His sheep to go astray. The Lord cared for the flock they had mislead, and He would bring them up and set them as a majestic steed in battle. The Lord was for His people and He would fight for them in battle. He would strengthen and save Judah and bring them back home from the foreign lands they were scattered to. It would be as though He had never scatted them in the first place. Yet, on their enemies He would bring down wrath and lay them low, for they had acted wickedly.
The doomed flock: As the previous chapter was full of hope and restoration, we see a sharp turn for the flock in this chapter. This is a very interesting turn, as it is seen as the response to the Jew’s rejection of the very Messiah that they had been waiting for. Here, Zechariah is told to shepherd the flock that was doomed for destruction, so he takes up two staffs which he names Favor and Union and begins to tend sheep as a sign to the people. As he was shepherding, in a short period of time he destroys three shepherds, which could be the three groups of leaders of the Jewish people when they rejected Christ, the Pharisees, Sadducees and Herodians. Then the flock is left to die, and Zechariah breaks the two staffs, Favor and Union, symbolizing the annulling of the covenant of the people of God. Many see the fulfillment of this prophecy at the fall of Jerusalem to Rome in AD 70, and that as God’s final judgment on His people, annulling the covenant between He and them because of their rejection of Him. One of the most specific messianic prophecies is made in this chapter- the price for which Jesus would be betrayed by (thirty pieces of silver), from the house of the Lord (the leaders who paid the price of betrayal) and the field in which the betrayer would be buried (see Matthew 26:14-16, 27:3-10). What a sad thing it was to realize that the people of God, who were now in a time of restoration and rebuilding, would commit the same mistakes of their fathers and reject the One whom they so long had desired to come.
Salvation through Him who was pierced: Again contrasting against the despair of the previous chapter, this oracle speaks of the salvation that the Lord would bring to Jerusalem and Judah in the end. He would be for His people, and any who tried to oppose would be cut down. Jerusalem would once again be inhabited and salvation would be granted to judah. The Lord would protect His people and destroy the nations who come against them. However, the key to this passage is perhaps found in verse ten, as it shows through whom this salvation would come- Him who they had pierced (see John 19:37, Revelation 1:7). Salvation would come because those who had rejected Him would finally see what they had done and morn for Him who they had pierced. The Lord would pour out on the house of David a spright of grace and mercy, and they would return to the Lord. Their sins and uncleanness would be cleansed (see Zechariah 13:1).
Cleansing: Continuing on from the previous chapter, this chapter prophesies a time of cleaning for the people of God, when He would cut off the names of the idols from the land and cause them to be remembered no more. The false prophets would be ashamed, and if any would try to prophesy, the people would be against them, for they would know that they would speak lies in the name of the Lord. The latter portion of this chapter contains another messianic prophecy about Jesus’ disciples deserting Him when He is betrayed, scattered when the Shepherd was struck (see Matthew 26:31, Mark 14:27). After a process of refining, however, those who called on the Lord would be answered by the Lord, for they would be His people, and He their God.
The day of the Lord: As many prophets end, so does Zechariah speaking of the coming day of the Lord. First, we see a dark place for Jerusalem, as all the nations come against the city and plunder it. However, the Lord would then go out and fight for His people, completely reversing the tide, bringing destruction on all those who are against Jerusalem. The day of the Lord would be one of triumph for His people, as living waters would flow out of Jerusalem. The Lord will be King over all the earth. The holy city would never more be hit with a decree of utter destruction as all their enemies would rot away. The Lord would be against any and all who were against His people. Those that survive of the nations would worship the Lord, the King, going up to Jerusalem each year to keep the feast of booths (see Leviticus 23:39-43). The bells on the horses would be inscribed with “holy to the Lord” and all pots in Jerusalem and Judah would be holy to the Lord. The day of the Lord would be a day of salvation for His people.
Tomorrow’s Reading: Acts 15-18.
Blessed be the Lord.