Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Let’s turn our attention one more time to the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Zechariah. Zechariah 1. And the plan is to finish this first vision today.
We’ve already studied most of this chapter. We considered the introduction in verses 1-6. Then we studied Zechariah’s first vision and got through only the first half of the verses – verses 7-12. Then we took a little bit of a detour and studied the angel of the Lord. And so, now finally we’re to the end of this first vision and the end of this first chapter in this book of the prophet Zechariah.
So, let’s read once more the first part of this first vision to remind ourselves of the context of what we’ll study today. And then we’ll get into the new material.
KJV Zechariah 1:7 ¶ [Upon/On] the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month [Sebat/Shebat], in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet [i.e., Zechariah…], [saying/as follows],
8 [I saw by/I saw at/I was attentive that/During the] night, [and behold/I saw/I had a vision and there before me was] a man [riding upon/was riding/seated on] a red horse[,/!] and he stood among [the/some] myrtle trees that were in the [bottom/ravine]; and behind him were there red horses, [speckled/sorrel/brown], and white.
9 Then [said I/I asked] [i.e., someone nearby…],
[“][O my lord/Sir], what are these?[”]
And the [angel that talked with me/angel who was speaking with me/angelic messenger who replied to me/angel who was talking with me] [said unto me/answered],
I will shew [thee/you] what [these/they] [be/are].
10 [And/Then] the man [that stood/who was standing] among the myrtle trees [answered and said/spoke up and said/explained],
These are [they/those/the ones] whom the LORD hath sent to [walk to and fro through/patrol/walk about on/go throughout] the earth.
11 [And they/So they/The riders] [answered/then agreed with/reported to] the angel of the LORD [that stood/who was standing] among the myrtle trees, and said,
We have [walked to and fro through/patrolled/been walking about on/have gone throughout] the earth, [and, behold,/and now/and found] [all the earth/everything/the whole world] [sitteth still, and is at rest/is peaceful and quiet/is at rest and quiet/at rest and in peace].
12 Then the angel of the LORD [answered and said/said/asked],
O LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/almighty], how long [wilt thou not/before you] have [mercy/compassion] on Jerusalem and on the [other…] [cities/towns] of Judah, [against which/with which/which] [thou hast had/you have been] [indignation/so angry with] these [threescore and ten/seventy] years?
So, to review very briefly, the Lord sends this vision and all the rest of these visions to Zechariah in the 2nd year of Darius – in one single night.
Zechariah is shown a man who is also an angel who is also the angel of the Lord – whom we discovered is a manifestation of Jesus Christ in the Old Testament.
And he’s in charge of these horses and their riders that go around and patrol the entire earth. And these riders come back and report to Jesus Christ that the whole world is at peace.
And instead of being happy about that, the manifestation of Jesus Christ here – the angel of the Lord – laments that fact. The fact that Jerusalem and the surrounding cities lay desolate while the nations of the world are at rest and living in ease – that makes the Son of God grieve.
And so, he asks the Lord of Hosts – God the Father – how long it will be this way. How long will God’s people be laid waste while their enemies are living the good life?
And that brings us into the material that we’ll study today. Verses 13-17 of Zechariah chapter 1.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Verse 13
How does the Lord respond to the lament of the angel of the Lord concerning the desperate plight of his people? Verse 13.
13 [And the/So the/The] LORD [answered/addressed] the [angel/angelic messenger] [that talked with me/who was speaking with me] [with good words and comfortable words/with gracious words, comforting words/good comforting words].
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: the angel that talked with me
So, God the Father – the Lord of Hosts – responds to the angel that spoke with Zechariah. Now, catch that this is not the angel of the Lord. The angel of the Lord is the one who grieved over Jerusalem’s condition. And yet, when the Lord of hosts responds to that grief – he addresses the angel who was speaking with Zechariah.
Maybe that doesn’t seem very logical to you. Maybe you think that if the angel of the Lord is the one who expresses emotions of grief to the Lord of hosts, that maybe the Lord of hosts ought to respond back directly to the angel of the Lord, rather than this other angel that’s talking with Zechariah. Well, just remember that this is a vision. And as such, things don’t always work in a logical progression. If the way that events are portrayed and conveyed to the prophet and then to us – if these don’t make sense to us, that’s OK.
This is one reason that in just about every one of these visions, Zechariah has to ask a question that seeks to clarify what he’s seeing and what it means.
So, the Lord of hosts responds to the angel who was speaking with Zechariah.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: good words and comfortable words
And that speech is characterized by good or gracious and comfortable or comforting words.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: good
“Good words” are the kind of speech that the counselors of Rehoboam urged that young king to take toward his subjects. They advised that son of Solomon to speak this way with the people of the kingdom of Israel.
And Proverbs 12:25 tells us that this kind of speech – a good word – makes a man’s heart glad.
So, the Lord gives words to the angel who was speaking with Zechariah that would have placated him. They would have made the heart of this angel glad. These were not words of continued judgement as Israel had been so used to for the last several centuries. But rather, these were words of peace and joy. They were good words.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: comfortable
And the comfortable words would be characterized as ones that you would speak to someone who was mourning and you wanted them to feel better. These words would come from the emotions of someone who felt genuinely sorry for the plight of someone else.
These are words that are not like kicking a man while he’s down. They’re words that are more like lending a helping hand to that person who is down.
And these are the words that the Lord of hosts utters to this speaking angel. Words that will uplift and encourage.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: God speaks good and comfortable words today
And so, let’s consider that this is something that God really does to his humble and contrite and depressed people. He has a tendency to speak good comforting words to us. If you’re not hearing those words, then maybe you need to be more diligent to open his word, so that you can hear these encouragements.
You’re not going to hear good and comforting words from the Lord by looking at your life. By looking at your circumstances. No – that’s where the discouragement is going to come.
If you and I are feeling down and depressed, it’s likely that we’re not taking advantage of the awesome privilege of having God’s words in our hands – in our laps – on our book shelves.
Or maybe you are reading the word. And yet, maybe your problem is that you aren’t believing what God has said. He’s trustworthy. We need not doubt him. What he says is absolutely correct always.
And so, you and I need good and comforting words from the Lord. So, let’s throughout the week pick up his word and read it and believe it – believe him. That’s where the comfort comes in the life of a believer.
So, this is what the speaking angel received from the Lord of hosts.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Verse 14
And just like you and I – when we receive comfort and encouragement from God’s word, oftentimes we can’t wait to share that same blessing with others. And that’s just what the speaking angel does in verse 14 – he shares what he has heard.
14 So the [angel/messenger] [that communed/who was speaking] with me said unto me,
[Cry thou/Proclaim/Cry out], saying,
Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];
I am [jealous/exceedingly jealous/very much moved/very jealous] for Jerusalem and for Zion [with a great jealousy/_].
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: I am jealous
So, here’s the message for Zechariah. In Hebrew if you were to translate it very rigidly into English it would read like this – “I am jealous for Jerusalem and Zion jealousy great!” In other words, he could say – if this even makes sense – “I am jealous-ing a great jealousy for Jerusalem and Zion!”
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Jerusalem
Of course, Jerusalem was Israel’s capital city. It’s where the Temple was and where it was being reconstructed in Zechariah’s day. There was a lot of holy history associated with and based in that city. And today of course, there’s even more of that kind of history that we associate with Jerusalem. And there will be yet more such history in the future – more that God plans for that city in his divine program. So, that’s Jerusalem.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Zion
Zion as we know of its earliest origins in 2 Samuel 5 was a fortress inside of the city of Jerusalem – which used to belong to the Jebusites. David attacked and took it and renamed it the city of David. So, that’s the real origin of this place that the Lord of hosts refers to.
And from there, later on, the Scripture starts equating Zion with Jerusalem. It’s like they’re eventually viewed as one and the same place. Zion becomes a synonym basically for Jerusalem.
In our text in Zechariah here we can assume that the Lord is speaking of Zion in that way – as just another way to reference Jerusalem.
And what about this city? How does God feel about it?
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Jealous
He’s jealous! Well, what does that mean, anyway? Because you might think that jealousy is maybe a sinful emotion. What does God mean when he says that he’s jealous?
Well, there certainly are examples of ungodly and sinful jealousy in the Scripture. There are times where a man’s flocks are so numerous that ungodly men are jealous of him. Rachel was jealous of Leah’s ability to give birth to children while the Lord withheld that ability from her. Joseph’s brothers were jealous of him and we know how that turned out.
These are examples of people desiring what doesn’t rightfully belong to them. It’s sinful in that sense.
But then there are examples where the Lord desires – not what isn’t his, as if anything doesn’t belong to him – but the Lord is shown as desiring what is his!
He portrays himself as one who desires his people’s exclusive worship.
It’s like the jealousy of a husband for his wife or vice versa. Your spouse is yours. He or she is not another’s! And if a line is crossed to the point where it seems that someone else has been treating your spouse as only you should be able to – well, this is the resulting emotion.
And that’s how God feels about his people – his people that he’s entered into a covenant with. Just like a man enters a covenant with his wife when they’re married, so too the Lord enters into covenants with his people.
In the Old Testament, he did this at Mount Sinai. He – as it were – married his people Israel at that point. In the New Testament, when we believe into Jesus Christ we enter into the New Covenant wherein our sins are forgiven forever! We have been espoused to Jesus – as Paul the Apostle says.
Did you know that? That when you trusted Christ to save you from your sin, you actually entered into the New Covenant and became an object of God’s intense jealous desire!
And something similar happened with Israel in the Old Testament. And since God’s people enter into a covenant relationship with him, he intensely desires us. He doesn’t want us to belong to any other so-called god – whether it be a god which would require religious rites and ceremonies or whether it be a god of money and possessions or anything in between.
In addition, for anyone who is married or can imagine being married – what is the emotion that rises up when you come to realize that someone is mistreating your spouse? Maybe it’s your children at home who are being unkind to your wife. Or maybe your husband is at work and being dealt with in a harsh manner. How does a spouse respond?
He or she can be expected to respond with this emotion that God expresses here in Zechariah. He’s jealous. He sees that there is mistreatment of his people. And it rouses him to action!
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Not the dirt
And of course we need to be clear that it’s not the dirt that God is jealous for. Right? When God says that he’s jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, we shouldn’t think that God’s emotions rise up on behalf of the grass and trees and animals in this city.
No, God intensely desires that his covenant people stop receiving abuse and ill treatment from the nations around them.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Cry thou…Lord of hosts
And this is the message that Zechariah is supposed to go and preach to these covenant people of God. And this message is attended by the authority of the Lord who commands armies – who commands hosts – who is able to do anything.
So, God is jealous for his people.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Verse 15
On the other hand, God is very angry with their enemies. Verse 15.
15 [And/But] I am [very sore displeased/very angry/greatly displeased] with the [heathen/nations] that [are at ease/take my grace for granted/feel secure]:
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: I am very sore displeased
So, let me give you the rather mechanical translation of the first few words of this verse. It would go like this – “But anger great I myself am angry!” or a little smoother – “But I myself am angry with a great anger!”
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Displeased
Now, frequently in the Old Testament, God is angry – described with this word “displeased” used here – when people don’t approach him correctly. Think of Nadab and Abihu who offered strange fire to the Lord and whom the Lord burned to death. Think of Korah and his rebellion and how the earth swallowed him and his family up. This concept of displeasure or anger is found in both of those stories and many more. These people overstepped their boundaries as creatures. And as a result, this evokes displeasure or anger in the Lord.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Nations…at ease
And God is addressing his anger against a certain group mentioned here. They’re nations – not Israel. And they’re at ease.
And several times in the Old Testament, the Lord takes issue with people or nations that are at ease. It’s not that God wants everyone to be up in arms and fretful. But God is angry when people who should be bothered are resting. When people who should know their fretful condition are acting as if everything is fine. When people who are at war with the God who created the very environment that they inhabit – when they feel as though they are impervious to repercussions from that God whose space they’re just taking up.
Think of Sennacherib who taunted Hezekiah and Hezekiah’s God. Sennacherib was at ease. He was arrogant. He thought he was impervious to any sort of consequence that could come from disrespecting the Lord. And yet, he discovered the kind of peril that he was in all along when the death angel came and took care of his enormous army in one night.
And so, that’s what’s going on with these nations that the Lord mentions. They are arrogant and acting as if their sins will never catch up with them.
Well, what sins is God talking about? How did these nations approach or treat God in a way that he didn’t want to be approached or treated? What was their crime?
for [I was but a little displeased/while I was only a little angry/I was a little displeased with them], [and they/they/but they] [helped forward the affliction/furthered the disaster/have only made things worse for themselves/added to the calamity].
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: a little angry
Now, this is the third time that the word “displeased” or “angry” appears in this verse. We heard the Lord state at the front of this verse that he is now very angry at these nations.
But then he goes back to describe how this began. Initially, the Lord was just a little displeased – a little angry.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: they helped forward the affliction
So, what moved the Lord along in the degree and intensity of his anger? It was the help that these nations provided concerning some sort of disaster.
And this probably points to the activity of these nations – especially Babylon – in taking the Lord’s disaster – his calamity – his evil – that he planned for his rebellious people Israel – and the nations took it way too far.
Otherwise, perhaps the Lord is saying that it’s the nations that have taken the Lord’s anger at them (not Israel) and through their own helping they’ve brought the Lord’s anger to the place where it is now very great. And those nations achieved this through their arrogance and ease.
Any way you take it, the Lord is jealous for his people but angry with their enemies.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Verse 16
And because of that – because of the Lord’s jealousy for his people and anger at their enemies, the Lord now promises to once more have compassion on his people in verse 16.
16 Therefore thus saith the LORD;
I [am returned/will return/have become compassionate] [to/toward] Jerusalem with [mercies/compassion]:
my house [shall/will] be [built/rebuilt] in it,
[saith/declares] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty],
and a [line/measuring line/a surveyor’s measuring line] shall be stretched [forth upon/over/out over] Jerusalem.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: I am returned
So, the Lord has returned. It’s a sure reality in his mind. He’s done it and the effects of that return will continue into the future.
And we remember that this is exactly what the Lord promised his people back in the introduction to this book in verse 3. There he commanded them to turn – which is the same word as “returned” here in verse 16. And if the people turned to him, then the Lord promised that he would return to them.
And then we saw in verse 6 that the people did indeed return to the Lord. So, the questions would follow – when is he going to keep his end of the bargain? Answer – right here! “I am returned.”
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: to Jerusalem
And he returns to this place that has been the object of abuse from the nations and chastening from the Lord – Jerusalem.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: with mercies
And he’s not returning with more chastening. No – he’s returning with mercies – with compassion – with sympathy. He feels his people’s pain and he’s coming to do something to relieve that pain.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: my house shall be built in it
In particular, he’s going to see to it that his house is rebuilt in Jerusalem. Now, recall that the people had been idle and so that even though they were called to return to Jerusalem and build the temple of the Lord, they had quit for a while.
But God’s returning to them in mercy was going to ensure that his temple would be rebuilt.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem
In addition – and certainly related to building the Lord’s house – the Lord promises that part of his compassion and mercy toward Jerusalem would be that a line would be stretched out over it.
Now, there are numerous instances in the Bible in which God speaks of putting a line over a city in terms of judging and destroying that city. He would make sure that that city was leveled to the ground.
And yet, that’s not the case here. This line is a measuring line that would be used to build buildings – to start new construction. In other words, God’s compassion to Jerusalem would include new buildings – both the house of the Lord and the houses of his people in that city.
And by the way, this all started happening in Zechariah’s time. These promises came true. The Lord was found faithful in what he was promising his people through Zechariah.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Verse 17
And the Lord finishes this first vision with additional assurance that the ruined heaps that laid all around Zechariah and his people – that these would be turned into something glorious – verse 17.
17 [Cry yet, saying/Again, proclaim, saying/Speak up again/Proclaim further],
Thus saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];
My cities [through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad/will again overflow with prosperity];
and the LORD [shall yet/will again/will once more] comfort Zion,
and [shall yet/again/validate his] [choose/choice of] Jerusalem.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: yet
First of all, notice how many times the word “yet” is used in this verse. Four times. The Lord wants to be sure that Zechariah knew how certain these things were to be the case once more or again.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: spread abroad
And it’s interesting that the Lord uses this word “spread abroad” in a positive context here. Because in just about every situation in which this word is used in the Old Testament, the context is scattering the Jews or sometimes other people groups among the nations as a judgement and punishment for them.
It’s actually so unusual for this word to be used in a positive context that one source I checked believes that this is a homonym – when a word looks just like another word but each has a different and distinct meaning. That’s possible.
But also possible is that the Lord wanted to grab the attention of the original audience of this first vision. These people would have been familiar with being a nation that was scattered abroad. But now – they’ll be scattered abroad alright – but this scattering was going to come from the sheer prosperity that God was going to give them.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: prosperity
And that word translated as “prosperity” is simply the word “good.” God was going to scatter their cities with good. So then, the good was going to be scattered throughout their cities – rather than they themselves being scattered throughout the nations.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: comfort Zion
And this is a comfort to Zion. It’s interesting that the Lord repeats two words here that we found back in verse 13. The Lord spoke to the angel there with words that were “good” and “comfortable.” And here at the end of this vision we have the Lord scattering “good” throughout and “comforting” his cities and people.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: choose Jerusalem
And all of this – the gracious way in which the Lord is planning to treat his cities and his people – will verify the fact that he has indeed chosen Jerusalem.
This actually isn’t the only place in this book in which the Lord claims this. Zechariah 2:12 makes this promise – “the LORD shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again.” And in Zechariah 3:2 we hear this – “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
And so, the Lord here in Zechariah 1 says that he will verify that he has indeed chosen Jerusalem. And we remember that he said that he will do this “again” – which makes us wonder, “Has the Lord chosen Jerusalem before? Has he asserted his choice of Jerusalem prior to this time?”
And the answer is “yes!”
In the books of Kings and Chronicles, we find these statements:
- “for Jerusalem’s sake which I have chosen.”
- “for Jerusalem’s sake, the city which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel”
- “Jerusalem, the city which I have chosen me to put my name there.”
- “Jerusalem, the city which the LORD did choose out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there.”
- “Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:”
- “Jerusalem which I have chosen, and the house of which I said, My name shall be there.”
- “I have chosen Jerusalem, that my name might be there; and have chosen David to be over my people Israel.”
- “Jerusalem, the city which the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put his name there.”
- “Jerusalem, which I have chosen before all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name for ever:”
You get the idea. God had chosen Jerusalem to be a very special place for himself. And he made that choice with eternity in mind. Even into the New Heavens and New Earth – there’s going to be a city. And you know what that city is called. It’s Jerusalem – a new one. But Jerusalem, nevertheless.
Zechariah 1 Bible Study: Conclusion
So, this ends Zechariah’s first vision. The message is clear. God was going to again show compassion for Jerusalem and his people. After 70 years of oppression, they would “yet” be shown “good” and “mercy” by their Lord.
And so, Lord-willing we’ll see in the next vision more of what the Lord planned to do to the nations that put Jerusalem in such a bad position.