Zechariah 1: 1 – 6
Zechariah (Yahweh remembers) is an appropriate title for this book because the reader of the book is told the good news; Yahweh remembers His chosen people and His promises and will be faithful to them. It is a book of comfort and hope, beginning with a call to repentance and ending with prophecies concerning the return and reign of Christ.
Like Jeremiah and Ezekiel, Zechariah was both a priest and prophet. Nehemiah tells us he was the head of a priestly family when Joiakim, who succeeded Joshua, was high priest (Nehemiah 12:16). He was probably born in Babylon and returned to Judah with Zerubbabel and Joshua. He succeeded his grandfather Iddo, who returned to Judah in 536BC, as a leading priest in Judah. He began his ministry in Judah two months after Haggai began his ministry. His ministry supplemented Haggai’s ministry. Both prophets compared the present with the past and the future. Haggai stressing the rebuilding of the temple as a sign and source of the Lord’s blessing and Zechariah emphasizing the need to repent and spiritual renewing. Haggai and Zechariah’s ministries followed the ministries of Ezekiel and Daniel who ministered to the captives in Babylon.
The purpose of Zechariah’s ministry was to motivate the captives that had returned to Judah and Jerusalem to finish restoring the temple and to rededicate themselves to the Lord of hosts.
The central theme of the book is encouragement and hope. The key to this hope is the coming of Messiah and His overthrow of ungodly forces and establishment of His kingdom on earth. The bases of his ministry are divine authority, “the word of the Lord” (Zechariah 1:1). He received a divine commission to be the Lord’s spokesman, with instructions what to say to the returned captives and he delivered to the people what he received.
Verse one and two – “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, The Lord was very angry with your fathers.”
Why was the Lord angry with the fathers of the returned captives? Two reasons are given in 2nd Chronicles 36:14-36; idolatry and a failure to give the land seventy sabbatical years of rest. Every seventh year the land was to have a Sabbath rest (Leviticus25:2-7). It was for this reason the wrath and anger of the Lord “were poured out and burned in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem” (Jeremiah 44:6). The Lord through Ezekiel told the Israelites He would deal with them “in wrath” and His eye “will have no pity nor shall” the Lord will not spare them even though they cry out for mercy. He will not listen to them (Ezekiel 8:18).
The captives who have returned to Judah and Jerusalem are aware of the reason for the Babylonian captivity. Ezekiel and their fathers told them why they were born in captivity and the wrath and anger of the Lord poured out on the cities of Judah, Jerusalem, and the people. They told them why the temple was destroyed. They have come to Judah and Jerusalem and have seen the results of the disobedience of their fathers.
This should be a warning to all Christians. There is a time when the Lord can no longer permit the disobedience of His children and though we find it hard to believe the Lord will deal harshly with the disobedient He will do as He did with the ancient Israelites. We have been warned of and witnessed the consequence of disobedience has its consequences. The prophets have warned us. The apostles have warned us. Above all others Jesus has warned us. Today, the Holy Spirit warns us. Are we listening and heeding the warnings? Before you answer look at the conditions in the world, in our cities, and in our families. The returning captives looked at the destruction of their cities, Jerusalem, and the temple. We are witnessing the results of disobedience in the world, our cities, and families. The judgments of those who have gone before us should be a warning not to follow their example if they lead us to the same situation the captives found themselves.
The word of the Lord told Zechariah, tell the returned captives:
Verse three – “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The captives who have returned to Judah and Jerusalem are to turn to the Lord in faith and repentance and make their peace with the Him if they will do this the Lord will extend His mercy and favor to them. They will find peace and be reconciled to Him. The Lord of hosts told Malachi, tell the builders of the wall around Jerusalem, “From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from My statues and have not kept them. Return to Me, and I will return to you.” (Malachi 3:7).
The Lord told these backslidden people through Zechariah:
Verse four – “Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, ‘thus says the Lord of hosts, Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ “But they did not listen or give heed to Me,” declares the Lord.”
In Psalm 78 psalmist speaks to the people about the early history of the nation in order to warn future generations they are not to be like their fathers who he said, were a stubborn and rebellious generation “that did not prepare its heart and whose spirit was not faithful to God” (v. 8).
Although the fathers had forsaken the Lord He sent prophets to them but they would not listen to the prophets (2 Chronicles 24:19). “They continually mocked the prophets of the Lord and despised the words of the Lord and scoffed at His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, until there was no remedy” (2 Chronicles 36:16).
If the children of the captives expect to escape the penalty for their acts of disobedience, they must turn from their evil ways and their evil deeds. They must not harden their hearts as their fathers did. The results of the hardening of the heart by their fathers should have caused the children to turn from their evil ways and evil deeds. To this point and time in the lives of the children, the price their fathers had to pay for their disobedience had little or no effect. Parents need to understand the examples of life they set before their children can have a lasting impression on the life of their children.
Why should the children listen to and heed the words of Zechariah? While it is true, the fathers who did not listen to or heed the former prophets and went into captivity they were able to live a comfortable life. They were able to build homes and business, marry, have children, and even have an informal form of worship.
Zechariah, asks the returned captives:
Verse five – “Your fathers where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?”
Where are the fathers? They are dead, buried in Babylon. They no longer walk the streets of the cities and towns, seen shopping in the shops and stores or the worship service, their voices are silent. Where are they? They are somewhere. When they left the physical world, they entered the spiritual world, an unchanging and unchangeable world. They are either in torment or in paradise.The captives who have returned to their homeland will follow their fathers if they do not turn from their disobedience.
Have you considered where you will be when you enter the spiritual world?
The third question Zechariah asks the returned captive concerns the words of the Lord.
Verse six – “But did not My words and My statues, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers?”
Both the fathers and prophets are dead, but the word of the Lord is still alive. Not one iota or title fell to the ground. The judgments the Lord can upon the fathers of the returning captives. The fathers of the captives experienced what they would not believe or fear. The words of the prophet could not bring conviction upon the fathers but the calamities threatened overtook them and they could not escape them or get out of their way. “Then they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us’” (v.6).
Zechariah’s point is, pay attention to the Word of God because, through prophets die, it endures, and the proof that it endures is that its warnings come true.