Today’s message is the sixth in our series titled “Rebuilding the Church: Rebuild, Renew, Revive”. We are studying about how the people of God returned from Babylon to rebuild their church, renew their worship, and revive their city. Perhaps their experience will help us do likewise.
Commissioned by King Cyrus of Persia, a remnant of Jewish exiles had returned to Jerusalem. They were being led by Zerubbabel, their secular leader, and Joshua, their spiritual leader. They eagerly began rebuilding the temple by laying a new foundation, but soon opposition coming from the Samaritans led to a suspension of their work.
For the next 16 years the people of God put off rebuilding the temple. Finally, around 520 BC God sent two different prophets to admonish the exiles to continue and complete the work they’d begun. These men were Haggai and Zechariah. Last week we studied Haggai’s message to the people, and this week we will briefly examine some excerpts from Zechariah’s writings.
Internal evidences and quotations within their writings seem to suggest that Haggai was an older man, likely 75 years of age or more, while Zechariah was much younger, perhaps in his 20’s or 30’s. Not only was there age quite different, but so was their literary style. As such, together they likely appealed to a more diverse audience of listeners. But while their approach differed, their message was the same!
The book of Zechariah has 14 chapters, but the final ones (9-14) were written sometime well after the days of Zerubbabel when the temple had already been rebuilt. Therefore, for the purposes of this study we will focus on the first 8 chapters only. After opening with a call to repentance, the young prophet describes a series of 8 visions that he had over the course of a single night. Each of them, when interrupted, are designed to encourage the Jews and motivate them to rebuild.
Have you ever had one of those nights where you couldn’t sleep because so many things kept creeping into your mind? If you have, then you’ll be able to relate extremely well to Zechariah. He was up all night listening to God! His 8 nighttime visions will be the focus of today’s message. Hopefully this sermon (like Zechariah’s visions) will keep you awake...
I. The Horsemen Among Myrtle Trees (1:717)
Zechariah sees a man riding a red horse, which was standing amongst myrtle trees in a ravine. With him there were also other horses - red, white, and sorrel. The man riding the horse is identified as the angel of the Lord. He explains that these horses have been sent by the Lord to patrol the earth, and that they have discovered that all is peaceful and quiet. The angel of the Lord then cries out to God asking, “How long will you withhold your compassion from Judah and Jerusalem?” God responds by assuring that His temple will be rebuilt and His compassion renewed.
II. The 4 Horns and 4 Craftsmen (1:1821)
Zechariah sees four horns, which the angel identifies as nations that “have scattered” Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem. Some scholars suggest that they may represent Assyria, Babylon, Persia, and Greece. Then he sees four craftsmen, which are identified as nations who have been sent to defeat the horns and thereby rescue God’s people from their oppression. Some scholars propose that they are Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Regardless of the exact identity of the horns and craftsman, the point is that God has always delivered His children and always will.
III. The Man with a Measuring Line (2:113)
Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line in his hand who is going to measure the dimensions of Jerusalem. An angel says that Jerusalem will be inhabited with a multitude of people and cattle so great that walls will be unable to contain them. In that day, the Lord himself “will be a wall of fire around her and the glory in her midst.” Since its destruction, Jerusalem had become an inconsequential and somewhat desolate city, but this vision pictures a complete and glorious restoration.
IV. Clean Garments for Joshua the High Priest (3:110)
Zechariah sees Joshua the high priest standing before the LORD wearing filthy garments, and Satan is there also making accusations against him. The LORD silences Satan, tells Joshua that his iniquities have been removed, and then charges the angels to put clean robes and a turban on him. God then promises that Joshua will have charge over His house (implying that it will be rebuilt). The point is that God is personally blessing and exalting Joshua the high priest, who is the spiritual leader during this era of rebuilding.
V. The Golden Lampstand and Olive Trees (4:114)
Zechariah sees a golden lampstand in the midst of 2 olive trees - one on the right and the other on the left. Throughout the Bible, the lampstand is symbolic of the Holy Spirit. Most understand the olive trees to represent Zerubbabel and Joshua. With this is mind, picture the lampstand shining upon the trees. This image reveals that it is the Holy Spirit himself who has anointed and will empower these men to complete the temple reconstruction.
VI. The Flying Scroll (5:14)
Zechariah sees a flying scroll that measures 20 cubits by 10 cubits. In our modern customary measurement, that is about 30 feet long and 15 feet wide - that’s a pretty large scroll! The angel explains that it contains a curse against all those who steal and swear “falsely by My name”, and that it is going forth into their homes to consume them. It indicates that sinners will be “purged” from the land. This is a promise of cleansing - that only the righteous will remain and that the wicked will be cast out.
VII. The Woman and the Ephah (5:511)
Zechariah sees a ephah, which is a container used for measuring volume like a modern measuring cup. Inside this ephah is a woman, which reveals that it is much larger than usual. The woman represents “wickedness”. A lead cover lies over the opening of the ephah, in essence trapping the woman inside. The lead is believed by many to mean guilt, which is weighing down upon the sinner. Two female angels come, lift the ephah, and carrying it off to Shinar (which is Babylonia). The vision furthers the previous one, showing that wickedness will be removed from Israel and relocated to more fitting place. Again, this is a promise of cleansing and purification.
VIII. The Four Chariots (6:18)
Zechariah sees 4 chariots come forth between 2 bronze mountains. The first chariot was pulled by red horses, the second by black horses, the third by white horses, and the forth by dappled horses. While precise understanding is difficult, many scholars advocate that the chariots represent God’s various judgments and the mountains represent His steadfastness. In other words, the LORD’s ways are unshakable. Notice that His wrath against the north has already been appeased, which suggests that the fall of Babylon (the North) was an execution of God’s judgment. This vision affirms God’s complete sovereignty over the affairs of nations.
In these 8 visions we see God communicating that His temple will be rebuilt, His compassion will be renewed, His people will be delivered, His city will be restored, His high priest will be exalted, His Spirit will empower, His curse will purge the land, His judgment will relocate wickedness, and His sovereignty will endure.
In the remainder of chapter 6 through the close of chapter 8 Zechariah continues to encourage the Jewish exiles. He expounds on his visions in more detail, applying them more specifically to the peoples’ lives and circumstances.
As he concludes his prophetic message to the exiles in chapter 8, Zechariah records a question in verses 6-8. To paraphrase, God asks, "Just because the people think it is too difficult for Me, does that mean I can't do it?" The answer is obvious - God is not constrained by the limitations we place upon Him. Nothing is impossible for Him. Yes, rebuilding the church was proving to be difficult... but by God's power it would be done.
Perhaps you think that your problems are too big for God to handle. They aren’t. Perhaps you think that your sin is too great to be forgiven. It isn’t. Perhaps you think that God is unable to save you. He is. Perhaps you think that the LORD has forgotten you. He hasn’t. The name Zechariah actually means “the Lord remembers”. When you belong to Him, you’ll never slip from His mind nor will you ever slip from His hand...