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Intro: Our Series of lessons on the Minor Prophets brings us to the message of Zechariah.
I. Background: Who was Zechariah, the prophet, and what is the character of his prophecy?
A. The name Zechariah means, “whom Jehovah remembers”. The name itself is familiar among the Hebrews, and there are 27 men of the O.T. who are called by this name. This prophet is identified as “the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.” (Zech. 1:1). Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel before him, he was of priestly descent, being of the group of priests who, under Zerubbabel’s leadership, returned to Jerusalem from Babylon in 536 B.C. (Neh. 12:4, 16). He is mentioned in Ezra 5:1-2 – Then the prophet Haggai and Zechariah the son of Iddo, prophets, prophesied to the Jews who were in Judah and Jerusalem, in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. 2 So Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel and Jeshua the son of Jozadak rose up and began to build the house of God which is in Jerusalem; and the prophets of God were with them, helping them.
1. Zechariah began his work in 520 B.C. At this time, the remnant has returned from Babylonian exile but, as we have studied, because of opposition and discouragement the building of the temple under the leadership of Zerubabbel has stopped for 12 years. He began prophesying 2 months after Haggai, and thus his work can be considered a sequel to Haggai.
- Both Zechariah and Haggai were called by God to preach to the people about the building of the temple and the restoration of the priesthood. This setting is important to the interpretation of his visions and words.
2. Zechariah is often referred to as the most difficult book of the O.T. Homer Hailey characterizes one’s approach to Zechariah this way, “…one should approach an interpretation of it with prayer and humility, acknowledging his own limitations and knowing that he cannot afford to be dogmatic.” I will follow his advice.
- Unlike the prophecy of Haggai, much of the message of God to Zechariah is delivered by visions, and is filled with symbols and apocalyptic language. It is similar in this way to the books of Ezekiel and Daniel in the O.T. and Revelation in the N.T. In fact, we find many of the same images in both Daniel and Revelation.
3. Zechariah is also viewed as the most Messianic of the O.T. books, along with Isaiah.
- The Messiah is presented as “the Branch” (sprout) of David; who will build the Temple and be both a Priest and King.
- As a Servant of Jehovah Who is coming as a King, lowly inspirit, providing salvation for the people.
- He is also pictured as a Shepherd over His flock who is rejected, sold for a price, and finally “pierced” for the sheep who scatter at His death.
- But this King and His Kingdom prevail. He redeems the remnant of His people, and the pagan forces that oppose Him are judged. A major element of Zechariah’s encouragement for the residents of Jerusalem was a look forward toward the coming of their King and the glory of the spiritual temple. “Zechariah looks beyond the immediate temple to the Messiah and the spiritual temple of God, and to the final consummation of God’s purpose in the glory of the Messiah and His rule. This would be accomplished amid great opposition, but Jehovah would fight for His people and give them victory.” (Hailey)
II. Zechariah’s First Message: “Return to Me” – Zech 1:2-6 – 2 “The Lord has been very angry with your fathers. 3 Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts. 4 “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.”‘ But they did not hear nor heed Me,” says the Lord. 5 “Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 Yet surely My words and My statutes, Which I commanded My servants the prophets, Did they not overtake your fathers? “So they returned and said: ‘Just as the Lord of hosts determined to do to us, According to our ways and according to our deeds, So He has dealt with us.'”‘”
A. Zechariah gets right to the point. “the Lord has been very angry with your fathers…” If they doubted that they could just look around. The city was in ruins, and they were having to completely rebuild the Temple. The people would not be permitted to rewrite history and attribute this to anything other than God’s judgment against the sins of their fathers. But this is not just academic. There was a lesson in this for the people of Zechariah’s day (children).
1. 1:3 – “Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “Return to Me,” says the Lord of hosts, “and I will return to you,” says the Lord of hosts.” These words have a few important implications:
a. Their future relationship with God, and His subsequent blessing, was contingent on their response. The ball was in their court, so to speak. The same is true today, even among God’s people. God calls on us to respond to His word. It is up to us to return to Him. This contradicts what most believe today (Calvinistic doctrine) that it is not possible for us to choose God, He must irresistibly choose us. Zechariah taught otherwise. The people were to take the first step, not God. His return to them was conditional on their return to Him.
2. 1:4 – “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached… Zechariah’s call to return to God calls on them to learn from the past. They may have thought they were different than their ancestors who got them in this mess. They were not idolaters for sure. But root of rebellion is the unwillingness to hear the words of God, which leads to disobedience. (But they did not hear nor heed Me,”). God sent His word through the prophets but they killed the prophets and disregarded the word. This new generation was also in danger of experiencing God’s judgment unless they acted differently than their fathers. History was to be their teacher, but would they learn?
a. In Hebrews 4 the inspired writer points back to Israel as they were ready to enter the land of Canaan, but balked through a lack of faith, and were condemned by God to wander in the wilderness for forty years (whole generation died.) God had sore in His wrath that the disobedient would not enter the rest (v. 3). The apostle goes on to warn those of his own day… Heb 4:11-13 – Let us therefore be diligent to enter that rest, lest anyone fall according to the same example of disobedience. 12 For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. 13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. God wants them to learn from the past, He keeps His promises.
b. Zechariah’s exhortation is followed by two compelling questions: 1) Where are your fathers? 2) Do the prophets live forever? Those who went into captivity died there. Even the prophets that warned them are also gone. Things have happened just as God predicted and promised.
c. 1:6 – Yet surely My words and My statutes, Which I commanded My servants the prophets, Did they not overtake your fathers? Your ancestors are dead, and the prophets that spoke to them are gone, but My word is still firm. He says “My words and My statutes overtook them.
- The word overtake here means to catch up to someone, or to become a reality. Even though they would not listen to the word of the prophets, there came a day when those words caught up with them. When that happened they could do nothing except exclaim, ‘Just as the Lord of hosts determined to do to us, According to our ways and according to our deeds, So He has dealt with us.’ (1:6). “It happened just like He said it would.” Finally they repented and acknowledged that God’s word was true and He was just in punishing them.
- The words of the Lord will overtake many people one day. Those who reject the words of the gospel message (repent and be baptized for the forgiveness of sins – Acts 2:38) and refuse to obey will one day meet up with those words again. 2 Thess 1:7-10 – “…when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels, 8 in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 These shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of His power, 10 when He comes, in that Day…”
- What part of God’s word will “overtake” you? That part that you ignore or fail to obey. The part that you think does not matter. Heb 2:1-3 – Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, 3 how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation, which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed to us by those who heard Him,
Conclusion: It may have occurred to you that there are not enough Sundays left in November for us to consider all of the text of Zechariah. My plans are to pick out a few easily applicable sections and leave the hard parts for someone else.
- Do you need to return to God? If you will return to Him, He will return to you.