Tag: Zechariah

The Vision of the Four Chariots

Zechariah 6:1-8 

Summary vision – pulls together threads from most of previous visions. Intended by God to “inspire” his people to renewed effort at continuing construction of Temple. Had effect God purposed – Haggai’s preaching motivated the people to restart construction, together Haggai and Zechariah used by God to help people stay on task:

Ezra 6:14  So the elders of the Jews built, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they built and finished it, according to the commandment of the God of Israel…”

Situation / circumstances had in recent past led to great discouragement, stoppage of work. People and leaders both had little confidence to try again to rebuild something that would only be faint shadow of structure that formerly stood there. Were literally surrounded by opposition… from both “natives” and foreigners… including relocated “aliens” from distant parts of Assyrian and Babylonian empires. Had no obvious source of security: no law enforcement or military on their side, no wall with controlled access points (gates) to provide safety. Vulnerable enough many just trying to fly under the radar, not provoke any hostile reactions.

Tapestry of visions given to Zechariah in one night come to conclusion here. Both together and this one by itself give strong reminder to Jewish people not to always believe their eyes. Might appear like everything arranged against them, circumstances they were powerless to change; but… is more to picture than what could see with eyes. Needed to dust off glasses for eyes of faith, reevaluate situation from God’s perspective.

Had been at this process for twenty years, had not even completed basic structure. Not even close to ready for occupancy permit, nothing they could see had changed. Would they ever finish building their church? Would anybody come? Would enough people care about it to make it all worthwhile? Wait a minute, whose church was it to be? And what was he saying about it? And what did God intend to do about it?

A. Image  v. 1-3

four chariots

very first detail given speaks of war – something Jewish people readily understood, part of experience from time of Red Sea on

had been used by Israel’s latest enemies to great advantage – very little foot-soldiers could do to oppose advance of chariots with rider wearing coat of mail, perhaps even protection for horse

chariots are on the move, means battle already underway – will discover from explanation whose chariots they are, where are going

two mountains

numerous opinions of where mountains were, what represented – here’s what we know: concealed whatever was behind from view, pass between served as entrance/exit, appeared to be made of bronze

would seem chariots are not part of Babylonian army, unclear whether friend or foe, specifically who they were moving against

accompanying horses

four colors: red, black, white, dappled – no particular significance given to colors in explanation from interpreter angel; common ones

further description of them as “strong” – picture intended to get is one of perfect capability to carry out assigned task regardless of opposing forces – not easily overcome, distracted/disoriented, in it for long haul

B. Question   v. 4

what am I looking at

valid question for sure… nearly morning, prophet getting tired, brain full, wants to be sure of details – start with what he can see, then go from there to sort out the meaning

question behind the question: are horses/chariots/mountains really what they appear to be, or… do they have some other significance

what does it signify

what is the point God intends me to get from this vision – whose chariots are they, where are they coming from, where going, what does their commander intend to accomplish

perhaps… does this connect with 1:7ff

man among the myrtles, four horses of similar colors – riders had completed recon mission, discovered while God’s people were struggling, their enemies were resting confidently

God not happy when asked about delay in returning Israel to land, no apparent retribution against her enemies – God’s response: I know what is going on, I will deal with them

no more need for recon, now is time for action… at least it appears to be good possibility – interpreter-angel’s response seems to say “yes”

C. Explanation  v. 5-7

God answers from heaven

several indications the source of chariots: two bronze mountains, certainly puts in mind of Jachin and Boaz (1 Ki. 7:15-21) set up on either side of entrance to Temple

if, like Tabernacle, the Temple an earthly “copy” of heavenly reality – just b/c Jachin and Boaz broken up, taken to Babylon, what they represented still in place

heaven still there, not in captivity, God still “on duty” – aware of promises he made, needs of his people, demands of justice

God exercises his authority

“spirits of heaven”, angels of God not only ones under God’s authority – those who are objects of their actions under God’s authority, too

is really about the timing – not lack of anything on God’s part, perceived delay does not equal inaction or inattention – simply means not the right time yet

in this case, God’s people had some things to learn about priorities (God’s purposes vs. theirs), dependence and trust

God directs his resources

in this case, four horses/four winds/four directions not God’s intent – sends his messengers to do his bidding according to his plan

God intends to deal with immediate enemies of God’s people; time enough later to take care of the rest – this one a preemptive precision strike

God’s agents respond eagerly

horses eager / impatient to go about their task – like all God’s heavenly agents, willingly and eagerly obey directions they are given

so how does this description add meaning to line in the prayer – “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” – and our responses

D. Encouragement  v.8

God remembered

when God heard recon report (1:11), his response, “I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease” – intended to deal with them

sent his army out to carry out justice / judgment on the nations threatening / harassing his people, and give them space to finish assignment he had given them

God rests… when his people rest

summary: charioteers must have succeeded, gave rest to his Spirit – source of great comfort and encouragement to God’s people

restate “if mama isn’t happy…” – if God’s people are not at rest, God is not at rest either… he will intervene on their behalf when his time is right

When we are about the work God has assigned to us of building his church, he put it as “go make disciples”, need to look away from circumstances. Focus attention on God’s character, God’s promises, God’s faithfulness, God’s power. He will never allow his eternal purpose to be derailed or thwarted in any way. He will never allow anything to come our way that is not for our good and his glory.

At same time, he expects us to stay the course in full dependence on God – for guidance, strength, wisdom, protection, courage, and whatever else we need to fulfill his purpose. God “knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust.”  (Psa. 103:14) He will not ask more of us than he will help us to achieve. And… God not only supplies all needed resources, he adds abundant blessings to those who love and eagerly serve him.

A Flying Scroll and A Basket

Zechariah 5:1-11 

Good to review setting/circumstances: time is 519 BC, nearly 20 years after first wave of exiles returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Primary purpose – to act on Cyrus decree giving permission for all who desired to rebuild Temple destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar’s army. Got started, then came to screeching halt – opposition by powerful enemies with political connections. People had become discouraged, turned attention away from Temple task to other things. Perhaps wondering if any hope for future beyond barely keeping wolf and tax man away from the door.

Haggai and Zechariah working as God-sent team: Haggai working to enliven interest and effort toward finishing Temple; Zechariah working to renew people’s hope, help them see the future God had in store for Jerusalem and the nation. Were some things that were holding them back, needed to be addressed. People also needed a corrected view of God and evil – how can God be good when there is so much evil?

Difference of opinion whether are two visions or single vision with two parts. Are going to consider them together since themes of both closely related. Both good news and bad news – which it is depends on where a person’s loyalty was directed. Message of visions would be disturbing to evildoers, encouraging to the righteous. Keep in mind who was living in Judah at this time: a mixed group of people from varied background. Some Jews who stayed behind during earlier deportations; Jews who had returned from exile; people from away resettled there by foreign conquerors; perhaps other opportunists from neighboring areas. God’s message through Zechariah would apply regardless of national origin.

A. a scroll  v. 1-2

a flying scroll

most occurrences of a scroll not good – Jeremiah, Ezekiel and here – either hard contents or circumstances, generally bad news

since a flying banner, its contents not intended only for small group – also intended to be seen and read by all sorts of people

its dimensions

not the typical size found in home, church, public library: 15 feet by 30 feet – could classify as double-sided billboard, able to be read from distance

picture an oversized banner being towed along by low flying airplane – hard to miss, hard to ignore, hard to claim ignorance

same size as Holy Place in original tabernacle, porch on Solomon’s Temple – likely that its message would have something to do with worship / temple / people’s approach to God

its origin

something of that size not of human making – must have come from God, having a message and purpose that God intends

its motion indicates that is already in progress or about to be – not something reserved for a distant future time, meant for now

B. a message  v. 3-4

contains a curse in two parts

message written on both sides of scroll – one statement addresses those who were stealing, the other those who were swearing falsely

know from oracle in v.4 the second side has to do with more than bearing false witness – “the one who swears falsely by My name

is possible, perhaps even likely that these two sins were more widespread even among God’s covenant people than others

they had learned lesson about worshiping pagan idols, was never a problem for them after exile, but… not all God was concerned with

reference to 8th commandment, 3rd commandment – by singling out these two, is clear even more spiritual returnees still not measuring up to terms of the covenant

God made plain in Deut. 28 and 30 would be severe consequences for failure to keep his laws… for both his people and their enemies

sanctification can be messy

God did intend for his people to finish task of rebuilding Temple, carrying on worship there as he had ordained generations earlier

but… God expected more than religious practice from his people – would not ever be satisfied with them simply going through motions

they were to actually be holy people, dealing strongly with sin in own lives as well as in the community – if they didn’t, God would!

since both tables of Law identified, focus here on two greatest commands – love for God, love for neighbor and God’s expectation

that a holy people would love their neighbor because they loved their God

C. a basket  v. 5-8a

so… will it be losing battle? never-ending cycle where sin keeps rearing its ugly head, pushed back down, then pokes up…again?

measuring basket

kind of basket used for measuring grain – designed to hold small grains without “leaking” – no way woman is going to escape through the cracks

with a lid

not a typical lid – a round cover made of lead, heavy and not easily moved – sufficient to keep contents inside the basket

and a woman

wickedness personified, probably representing the most wicked thing they could imagine – idol-worship including sexual immorality in name of religion

D. restrained and removed  v.8b-11

pushed down and covered

as soon as lid is removed, woman tries to “escape” but is prevented – forced back into the basket and lid replaced

why is sin not even more pervasive? because God either directly or through agents restrains evil, limits what it can influence and achieve

carried away

two women with wings of stork (deriv. chesed), these faithful ones come with wind (ruach) or breath of God under their wings

given blessed task of carrying evil personified and restrained far away from people of God – God doesn’t just punish sin, restrain sin, he actually takes it away… far away

to her house

could say she is put in her place… the place where evil is worshiped – here place identified as land of Shinar or Babylonia

place where God already dealt with rampant presumptuous sin – Tower of Babel – also place associated with all that is evil… what represents all that is earthly and opposed to God

no room for evil near the house of God and his people – if they want to be part of worship in rebuilt temple, must put sin far away

God was determined to deal with sin in lives of his people – rooting it out of them and their worshiping community. Intended that his people have a future, making them fit worshipers for his house. More details as to how he accomplishes that come later on in Zechariah’s prophecy. At the same time, God does expect his people to do their part to keep their attention on him, not little by little drift away into idolatry – giving to someone/something else what belongs to God. Good news is that because of what Jesus accomplished and the power of the indwelling Spirit, God by his grace enables us to do that – to become more holy each day.

 

The Golden Lampstand

Zechariah 4:1-14 

Poor interpreter angel had tough job – on a schedule, had so much to cover, prophet kept falling asleep. Needed to wake him up, make sure was thinking clearly enough to process what he saw, comprehend any explanation, remember so as to pass along to intended recipient. Good reminder for us: pray often that we not be sleeping on duty, unmindful of things God intends to show us.

Is a pattern to these 8 visions: 3 – 2 – 3. First and last three intended to encourage God’s people as a whole, the fourth was targeted to Joshua the high priest and this vision intended particularly for Zerubbabel. Are often tempted to wonder if what we labor to achieve will have any lasting value. Zerubbabel in position of wondering if he could even finish his assignment besides having no certain knowledge of the future. Content of this vision would give courage to Zerubbabel as well as everyone else.

Is useful corrective for us – give something our best shot, doesn’t come out as we anticipated / desired. So… try again, harder. Is component of human nature, true whether born again or not. God by his prophet has something to say about that! Key part of this vision relates to advance of God’s kingdom, the part Zerubbabel and rebuilt Temple and people of God have in it.

A. Image  v. 2-3

lampstand of solid gold

not a new idea – lampstand part of Israel’s worship experience since first year of existence as nation – one of furnishings in Holy Place

Solomon’s temple: multiplied by 10: ten tables, ten lavers, ten lampstands (2 Chr. 4:6ff; 1 Chr. 28:19) according to plans God gave to David

this one similar yet different – bowl on top, pipes from bowl to each lamp, each lamp with multiple wicks all giving light… think Scoops Tortilla Chips with 7 points each, wick in lamp and hanging over the edge

comparison: 7 branched menorah, Tabernacle & Temple; Zechariah’s lampstand w/7 lamps with 49 wicks; John’s 7 separate lampstands

two olive trees

something additional not seen in tabernacle or temple although concept certainly present there – use of specially prepared olive oil to fuel lamps

additional detail given in later question (v.12) – oil from two trees provides continuous supply of oil directly to bowl feeding lamps

eliminates opportunity for impurity to enter into oil, suggests no interruption in its flow – impurity a possibility, interruption a given in previous models of lampstand

B. Question   v. 4, 11-12

what are these?

kinda like parent with child looking through ViewMaster first time – prophet still groggy, perhaps not sure if what he was seeing was really significant / part of vision from God

angel asks “what do you see?” – prophet responds, then asks question of his own… to which angel, surprised, asks another question: “don’t you know what you’re looking at?”… twice! (v.5, 13)

not asking for identification, prophet correctly identifies objects he saw – was asking for explanation… purpose and significance of what he saw

angel expected Zechariah to have some idea of meaning – indicated by form of question; given prophet’s office and experience, symbols should have been easily recognized

what are these two olive trees?

had not received definitive answer to previous question – got less than he wanted and more than he asked for

kept persisting, asking for further clarification – what is significance of two trees, one on either side – disappointment, no direct answer, just another “what’s the matter, don’t you get it?” response

what are these two olive branches?

did finally get brief identification of two branches, by itself not especially satisfying – must be that additional clues to significance given in oracle to Zerubbabel (7-10)

complete image looks like this: object of focus in center a large, elaborate, costly, and beautiful lamp; reservoir for oil at top, 7 arms arranged around central column, lamp with 7 wicks at end of each arm; each lamp supplied with gold tube from central reservoir; large olive tree on either side, branches overhanging the lamp, one branch from each tree dripping oil continuously into reservoir at top

C. Explanation  v. 5-6; 13-14

the Spirit of God

in ancient Jewish culture, oil essential part of daily life as well as worship – anointing priests for ministry, kings for rule, sacrifices for offering in worship, light in Holy Place as well as homes

from opening statement of oracle to Zerubbabel, get idea oil somehow connected with Spirit of God, essential to ministry

just as oil “powered” light of lampstand in tabernacle / temple / vision, so oil of the Spirit would power the people of God

the servants of God

servants the ones who act in part as conduits between God and people – are not source of oil or light, part of process of getting oil from tree to lampstand

for Zechariah, two anointed ones would be identified as Zerubbabel and Joshua, key figures God had used and would continue to work through, each in their own particular sphere

might look as though God had abandoned the task of rebuilding the Temple – according to vision, not so, still committed to it

the people of God

God uses variety of resources to accomplish his purpose – Z and J each had their particular tasks relating to Temple, were not going to rebuild it themselves

would require efforts of entire covenant community following their leadership to bring task to completion, each contributing their own part

the work of God

at that point in time, was to rebuild temple and community of worshipers in a secure city… but with view to the future and arrival of Messiah

in all time, work of God is to advance his plan of redemption throughout the world to build worshiping community of people from all people groups

the purpose of God

here’s the part Zechariah really should have understood: God’s purpose articulated to Abraham… to bless all families of the earth

intended that his people should be a light to all the world – see Isa. 42:6; 49:6; 60:3, repeated description “a light to the Gentiles (nations)

put together: picture of the Spirit of God working through the servants of God to equip the people of God to do the work of God and so fulfill the purpose of God

D. Oracle  v. 6-10

intended particularly for Zerubbabel

God had not set him aside, he was still the man for the task – not to be discouraged by appearances, regardless of their size

no mountain so high but what in strength Spirit supplied it would be overcome; no temple/community/effort so small but what God could use it to bring about his purpose

assurance of completion

Zerubbabel had started the project, he would finish it – nothing about the task surprised God, he was totally informed of all that was taking place both positive and negative

and also “success”

this temple needed to be completed for its glory to exceed that of Solomon’s as declared by Zechariah’s coworker Haggai (2:9)

that glory would far outshine previous – glory of lamp with 49 wicks supersedes one with only 7, Messiah himself would do same for this temple… by his very presence… and what he would accomplish

further, as time passes, light of God’s revelation increasing and spreading – always fueled and empowered by Holy Spirit

Is Holy Spirit, not our might or power that makes spread of God’s truth effective. When Spirit is actively working through us, he will accomplish the Father’s purpose no matter how insignificant the part we’re working on might seem.

The Vision of the Cleansing of Joshua

Zechariah 3:1-10 

 This vision departs from pattern of first 3 – interpreter angel not in sight, no question asked by prophet so no answer given. Apparently God figured there was enough information in vision for Zechariah to accurately know message God intended to send. Holds true for subsequent readers… like us :-)  So… will do best we can to glean truths God has for us here.

Like rest of Zechariah’s message, vision one to encourage prophet and, through him, others. The one most in need of encouragement… the high priest on trial. Yet are lessons for us individually and corporately as we do our part to advance Christ’s kingdom.

A. Setting

courtroom scene

only barest minimum of details given, just enough to allow filling in blanks – at same time, open enough to have broad application

not told where scene takes place but reminds us of opening portion of Job, when sons of God… incl. Satan came before God

leads us to think spiritual realm including heaven not as far away as might think – a different dimension beyond our sense capability, not different part of universe

important when consider spiritual activities taking place then and now and their proximity to us

judge, prosecutor, defendant

scene opens with defendant standing in the dock, judge in his place, prosecuting attorney standing by ready to substantiate charges brought against defendant

no indication of observers in courtroom; were others present, by their actions were those whose task to carry out judge’s orders

could easily have been art imitating life: defendant carrying out duties in Temple, being challenged by Accuser, setting around changes to that of courtroom

B. Actors

Joshua, the high priest

identified Hag. 1:1 as “son of Jehozadak, the high priest”, one of the men listed (Ezra 2:2; Neh. 7:7) as returning to Jerusalem with Zerubbabel following Cyrus’ edict

the one chiefly responsible for overseeing spiritual well-being of people in/around Jerusalem – was this a “Luther” moment? something that happened in line of duty?

Angel of the Lord

somewhat mysterious figure seen numerous times in OT, not always totally clear just who he is – this time, not much question

notice what he says v.4 – “See, I have removed your iniquity from you” – only one who can remove iniquity from another, who can declare sins forgiven… Lord Jesus

was preincarnate Christ represented here in prophet’s vision with large role to play – that of Judge (Acts 17:31) and Advocate (1 John 2:1), both explicitly assigned to Christ in NT

Satan, the accuser

perhaps not a proper name here, has definite article “the” attached – “the adversary”, “the accuser” – know who he is, the devil

for this being, his name is accurately descriptive – also keep in mind Jesus’ description: “there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.” (John 8:44)

his accusations intended to be destructive – small goal to destroy individuals, large goal to destroy Christ and his church

side note: Satan’s activity primarily directed to opposing advance of Christ’s kingdom, by no means limited to that – think about how he directly or indirectly influences unsaved: convincing they have no worth, no hope apart from self-destructive ways he falsely promises will deliver

C. Conflict

accusation

charges against Joshua not stated, can be inferred from the Lord’s response and opening statement – probably related to Joshua’s fitness for his office of high priest

specifics don’t really matter, accusations were generally true – Joshua just like everyone else… a sinner by nature and act

Satan the king of spin – select / present only the details that make his point, leave out the rest – talk about what was true, leave out what is true

frequently asks leading questions that lead to despair, not hope: “remember this that you said/thought/did? how can you pretend to worship God in public since you’re guilty of that? If you can’t worship sincerely, how can you lead others sincerely? How could God ever forgive you for that plus that plus that….?”

verdict

case effectively thrown out of court – no legal arguments allowed, no attempt allowed to persuade Judge beyond initial charges

defendant declared as one rescued from destruction, iniquity has been removed, charges if valid at one point no longer apply

final decision: Joshua declared not guilty, fully pardoned, restored to his place of service – was a just outcome because of what Advocate did… he took Joshua’s iniquity, gave him righteous not available anywhere else

D. Resolution

changed clothes

played out differently from our judicial system – judge did not tell defendant to go change his clothes, then come back to court

Judge ordered dirty clothes taken away, new ones given, Joshua just stood there accepting / receiving gracious gift from Judge

dirty clothes would have kept Joshua out of Temple, unable to serve – with clean robe and turban, truly fit for priestly duties

and… with clean clothes and what they signified, Satan no longer had basis for accusation – the Judge declared “not guilty” (Rom. 8:33)

changed character

God especially would not put rich robes on a pretender, someone who truly was not as he seemed – changed outward appearance reflected inward change also

meant Angel’s admonishment not empty words, setting up standard/goal Joshua could not achieve – with God’s help he could do it

yet another reminder that one who will be of greatest service to God and accomplish God’s purpose must walk in God’s ways

God admonishing Joshua, highest spiritual leader at that time – principle applies to all God’s people involved in every aspect of church ministry

confirmed future

applied to both present and future (v.7), Joshua and Jerusalem (v.2) – immediate an encouragement to Joshua and contemporaries, broader application an encouragement to all God’s people

if Joshua lived and served according to God’s expectations, God would ensure his ongoing active ministry leadership

and… Joshua would have access to God’s presence and all resources he needed to carry out his spiritual ministry duties

meant he could expect God to continue protecting / defending him from the accuser throughout rest of his ministry

back to v.2, reference to both Joshua’s circumstances and Jerusalem

that along with references to Joshua’s ministry make strong point about Jerusalem and the Temple – city and church both had a future… guaranteed by God

temple would be completed, worship fully instituted there; defensive wall around city would be completed, would continue to be inhabited city where God was worshiped

Visions supplied by God to prophet addressed variety of issues and needs. Several address the problem of temporal enemies of God’s people and program. This fourth vision of the eight make it plain not all our enemies are ones that attack and try to hinder from outside. This one works (or tries to) on the inside… and in different realm/dimension. Spiritual enemies are powerful, effective, dangerous, able to do far more damage to both church and family than other forces.

The solution not to circle the wagons, go underground somehow, think that we can somehow tough it through. We must do as Paul exhorted – Eph. 6:14-18 

“Stand therefore, having girded your waist with truth, having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God; praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, being watchful to this end with all perseverance and supplication for all the saints;”

The Vision of the Surveyor

Zechariah 2:1-13 

Surveying, GIS, mapping – how to measure: straight-line distance, follow the contours. Results depend on your perspective, tools used for measuring. Keep this in mind: idea of tabula rasa is wrong according to Bible. No one from before birth onward has mind that is totally blank. Means we all approach every subject / situation with some kind of preconception. Is important that preconceived ideas be informed by good input. Of crucial importance… when approaching God’s word, what happens when ideas / beliefs / principles we have and follow don’t correspond with the Bible? Do we allow God’s word to change our perspective?

In third vision prophet Zecharah experienced on that busy night, once again sees something designed to reorient his perspective on the future, in particular what God intended to do. Already know one thing about vision – designed to encourage Zechariah who would then declare what he saw/heard to fellow Jews… for their encouragement.

A. Image  v. 1

man with measuring line

different image of surveyor than what we might expect – are more familiar with surveying as 2-person operation, one with stick, other with transit

not that many years ago other tools were used, e.g. chains with carefully made links of specific dimensions – here, a rope of specific length… made so as not to stretch

in his hand – ready… but not in use – incomplete picture, made necessary for prophet to ask for help to understand – only thing obvious: what kind of professional, what he would be likely to do

B. Question   v. 2a

where are you going?

on the move, enough clues in vision to make this valid question, one we would ask under wide variety of circumstances

sent from… to…

could tell he was purposely headed somewhere – apparent from his demeanor even though origin and destination unknown

could surmise had been sent by someone to do task – who sent him, for what purpose had he been sent – obviously to measure something, but what and why

open-ended

more than one-word answer would be welcome… and was forthcoming – anyone hearing question would know that, to give barest minimum answer often sign of “attitude”

curiosity on part of questioner rarely limited solely to destination… unless picking up a hitch hiker – most times will readily accept any / all information person is willing to offer

prophet gets start of explanation from surveyor – what he has to say, its significance an encouragement to Zechariah and people

but will see very soon: more to this than meets the eye – a plot twist in store for Zechariah, twist that will significantly change his perspective about what God presently doing, what God intends to do in future

C. Explanation  v. 2b-5

place

Jerusalem – center of Jewish life: social, religious, political, iow a significant element in functioning of family, church and state

pilgrimage feasts 3 times a year, only authorized location for sacrifice, meeting place for Sanhedrin (court) and home of king

picture of the church – all three institutions certainly affected by God’s comprehensive plan, not all of equal standing: church is foremost (Eph. 5:25)

must admit: if Jerusalem of Zechariah’s day an accurate reflection of church / God’s kingdom, things not looking very good!

purpose

surveyor declares intent to measure width / length of the city – first step to establish / re-establish a city, define boundaries

in just minimal response is clear to prophet: God by no means finished with Jerusalem and all it represents – God has a plan and is working his plan, also has a goal or end in view

remember condition of city: Temple would be completed March 12, 515 BC… wall surrounding city not completed until September, 445 BC… seventy years later

which raises question: what was the surveyor going to measure, where would he put in his stakes? marking present footprint of the city? or some other boundaries (larger or smaller)?

plot twist

prophet hardly has time to process information before scene changes – interpreter angel shows up, then another angel

interpreter angel going out to gather more information (perhaps) from surveyor but is met by another divine messenger – did he speak loudly enough for surveyor to hear?

wrong perspective – go tell the prophet he and his people have wrong idea about future of Jerusalem

small, undefended, few people, humble beginnings of replacement temple, wouldn’t have rubble cleared from Babylonian conquest for another 70 years but… that is limited human viewpoint

God envisioned something much different: prosperous well-populated community of people too large to be enclosed by walls

promise (5)

but wait, there’s more: God had (still has) way more in mind for his people than simple return to specific piece of real estate

this is language of covenant… God intends inhabitants of his city to be his people and he will be their God and… will include Gentiles as well as Jews!

God doesn’t intend reconstructed Temple or rebuilt city to be source of pride and glory – God himself will be the glory of his people… something not even dreamed about in modern Jerusalem

NOTE: this promise a general one, indicates God’s attitude toward his people, his enemies – promise includes specific future events, but not limited to them

certainly includes glory of coming Messiah to Jerusalem but not limited to that – looks beyond to glory of Christ in his church

D. Oracle  v. 6-13

warning (6-7)

God’s plan fully comprehensive – intends to bless his people, also to protect them… and vindicate them – show by how he treats their enemies that they are his people

judgment will come – seen already in “rise and fall of nations”, would continue but… recognize hand of God in directing those actions on world stage

side note: God not on sabbatical, is still involved in world affairs… including those of Koreas, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Iran

comfort (8-9)

don’t forget: God acts, he doesn’t react – all that takes place is part of his eternal plan, designed for his own glory and good of his people – is true whether we grasp details / interconnections or not

God acts for the sake of his own glory – glory of his grace as he cares for his people, glory of his justice in dealing with enemies

glory of his holiness as he makes his people holy; glory of his power in ruling and overruling forces of nations and nature; glory of his truth in bringing understanding / light to minds darkened by sin

each occurrence of God’s acting throughout course of human history skirmishes previewing and promising final battle and victory over sin and Satan and death… and its glorious eternal outcome

God’s people are his special possession – lit. “pupil of his eye”, Hebrew idiom, only here, can be understood with two senses

what is seen there is focus of vision / attention – people of God are ones he is primarily concerned with, focused on, attentive to, acting with regard for

one of most sensitive parts of body, instinctively protected and defended from harm… for good reason – God just as committed to protecting / defending his people

acting on their behalf brings him glory – think about circumstances of Jewish people, Christ’s church through centuries

overpowered by vastly superior numbers / forces, humiliated, marginalized, persecuted and killed – when God pushes back, his glory seen more profoundly than in matters of daily life

response (10-13)

praise – here is ultimate fulfillment of promise to Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 15:5) – salvation extending far beyond Jewish people

worshiping community with God dwelling among / within his people “redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation”  (Rev. 5:9)

worship – praise, yes, and reverent silence because overwhelmed by majestic glory of conquering sovereign Lord of all creation

This glorious Lord carrying out his purpose through the church… the church in the wilderness, the church in Zion, the church of NT period. Church is “pupil of his eye” because God most supremely loves his Son, head of the church and one with his church, his body.

Several take-aways for us: must be sure are measuring right thing with right instrument – Christ’s kingdom from perspective and with standard of God’s word. In all circumstances, remember who we are – God’s people, his special possession with a glorious future.

Four Horns and Four Craftsmen

Zechariah 1:18-21 

Remember circumstances of target audience: church whose territory had become pawn in international chess game, moved around at will by overwhelming and oppressive powers. Often at mercy of “local” officials with little regard for national policy. Zecharaih’s task: serve as God’s messenger to his people to give them “heart”, inspire hope for the future, help them to take the long view.

Current thinking often does not have adequate perspective – want life to work like short story. Basic elements: characters, setting, plot, conflict, and resolution. Goal is that things of concern to us go from setting and plot through conflict to resolution in hours / days / weeks at most. Cannot bear thought of situation not reaching resolution for years, or maybe not even in our lifetime. Want them fixed by end of next election… or sooner.

Yet think about Jewish people – troubles started in earnest during 8th century BC. Period of back and forth, then serious assault, final overthrow of northern kingdom 722 BC. Was inevitable (because of human stubbornness) that southern kingdom would also eventually be overcome. Included destruction of crown jewel, Temple and surrounding city. Then captivity, eventual return, process of restoration and rebuilding. From Assyria’s first serious move against Israel until night of Zechariah’s vision, more than 200 years elapsed… and replacement temple not completed yet… and would be nearly 75 years more before Jerusalem secured again.

No surprise God’s people needed encouragement… and so do we. Drawn out pace of movement in God’s eternal plan not excuse for his people to slack off, far from it. Must be actively diligently carrying out tasks God has assigned, confident God has a plan and is working his plan. At same time, should not be put off or discouraged by unfavorable appearances, or opposition by God’s enemies. Also should not be surprised by opposition – Satan may be on a leash, but he is not without power and resources. Will never give up attempting to overthrow Christ and his kingdom.

Don’t know if Zechariah given opportunity to take notes, write down important points from one vision before experiencing another. In any event, next one follows soon on heels of first and is closely connected with it. The scouts finished their reconnoiter of earth’s kingdoms, brought back report, God not pleased. In fact was “exceedingly angry with the nations at ease” (Zech. 1:15). Interpreter-angel goes on to explain God had good intentions for Jerusalem and Zion. But… does not indicate what God’s plan is for nations he is angry with. Follow me.

A. Image  v. 18, 20

four horns

primary usage of word qeren – animal horn, ram or wild ox e.g.; also used frequently for “horns of the altar”, projections at each corner of brazen altar

can be used/understood in symbolic way, a metaphor indicating might or power or strength – think how animal with horns uses them to dominate others

similar imagery in our expression “lock horns” over something – two people engaged in test of wills or strength, only one winner

four craftsmen

word used of various kinds of craftsmen, artisans skilled in working with various materials – wood, metal, stone, fabric – and varying degrees of intricacy – carpenter/cabinetmaker, blacksmith/jeweler…

in each instance, artisan takes particular kind of material which he then forms and shapes into something else, often radically different from original – thread into tapestry, e.g.

significant that craftsman does not ask permission of “raw” material, no input from material as to what it wants to be made into

B. Question   v. 19, 21

what are these?

prophet continues humble spirit of teachability – asking questions, seeking further understanding, and is very open about it

doesn’t try to take credit for more understanding, lets whole world know he asked for help – good to remember!

asked interpreter-angel tour guide to explain not only what he was looking at… wanted to know meaning and purpose

wanted to know what was represented by four horns – being a PK, probably had some ideas but wanted to be sure

what are these going to do?

vision obviously did not show craftsmen in action – would not be the range of translations in that case: carpenters, blacksmiths, artisans, workers with hammers

by time he saw the craftsmen, Zechariah knew what horns represented – without action, could not go beyond that with certainty

would horns prevail over craftsmen? craftsmen harness all four together? carve them into different shapes? throw them on ash heap of civilization?

C. Explanation  v. 19, 21

enemies of God’s people

Zechariah receives answers to his questions, sufficient for him and his audience, although we might prefer some additional details

first question: four horns represent enemies of the Jews – those who were involved in large portion of population being displaced

remember: this was all according to God’s’ plan… discipline for his people because of unfaithfulness to him… and used nations’ natural enmity for that purpose

tempting to assign names to each of four horns: pick from Assyria, Babylon, Egypt, Medo-Persia, Greece, Rome – all involved in some way in Israel’s humiliation

truth is… whether seeking identity of four horns or four craftsmen, God saw fit to remain silent… and really is better that way

God’s answer

like with identities, God withheld information on what method craftsmen would use when they acted on his behalf

instead, describes effect of their labor – those nations presently at rest, thinking they had prevailed over God’s people, they would become displaced people, turned out of territory they had acquired

nothing left to chance – according to God’s purpose his enemies would be thoroughly humiliated and defeated, something that would cause them great terror

important to note: aggression against people of God always includes offensive behavior directced toward God himself, something he takes personally and seriously

poster child for that in NT – Acts 9:1-4 – “Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord”… “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

D. Oracle

no formal oracle, however…

are some take-aways: first, about the names of the nations – Zechariah’s countrymen would have understood who was meant, would have been encouraged by the message of the vision

since some details purposely omitted, shows intent for people in other times and places to receive benefit from what God showed prophet… people like those of 1st century church… and 21st century church

comfort for all ages

important to reinforce – people of God in all ages have enemies… starting with Cain… continuing until Second Coming when Christ puts an end to all rule and authority and power, and will have subdued all his enemies (1 Cor. 15:20-28)

notice significant detail from vision: for every horn there is a craftsman – for every enemy of God and his people that comes from 4 corners of earth, God has appointed means of dealing with it

point to remember: it is never safe to oppose Christ and the advance of his kingdom, is never safe to oppose Christ’s church

Christ will meet every force raised to oppose building of his church and subdue it – how he chooses to do so is his business

God intended his church, place of worship in Jerusalem should be rebuilt. Sent his prophets to encourage his people to carry on the work… confident God would make sure they succeeded. Lord Jesus assured his followers he would build his church and even hell’s gates cannot impede its progress. Regardless of particular circumstances, how things might look, we must press on and do the next thing. We may see the results, it may be reserved for future generation. Either way, God takes care of his own, supplying their need, ensuring the outcome of their labor for him will serve his eternal purpose.

The Man Among the Myrtles

Zechariah 1:7-17  

Many of prophets had task of stirring up people to particular actions – repenting of their sin, recovering proper observance of religious ceremonies (circumcision and Passover, e.g.), returning to work of construction on restored Temple. Zechariah’s opening charge to his people certainly had that character – calling them to repentance, not making same mistakes as their fathers.

Zechariah’s primary focus not on what people should be doing for God, instead was concerned with what God would do for his people. God by no means uninformed about or unaware of his people’s circumstances and their needs. God had his plan, was working his plan, had told his people some things about his plan. Was much they did not know, especially what was God’s schedule of planned events. When extended period of time passed and people had heard no word, seen no obvious activity from God, would lose heart.

Many prophets received word from God, were told what to do with it. Some, like Zechariah were shown multimedia presentation, included both sight and sound. On occasion, would even have a tour guide, positioned to aswer questions, provide explanations.

February 15, 519 BC, busy night for Zechariah. btw, Shebat the Babylonian name for 11th month of Jewish calendar, corresponds with our February. Saw a series of 8 visions, served to encourage and strengthen prophet first, then his hearers, finally all his readers. Was important that prophet himself have strong confidence in God and his plan. Doubting prophet not equipped to encourage / inspire confidence in audience.

Each of visions Zechariah saw that night followed similar pattern: an image the prophet saw; one or more questions the prophet asked; the explanation given to the prophet; an oracle, a message from God for his people.

A. Image  v.8, 10, 11: Man

riding chestnut horse  (8)

primary figure in scene who attracts and holds attention: man seated on red or chestnut horse, standing in valley, accompanied by riders on other horses of varying colors

in this vision, colors of horses not of great significance – pretty much normal horse colors; is the man and companions that matter

identity of the man not made clear at first – comes out gradually as vision and its description progresses – helps us enter into experience along with prophet, discovering details as he sorts them out

standing among the myrtles  (10)

myrtle commonly found in Palestine, grows in variety of locations / conditions – evergreen, dark scented leaves, delicate white flowers with purple edging, berries used in medicine

low shrub on hillsides, can reach 9 or more feet in low-lying well-watered valleys – probably sufficient foliage to conceal riders / horses

as vision moved along, first rider dismounted, was standing in valley next to his horse… seen by the prophet but not easily visible to others

the Angel of the Lord  (11)

Zechariah asks angel, messenger from God, standing next to him for help interpreting – angel begins to respond, then is interrupted

man standing among the myrtles declares who his companions are, other riders address their response to man identified as “the Angel of the LORD”

53x in Zechariah – LORD of hosts – gives hint of what their mission might have been, identity of the Man: same who encountered Joshua at Jordan River by Jericho

B. Question   v.9

“what are these?”

even a prophet needs help to understand point of what is hearing / seeing – God graciously supplied one with accurate information

before anything else is said, prophet knows what he is seeing, has no clear idea of what it signifies – who the riders are, what their mission is, how it relates to him and his people

important example set here: when considering revelation from God (for us, his Word) first stop for interpretation should be divinely supplied interpreter (Holy Spirit), content of revelation (explanation)

when God supplies explanation / interpretation of his revelation, start by taking it at face value – follow plain sense, don’t try to give another sense to it

“I will show you”

interpreter-angel begins to respond to Zechariah’s question – distinguished from “the Angel of the Lord” who interrupts, takes over

even though someone else was there who could give explanation, prophet (…and us) not encouraged / allowed to shift focus

the Man, Commander of the Lord’s Army, pre-incarnate Christ the one who should and would receive all the attention

C. Explanation  v.10-13

the Lord is present (10)

Bible tells us Satan, and of course his agents too, prowling the earth seeking to push forward their evil agenda against Christ, church

are not alone in spiritual dimension – God has his agents led by Commander, Son of God himself, scouting throughout the earth

this a comparable idea to what Apostle John saw, Son of Man walking in midst of lampstands – God is present with his people

may be concealed from our view, at least physical sight, but should not be concealed from understanding – are not alone in the world

the world is at peace (11)

report the scouts give to their commander: have completed assignment, not long process since on horseback, can go everywhere

kingdoms of the earth experiencing relative peace, no major conflicts anywhere – kinda like now, small skirmishes but world powers not engaged in conflict

becomes clear from follow-up question this kind of peace not a good thing – a world at peace while people of God suffer not pleasing to God – further explanation is coming

> further question – how long (12)

keep in mind: vision has application to people in all ages, given first to Jewish people shortly after worst time of their life – exile – and things hadn’t gotten very good even by 20 years later

cry went up from Man – how long before you show mercy to your people, restore them to favor once again?

the Lord responds (13)

God’s answer comes back to interpreter-angel, gracious or good and comforting words… who then shares response with Zechariah

many things implied by good comforting answer to that question: God not sleeping, powerless, disinterested, frustrated, aimless

D. Oracle   1:14-17

the Lord cares (14)

God not unconcerned with the suffering of his people – greatly moved with compassion and will move on their behalf

has purpose not only to restore his people but to be properly worshiped – hence distinction between Jerusalem and Zion

this is LORD of Hosts declaring his intentions – iow, the God who is in covenant with his people and has power to change things

the Lord is displeased with the nations (15)

nations had agenda against people of God, so God let out the leash… permitting them to overthrow and capture, read punish, Jews

one problem… for them – took their greed and aggression too far, being unnecessarily harsh and unjust toward Jews – figure they have put God and his people in their place, won’t be bothered again

God will not allow that to go unnoticed, unpunished – evidence? where is Assyrian Empire? where is Babylonian Empire?

the Lord will prosper his church (16-17)

God has his timeline in view… as always, and now is the time – he will remove all hindrances to rebuilding of his house, and more

city will be rebuilt as well and prosperity of church and city will overflow to surrounding area – not looking forward to unending hardship, resistance to growth

Is difficult at times to see what God is doing in the world. Easy to judge state of world and church by how things are here. Here can be local church family, town, region, nation. Need to keep in mind: 2000 years ago NT church had 120 members (Acts 1:15). Look at it now… around the world. No nation on earth where Gospel is not known, where Christ does not have a church. And people are being added to the church daily. Christ is present in his church, among his people, carrying out his plan according to God’s perfect timing and methods. Take heart, there is no power that can frustrate it, slow it down, change its course. Our good and gracious heavenly Father can be trusted to complete his plan of redemption and lead all his people safely home.