“Zechariah shared with contemporary Haggai the prophetic task of getting the people of Judah to rebuild their ruined Temple. Their preaching pulled the people out of self-preoccupation and go them working together as a people of God. There was job to do, and the two prophets teamed up to make sure it got done.
But Zechariah did more than that. For the people were faced with more than a ruined Temple and city. Their self-identity as the people of God was in ruins. For a century they had been knocked around by the world powers, kicked and mocked, used and abused. This once proud people, their glorious sacred history starred with the names of Abraham, Moses, Samuel, David and Isaiah, had been treated with contempt for so long that they were in danger of losing all connection with that past, losing their magnificent identity as God’s people.
Zechariah was a major factor in recovering the magnificence from the ruins of a degrading exile. Zechariah reinvigorated their imaginations with his visions and messages. The visions provided images of a sovereign God that worked their way into the lives of the people, countering the long ordeal of debasement and ridicule. The messages forged a fresh vocabulary that gave energy and credibility to the long-term purposes of God being worked out in their lives.
But that isn’t the end of it. Zechariah’s enigmatic visions, working at multiple levels, and his poetically charged messages are a work still, like time capsules in the lives of God’s people, continuing to release insight and hope and clarity for the people whom God is using to work out his purposes in a world that has no language for God and the purposes of God.” –Eugene Peterson, Intro to Zechariah, The Message Bible
It seems our present culture knows less and less about God, who He is and what He wants for us, than ever before. Are you noticing that there are less and less people (beyond our tight circle of committed, believing friends) that don’t know the “language of God” so that when you speak of God and what He has done in our lives; eyes glaze over for they know not what or who you are talking about? Is that what Zechariah felt as he preached?
Zechariah 1, The Message
1-4 In the eighth month of the second year in the reign of Darius, God’s Message came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo: “God was very angry with your ancestors. So give to the people this Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: ‘Come back to me and I’ll come back to you. Don’t be like your parents. The old-time prophets called out to them, “A Message from God-of-the-Angel-Armies: Leave your evil life. Quit your evil practices.” But they ignored everything I said to them, stubbornly refused to listen.’
5-6 “And where are your ancestors now? Dead and buried. And the prophets who preached to them? Also dead and buried. But the Message that my servants the prophets spoke, that isn’t dead and buried. That Message did its work on your ancestors, did it not? It woke them up and they came back, saying, ‘He did what he said he would do, sure enough. We didn’t get by with a thing.’”
First Vision: Four Riders
7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month in the second year of the reign of Darius, the Message of God was given to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo:
8 One night I looked out and saw a man astride a red horse. He was in the shadows in a grove of birches. Behind him were more horses—a red, a chestnut, and a white.
9 I said, “Sir, what are these horses doing here? What’s the meaning of this?”
The Angel-Messenger said, “Let me show you.”
10 Then the rider in the birch grove spoke up, “These are the riders that God sent to check things out on earth.”
11 They reported their findings to the Angel of God in the birch grove: “We have looked over the whole earth and all is well. Everything’s under control.”
12 The Angel of God reported back, “O God-of-the-Angel-Armies, how long are you going to stay angry with Jerusalem and the cities of Judah? When are you going to let up? Isn’t seventy years long enough?”
13-15 God reassured the Angel-Messenger—good words, comforting words—who then addressed me: “Tell them this. Tell them that God-of-the-Angel-Armies has spoken. This is God’s Message: ‘I care deeply for Jerusalem and Zion. I feel very possessive of them. But I’m thoroughly angry with the godless nations that act as if they own the whole world. I was only moderately angry earlier, but now they’ve gone too far. I’m going into action.
16-17 “‘I’ve come back to Jerusalem, but with compassion this time.’
This is God speaking.
‘I’ll see to it that my Temple is rebuilt.’
A Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies!
‘The rebuilding operation is already staked out.’
Say it again—a Decree of God-of-the-Angel-Armies:
‘My cities will prosper again,
God will comfort Zion again,
Jerusalem will be back in my favor again.’”
Second Vision: Four Horns and Four Blacksmiths
18 I looked up, and was surprised by another vision: four horns!
19 I asked the Messenger-Angel, “And what’s the meaning of this?”
He said, “These are the powers that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem abroad.”
20 Then God expanded the vision to include four blacksmiths.
21 I asked, “And what are these all about?”
He said, “Since the ‘horns’ scattered Judah so badly that no one had any hope left, these blacksmiths have arrived to combat the horns. They’ll dehorn the godless nations who used their horns to scatter Judah to the four winds.”
WHAT DO WE LEARN—HOW DO WE RESPOND?
In this present culture that teaches we can and must do life by ourselves for ourselves, it is increasingly important to obey Jesus’ command to go and tell the Good News of salvation from God through Jesus Christ, His Son, teaching others that Jesus is counterculture in His thinking. What our culture teaches us incessantly actually abuses and degrades us and is the opposite of what Jesus teaches!
How do we transform our thinking? Seek God first. Lay our lives before God and let God do the heavy lifting on changing our minds. We cannot do this by ourselves. (Romans 12)
How do we teach others who Jesus is in a culture who doesn’t know Him or the language He speaks? (Acts 17)
Be aware to whom you are speaking. It is important to know the “audience” like Paul did in Athens as he strolled the streets and observed all their gods. (See Acts 17) Paul didn’t get angry or disgusted over what they did not know. In fact, Paul noticed an altar dedicated to “An Unknown God.” Paul saw the opportunity to point out the truth behind the “Unknown God,” the one in whom everything is contained. He was not going to lose the opportunity to point out how their unknown god was in fact the same God that Paul travels the world to make known. Begin at the point of what they know and then tell the Truth of who Jesus is.
Live what you preach. Our behaviors and reactions in all kinds of circumstances of daily life speak louder than our words ever will to a world seeking to discredit Jesus.
Be still and know God. Seek God first daily, asking Him to teach us and help us. But the power of His Holy Spirit living in us, He will tell us what we need to know and what to say when He sends us.
Tell what you know and nothing more. Speak the Truth (Jesus who is the way, truth, and life) in love, wanting the best outcome for the one to whom we are speaking. We don’t need to add to what Jesus has done for us. And we can only go as far as we have been in God’s Word and teaching to us. Remember always: Jesus saves. We do not.
The culture teaches “follow your heart”. Jesus teaches our hearts are deceitful because of our sin nature. Since Adam and Eve, we are born sinners. So we cannot trust our hearts. We can only trust the heart of God. So, let us pray daily for our hearts to be cleansed, our minds transformed from culture thinking to God’s thinking, our souls refreshed and fed by the Holy Spirit. When we ask God, He will do it! Believe, really believe in Jesus, what He did for us and what He is still teaching us today.
We cannot “be good” all by ourselves! Only God is Good. Jesus said that out loud to the culture around him at time He walked this earth. So go the One who is Good for help! Jesus went “off by Himself to pray to His Father” to get direction before doing anything of significance for God’s Kingdom. Who are we not to follow His way of thinking and praying for direction for God’s purpose and ways to accomplish His ways?
Jesus promises perfect Help—His Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit comes to live in all who believe and turn to Him. The Holy Spirit comes with the power equal to the power that rose Jesus from death to life! The Holy Spirit will guide, send up warning flags when temptations are a clear and present danger, leads us away from culture thinking to God’s wisdom thinking, comforts when we feel less than, broken by the world around us, reminders of who we are in Jesus. We are redeemed as God’s own, chosen, loved beyond our wildest dreams! The Holy Spirit convicts us to turn from our sin nature to Jesus’ best. When troubles come, and they will, His Holy Spirit helps us navigate the rough waters while teaching us lessons that will strengthen our faith-resolve in God.
Jesus is coming back, you know. Zechariah, God’s prophet in Jerusalem more than five hundred years before Christ, had a series of dreams the expanded into visions that kept him awake for a week. These visions by God to Zechariah were God’s future plans for his people, including a description of the Messiah! Through these visions God gave his message to Zechariah, who then faithfully relayed them to his family, friends, neighbors, countrymen . . . and us.
As we continue to read Zechariah, take hope in knowing that God controls the future, your future, and that the King is, indeed, coming.
But… “Until then, my heart will go on singing, until then my joy will carry on…”
Joy comes from knowing Jesus. Peace comes from obedience.
May God rebuild and restore His Temple in our hearts, minds and souls where He abides and resides with us.
Thank you for your prophets that each us of the coming of the Jesus who saves us and makes us whole before you. Thank you for being with us. Thank you for the peace and joy that fills our souls as no one else can, just by knowing you and believing what you say. Cleanse my heart, renew my mind, refresh and fill my soul, while restoring the joy of your salvation in me daily.
In Jesus Name, Amen