Two months after Haggai’s first oracle, and about a month after his second, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah in November of 520 BC.
In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah son of Iddo.Zechariah 1:1 (NRSV)
Zechariah is remindful of the donkey, bringing to mind his famous prophecy of the Lord coming in peace, riding on a donkey.
Evidence of God’s Wrath
Zechariah’s message to the people began with an acknowledgement that God had been “very angry” with their forefathers.
And the people could see the evidence of God’s wrath, looking all around them. The walls were still down, the city was still in ruins, the people had been scrabbling for a living ever since they had returned from exile, and their once-beautiful land was still barren.
As he preached, Zechariah asked the people:
- Where are your fathers now? They are gone, dead, buried in foreign ground.
- And do the prophets live forever? No, even the prophets were exiled.
- Did God’s words and decrees not overtake their forefathers? Yes, every single word the Lord had spoken through God’s prophets had come true.
Zechariah told the people they needed to understand they were in this miserable spot because of the sins of their forefathers. Their forefathers had sinned against their own future generations.
Generational sins complicate life. You and I live with the consequences of what the previous generations did, even what our own family members did. But there is always a way out.
Zechariah did not delay in delivering the central message the Lord had for God’s people, actually the central promise of Scripture itself.
Therefore say to them, Thus says the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.Zechariah 1:3 (NRSV)
Their parents’ and grandparents’ previous indifference towards God had created a breach between the Lord and God’s people.
Turn to Me now, God said, and I will turn to you.
A Call to Deeper Repentance
The people had already responded to Haggai’s message, they had begun to work on the temple again, they had repented of complacency and self‑centered thinking.
Now God was calling them to a deeper repentance, a heart transformation that went beyond current enthusiasm for rebuilding Jerusalem and the temple.
A month later, in December, Haggai continued this theme in his third and fourth messages,
Is there any seed left in the barn? Do the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree still yield nothing? From this day on I will bless you.Haggai 2:19 (NRSV)
Together, Haggai and Zechariah showed the people that God had seemed far away from them because they were far away from God. Now, as they responded to God’s invitation to come, to turn to the Lord, they would experience God’s nearness and blessing.
God will make us able to accomplish the Lord’s work
But God is always more concerned with the condition of our inner being than with our work!
It is not your work, or mine, that satisfies God – The Lord already has ordained the work to be accomplished, God knows the Lord has empowered us and has full confidence in us and in the Spirit with Whom God has filled us. What brings God pleasure, what delights and blesses God is a faithful heart.
Zechariah’s night of visions
One night, two months after Haggai’s fourth sermon, when the people’s enthusiasm and fervor had been fully renewed concerning God’s temple, the Lord granted Zechariah eight visions in a row.
Vision 1 – God’s pity for God’s people | Zechariah 1:7‑17
Vision 2 – God’s protection of God’s people | Zechariah 1:18‑21
Vision 3 – God’s purpose for God’s people | Zechariah 2:1-13
Vision 4 – God’s purification of God’s people | Zechariah 3:1-10
Vision 5 – God’s empowering of God’s people | Zechariah 4:1-14
Vision 6 – God’s perfecting of God’s people | Zechariah 5:1-4
Vision 7 – God’s purging of God’s people | Zechariah 5:5-11
Vision 8 – God’s protecting of God’s people | Zechariah 6:1-8
An angelic guide helped Zechariah understand what God was showing him, throughout the night.
Vision One: Man on a Red Horse
In the night I saw a man riding on a red horse!
He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen; and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.
Then I said, “What are these, my lord?”
The angel who talked with me said to me, “I will show you what they are.”
So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, “They are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.”
Then they spoke to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have patrolled the earth, and lo, -the whole earth remains at peace-.”
Then the angel of the Lord said, “O Lord of hosts, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which you have been angry these -seventy- years?”
Then the Lord replied with gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
So the angel who talked with me said to me, “Proclaim this message: Thus says the Lord of hosts; I am very jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am extremely angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they made the disaster worse.”
Therefore, thus says the Lord, “I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”
Proclaim further: Thus says the Lord of hosts: “My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.”Zechariah 1:8-17
What Does It Mean?
Zechariah saw a man on a red horse standing among myrtle trees in a “glen,” which more accurately would be rendered a deep ravine.
- The myrtle trees represented God’s people, beautiful but much smaller than all the tall trees around them.
- The deep ravine represented the people’s emotions. They were in a slough of despondency.
- The man on a red horse represented God as Redeemer, a vision of the Savior, with the whole heavenly cavalry standing around the man, angels whom the Lord had sent throughout the earth to report on current affairs – just as the Persian emperor might have done with his satraps.
“The angel of the Lord,” is a phrase used from Genesis all the way through the Hebrew Scriptures. We now know from the Christian testament this phrase represents the second person of the Trinity. It is called a “theophany” a vision of the preincarnate Christ, Jesus before he became born as a human being.
Messiah interceded for his people and Almighty God responded. This was really a fulfillment of Zechariah’s first message. The Lord had said God would return to God’s people when they returned to the Lord, and here was God!
Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with compassion; my house shall be built in it, says the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Proclaim further: Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.God, Zechariah 1:16-17 (NRSV)
The people of Judah had long been beset on all sides, they were struggling to survive, existing at the subsistence level, few in number, meager in resources, living in a city of rubble.
Now Zechariah was delivering God’s message of reassurance and comfort: The Lord was going to meet them in their circumstances and work for them, changing their circumstances as God changed their hearts.
[King Cyrus the Great | By Charles Francis HorneClarence Cook – https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Page:Great_Men_and_Famous_Women_Volume_1.djvu/25, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=89076667%5D