Zechariah - I Am Jealous for Zion
This morning, we will consider the book of Zechariah.
Zechariah prophesied around the same time as Haggai. He began to prophecy to the remnant who returned from captivity 18 years after the return in 520BC. Zechariah and Haggai were sent to call the remnant to repentance because they had left the work on the temple. The people responded favorably to Haggai’s preaching. They got back to work on the temple. They began to get their priorities back where they needed to be, but this does not mean they are where they needed to be yet. This is seen in the first message Zechariah gives to the people two months after Haggai first prophesied, in .
In this passage, I would like to look at the first of three important messages that Zechariah gives to the people.
Return to Me
Zechariah’s message begins much like Haggai’s — with a strong appeal to the remnant: “…Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” (, ESV)
Zechariah is showing them that, although returning to the work on the temple is a good thing, it is not the only thing the LORD desires. First and foremost, God wants their hearts to be His. So the LORD pleads with them through Zechariah not to be like their forefathers who had refused to listen to the warnings of the prophets. God had dealt with the people exactly as promised He would through His prophets, but He doesn’t want to have to do the same to the current generation. This was not the time for judgment, it was the time for restoration. It was time to get back to the covenant — to be the faithful people of God. It was time for God’s presence to come back to His people, which the rebuilding of the temple signified. This is what the LORD wanted His people to think about.
This is how the book of Zechariah begins this book - with a very powerful message to the people to repent. And if they would do so — if they would be His faithful remnant — then the rest of the book shows what He is willing to do for them.
Zechariah’s “Apocalyptic” Visions
Starting in 1:7, Zechariah starts seeing these visions. He sees 8 visions in chapters 1-6 and then two more larger visions in chapters 9-14. These visions are similar to what we see in books like Revelation and Ezekiel. In these visions, you are given amazing pictures of what God is going to do for His covenant people.
I like to look at visions like this as “picture parables.” They are illustrations or pictures given to us that have a great spiritual lessons for the group of people the visions are being given to. Sometimes, we have the privilege of being given the interpretation of the vision, and sometimes we are not and we have to do some work to figure out what lesson/s are in the vision. But we need to keep in mind as we look at visions like are in Zechariah and revelation that they are given to a specific group of people in a specific circumstance, and we need to try to always first understand what they mean for those in whom they were given before we make applications to our lives as God’s people today.
It is important for us to keep in mind that these visions are being given to a people who were living in a tough time. There was a lot on their shoulders. They had enemies surrounding them. They had the pressure of rebuilding their nation. They had questions — even doubts — regarding whether or not they were still God’s chosen people because of His judgment of the nation through Babylon, and they still wondered if God’s promise to David to bring the Messiah would come to pass. So the LORD began showing them through Haggai’s prophecies, and will continue in these visions of Zechariah, that if they give their hearts fully to Him, that they are His covenant people, He is their God, they will receive the blessings of being His people, and that God will be faithful to His promises to Israel.
For the rest of our lesson, I would like to look at two main themes that we see in these visions in the book of Zechariah…
The Lord is Jealous for His People (ch 1 & ch 8)
I would like to look first at a vision in chapter 1 that shows this.
The vision is in verses 7-17 of chapter 1. In this vision, Zechariah is shown many horses. They were a few different colors. This may sound familiar to us because John picks up on the horse imagery of this passage and a passage in chapter 6 that describes different color horses.
But Zechariah sees these horses, and he sees that at least one of these horses has a rider, and he is curious as to what the purpose of these horses was. So he asks an angel about them. A man then replies to Zechariah, telling him that these are God’s patrol horses sent out over all the earth, and they are bringing back a report regarding what they saw while they were on patrol. And what did they see? Peace. The whole earth was at rest.
You may think that this is a good thing until the angel cries out to the LORD, “O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah…?’” (1:12, ESV). Peace was not a good thing to this angel because it meant that God had not yet brought judgment to the enemies of His people.
If we recall, in our study of , the people, as they were building, were afraid and needed reassurance of God’s presence. This may have been a sign of the fact that they still had enemies. They still had people from the nations around them threatening them and afflicting them. And remember, Haggai had prophesied to them two months earlier that He would shake things up and bring judgment to the nations. But this hadn’t happened yet. They were still waiting. So the angel cries out, “how long will this continue?”
And the LORD gives a very clear message to Zechariah to give to the people in verse 14. Here, Zechariah is told to cry out this message — give this people this message — “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion” (1:14). And because of God’s jealousy towards His people, He is going to act. He was going to show mercy to His people and give them justice. He tells them that the rest that the nations had was not a sign that He was pleased with them. He was angry with them, and their rest was only the calm before the storm. He tells them in verses 16-17 that He has returned to Jerusalem, and the temple would be built, as well as the cities in the land.
The Lord reinforces this idea in ch8.
In 8:2-3, He says ““2 Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. 3 Thus says the Lord: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain.” (, ESV).
This idea “I am jealous for Zion” is a good theme for this book. This is what God is showing all through it — He shows His faithful people what He is willing to do for them. And in this specific context, He tells them that He is jealous for this current generation to bless them. He wants the fact that He is with them to strengthen them and to encourage/motivate them to be faithful to His covenant — to speak the truth, to seek peace, and to be just in their judgments.
A Hope for the Future (The Messiah — God’s King & Priest)
A second theme that we see throughout the visions of Zechariah is a look forward to a future hope for God’s people. God reminds them all through this book that what they are doing now is in preparation for something great, and there are great promises that God has made in the past that He is still going to faithful in bringing to pass. And these promises center around God’s promise of the Messiah and His rule.
Let’s look at a few of these visions where God gives them hope for the future. First, let’s look at .
In verses 9 & 10, God instructs Zechariah to take some men to a house where Joshua the high priest was located. He was also to take silver and gold from these men and make a crown. When they came to Joshua, Zechariah is told to put the crown on his head and to prophecy. Here is what Zechariah was told to say:
“12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, And He shall build the temple of the Lord; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, And shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” ’” (, NKJV)
This crowning of Joshua was meant to indicate something - or better - someone who would later come. In the future, this man called “the branch” will come, and He is going to do some amazing things. He is gong to build the temple of the LORD (which shows that the temple they were building was looking forward to something greater), and He is also going to unite in one person the kingship and the priesthood (which was very different from the Old Covenant). Passages like this one and show this idea that God will raise up a great king who would also be an eternal priest for His people. Zechariah is showing them, as Haggai did, that God’s promise to David to give him a dynasty, which included the Messiah, this promise did not come to an end at the captivity. The Messiah would come, and He would not only be a king, but a priest. shows how Jesus fulfills these passages.
Another passage I would like to look at is in . In , we are given a great picture of the victory that God will have over His enemies and of the victory He will give His people. God talks about how he will conquer the nations. He talks about Damascus, Tyre & Sidon, and the Philistines.
Surely, some of this conquering is talking about judgment on these nations spoken of, but not all of it. There are some that He will conquer in a different sense — by conversion. Look at verse 7. In verse 7, we are told they would be made a remnant for God and that they will be just like a clan in Judah. They will be God’s people just like the Jews. But then, we are given a hint of who God will use to conquer the nations:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, Humble, and mounted on a donkey, Even on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” (9:9)
This verse should sound familiar to us because it is applied to Jesus as He enters into Jerusalem in the Gospels. Jesus is presented as this great conquerer that destroys His enemies, but also converts many of them to His victorious army.
There are so many other passages we could look at in Zechariah. Zechariah is one of the most quoted books in the New Testament. But these just give us a small picture of how these visions were given to encourage the remnant. This is the future hope that Zechariah is pointing the remnant to. They are given here something to look forward to. Someone to put their hope in. Something to live for, and a reason to keep on building up God’s nation at the time.
We need to be God’s faithful covenant people (1:1-6) — As we saw in 1:1-6, even though the people had gotten back to work on the temple did not mean that they had everything right. There was still a need for them to return to the LORD in their hearts, not just their actions. We need to keep this in mind also. Even though we may be doing many of the outward things that show that we are God’s people, this does not mean that our hearts truly belong to Him and that He is with us. If there is sin that we are ignoring or things that we are neglecting that the LORD has commanded us to do — if our hearts do not truly belong to Him, then we need to repent. We need to return to Him so that He will dwell with us. Our great king still offers us a hope for the future — As those who are part of the great royal priesthood of Jesus — the great royal priest who is spoken of by Zechariah, there is a great hope that we are living for. We are living for something greater. We are living for God so that we can be with Him not just now, but in eternity. This is our motivation to keep building God’s house — His church — today. Peter says in that we are God’s chosen holy nation and His royal priesthood. As we live in this life as priests of God, we have work to do. Peter says this work is to “proclaim the excellencies of the one who has called us out of darkness and into His marvelous light,” and to live as sojourners and exiles in this land by abstaining from fleshly lusts that wage war against our souls and by living honorably before the world. Have you been conquered by Jesus? It is the case that every person, in one way or another, will be conquered by the Lord Jesus. Either by being defeated eternally or by being converted and given victory. Each one of us must choose a side. We must choose whether we will bow the knee to Jesus now, or if we will be those who don’t do so until it is too late.