1:1 To a people crushed and demoralized by years of captivity, oppression, and occupation, the prophet Zechariah offered a message of inspiration and encouragement so that his people might continue the reconstruction of God’s temple. It had ceased years before due to enemy opposition (see Ezra 4:1-5; 5:1-2; 6:14).
4:8-10 Given the divine enablement of his Spirit, the Lord promised that just as Zerubbabel’s hands had laid the foundation of the temple, so his hands would complete it (4:9). The angel assured Zechariah that the seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the ceremonial stone in Zerubbabel’s hands (4:10). The Lord had not providentially brought the Jews back from exile simply to see them fail. He would ensure that the work would be accomplished. With that knowledge, Zechariah could confidently encourage Zerubbabel and the Jews to continue the task God had given them (see Ezra 4:24–5:2).
As you seek to engage in God’s kingdom work in the world, you, too, should have the words of God to Zechariah ringing in your ears: “Not by strength or by might, but by my Spirit” (4:6). Human effort will only get you so far. The empowerment to do the work of God comes only through the Spirit of God.
4:11-14 When Zechariah asked about the two olive trees from the vision, the angel informed him that these were the two anointed ones . . . who stand by the Lord of the whole earth (4:11, 14). Who are they? Kings and priests were anointed in the Old Testament (see Lev 8:10-12; 1 Sam 16:13); therefore, in the days of Zechariah, the anointed ones would be Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the (Davidic) governor (because Jerusalem was ruled by Persia and could not have its own king). The lampstand empowered by the Holy Spirit, then, would represent Israel itself.
However, the angel also seems to be pointing Zechariah to a yet future time. For these two anointed ones “stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (4:14). In the messianic kingdom, Israel will rebuild the millennial temple (see Ezek 40–48). Then, they will fulfill their role as a light to the nations as the Messiah (who is both King and priest) rules all on behalf of the Lord of the earth.
5:1-4 Zechariah’s sixth vision was of a flying scroll . . . thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide (5:1-2). The scroll is the curse that is going out over the whole land (5:3). It represents the judgment of God’s Word symbolically covering Israel. It will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely. . . . It will stay inside his house and destroy it (5:4). In others words, the Lord’s judgment is all-encompassing and does not allow for any to escape. He will deal once and for all with the sinful transgression of his law when the Messiah comes and establishes his kingdom.
5:5-11 Zechariah then saw a seventh vision: a measuring basket with a lead cover, which represented Israel’s iniquity. Inside it was a woman called Wickedness (5:5-8). Two other women with wings were carrying the basket to build a shrine for it in the land of Shinar to be placed there on its pedestal. When God’s judgment comes on the sins of Israel (5:11), then, the nation’s wickedness will be removed to the place of destruction: “Shinar”—that is, Babylon (see Gen 11:2; Rev 18:2, 21). In the coming kingdom ruled by the Messiah, there will be no room for wickedness.
6:1-8 The eighth vision of Zechariah involved four chariots coming from between two mountains . . . made of bronze (6:1). Mountains carry the idea of strength and power (see Isa 2:2; Dan 2:35); thus, these bronze mountains may represent heaven, because the chariots were the four spirits of heaven going out after presenting themselves to the Lord of the whole earth (6:5). Some went to the north and some to the south so that they might patrol as God commanded (6:6-7).
These spirits patrol the earth, keeping watch on the Lord’s behalf for anything that opposes the King’s agenda. To know that the God of heaven is always watching over his creation is a comfort to the people of God throughout the ages.
6:9-15 Having shown Zechariah some previews of the coming kingdom, the Lord then showed him a preview of a preview. This word of the Lord was like a taste of frosting just before it’s placed on the cake (6:9). God commanded him to take an offering from the exiles (6:10). With this silver and gold, they were to make a crown to be placed on Joshua . . . the high priest (6:11). Then, Joshua was to be called by the name of Branch because he would branch out from his place and build the Lord’s temple (6:12). Not only that, but he would also sit on his throne and rule (6:13).
The making of the crown symbolizes the unification of the office of priest and king. Joshua prefigured this, but it would ultimately be fulfilled in the Messiah, who will rebuild the temple and rule over his kingdom in the millennium. He will be a priest on his throne (6:13). The crown being in the Lord’s temple was a reminder of their future Messiah and their obligation to fully obey the Lord (6:14-15). When the Messiah comes in his kingdom, Gentiles will join in and contribute to the building of the temple (6:15).
7:1-3 The next word of the Lord that Zechariah received came in the fourth year of King Darius (7:1) or about two years after the eight visions (1:7). This prophecy came in response to the people of Bethel inquiring of the priests about whether they should continue to mourn and fast at an appointed time as they had done in the past (7:2-3). Apparently, now that they were back in the land and the temple was nearly built, they wanted to know whether this mourning and fasting was still necessary.
7:4-6 God’s answer makes it clear that they had not asked an innocent question: When you fasted and lamented . . . for these seventy years, did you really fast for me? (7:5). God knew their hearts and saw that they had gone through the rituals, but not out of love and reverence for him. When you eat and drink (for the annual feasts and festivals), don’t you eat and drink simply for yourselves? (7:6). Rather than rejoicing in God’s deeds and provisions at such time, they had been merely eating and drinking.
7:7 Aren’t these the words that the Lord proclaimed through the earlier prophets when Jerusalem was inhabited and secure? This third question suggests the people’s actions were nothing new. In fact, they were repeating some of the same sins for which the prophets had chastised the people before the exile! As Isaiah said prior to that event and as Jesus would say many years later, “This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me” (Matt 15:8, quoting from Isa 29:13).
7:8-9 The people were walking on thin ice. If they weren’t careful, they’d repeat the failures of their ancestors. God had given the prior generations of Israelites several benchmarks for their behavior, including the admonition to show faithful love and compassion to one another (7:9). Biblical love isn’t a sentimental feeling. To love your neighbor is to righteously desire his good and to meet his needs in a way that glorifies God.
7:10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless, the resident alien or the poor brings to my mind James’s teaching to the Christians to whom he was writing: “Pure and undefiled religion before God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself unstained from the world” (Jas 1:27). God champions the cause of the weak and oppressed. He expects the same of his people, if they expect to be in fellowship with him.
Do not plot evil in your hearts against one another. You can’t plot evil in your heart against others if you’re focused on showing “love and compassion to one another” as expected (7:9). Physical evil (whether through words or actions) starts in the heart and mind. The external and visible is driven by the internal and spiritual. Life transformation comes through “the renewing of your mind” (Rom 12:2).
7:11-14 Unfortunately, the previous generations had refused to pay attention to God. They closed their ears and made their hearts like a rock so that they wouldn’t listen to God’s prophets (7:11-12). In other words, they had not been merely passive but had actively opposed God’s law. Nevertheless, you can’t mock God and expect no consequences. And the consequences for Israel and Judah had been disastrous. Because of his intense anger, God scattered them . . . over all the nations . . . and the land was left desolate behind them (7:12-14).
To prevent the generation of Zechariah’s day from repeating the problems of the previous generations, a history lesson was in order. Actions have consequences. Those who had returned from exile needed to know that. And so do you. The only way to remedy the violation of kingdom principles is to put in place kingdom practices.
8:1-3 At the close of their history lesson in chapter 7, God reminded the Judeans that the land was desolate because of the actions of their ancestors. But, that didn’t mean that God’s love for his people and their land had failed: I am extremely jealous for Zion; I am jealous for her with great wrath (8:2). In fact, God’s love for Zion is so great that he made a promise: I will return to Zion and live in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City; the mountain of the Lord of Armies will be called the Holy Mountain (8:3).
The Jerusalem that existed prior to the captivity cannot compare with the Jerusalem of the future; they are as different as day and night. Zechariah’s vision of the coming messianic kingdom when Jesus Christ will dwell in the midst of the city is a beautiful reminder that through his righteous reign and protective care, Jerusalem will be a place of faithfulness and security.
8:4-8 A people whose city had been destroyed and who had been oppressed and killed by their enemies will one day see a complete reversal of circumstances for Jerusalem. Old men and women will again sit along the streets, which will be filled with boys and girls playing (8:4-5). The Jews will return and once again live in their land (8:7-8). Those to whom Zechariah was preaching may have thought all this impossible (8:6), but “With God all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).
8:9-15 With Israel’s punishment behind them, God exhorts the people through Zechariah to let their hands be strong so that they can finish the work of rebuilding (8:9, 13). Just as he had resolved to bring retribution on their ancestors, so now he had resolved . . . to do what is good to Jerusalem (8:14-15).
8:16-17 In view of this, their hearts should have been inspired and ready to continue the work on the temple. Nevertheless, that didn’t mean they could cast aside God’s kingdom principles. If they wanted the blessings that their ancestors had lost, they must do the kingdom agenda that their ancestors had rejected: Speak truth to one another; make true and sound decisions within your city gates. Do not plot evil in your hearts against your neighbor, and do not love perjury.
8:18-19 After highlighting the motives of the people of Bethel, explaining his expectations, rehearsing the history of Israel’s failure, and declaring the promises of the messianic kingdom (7:4–8:17), the Lord finally answers the question initially raised by them in 7:3. The appointed fasts will become times of joy, gladness, and cheerful festivals for the house of Judah (8:19).
Times of fasting honor the Lord and bring joy when they are set in the context of a relationship with him. Moreover, fasting must not be divorced from a life that loves truth and peace (8:19). To fulfill religious duties while ignoring kingdom principles is to embrace empty ritual rather than kingdom relationship.
8:20-23 At this point, Zechariah returns to a vision of the millennial kingdom. In that day, peoples from all over the world will go to Jerusalem to seek the Lord due to their supernatural transformation as a result of their acceptance of the Messiah (8:20-22).
In that day, God’s favor to his people will be so great that individuals from nations of every language will grab the robe of a Jewish man tightly, urging: Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you (8:23).