|Series Theme: Zechariah builds the House|
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 1. Context & Call
Zech 1:1 In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:
Why this series? A little while ago I found myself drawn to the early chapters of this book. I've read it many times before but somehow the Lord seemed to be speaking about the present time through it. At this time of writing (mid 2020) we are experiencing the strange world of Pandemic. Zechariah is a prophet and he prophesies alongside Haggai (Ezra 5:1). His grandfather Iddo was a priest who returned from the Exile (Neh 12:1,4). He thus comes from a priestly family and is therefore both a priest and a prophet.
Their Timing & Purpose: Both he and Haggai prophesied in the second year of King Darius (Hag 1:1, Zech 1:1) Haggai prophesied on the 1 st day of the 6 th month, the 21 st of 7 th , and 24 th of 9 th while Zechariah prophesied in the first six chapters in the 8 th month and on the 24 th day of 11 th month. A lot of prophecies in that one year identified as “the second year of Darius” , probably about 520BC. From chapter 7 he prophesied in the 4 th year. Haggai's came as specific words and were intended to re-motivate the returned exiles to carry on rebuilding the temple that had been destroyed by Nebuchadnezzar. Zechariah's words, we will see came more as visions and the import of the words were conveyed within the visions and, again I hope we will see, came to bring a wider dimension to the rebuilding project. Having said that his opening message comes as a “word of the Lord” (1:1) with a basic warning.
The Call to Return: Verses 2 to 6 are essentially a warning not to now do as they forefathers had done. It opens with first of all a statement of fact: “The Lord was very angry with your ancestors.” (1:2) Read through the history of Israel in the historical books of the Old Testament and we see their sin and the Lord's dealings with them again and again. From the point the Lord delivered them from Egypt, they grumbled and He tolerated their grumbles. At Mount Sinai, shortly after amazing revelations, Aaron succumbed to the pressure of the grumbling people and made a golden calf which they then worshipped and for which the worshippers died. Subsequently between Sinai and the Promised Land they continued to grumble and were now disciplined. At the border of the Land they refused to enter and suffered the judgment of wandering in the wilderness for forty years. It was this folly that the writer to the Hebrews picks up (Heb 2:1-3, 3:7-19). In meaning it was very similar to what we find here. (There were many other failures throughout their history right up to and causing the Exile).
This statement of their path is followed by the call to come back: “Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,' says the Lord Almighty.” (1:3) It is a call to all people in this Fallen World to come back to God, but it is also a call to God's people when they have drifted away from their relationship with Him. That call is reinforced by a reminder of the past when their ancestors had failed to heed the call of the past prophets: “Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.' But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord.” (1:4) That, ultimately, is what brought about the Exile.
It is a lesson to be remembered! “Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?” (1:5,6a) Ok, He says, that is past history and they are gone in disgrace having suffered the judgment that was warned about again and again (through Ezekiel and Jeremiah). Finally, the truth acknowledged: in the Exile the people had finally faced up to their folly and acknowledged their wrong ways: “Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.'” (1:6b) It had taken the purging of the experience of being carried into Babylon where they lived for decades, to bring them to their senses. When they came back, Joshua and Zerubbabel established right worship (Ezra 3:1-6). It was a sign of purified hearts; God's work had achieved its purpose. Now He wants them to remember that and realise what was at the heart of a relationship with Him.
Principles & Application: There are spiritual principles to be observed and understood in all these verses, that should impact our lives today. In this first ‘word' in these first six verses that came to Zechariah, we must remember the context. The people in Jerusalem are those who have returned from exile with the express task of rebuilding the Temple in order that the central focus of God in their midst be re-established. The building of the walls and establishing the community of Jerusalem will follow later. First Guiding Principle: Establishing the house of the Lord in the midst, refocusing the nation on God and keeping them refocused on Him, was the primary task of these prophets. First Application: Church is not about establishing a people of good works (that comes later), but establishing a people relating to and responding to God.
Concern: Gavin & Anne Calver, leaders of the UK Spring Harvest Bible Weeks, in their book ‘Unleashed', written as the foundation material for this year's Bible Weeks, cited R.T.Kendal's conviction that the church in the UK is asleep (others may say similar things about the US church but being a Brit that is not for me to say). RT says, “The greatest evidence that we are asleep is our lack of outrage over what is tolerated in the church and what is going on in the world,” and goes on to back up that opinion, with which I would have to agree.
A while back, in another context, I sought to express the sort of church that I believe the New Testament indicates is on the heart of God. Here it is:
“a church that is alive with the presence and power and activity of God by His Spirit, where God is truly honoured, where life and vitality, where fellowship and friendship, where power and authority, pour through the congregation, through this potentially wonderful ‘body of Christ', bringing constant life transformations, with conversions, deliverances and healings being a regular feature of their life.”
If your church or churches that you know, fall short of that description, then I believe Zechariah's word needs to ring true to us today. I believe as we go through these chapters we will see this more and more. Pray that the Lord will open our hearts to be honest about where we are and what He wants to say to us.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 2. A World at Peace?
Zech 1:7,8a On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo. During the night I had a vision
Timing : In verses 7 to 17 we move into the first ‘vision'. You have dreams when you sleep, visions while you are awake. A vision is a picture that fills your sight. In the vision there are persons, things and words. Three months have passed since Zechariah's first ‘word', a word without pictures. Now we are going to have picture visions that convey truths. All the visions that come now, seem to come on the same day, they flow on one after another until in chapter 7 we see that his next revelation comes two years later. Why the gap? We aren't told but we come to realise visions only come when God brings them and we must suppose He brings them when He sees the time is right for a particular revelation to be brought. Maybe two years pass to give time for the visions of the first six chapters to be absorbed. Often we can receive a word or picture but the understanding of it takes time to come.
The Picture Setting: The vision comes and in it Zechariah sees certain things. If you stand before a painting, say, you first of all take in just what is there before you. So he writes, “there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses.” (1:8) So you stand before your picture and there are figures in it, and questions arise: “I asked, “What are these, my lord?” (1:9a)
Now before we move on we have to acknowledge that in the framework of a vision everything is not always spelled out neatly, hence the need to ponder on it. There is one man on a red horse and at least three other horses it would seem, but what is to be implied is that these horses carry riders. Whether there are just three or that there are lots of horses of mixed colours is debatable. Some commentators in the past have sought to infer meanings in the colours. They are in an area of myrtle trees which is apparently a beautiful shrub or bush with beautiful flowers and leaves that give off a rich scent when ‘bruised'. Thus, some have suggested they are a picture of the church and we have a picture somewhat similar to that of Rev 1 with the lead rider being the Son of God – but that is all commentators' speculation.
But there is something else that is confusing. In this vision there are various figures: first the lead rider in verse 8 who is simply described a ‘a man', but then we now read, “The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.” (1:9b) Suddenly we find Zechariah, as he gazes on this picture has an angel interpreter standing alongside him. But then it is the leader rider who gives him his explanation: “Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.” (1:10) Zechariah may have entered the vision, as we sometimes enter a dream, stepping straight into the scenario where, in this case he is talking to an angel, but it is the lead rider who is clearly the one in authority. So the other riders have gone out and come back and reported to the lead rider who is now described as “the angel of the Lord”. Again commentators debate whether this is simply a senior angel or the Son of God. But what is important is the message they bring: “And they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.” (1:11) This is the first major and significant thing in this vision – the earth appears at peace. Hold on to that because suddenly the focus changed.
The Divine Cry: We next see it is ‘the angel of the Lord' who appears to cry out in anguish: “Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” (1:12) This brings us right back to the present situation in Zechariah's life. Jerusalem is still a burnt wreck, the land is still devastated from the plundering of Nebuchadnezzar's army decades before – and yet the rest of the world seems at peace; no one seems to care, they are just happy with their lives, but what about God's people, what about the Temple that is only part rebuilt, what about the glory and honour of the Lord? Now I have called this paragraph ‘The Divine Cry' because angels on God's business share God's heart and therefore, even as prophets catch God's heart, so do His angels serving Him. “So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.” (1:13) God comforts the lead rider as if to say, “I know, I feel as you do, but it's all in hand!”
Anger: Now comes the message that is to be declared: “Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.'” (1:14,15) The Lord explains, first, what He feels . It's like He is saying, Jerusalem is mine and always has been, the place where I have put my Name, and I am angry with the nations that I used (yes I used them!) who now feel at peace and are unconcerned about my people. I had been angry with Israel who rejected my word again and again, but I am more angry with those who were unrestrained in their actions bringing my punishment on Israel.
Action: So now the Lord goes beyond His feelings to what He will do : “Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,' declares the Lord Almighty. Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'” (1:16,17) He will ensure the Temple is rebuilt, He will ensure Jerusalem is rebuilt, and He will ensure the towns of Judah are re-established and will prosper again.
Summary: So within this little cameo, the Lord's messengers, His angels, report a world at peace while Jerusalem and God's temple lie in ruins and the land remains wrecked. The Lord reveals His anguish over this situation and His intent to restore the Temple, Jerusalem and the Land. It is a word of hope and a word of restoration that faces the anguish of the state of the Temple, the City and the Land as it is at the moment.
Application: Before the revealing of the 2020 Pandemic, I would suggest that in many ways the world was at peace. This is typified by an example I came across recently. In the previous study I referred to the Calvers' book ‘Unleashed' all about the story of Acts. On one hand they acknowledge the good things the church is doing: “Here in the UK Christians are making a huge impact through ministries such as Christians Against Poverty, food banks, and Street Pastors and Angels. The church runs the majority of toddler groups, much of the nation's youth work, and remains pivotal on the ground.” It all sounds good, but Gavin balances it with an encounter with an old friend, “one who was such an encouragement to me in my early years of faith,” and who he describes as having been one all out for God who would talk passionately about his love of the Lord. Now, many years later, both in their early forties, he reflected, “Today's conversation was different. He was still speaking animatedly and enthusiastically, but it was not about Jesus. It was about his new patio.” He pondered, “What had happened in the last couple of decades to see godly, eternal passion transferred to concrete in gardens? Why do we keep bumping into Christians our age who are more evangelistic about their kitchen than they are about Jesus? How is it that there is seemingly more inspiration for life in the pages of the Ikea catalogue than in the Bible? When did everything become so safe?” He expands on how our lives are taken up with getting and enjoying at the expense of the kingdom of God.
If that is an accurate assessment of so much Christian life in the West, and I believe it is, then the ‘peace' that reigns is deception. Is that why the Lord has allowed Covid-19 to ravage the world? Is it a preparation, a time of challenging the hearts of men and women, in preparation for revival? In the previous study we cited R.T.Kendal, who speaks of how we have tolerated what is going on in the church and what is going on in the world. In the past century of so we have, around the world, experienced various moves of God: Azusa Street Revival in Los Angeles in 1906, that brought out into the open the place and role of the Holy Spirit, the Charismatic Movement of the 1960's, that brought a fresh awareness of the existence, experience, function and role of ‘the body of Christ' as formed and created by the Spirit , and so on (there are others) – but they are largely now just ‘history'.
These special times seem like glimmers of light from the past that have now been diffused into the life of the Church where, for the most part, they appear to have lost most of their power, their life, their spontaneity and their vitality that came with them originally. It appears that in the West at least, the world seems to have half drowned the Church and the potential of all these moves of God have been either forgotten or simply dissipated. Consider again my description of the church I suggest the New Testament shows is on God's heart and ask again how that matches your experience? Has God allowed Covid-19 to shake up and change the Church to match His heart? Are we alert to that?
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 3. God of Correction
Zech 1:18,19a Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns. I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?”
Recap : We have seen in verses 1 to 6 the Lord's call to His people for their hearts to be fully turned back to Him. A whole-heart commitment to God has to be the starting place for all things in the Christian life, and certainly in the life of the Church. Then yesterday we saw in verses 7 to 17 the first ‘vision' he received, of riders who returned from observing the earth, who returned with reports that the world was at peace. We noted how that could be unsettling for Israel. Cyrus had returned them to the Land with the instruction to rebuild the temple, and they had come and started it, and yet still Jerusalem was in ruins, the land still devastated and the temple only half started – and all the while the rest of the world seemed at peace. Those who had done this were at peace; Cyrus had brought peace across his dominions and Darius had later inherited that. Peace there may have been but no one else seemed to care about their state. But then there was always the worry that one of these days some marauder might come through the Land again. They felt rather alone and insecure. And then Zechariah gets this second vision, an extension of this vision in the night.
The Second Vision – Part 1: There two parts to this simple and short vision. He has been taking in the import of the previous vision and then looks up and sees something new. “Then I looked up, and there before me were four horns.” (v.18) We need to think about horns in the Bible. There is nothing special about a horn, they are what you find on cattle! They are the defensive part of the animal, the sign of its strength. When Israel were instructed to make a bronze altar for the Tabernacle it had to have a horn at each corner (Ex 27:2), as if to warn people to stay away except when they were to tentatively reach out with their finger with blood (Ex 29:12). The horns signified the strength of the Lord that might act as protection (see 1 Kings 1:51). It is only when we come to prophetic literature that we sense that horns signify strength of powers and authorities (see Dan 7:7,8-) The lamb before the throne in Rev 5 had seven horns and seven eyes. Seven is the number of perfection so he is the one with all might and power who sees all things. So now in this vision there are four horns, four powers or authorities. Zechariah raises the question and gets an answer: “ I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.” (v.19) So in the first part of this simple vision, the focus turns to those who had left Israel and Jerusalem like this.
The Second Vision – Part 2: But then he is shown something else: “Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen.” (v.20) It is apparently clear what or who they are for he doesn't ask about their nature, only their activity: “ I asked, “What are these coming to do?” (v.21a) He senses they are there in the vision for a purpose and so the Lord explains it: “He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise their head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.” (v.21b) i.e. these ‘craftsmen' have come to deal with the ‘horns', the agents of God (presumably angels), have come to pull down those authorities. This is an extension of the Lord's declaration back in v.15 “ I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.'” i.e. I called them to be instruments of discipline (implied) but they went too far, they allowed themselves to be carried away and cause more hurt, more harm, more destruction than was needed. They and the world need to know that they are accountable to me, and you need to know that I am a God of justice and a God of protection, so you can get on with the rebuilding without having to fear that they will come again.
Fulfilment? We aren't told who these ‘horns' are but in the past Aram had been a major adversary, (as well as lesser enemies such as the Philistines, Moabites, Ammonites and Edomites) followed by Assyria , followed by Babylon under Nebuchadnezzar. With the fall of Babylon in 539BC the Persian Empire had prevailed as the dominant power, first with Cyrus and other following kings. Round about 330BC the Persian Empire was overcome by the Greeks under Alexander the Great. These downfalls, history may record as just happenings but in the economy of God it is His will that prevailed.
Lessons? There are two sides of the lessons here, first in respect of nations hostile to Israel, and then to Israel themselves. So, first, in respect of other nations . The Bible is quite clear that God uses other nations to discipline Israel when they turn from Him. His goal was to establish Israel and now maintain them, to enable them to be a light to the Gentiles and to create a godly environment into which to bring His Son to redeem the world. It was important to maintain Israel and we always need to keep that in mind when reading the Old Testament. So yes, He will take sinful intentions of neighboring nations and even major empires (as above) but they need to realise that even though He uses them He will hold them accountable where they overstep the mark!
The second lesson is in respect of Israel and there are similarities to what we've just said about other nations. The Lord seeks to bless Israel to create this nation that stands out in the world and is a witness to Him, as well as being the environment into which to bring His Son, but that does not mean they can get away with acting like a spoilt and rebellious son. They will be disciplined and that will, at times, be very painful. But as well as this, Israel can rest secure in the knowledge that the Lord is there for them, even when they are being stupid. The Old Testament is, in some ways, a history of their folly and God's grace and mercy. When they ‘fall off the rails' God will act by bringing discipline to get them back on track, but when they are coming with good, open and cleansed hearts (as now) they can rest secure that He is there to bless them with all good things, and protect them from bad.
And Us? There were times when Israel were rebuked for appearing good and spiritual (e.g. Isa 58) and using the right words (e.g. Jer 7). Our danger is that we can look respectable, seem to be doing good works, use the right words and yet miss out on the very fundamental issue. What is that? That we let Jesus (the head of the Church) rule over his ‘body' and empower it, lead it, envision it, inspire it, guide it and use it by his Spirit. Can I ask again, before the beginning of the shutdown of the 2020 Pandemic, was your part of the Church, your local church, acting as a Spirit empowered and gifted body doing the things Jesus did (see Jn 14:12) – all the things – can we say we were empowered by the Spirit, envisioned to see our potential by the Spirit, guided by the Spirit, and clearly used by the Spirit? Very often I look around the things we do – good things reaching out to bless the community – and wonder, any secular club could do many of these things! What are we doing – proclaiming the Gospel, seeing lives changed, delivered and healed (literally) – that can only be done by the power of God, that a secular club could not do?
If we cannot answer positively to these questions we ask again, has the Lord allowed the Pandemic to halt us in our tracks to have time to see our shortcomings and start crying out for His Presence and Power to come to His Church and transform it. Does it need changing from being a moribund church that is institutional (that focuses on human organisation and planning) and denominational (that, again, is organisation-orientated and which creates boundaries or divisions within the Church), both of which appear miles away from the New Testament pattern and Jesus' express instructions? Covid-19 may have a greater use, to get the world's attention, but for the Church has it a disciplinary purpose designed to hold us to account and challenge us in order for us to become the body we were designed to be? Whatever the answer, we can rest in the knowledge that whenever the Lord brings disciplinary action and He uses the ways of the enemy, it is always under the umbrella of “thus far and no further” (as seen in Job 1 & 2), but let's not miss the main point. We are designed to be, like Israel were, a light to the rest of the world and the place in which Jesus can express himself to the world. May we become that more than we have.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 4. A City without Walls
Zech 2:1 Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand.
Recap : I believe it is important that each day we recap and build the overall picture that Zechariah presents to us. We saw the call to return to God, a call to all who for whatever reason are not close (1:1-6).Then came the vision of the riders who reported a world at peace (1:7-17) with the implication that although the rest of the world appears at peace and concerned only with their own things, God is there for His people. Then, yesterday, in v.18 to 21 we saw four horns, four powers or authorities, being those who had brought Israel to their present state, and then four craftsmen sent by God to deal with them, and we reflected on a God who holds people accountable, even when He has used them for His purposes. So, a need to draw close, a need to realise the Lord sees our state, and a need to recognise that even though the world seems at peace and inactive, God will be moving behind the scenes to work out His sovereign, holy purposes.
A Man With a Measuring Line: And so the next part of the vision comes (remember it is all coming on the same day): “Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand.” (2:1) Notice first that phrase, “Then I looked up,” that we have seen before in 1:18, that signifies a new vision. I said yesterday it is like he, after pausing and reflecting on the previous word or vision, realises there is more and so looks up to see what else is coming. But ‘up' is also the word that we use when we are speaking about heaven and so there is a sense that each new revelation comes when he refocuses his looking upwards to the Lord and to heaven. A lesson for us there.
A Divine Purpose: The man with the measuring line is obviously on his way somewhere and so it is natural for Zechariah to question him: “ I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.” (2:2) Now of course God knows all things and so we have this indication here of God drawing our attention to the size and state of Jerusalem. God's purpose in sending this angel on this task (for it has to be an angel) is surely for our benefit. He wants to draw our minds away from the state of the world and the disciplinary judgment God is going to bring and focus us back on the city where the remnant had been rebuilding the temple.
Angelic Roles: What follows seems to have an element of humour to it because the angel he has seen with the measuring rod is so intent on his task of going and measuring Jerusalem that he really doesn't bother to give Zechariah any further information. It needs another angel to come and intercept him and send him back to give Zechariah further information: “While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him and said to him: “Run, tell that young man…” It is as if there are different levels or service and different levels of revelation even in the angelic hierarchy even as there are generally in the kingdom of God.
The Future of the City: ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the Lord , ‘and I will be its glory within.'” (2:3-5) Now different translations come up with slightly different wording here. The above is the NIV but the NKJV says, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls,” and the ESV says, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls,” and the NLT says, “Jerusalem will someday be so full of people and livestock that there won't be room enough for everyone! Many will live outside the city walls.” Perhaps the paraphrase of the Message version puts it most simply: “Run! Tell the Surveyor, ‘Jerusalem will burst its walls— bursting with people, bursting with animals.”
Whichever version we lean on (and my own preference is the NIV) the picture is of a city that has been blessed. It isn't just a city without walls but it is that because of the abundant blessing of God that has repopulated it with both people and animals. They may feel down about their present state and so they need lifting in the understanding of what God has on His heart for this city. Walls always signify strength and security and no more or less so for Jerusalem that had had its fair share of attacks and more recently, destruction!
Now to catch something of the heavenly meaning, we have to observe what has happened to Jerusalem. Yes, the walls were eventually rebuilt under the direction of Nehemiah but the population never naturally grew, they actually had to cast lots in the nation to encourage people to come and live there (see Neh 11:1,2) and there were still few people there and Neh 7:4 had recorded, “Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt,” after the walls had been rebuilt, so house building was the next item on the rebuilding agenda. Yet it never seemed to give this feeling of overflowing until Jesus' time when crowds came for the Feasts. And then of course, in AD70, because of the Jewish rebellion the Romans destroyed the city again. Perhaps, therefore, we are to take this prophecy in more general terms, that this is God's intent decreed in these picture terms. His intent is to bless them.
Security: But there is yet something more to note before we move on to consider the remaining verses of the chapter which we will do in the next study. Talk of a city without walls, a city without protection, can be scary. Jerusalem, as we've already observed had had its share of marauders through the centuries so what is to stop that happening again? The answer is in the word, “I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” The Lord will be its protection. Now there is more to say about that statement but we'll leave it until the next study.
Summary: The main thing that comes through in this next extension of the visions that Zechariah is receiving on this day (night), is the Lord's intent for good for Jerusalem. For this people who had been through the Exile in Babylon, their personal identity must have felt shaky. So all right they are back in the land but everything seems to have come to a standstill. Have they a future? Has Jerusalem a future? Yes they do, yes it does. In the wider picture God always intends good for His people, always seeks to enlarge the number of that people as He seeks to redeem more and more of mankind after the Fall. It has been a slow business with many stages in the divine plan but what we can say about ‘the Plan' is that it is perfectly constructed before the foundation of the world and is being worked out under the watchful and directing eye of Jesus seated at his Father's right hand, and it will be fulfilled in the fullness of time (see 1 Cor 15:24,25).
Jesus taught this same thing when he taught about the mustard seed and the yeast (Mt 13:31-33). Our danger is that we forget that Jesus is working in different places in the world with different levels of fruit and so maybe in your ‘backyard' you may see limited fruit but elsewhere much fruit is being harvested.
And Us? In the previous studies I have said some challenging things about the Church in the West but we must hold on to the fact that God's intent is to bring blessing and growth to His people, both numerically and spiritually. When David wrote, “ Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,” (Psa 23:6a) he knew this was God's good intention for him and it should be ours. There are conditions to it as we will see but the intent is there. On a bigger scale, the word that seems to be arising in a number of God's people around the world is that the Lord is planning to come in power, not the Second Coming (though it could be) but in either Revival or Renewal. In Revival, it has been seen historically, He comes in sovereign power both within the Church and also in the world outside to bring a great harvest of souls. In Renewal He comes to reinvigorate the Church to equip and renew it to become a powerful instrument in His hand to bring much fruit. How He is coming, time alone will tell. Perhaps the 2020 Pandemic is Him allowing this man-produced (‘accidentally' or intentionally) virus to soften the hearts of mankind and make them ready to receive His word that brings mighty salvation. Perhaps it is again the outworking of the call to “in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.” His intent is to bless and enlarge His people and His means and ways are many varied. Be alert.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 5. Come to the Place of Real Security
Zech 2:6 “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord ,
Recap : In one sense everything about God's prophetic word that comes to us, is about changing our attitude, our outlook, our intentions and our will. The first word called us to return to the Lord, to come back to Him, to come close to Him from wherever we've drifted. The second word brought reassurance that although the world seems uninterested in our plight, God is on our case. The third word brought reassurance that although sin and injustice have brought us harm, God will hold accountable those who caused it. The fourth word brought reassurance that God's intent is to bless and expand His people. All of these things are intended to bring heart change, to strengthen, encourage and comfort us, to change us to be more fully and ably the people of God, the house of God.
A Bigger View: But this vision has not finished in bringing its message. This part of the vision in chapter 2 has brought great encouragement that Jerusalem will be a city without walls, a city that grows and grows, is full of people and animals, and yet a city that as it grows will remain surrounded by the fire of the Lord, fire that protects, fire that denotes that everything within it is holy. But the picture is not only about the literal physical Jerusalem, it is also a picture of the people of God generally. At the end there will a new heaven and a new earth and a New Jerusalem (Rev 21:1,2) and that New Jerusalem is the ongoing dwelling place of God with His people (v.3) At the heart of God's plans for mankind, is the goal of bringing about a people related to Him through the death of His Son, Jesus, a people who will share eternity with Him.
Familiarity can be a Danger: And yet there is a problem, for Jerusalem is supposed to be filled with the people of God and when Ezra and Nehemiah came, they came with only a percentage of the exiles living in Babylon. While they had been living there Jeremiah had sent a letter with a prophecy and instructions, including, “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.” (Jer 29:7) This they had done and they had settled and prospered there, they had become familiar with living there and familiarity breeds a sense of security, and so when a good number returned to the Land, many others didn't.
The Action Word Comes: “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord.” (2:6) Some suggest that this may apply to the Babylonians who the earlier part of the vision said would be dealt with by one of the ‘craftsmen' but what follows indicates that this is to God's people: “Come, Zion! Escape, you who live in Daughter Babylon!” (2:7) No, this is clearly a call to the Jews who remain in Babylon who literally settled there with hearts and minds settled there.
The Warning Word Comes: Then comes an explanation: “For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.” (2:8,9) See the various parts to this. “For this is what the Lord Almighty says.” This is God's message to be heeded. “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you.” Then comes the revelation of the destroying angel who is being sent out to bring accountability to those who had plundered Israel. “for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye.” An aside that explains why God is moving against them – because Israel is precious to Him. “I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them.” The Babylonians will be brought down by the hand of the destroyer so that slaves will rise up as the power of Babylon is removed. “Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.” When all this happens, all you who have heard this word will know that this happened at the hand of the destroying angel of the Lord, performing His will. To summarise – get out of Babylon before this destruction comes on that land, get back to Israel where you belong!
A New Day: The reassurances continue: “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord .” (2:10) There is no doubt about the Lord's intentions for the people back in the Land: they will not be there on their own with an empty temple, the Lord will return and be with them. Now when the temple was finished there was no filling it with the glory of the Lord as had happened when the Tabernacle had been finished (Ex 40:33-38) and when Solomon's temple was finished (1 Kings 8:10,11) but He will still be with them. And yet there is perhaps a much bigger meaning behind this for the word continues, “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord , all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” (2:11-13) Perhaps ‘that day' will be the day of Jesus when the people of God will eventually include Gentiles from all over the world. God has been declaring His good intentions for Jerusalem, a city without walls, a city that constantly grows with ever increasing numbers of God's people, a ‘Jerusalem' that is far bigger than the physical city.
Key Lessons? As this prophecy has unrolled, so to speak, we have seen first of all God's intent to bless and build His people. Second we have seen His call to His people still living in the world of Babylon to leave there before His destruction comes on Babylon and come back to the place of gathering with God in His house, as His house, in the place of His calling. We may add to this a third thing that comes out of this: real security is being in the presence of the Lord, being where He is, not being in the familiarity of the world, a world doomed to destruction. When David wrote, “and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” (Psa 23:6b) it was a reminder to us that the calling of the people of God is to stay close to God where He is.
And Us? The book of Revelation speaks of Babylon which is the administration and economy of the godless and unrighteous world, and there we see it destroyed (Rev 14:8, 16:19, 18:2) accompanied by the call that echoes that which we've seen in these verses: “Come out of her, my people,' so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues.” (Rev 18:4) In the second study I referred to Gavin Calver's meeting with a friend who had once been on fire for God but was now on fire for his house or yard remodeling, an example of how we can take good things (there is nothing wrong with upgrades while we maintain godliness and righteousness) and allow them to fill our vision and dilute our zeal for the Lord.
Although politics in the West has involved turmoil in recent years, for many of us in the West, affluence has meant peace and ease where our spirituality gets pushed to the periphery of life. It is seen as our relationship with the Lord gets limited to an orchestrated hour on Sunday mornings, or five minutes skipping through someone elses notes each morning and calling it 'a quiet time'. Neither of these things are demonstrations of a true relationship with the Lord. We may like the thought of the blessing of the city without walls, but we also need to take on board the discipline that requires us to come out of the world's self-centred, godless and unrighteous ways of thinking and living. We can't have one without the other.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 6. Clarifying Identity
Zech 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord ,
Recap : So far: return to God, don't worry that the world doesn't care about the plight of the people of God, He does. He will deal with all injustices, rest in that. He purposes good, blessing and growth for His people and calls them together.
Personal Attacks: The Christian life is a life of warfare, even though many don't realise it. The enemy comes with deception and lies and tries to lead our thinking astray, he comes with temptations to try to lead our actions astray, and he comes with accusations to pull us down. It is true of leaders and it is true of all of us; we all need the Lord's encouragements and reminders of who we are – His redeemed children. And it is no different for Joshua the high priest one of the key leaders of the returned exiles. (see him in Ezra 2-4).
Joshua Accused: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” (3:1) From what follows it is clear that Joshua is vulnerable because we read, “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.” (3:4) So much for God's representative who is later told, “See, I have taken away your sin.” (3:4c) We're not told what that sin was; it doesn't matter, we're all sinners in need of God's help. But this is only part of the truth, part of the picture
God Speaks Up: “The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord , who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!” (3:2a) Yes, Joshua is obviously less than perfect and therefore a target for the enemy but God is not going to let that stand. He knows Joshua, He knows his heart and his intent, He knows he is God's man and so He gives the reason for pulling Satan up: “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (3:2b) What a description – a stick that is burning, snatched from the fires of destruction. Isn't that a picture of Jerusalem, of the people of Israel? Weren't they carried away apparently for destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, weren't they about to be destroyed in the fire of God's wrath for the sins that had mounted and mounted through the years, the sins of constant rejection of God and of His word through His prophets?
Weren't they like this picture of a burning stick, on the edge of life, on the edge of utter destruction? But now? Now they have been brought back from exile, yes scarred and charred by the whole experience, no doubt wondering about their worthiness to be back there, still wondering perhaps, how it had all come about? Yes, they have been snatched from destruction, they are still there and Joshua as one of their spiritual leaders represents them before God in the throne room of heaven. There he is being accused by the accuser of being a waste of time, not worthy to be there, not worthy to stand before God, not worthy to represent these people. All of this would be true if it wasn't for the bigger purposes of God that take sinners and redeem them; that's what the history of the world is about. Yes, we are failures, yes we are less than perfect, but that is only part of the story.
The Bigger Reality – Redemption: Now we see what the work of God does: “The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” (3:4) Echoes of the father of the prodigal here: “Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” (Lk 15:22) The Father doesn't just deal with our sin through the Cross and forgive us, He dresses us with robes of righteousness (Isa 61:10), robes to be worn in the heavenly courts, wedding robes (Mt 22:11, Rev 19:8) of a bride for her bridegroom (Jn 3:29) Everything about this speaks of a transformation brought about by the heavenly beings.
Zechariah Joins In: Zechariah, as he observes what is happening, catches the spirit of it all: “Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.” (v.5) The turban was the headdress of the high priest and so it was essential that this re-clothing included the head. Joshua needs that reminder on his head (and in his head) of who he really is – God's man!
Fresh Commissioning: Now Joshua's identity has been clarified – a redeemed servant of the Lord – there comes a fresh commissioning: “The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” (3:6,7) Something really significant is taking place here. The house and the courts must refer to the temple that is being rebuilt, the place that is at the heart and core of the Jewish people. Joshua the priest is being given the role as ruler over the heart and core of what became what we call Judaism. In Jesus' time, the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, was presided over by two high priests, Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas (Jn 18:13).
And More: The word of the Lord continues to come: “‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come.” (3:8a) Joshua is to be the lead ruler and the others are to follow him and in that they are symbolic of something wonderful yet to come: “I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.” (3:8b) Now Isaiah had already prophesied about ‘a branch': “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel,” (Isa 4:2) and, “ A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isa 11:2). ‘The Branch' is clearly the Messianic figure coming from heaven. He will lead his people and they will follow him.
But there is still more: “See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua!” (3:9a) Infront of Joshua? Yes, his vision will be taken up by this object before him. We now know Jesus was referred to as a cornerstone or capstone (Psa 118:22, Lk 20:17, Acts 4:11) This ‘stone' is the Messiah. “There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,' says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (3:9b) This all-seeing Messiah (stone with seven eyes) will come declaring the will of God (the inscription) and by his death on the Cross will provide redemption for all who will come (sin removed).
The outcome? “‘In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,' declares the Lord Almighty.” (3:10) It is a picture of peace, prosperity, security, and stability. This is the work of the Coming One and Joshua's presence from now on is to be a reminder that this is what God's long-term intention is and he is never to forget it.
And Us? There are various signpost lessons for us in this chapter. First, the reminder that we are all sinners and as such are vulnerable to the pressures put upon us by Satan, hence John says that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19) On our own we are helpless and hopeless. But then, second, we see the wonderful work of God who redeems us through His Son's death and clothes us with righteousness. Finally, third, He calls us to share in the life and ministry of His Son, not only be priests but also rulers in the kingdom of God.
And the Church today? If the redeeming work of Christ on the Cross is not the message that the Church declares to the world, we are missing our calling. If we only have a self-righteousness faith, we are ignoring the heart of the Gospel. This reliance on the finished work of Christ is what should bring security and confidence in being sons of God, children of God, i.e. a people who are clear about their identity. In all that, if the church is not serving God with the power and anointing that He provides with His Spirit, and we are not seen to be following the guidance and leadership of the head of the church, Christ, it is little surprise that so often we fail to impact the world which, so far, has been steadily deteriorating morally and spiritually throughout all of our lifetimes. If we fail in these things, it is time to return to our calling.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 7. The Divine Provision
Zech 4:6 “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.
Recap : So far: return to God, don't worry that the world doesn't care about the plight of the people of God, He does. He will deal with all injustices, rest in that. He purposes good, blessing and growth for His people and calls them together. He comes to redeem and create a people, cleansed in the blood of the Lamb, dressed in the robes of righteousness, called to rule with Christ in the kingdom of God. Chapter 4 comes in three parts: Part 1 – verses 1 to 6, the lampstand and olive trees, Part 2 – verses 7 to 10, promise that Zerubbabel will complete the temple and then, Part 3 – verses 11 to 14, explanations of the olive trees.
Wake Up: It's the middle of the night, - ‘visions in the night' (1:8) - and Zechariah has dropped off; he obviously just couldn't stay awake, just like the disciples with Jesus (Mt 26:40,43,45), and as soon as he wakens the angel draws him back to the visions: “Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” (4:1,2a)
The New Vision: “I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” (4:2b,3) Note the two parts to the picture. First, there is a lampstand comprising seven lamps on arms receiving oil down the arms or channels from a bowl at the top. The lights are lit by oil. Second there are two olive trees one either side of the lampstand. It is obvious that the two olive trees are the source of the oil that is used in the lamps to provide light.
Again it is not obvious what meaning is being conveyed here so Zechariah asks: “I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” (4:4) Note there is no reticence on the angel's part, he gives an answer straight away – but with a question: “He answered, “Do you not know what these are?” (4:5a) Zechariah is nonplussed: “No, my lord,” I replied.” ( 4:5b) Now note what follows because it is crucial. He does not spell out, as I have above, what he is seeing but makes a simple but powerful and vital declaration: “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.” (4:6) In one sense the objects aren't important, what they convey is!
The underlying and all important lesson is that the work of God is completed by the Spirit of God, not by human might or power, not by human strength. What is being spoken about here is provision by and of the divine. To understand the importance and significance of this we must hold on to the context – the work of God's people rebuilding the House of the Lord. The modern Church has almost lost this fundamental understanding: the Christian life and service of the Lord is empowered and directed by the Holy Spirit and without Him all we are left with is human endeavour which God does not bless.
Declaration and Explanation: First of all the declaration: The angel continues to declare the word of the Lord: “What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!'” (4:7) It is not a vision but picturesque language conveying the will of God. The Living Bible expands verse 7 well: “Therefore no mountain, however high, can stand before Zerubbabel! For it will flatten out before him! And Zerubbabel will finish building this Temple with mighty shouts of thanksgiving for God's mercy,” or, even more simply, God will allow no obstacle to stand in Zerubbabel's way and nothing will stop him finish rebuilding the temple. The capstone is the top stone, the stone that holds everything else in place, the final stone, and so as it will be put in place with shouts of appreciation that this is the work of God.
Next comes explanation: If there was any doubt in the preceding words, they are removed in what follows: “Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you .” (4:8,9) The certainty of the completion will convince everyone that this is indeed the working of God. When you read both Ezra and Nehemiah, the rebuilding of the temple and the walls of Jerusalem came with continual opposition from the enemy, but here Zechariah's word reassures them that that opposition will not stop the work being completed. God Himself will rejoice when He sees the work being completed : “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?” (4:10) Seven, the perfect number here speaks of the perfect vision of the Lord through the Spirit that sees everything. He will see this come about!
The Olive Trees: But the enquiring spirit of the prophet is not satisfied, he wants to go back and find out about the olive trees: “Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” (4:11) He has looked more closely and seen the source of supply for the lamps: “Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” (4:12) Again the angel prods him: “He replied, “Do you not know what these are?” and Zechariah has to reply, “No, my lord,” I said.” (4:13) Only then is he given the explanation: “So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” (4:14)
Uncertainty: Now there is no further explanation given here as to who these two are. John in Revelation 11:3,4 makes a similar reference about two ‘witnesses' but again with no further explanation. For the prophecy to make sense to those who heard it, they must have taken Zerubbabel and Joshua as the two key leaders to be these two servants of God, empowered by Him to perform His will. In the long-term, in the end times, I would suggest that the Church and the believing element of Israel could be the two ‘witnesses' but as we are not told we will have to just wait for history to be rolled out.
Certainty: THE point of this chapter is twofold: first, to declare the certainty that the temple WILL be completed and, second, that it will be by the working of the Holy Spirit, God's divine enabling. For them that enabling will be to provide revelation, encouragement, strengthening, perseverance etc., everything that is needed to overcome the enemy opposition and thus fulfil the will of God.
And Us: I hesitate to drum home the lesson yet again, having already declared it in previous studies, but the point is made so strongly in this chapter that it would almost be wrong not to reiterate it. The life and the service of ‘the body of Christ', the Church, is what it is by the power and working of the Holy Spirit. When He is present and manifest, then we see power and revelation. The power to do the works of Jesus (see Jn 4:12, Matt 28:20, Mt 11:5, Lk 4:18,19) results, as I suggested in an earlier study, in constant life transformations, with conversions, deliverances and healings. Nothing less fulfils the call of Jesus to his Church. The revelation that the Spirit brings, envisions the church, releases faith to serve, brings wisdom to overcome obstacles and proceed with the will of God, and personal encouragement, comfort and strengthening to individuals. If we cannot say we clearly have these two aspects of His presence and work, in the Church today, let's pray and ask Him to come and bring them.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 8. The Divine Goal – A Cleansed People
Zech 5:1 I looked again, and there before me was a flying scroll.
Recap : So far we have seen that the Lord purposes good for Israel, good for Jerusalem, has re-established the leadership and has declared the principle that although the Lord declares that the temple building will be completed, they need to understand it will be by the work of the Holy Spirit. But there is always a danger when we sense we are being blessed of God and that danger is that we will be careless about how we live and forget that we are called to be a holy people. It was true of Israel (Ex 19:6) and us (1 Pet 2:9). The two visions that now come address this problem.
Vision 1: A Flying Scroll: “ I looked again, and there before me was a flying scroll.” (5:1) He is challenged to say what he sees: “He asked me, “What do you see?” (5:2a) He responds: “I answered, “I see a flying scroll, twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide.” (5:2b) Now a footnote in your Bible will tell you that this is a massive scroll, the size of an advertising poster you see at roadsides or on the sides of large buildings. Perhaps its size is saying, ‘take note of this, it is important!'
Explanation: Then the angel speaks out what in on this scroll: “And he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land; for according to what it says on one side, every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished. The Lord Almighty declares, ‘I will send it out, and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of anyone who swears falsely by my name. It will remain in that house and destroy it completely, both its timbers and its stones.'” (5:3,4) Note there are two messages, one on one side, one on the other – thieving is banished from this land, lying is banished from this land. What is strange is that this is described as a curse. Now a curse is God's decree for bad! It is a judgment. So the judgment that is coming here is upon anyone who fails to heed this warning for they will be removed from the Land.
Application: That is very simple isn't it. Two things, one of them an action, the other the use of words and God is, in a very simple and straight forward way, saying wrong behaviour and wrong speaking has no place in the life of the people of God, no place in the kingdom of God. That is a general principle that is to be applied to the life of the Church as much as it was to Israel. We are not to be just a spiritual people for true spirituality has a very practical outworkings that should be producing a people who are morally and ethically ‘good' and that word excludes bad or wrong things, whether things we do or say. Can we say that is true of our church?
Vision 2: The Woman in a Basket: But this isn't the only way that God wants to communicate this truth to them for the angel tells Zechariah to look up for something more is coming: “Then the angel who was speaking to me came forward and said to me, “Look up and see what is appearing.” (5:5) That provokes Zechariah to ask about what is coming: “I asked, “What is it?” (5:6a) The angel immediately replies: “He replied, “It is a basket.” And he added, “This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.” (5:6b) Did you see that? He describes the object and then what it portrays – a basket which apparently carries all the wrong within the land. But there is more to follow:
“Then the cover of lead was raised, and there in the basket sat a woman! He said, “This is wickedness,” and he pushed her back into the basket and pushed its lead cover down on it.” (5:7,8) Wow! The basket has a lead cover, indicating a heavy cover that cannot easily be removed. But within the basket that was previously described as wickedness, there is a woman who is described as wickedness. Evil or wrong is being personified here to make it more real. But this is the thing, ‘evil' or ‘wrong' isn't just a theory it is something that is expressed through human beings, it has its origins in human free-will that chooses to reject the design and purpose of God. Why a woman? Perhaps because it is the woman who has the privilege of bearing life, of continuing it in the next generation. Evil never stays in one generation, it flows on in sinful humanity from generation to generation throughout history, and it needs dealing with, it needs removing, if mankind is to be saved and not destroyed.
God's Activity: But then something strange happens. Observe. “Then I looked up—and there before me were two women, with the wind in their wings! They had wings like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between heaven and earth.” (5:9) two women to deal with the one woman, angelic women with wings. This raises a question in the prophet: “Where are they taking the basket?” I asked the angel who was speaking to me.” (5:10) He is given the answer: “He replied, “To the country of Babylonia to build a house for it. When the house is ready, the basket will be set there in its place.” (5:11) This people in the Land have come from Babylon and it is as if the Lord is saying, any residue of your past wickedness is to be left or taken back to Babylon where it belongs, in the midst of the godless people of the world. They are wicked in their rebellion against God, which is seen again and again in the Bible, that's where wickedness belongs, in the godless world, not the people of God.
Application: So we have two pictures conveying the same thing. The first one, the flying scroll, reveals two sins that summarise all sins – wrong behaviour and wrong words – and they will be banned from the people of God. God will remove them. The second one, the woman called wickedness, in the basket being carried back to Babylon, reveals even more clearly the activity of God to purify this people. Again, they were called to be a holy people and there is no room in the holy for wrongdoing or wrong speaking.
And Us? Of course when Jesus came and died to redeem us, and when the Spirit fell to empower us, God brought about something that had previously been humanly impossible, holy people, people cleansed by the blood of the Lamb and indwelt by the Holy Spirit of God, a people who were to be freed from having to do wrong things, freed from having to speak wrong things. This is what it means to be godly, to be holy, this is what we are called to be, and therefore any church community that tolerates these things is failing in its calling. Two things to be considered: how does this work in us individually and how does the life of the Church contribute to ensuring this is how it is?
First, us: We have emphasised above “freed from having to do… having to say”. The power of sin over us has been broken, the New Testament teaches. However, although our heart and mind goal is to stick close to Jesus in our intentions and directions, it is still possible for us to be waylaid by the enemy and give way to temptation. This is why the pastoral apostle John writes, “I write this to you so that you will not sin. But if anybody does sin, we have an advocate with the Father—Jesus Christ.” (1 Jn 2:1) He clearly recognises that we can still stumble and get it wrong. But our starting place is Jesus doesn't want me to sin and I don't have to sin.
Second, the church: The role of the church is to teach, equip, enable and empower by word and Spirit. Our teaching must as we have here: God calls for a holy people, a people who do not sin in deed or word, and He is working all the time to restore us when we fall and deliver us from a life of wrong. Teaching is our first role, to present a vision of the individuals and the community we can be ‘in Christ'. But that is closely followed by releasing of faith to achieve that vision, to show it is possible and to teach on the resources we have – His Spirit, His word, the gifts and ministries He has given to the Church, and each other. Everything in the initial activity of the Church is to envision, enable and empower the Church to live as the children of God and as the body of Christ.
And so? This is the picture that is conveyed to Zechariah by these two visions, of a new people who will not tolerate wrong behaviour or wrong speaking in their quest to live out their lives as the holy people of God. They were not taken into exile and then delivered from exile to be the same old unbelieving, rebellious and sinful people. As it was for them, so it is to be for us. We have not been called out of the dominion of darkness into the kingdom of the Son (Col 1:13) to be the same old self-centred and godless people. No, we are a holy, envisioned, empowered people of God. May it be so.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 9. Spirit & Rule
Zech 6:1 I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze.
Recap: The key things we've seen in these studies are a call to come to God, a reassurance that God is on our case, a reassurance that God will deal with those against us, a reassurance that God seeks to bless His people, a call to come and join in what He is doing and be in a place of security, a call to realise afresh what He has done in redeeming us, a reminder that everything we achieve is to be by the power, revelation and direction of the Holy Spirit, and a call to live holy, purified lives. There is yet one more vision to come in these visions of the night on this one day.
The Vision: “I looked up again, and there before me were four chariots coming out from between two mountains—mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horses, the second black, the third white, and the fourth dappled—all of them powerful.” (6:1-3) Many have speculated different things about the parts of this picture, parts that are not explained in detail, so we will not join them, but simply note what is here.
Let's start with the words “coming out from”. Now that may be simply describing coming from between the two mountains or it may suggest coming from behind. Both indicate moving from one place to another which will be shortly confirmed. Mountains can be obstacles or simply features of geographic note, mountains feature a lot in the Bible as places of significance. These two mountains (?law and grace?) seem to indicate a boundary, a big and strong (bronze) boundary. There are four chariots coming, not merely riders on horses. Chariots are used for warfare and subduing enemies and for proclaiming authority and victory. These are powerful, meaning will not brook resistance. They are different colours meaning they go to different regions for different purposes and there are four of them indicating the four corners of the earth or four points of the compass.
Explanation: As before the picture evokes a question in the prophet: “I asked the angel who was speaking to me, “What are these, my lord?” (6:4) to which he is told, “These are the four spirits of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world. The one with the black horses is going toward the north country, the one with the white horses toward the west, and the one with the dappled horses toward the south.” (6:5,6) Four spirits indicate the one Holy Spirit, sent by the One described as “the Lord of the whole world.” We cannot but remember the prophetic description of Jesus, the one seated at his Father's right hand, ruling in the midst of his enemies (Psa 110:1,2) where he reigns over the Fallen World bringing into existence the kingdom of God, subduing his enemies until the work is complete and he hands the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15:24,25 – note ‘he must reign' meaning ‘ he must reign and rule over that entire period before he returns in glory at what we call the Second Coming).
Further Activity: “When the powerful horses went out, they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, “Go throughout the earth!” So they went throughout the earth. Then he called to me, “Look, those going toward the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north.” (6:7,8) The Living Bible expresses that last part as, “Then the Lord summoned me and said, “Those who went north have executed my judgment and quieted my anger there.” The land of the north, as viewed from Jerusalem was thought to be Babylon. Put most simply, “My Spirit has fulfilled my work in the land you came back from.”
A New Word: Then comes a word that requires Zechariah to do three things. Observe: “The word of the Lord came to me: (i) “Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. (ii) Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah . (iii) Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak.” (6:9-11) i.e. first, there are three rich newcomers who have just returned who will want to contribute silver and gold. Receive it from them. Second, go to Josiah's house, presumably with it. Was he a maker of fine jewelry? Third, make a crown that is to be set on the head of the high priest.
A New Approach: We've had a hint of this before but here it is spelled out in more detail: “ Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord . It is he who will build the temple of the Lord , and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.” (6:12,13) This is quite dramatic for this is a change of administration from before the Exile. Note the three things that come out here. Again Joshua is called ‘the Branch'. Before it wasn't clear if it was him (3:8) but now it is clear it is, one who will spread out in influence and achievement, the one who will (with Zerubbabel) build the temple (to completion). Now here's the big thing: there will no longer be a king over Israel, there will be a priest-king or priest ruler. The previous emphasis of a king used to include dominating over the people and fighting against enemies. The emphasis of the new administration is that it comes from the priest, from the presence of God. This cannot be over-emphasised – the rule and direction of Israel from now on is to come from the Temple, from the high priest as God's representative; the day for kings is over!
There is a further instruction: “The crown will be given to Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the Lord .” (6:14) The Message version makes and assumption: “The other crown will be in the Temple of God as a symbol of royalty, under the custodial care of Helem, Tobiah, Jedaiah, and Hen son of Zephaniah.” We suggest that may be true except it is where Joshua's single crown is kept under their care.
Ongoing: “Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the Lord , and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God.” (6:15) The Living Bible now makes an assumption: “These three who have come from so far away represent many others who will someday come from distant lands to rebuild the Temple of the Lord.” That's quite good and may be true. Whether it is just the straight statement or the implication, one way or another, others in exile (probably in Babylon) will hear what is going on, understand the blessing of God is on this new administration and will come back as well, wanting to join in with all that is happening. It is yet a further indication of the blessing of Jerusalem and the people of God that is on God's heart.
And us: Jesus is sometimes referred to as a prophet and priest and king: he was a prophet in that he declared the word of God and spoke of the future, he was a priest in that he was the intermediary between us and God, and he was a king in that he ruled over and brought in the kingdom of God in power. In that we, the Church, are his body (1 Cor 12:27) called to do the works of Jesus as he gifts, inspires and leads us, we too are called to be prophetic, speaking out the word of God for here and now and for the future (21 Pet 2:9). We are also called to be priests (a holy priesthood 1 Pet 2:5) and also called to rule with Christ (Eph 2:6,10) doing the things Christ did (Jn 14:12)
Although we may not be able to see it or understand it, Christ IS still ruling in the midst of the shambles that is sometimes this world, he IS still working out his purposes, the will of the Father, and he does still call us to follow him and that means doing and saying what he does and says in the ways we have just considered. If we are not, then we need to be on our knees before him asking both for forgiveness and a second chance to be the people he wants us to be, achieving what he wants achieved on the earth. May it be so.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 10. Postscript
Zech 7:1 In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah
And So : I have titled this series “Zechariah builds the House” because that, I believe, is what all these words and pictures have been about. As we see from the verse above another two years pass before he gets another word from the Lord, and so before we conclude we might do well to review where we have been and how my title is justified.
1:1-6 A Call to Return: The word comes.
“ ‘Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,' (1:3) The implication is that the hearts of Israel, as revealed by the years of their history before the Exile, were needing to be adjusted. The purpose of the Exile had been to purge the nation of unbelief. Back now in the Land, having started rebuilding the temple, if they wanted God's blessing they needed to be whole-hearted in turning their hearts to God. Coming back to the Land is insufficient, their hearts need to be changed from what it had been. The parallel for us is that to come to Christ we have to leave the old life behind and totally give our hearts to God so that Jesus can be our Saviour and deliver us from our Sin, and also be our Lord so he can lead us down new paths in line once again with God's design for humanity, as His children.
1:7-17 Reaffirmation of Calling & Warning to the World: Vision 1 - The Riders
“We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace,” (1:11) “I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure,” (1;14,15) “‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt.” (1:16) “the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.'” (1:17) God's intent to bless Israel reiterated several times and His displeasure over the rest of the world. Similarly with us today, when we come to Christ we are promised abundant eternal life (which begins today) but the unbelieving world remains as the object of God's displeasure.
1:18-21 Judgment will fall on the World: Vision 2 – the horns and craftsmen
“the horns that scattered Judah … the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns.” (1:21) Other godless nations may have been used by God to discipline Israel, but God will still hold them accountable. God clearly used the sinfulness of the authorities of Judaism to bring about the sacrifice of His Son (Acts 2:23) but He held them responsible. God holds every person accountable for their Sin and so only the Cross of Christ saves from that Final Judgement.
2:1-13 Blessing and growth for God's People: Vision 3 - the man with a measuring line.
“Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,'” (2 4,5) The past is being put aside and God's intent for Jerusalem is blessing, growth and protection. For us, as members of the kingdom of God, we are to know the same assurance. Jesus. seated at his Father's right hand is working to expand the kingdom, grow the church, bless and protect it.
3:1-10 Establishing Identity is Crucial: Vision 4 – Joshua Restored
“Take off his filthy clothes… See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” (3:4) Joshua as the spiritual leader of the returned people had to know that his past and their past is forgiven. Satan is rebuked for his constant accusing of Joshua and Joshua is re-clothed and re-commissioned. We too have to know that we are what we are because we have been cleansed by the blood of the Lamb. We are children of God because God has made us so as a result of a) us simply responding to and believing the Good News, b) Him declaring our forgiveness and sonship on the basis of Christ's work on the Cross and c) Him empowering us to live new lives by Him imparting the indwelling Holy Spirit.
4:1-14 It is now all about the work of the Holy Spirit: Vision 5 – Lampstand & Olive Trees
“ ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the Lord Almighty.” (4:6) The Lampstand (the people of God) are made to shine the Light of God into the darkness of the World and that light comes through the supply of the Holy Spirit. Today it is exactly the same. We, the people of God, are called to let the light of Christ shine through us into the darkness of this world as we are empowered, gifted and directed by His Holy Spirit.
5:1-4 God calls for Righteousness: Vision 6 – the Flying Scroll
“every thief will be banished, and according to what it says on the other, everyone who swears falsely will be banished.” (5:3) All wrong behaviour and wrong words are to be excluded from the holy people of God. We likewise are to be a holy people with wrong behaviour and wrong words removed from our lives.
5:5-11 Unrighteousness belongs in the godless world: Vision 7 – the woman in a basket
“This is the iniquity of the people throughout the land.” (5:6) “To the country of Babylonia … the basket will be set there in its place.” (5:11) Evil belongs in the ‘world', not in the people of God, today the people of the Church, and there it will be judged. This calls for distinction and separation.
6:1-8 God sends His Spirit across the World: Vision 8 – Four Chariots
“These are the four spirits of heaven .” (6:5) “they went throughout the earth.” (6:7) The Lord sends His Spirit across the world to whoever will receive Him. A sign of the Lord's desire to reach the whole world which is still true through the church today (Acts 1:8)
6:9-15 The call for the people of God to rule: Final Word over Joshua
“It is he who will build the temple of the Lord , and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne.” (6:13) This was a change from a monarchy to a people led by the high priest, God's direct representative. We too today, are called to rule “in Christ”, to be those led and inspired by his Spirit and thus bring change to his world.
And Following? We have limited this series to the prophecies of chapters 1 to 6 that came in the second year of Darius. In 7:1 we see the next word comes two years later to answer a question about fasting (7:1-3) where the Lord challenges the reality of what they had done previously (7:4-8) and in a rather Isa 58 manner called them to live and act justly (7:9,10) and rebukes them for past unbelief (7:11-14) which takes us back to the first word in ch.1 calling for a return. In chapter 8, still encouraging the rebuilding (8:9) there are ten promises of blessing on Jerusalem for the days to come.
In chapters 9 to 14 the prophecies take on a completely different tone, seen as two ‘oracles' or ‘burdens' – that some have titled Ch.9-11 The Advent and Rejection of the Messiah and Ch.12-14 Jerusalem delivered and saved but as there are no date indications or references to building, it is often suggested they came after the completion of the temple rebuilding.
And So? The chapters we have been reading are clearly in the time of the rebuilding and overlap and flow on from Haggai's prophecies. They are in a completely different form to Haggai's, apart from the initial word and the last word (in ch.7) being filled with pictures seen in the ‘night visions'. Zechariah doesn't directly challenge and encourage as Haggai had done, but instead builds pictures that convey principles and instructions of a far broader dimension involving repentance, reassurance, and hope for the future. The ‘building' we might refer to in respect of Zechariah is not so much the physical temple but the building or temple that is the people of God themselves. Their state, their attitude, their outlook, their understanding is what this has been all about. They are the people of God, the dwelling place of God as it will be when the Spirit is poured out at Pentecost. The Old Testament revelation is of God whose dwelling is heaven (e.g. 1 Kings 8:30, 39, 43,49) who has chosen Jerusalem as His earthly dwelling place (e.g. 1 Kings 11:13,32, 14:21) and it's Temple His focal point (1 Kings 5:5, 8:10) His ‘local' dwelling.
And Us? In the New Testament we find all believers are described as the temple (1 Cor 3:16,17 – note the word ‘together', 2 Cor 6:16, Eph 2:21). The temple was the place where the glory of the Lord was revealed, and where fellowship with God was experienced, and restoration of fellowship could be brought about. Zechariah's people still were to reveal God to the nations (2:11-13), an example of the blessing of God with mankind. Today you and I are part of this body, this bride, this building that belongs to God and is used by God to establish a distinct people throughout the earth who are made anew, forgiven and cleansed, given a new identity and purpose and power and a hope to be fulfilled.
This was true of Israel and even more true of us today. May we live in the wonder of it, having heeded the various calls and lessons of these prophecies to come to God, trust in Him and leave the injustices of the world to him, to receive His renewing, His blessing, His power through His Spirit, and with His call to reign (2 Cor 5:17,21, 1 Cor 4:8, 2 Tim 2:12, Rev 5:10). May it be so. Amen.
Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 11. And So?
Zech 1:3 ‘Return to me,' declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,'
Zech 2:10 For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord .
Zech 3:10 In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,'
Zech 4:6 ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,'
Zech 6:13 he will be a priest on his throne
Eph 4:11,12 So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service,
But : As so often seems to happen I thought the previous study was the last one of this series and yet as I have been praying this morning there comes what seems a natural completion of it that takes us into the realm of practically praying. My assertion in the previous study, that undergirds all the other studies, is that God was speaking through Zechariah to His people while they were building the Temple, the house or dwelling place of the Lord on earth. Yet the words were to prepare and equip His people to be His dwelling place themselves, as we now see so clearly through the New Testament. But it is so easy to just ‘do a Bible study' and leave it at that, but the truth is that the word of God is designed to change us. How should these studies change us?
The Big Issues: As we have progressed through these studies I have become more aware of the two big issues: the first is the world ‘out there', the world that God wants to reach. As we look at the state of the Western world today it is in a mess. I would recommend the sobering reading of ‘Morality' the 2020 book by Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks which systematically uncovers the moral bankruptcy of the West (which has very specific practical outworkings). There is a desperate need for change. The second thing is the church. To Israel He had said through Isaiah that they were to be “a light to the Gentiles.” (Isa 42:6). To us today Jesus says, “let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.” (Mt 5:16) If we dare be honest we have abysmally failed to be this resulting in the state the world is in today. We have carried on our spiritual ceremonies and failed to impact the world around us because, even though some of us have been doing a lot, it has rarely been as ‘the body of Christ' with his power and his revelation.
And So? Whenever such truths really impact us, it is not that they pull us down in condemnation for our failures (which is what the enemy would seek to do) but challenge us to stand up and pray. Prayer has always been the precursor to true revival, it is the acknowledgement of the people of God of their helplessness and failure with the recognition that only a sovereign act of God can change things. But what to pray?
I think it has been eighteen months that I have felt this call to prayer but only today did I feel a specific way to pray. When God moves on in His purposes, it seems so often He gradually reveals His strategy, even though in essence it was there in His word already. For those who will allow themselves to be moved by this may I offer the following, no doubt very incomplete, things to pray, to start pointing us in the right direction. Please feel free to add what you will:
“Father, please forgive us, cleanse us, envision us and empower us and then release us as you start to move sovereignly.”
- To come in line with God's heart must mean first being honest about our need, with the recognition that we need Him to change our hearts in preparation for being part of what He is planning to do, so we will start to become available to join in with what He is doing.
“Lord, please raise up an even greater army of prayer warriors who will not only pave the way for these things to happen but who will stand there overseeing the battle when it comes.”
- Prayer in incomprehensible ways, is seen as part of God's strategy to mobilize His people and enable them to rise up and conquer as Moses did of old (see Ex 17:10-13).
“Lord, release faith and vision in your people in new ways that they may become an army of witnesses in both word and deed to the world around us.”
- Will we become available, will we be trained to be confident as witnesses who move in both word and power to reach the hearts of those around us?
“Lord, please raise up an army of evangelists , anointed by you to bring the life-changing conviction that is needed to bring the watching world to its knees in submission to you as they receive Jesus their Saviour and Lord.”
- The gifted ministry of the evangelist is the one divinely anointed to remove blindness and bring conviction, bring the word of God to bear on individual lives. Nothing less changes people.
“Lord, please raise up an army of teachers , who will be there to feed, teach and equip new believers with divinely anointed understanding as they come as babes in Christ.”
- New believers will need to understand a new perspective and in the excitement of all that happens, establishing them in their new faith will be essential to enable them to stand in the years to come.
“Lord, please raise up an army of pastors who will be there to feed, care for, protect and bring healing to the many dysfunctional new believers come from this hurting and damaged world.”
- The people in the world around us today are so confused, so hurting, so anxious, so wounded, so disorientated, that they desperately need loving care and healing.
“Lord, please raise up an army of prophets who will bring revelation to keep your people on track, warning them against coming obstacles and distractions and revealing the way ahead.”
- Revelation is at the heart of the working of God and we desperately need His vision, His insight, His wisdom to energize us, and move us forward.
“Lord, please raise up an army of apostles who will come with the humility of divine wisdom that builds and strengthens the rapidly expanding church and able to release your power in your people.”
- The gift of the apostle comes as a strategic wise anointed overseer to guide and equip and empower and enable the people of God, not mere managers but equippers, envisioners, empowers, and senders.
“Lord, please release faith in each of us , your children, to enable us to receive your destiny for these days to be life changers, world changers and those who glorify you.”
- We are all called to be active parts of this body, with changed hearts and minds and wills, submitted to Him. This will require time and ongoing daily enabling to achieve as we pray.
“Lord, as I purpose to be available to you for you to achieve through me whatever you want, please clarify in me your gifts that enable me to be the unique part of your body you want me to be. Amen.”
- My gifts from God that make me who am, the gifts you have from God, are there just waiting for Him to energize and use them – all the above things, and musician, administrator, Internet Techie, writer, composer, whatever. A gift from God to be used by God as God stirs them, opens doors for them to be used, and then enables them to touch other lives and glorify Him. May it be so.