Zechariah 1 Commentary (Verses 7-12)

Let’s turn our attention to the first chapter of the Old Testament book of Zechariah. Zechariah 1. We’re going to be studying verses 7-12 today.

This first vision that Zechariah receives from the Lord spans from verses 7-17, but we’ll only be covering the first six verses of this vision today.

So, let’s read this vision in its entirety to begin with. [Read Zec 1:7-17.]

Verse 7

Alright, so let’s then get into the details of this first vision of the prophet. Verse 7

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],

Sebat

So, let’s talk about the date first.

The reference to the 11th month being called S[h]ebat is Babylonian in nature. This was not the original name of the 11th month in Hebrew.

And then “The twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month…in Darius’ second year was February 15, 519 b.c.” [NET Notes]

Remember… 1:1 “The eighth month of Darius’ second year was late October – late November, 520 b.c., by the modern (Julian) calendar. This is two months later than the date of Haggai’s first message to the same community.”

Word of the Lord

This is the second of 13 times that “the word of the LORD” is mentioned in this book. The first time was back in verse 1 to open the book with that call to the Jews to turn to the Lord. They then indeed did turn back to the Lord and the Lord kept his promise and is now turning back to them. Evidence of that fact will be readily apparent in this first vision to Zechariah.

And we need to realize that this is the last time we get this kind of introduction – with the dates and all – until chapter 7, verse 1. So, now as we hear of and study all of these visions that Zechariah receives, we’re in the same timeframe. All of these individual visions come on this day that we’ve mentioned – February 15th, 519 B.C. And as crazy as it sounds, this coming February 15th will mark 2,538 years since this time in Bible history.

Verse 8

So, here’s what Zechariah reports as he begins to relate this first vision.

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.

By Night

So, let’s first realize at what time of day Zechariah sees what’s put before him. This vision is given to him “by night.” What he sees, he sees in a night time setting.

And if what Zechariah sees happens at night, you might think that he wouldn’t be able to see details – or, really, much at all. And yet, he’s able to give some pretty detailed descriptions of what he’s seeing.

And whether Zechariah is receiving this message in a dream or in a vision, whatever medium that God is conveying this message to him allows for him to be aware both of the darkness that surrounds the subject matter of the vision as well as the details that God wants the prophet to be aware of.

It’s sort of like a dream that we might have – only of course ours aren’t divine – but we might be aware in a dream that what we see is transpiring in the night. And yet we’re totally aware of intricate details that in reality we would not at all be able to see. So, that’s sort of how it’s like for Zechariah.

OK so, let’s look at some of the details that the prophet saw.

Behold… A Man!

Zechariah all of a sudden becomes aware of the presence of this man. That’s why he says “behold!” – like “whoa – look at this!

So, he’s looking at a man. That’s all he knows that this being is for now. More will become clear as the vision progresses. But for now, this is simply a man. He looks like a man.

Riding Upon a Horse

And he’s riding a horse. He’s seated on a horse. And the horse that this man is seated on is red.

Red

Do you wonder what kind of red we’re talking about? Because according to one source on the internet, there are at least 445 named red colors (http://drawingblog.mycoloringland.com/red-shades/)

So, was this horse red or carmine or scarlet or vermilion or crimson or…?

Well, here’s some cross-reference information we have from other parts of Scripture.

This word “red” occurs regarding Esau at his birth – he came out red and all hairy. In fact, the Hebrew word is “adom” which sounds a lot like Edom, which is intentional.

This color is the color of the stew that Jacob made – which Esau wanted “a swallow of” because he was so hungry.

It’s the color of the die that was supposed to be applied to the rams’ skins that were draped over the Tabernacle.

This is the color of the heifer that was to be sacrificed and whose blood would be used to purify the Tabernacle.

This color is the color of blood.

It’s also the color of the wrong kind of wine that will lead to your drunkenness and foolishness.

This is also the color of Israel’s sin, which God wanted to make as white as snow.

This will be the color of God’s clothing when he comes from Edom – having slaughtered many people – looking as if his garments have been stained by grapes.

This color is used in combination with the color scarlet.

So – back to the color of this horse in this passage. Think of the color of red hair. Think of the color of blood. Think of the color or red wine. This is some sort of deep darker red that this horse is characterized by.

OK, so this man is sitting on a deep red-colored horse.

Month the Myrtle Trees

And he’s “among the myrtle trees.”

We get the name Haddasah or “Esther” from this word. These trees apparently are native to Palestine and the surrounding areas. They’re evergreens and they have a sweet fragrance, according to people who are in-the-know regarding middle eastern trees.

This is one of several trees whose branches the returned exiles used to make temporary booths in order to celebrate the Feast of Tabernacles.

The tree apparently grew well near water sources – like most trees do – because God promises in Isaiah to fill the desert with this kind of tree in the future. And whereas the myrtle can’t survive in deserts currently, God is going to do something amazing in the future that will allow for these myrtles to grow there.

And these trees are pleasant to mankind. They’re contrasted with the nettle – a bush that grows thorns. Not so with the myrtle – no thorns on this tree.

In the Bottom

And these trees are said to be “in the bottom.”

That term occurs 12 times in the Old Testament and most of the time it’s speaking of the seas or oceans – deep water.

But there’s at least one place where it’s simply speaking of a very low place. The Psalmist in Psalm 69:2 says, “I sink in deep mire, where there is no standing.” So, you get this idea of being in a low place.

And for the Psalmist of Psalm 69, that lowness was felt in his heart – he was experiencing depression and felt that he couldn’t sink any lower.

But for Zechariah, he’s experiencing this lowness in terms of the terrain. He is seeing this man on the dark red horse among the myrtle trees in a geographically low place.

Some have suggested that this is the Kidron Valley to the east of Jerusalem – between that city and the Mount of Olives. That very well might be.

Behind Him

And from there we discover that this man on the dark red horse is not alone in this valley area. Because “behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.”

Physically behind him – from the prophet’s viewpoint – there are horses of different colors. It’s hard to say how many of each horse there was. It could be that there are four horses total including the one the man is riding. Or it could be that there are several of each color.

Also a little uncertain is whether these other horses have riders or not at this point. But that fact is cleared up later in the vision where we discover that indeed these horses do have riders.

So, we have these three colors mentioned concerning these horses – red, speckled, and white.

Red

The red is the same word as was used for the horse mounted by the original man we’ve heard about.

Speckled

The speckled color is interesting. There’s no other instance of this word being used in the Old Testament. Other translations have it as “sorrel” which is a reddish-brown or just plain “brown.” But without this word being used anywhere else, it’s hard to know what exactly this color is.

White

Then last there’s white.

This is the color of some of the sheep owned by Laban which Jacob took. In fact, the word for “white” in Hebrew uses the same three letters that make up the name Laban.

White is the color of teeth and milk.

This is also the color of the Manna that fell in the wilderness and the color of hair and the color of skin when those things are infected with leprosy and the color of the Psalmist David when he is washed by the Lord.

It’s the ideal color of clothing according to Qohelet in the book of Ecclesiastes.

God offers to turn the red sins of Israel into this color metaphorically in Isaiah.

This is also the color that you see on a tree branch when the bark is peeled back.

You get the idea. White is white!

Significance?

OK, so we have dark red horses, horses that are of this other kind of color that’s kind of hard to determine – maybe brown, and then white horses.

So, are you wondering if those colors have any significance?

Or maybe you wonder more broadly about what these horses – not just their colors – signify.

Verse 9

If so, you’re in good company. Because that’s just what’s on the mind of Zechariah who was the first one to receive this vision, which prompts the following exchange in verse 9.

9 Then [said I/I asked] [i.e., someone nearby…],

[“][O my lord/Sir], what are these?[”]

What are These?

Now, note that he’s not asking who these are – like “hey, is that Bill and Fred over there?” He’s wanting to know what the message is that these horses and their riders are meant to convey to him. He knows this isn’t a divine horse show – he knows that God is communicating some sort of message through these gathered horses.

My Lord

Now, to whom is Zechariah speaking? Have we been introduced to anyone else beside the prophet and the horses and the man riding that one dark red horse so far?

You wouldn’t know it, but Zechariah just hinted that there’s another person in his presence when he addressed his question to “My lord” or “Sir.”

Who is this “Lord” or “Sir” that Zechariah is addressing seemingly out of nowhere? He’s an angel.

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].

The Angel that Talked with Me

By the way, this angel who is referenced simply as “the angel that talked with me” is mentioned by that exact name 11 times in Zechariah 1-6. He basically guides the prophet – along with his confused readers – through these visions. And he finds a counterpart in the book of Revelation as well where John the Apostle a few times addresses an interpreting angel like Zechariah has in this book.

I Will Shew Thee

Well, this angel takes it upon himself to lead Zechariah through this vision and help him and us understand it. In Hebrew, the subject of the verb is implied here when he says “I will shew thee.” But he adds the subject in Hebrew just to be very clear – “I myself will shew thee.”

In a similar way, God told Abraham that he would show him the land of Canaan, in the psalms he promises to show his salvation to those who obey and love him, and in Micah he promised to show Israel miracles.

And now this same God has sent an interpreting angel to explain to Zechariah what these horses signify in his vision.

Verse 10

And yet, interestingly enough, it’s not the interpreting angel that follows-up that promise to show Zechariah what these are with an explanation. Rather, the man on the dark red horse speaks up in verse 10.

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.

Walk To and Fro

Now, these horses that are behind this man among the myrtle trees are said to “walk to and fro” in their realm, which is the earth.

Interestingly enough, in the book of Job, there’s a being that confesses twice that this was his activity – walking to and fro. And that being of course is Satan. He tells God that this was the activity that he’s constantly engaged in.

And because of what we come to know of these horses later on in this vision and because of Satan’s tactics described elsewhere as seeking those to devour like a roaring lion would – other translations translate this activity as something like “patrolling” – with the idea of perhaps performing reconnaissance on the Lord’s behalf.

These horses then are going throughout the earth and patrolling it and investigating its condition – investigation the condition of mankind and the nations in the time of Zechariah.

Verse 11

And what did they discover?

11 [And they/So they/The riders/And they] [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].

Sitteth Still and is at Rest

Literally, the whole world “sits and is quiet.” As opposed to standing and being troubled – at the time when Zechariah prophesies here the entire world as a whole is at peace.

Now, some think that this could be a vision of the future when Jesus reigns on earth and all is at peace. But I think this is better taken as describing the condition of the world in the days of Zechariah.

And this interpretation seems to fall in line with what we know of the second year of Darius’ reign according to those who specialize in the history of this time period. By his second year, Darius had put down several rebellions – including one led by a man who was pretending to be his brother, as strange as that seems. So, Persia had put down Babylon and all other potential rivals to their world domination.

So, there was peace on earth! And that sounds really nice to us. Especially as we approach the Christmas season we’re used to being reminded of Christ’s coming assuring the eventual ushering-in of peace on earth.

And in our present time we’re all acquainted with war being a constant reality throughout the world. We yearn for peace – I do, at least.

Verse 12

But this vision presents a different view of the world peace of Zechariah’s day. In a word, God is not happy about it.

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, what’s the reaction of this angel of the Lord to the news of world peace? I don’t know that you would say that the angel is necessarily wanting the world to be at war. And yet, he’s looking at the contrast between what’s happening in the world – peace and calm – and what’s happening in his land – Israel. And of course, what’s happening is that his temple still is not complete and his people are poor and needy and oppressed. Yes, the Persians were allowing the Jews to return to their land. And yet, most of Jerusalem and almost all of the surrounding areas lay desolate!

How Long?

And this prompts the angel of the Lord to ask “how long?!” That phrase appears in the Old Testament 29 times.

And a few of those times it’s a literal question demanding a literal response. As if you tell a friend that you’re going on vacation soon and they respond with the question, “Oh, for how long?” “Just a week” is your reply.

But most of the time when we see the question “how long?!” it’s a rhetorical question. And the implication is that there’s been more than enough time that has already passed and now there needs to be a change. There needs to be action!

And that’s what this angel is submissively demanding of the Lord of hosts – How long?! Time is up! Things need to change here! They need to change right now! There’s no reason for any more delay!

Mercy…Indignation

Well, what’s the situation that the angel of the Lord says needs to change?

That would be God’s lack of mercy or compassion and his active indignation against Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.

How Long Wilt Thou Not Have Mercy

The Prophet Jeremiah spoke before the Babylonian exile on God’s behalf of the lack of mercy that the Lord would have to show toward his people. He warned the Jews before their exile to Babylon that he would not have mercy on them. In fact, he was going to send Babylon against them who would have no mercy on them. God was going to smash them into each other and have no compassion on them.

Jeremiah 21:7 And afterward, saith the LORD, I will deliver Zedekiah king of Judah, and his servants, and the people, and such as are left in this city from the pestilence, from the sword, and from the famine, into the hand of Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon, and into the hand of their enemies, and into the hand of those that seek their life: and he shall smite them with the edge of the sword; he shall not spare them, neither have pity, nor have mercy.

But then in the same book – the book of Jeremiah, the Lord also prophesied of returning to them in mercy and compassion.

Jeremiah 12:15 And it shall come to pass, after that I have plucked them out [i.e., the exile] I will return, and have compassion on them, and will bring them again, every man to his heritage, and every man to his land.

Jeremiah 30:18 Thus saith the LORD; Behold, I will bring again the captivity of Jacob’s tents, and have mercy on his dwellingplaces; and the city shall be builded upon her own heap, and the palace shall remain after the manner thereof.

Jeremiah 33:25-26 Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.

And this turning of the Lord in mercy to his exiled people was spoken many centuries earlier in Deuteronomy 30:1-3. Let me read that.

KJV Deuteronomy 30:1 ¶ And it shall come to pass, when all these things are come upon thee, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before thee, and thou shalt call them to mind among all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath driven thee, 2 And shalt return unto the LORD thy God, and shalt obey his voice according to all that I command thee this day, thou and thy children, with all thine heart, and with all thy soul; 3 That then the LORD thy God will turn thy captivity, and have compassion upon thee, and will return and gather thee from all the nations, whither the LORD thy God hath scattered thee.

So, these Jews of Zechariah’s day had indeed been scattered among the nations for their disobedience. But now they’re returning to the land. And they’re expecting this long-promised mercy and compassion. And amazingly, the Angel of the Lord himself is earnestly pleading for this compassion and mercy upon his people, the Jews.

Against Which Thou Hast Had Indignation

But for so long, the Jews’ capital city, Jerusalem, and the surrounding cities had been experiencing something quite different from compassion and mercy. They had been experiencing God’s indignation.

In light of the destruction of Jerusalem, Jeremiah said in Lamentations 2:6 “And he hath violently taken away his tabernacle, as if it were of a garden: he hath destroyed his places of the assembly: the LORD hath caused the solemn feasts and sabbaths to be forgotten in Zion, and hath despised in the indignation of his anger the king and the priest.”

70 Years

And the Angel of the Lord in Zechariah says that this kind of behavior – this lack of mercy and abundance of indignation – those had been happening in Jerusalem for how long? 70 years.

Now, there’s a period of 70 years that’s first mentioned in Jeremiah 25:11-14 and also 29:10

KJV Jeremiah 25:11 And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. 12 And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. 13 And I will bring upon that land all my words which I have pronounced against it, even all that is written in this book, which Jeremiah hath prophesied against all the nations. 14 For many nations and great kings shall serve themselves of them also: and I will recompense them according to their deeds, and according to the works of their own hands.

KJV Jeremiah 29:10 ¶ For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.

So, in Jeremiah, the 70 years seems to be a limit upon the nation of Babylon. Babylon gets 70 years to rule the world. And then after that point, God would punish Babylon and eventually bring Judah back to her land.

Now, when does the 70 years begin? Well, if we count that period of time beginning in 605 BC when Babylon conquered Egypt at the battle of Carchemish, then that 70 year period would have ended about 535 BC.

Well, then we have Daniel the prophet seeing that promise in the book of Jeremiah. Daniel 9:1-3.

KJV Daniel 9:1 ¶ In the first year of Darius the son of Ahasuerus, of the seed of the Medes, which was made king over the realm of the Chaldeans; 2 In the first year of his reign I Daniel understood by books the number of the years, whereof the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah the prophet, that he would accomplish seventy years in the desolations of Jerusalem. 3 ¶ And I set my face unto the Lord God, to seek by prayer and supplications, with fasting, and sackcloth, and ashes:

So, this happens in about 522 BC. That’s 13 years after the 70 years of Babylon had ended. And Daniel is a literalist. He takes the Bible at face-value and interprets it in a normal and literal way. And he sees that even though 70 years have passed – nay – even 83 years have passed –Jerusalem still lies in ruins.

And that’s pretty much what the Angel of the Lord is also doing in Zechariah here. He pleads with the Lord asking how long will he not have compassion on Jerusalem which he’s been indignant against the past 70 years! That’s not saying that this has been happening 70 years and no longer. I think what he’s saying is that it’s been 70 years – and longer even! And still the Lord is seeming to be angry with his people and his cities.

Isn’t it good to know that even in the midst of discipline from the Lord, that he’s still concerned for his people? Even when you feel like he’s totally forgotten you, he really hasn’t. He never will. God can both be indignant and concerned. And thankfully we have a God who is both just and merciful and he will keep his promises. He did to the Jews. He will for us, as well.

And the way that this vision proceeds we’re going to see God comfort this angel of the Lord and give a very encouraging word to the Jews.

But first – next time I think we’d do well to focus-in on whom this angel of the Lord really is. Surprisingly, the Bible has a lot to say about him and I think it’ll be an encouragement for us. So, that’ll be our topic of study next time.

What Is Zechariah 1 About? Verses 1-6

What is Zechariah 1 About? Let’s turn our attention to Zechariah, chapter 1. We’ll be studying the first six verses in this chapter.

So, as we overviewed the entire book last time, we saw that there is a lot of hope and encouragement that Zechariah is giving the people of his day – the Jews who had returned from the exile in Babylon.

And so it’s kind of unexpected to receive this first message from the Lord in which he warns these people to not sin like their ancestors. And yet, in order to get to the encouragement, God needs to address the previous sins and get some assurance from these Jews that they do not intend to repeat the sins of those who have gone before them.

And I think that we’ll see at the end of this section that the people commit themselves to the Lord anew, which then allows God to move on to the rest of the encouragements in this book in subsequent messages.

We’ll read these six verses all together and then we’ll study each verse in detail…

What is Zechariah 1 About? Verse 1

So, let’s consider that first verse.

KJV Zechariah 1:1 ¶ In the eighth month, [in/of] the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet [Zec. Is the prophet, not Iddo…], [saying/as follows],

What is Zechariah 1 About? “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius”

Now, Darius was of course a king of Persia who ruled after king Cyrus. Cyrus was the one who is quoted in the Bible as allowing the Jews to return to their land and build a temple. Darius after him then ruled Persia from 522-486 BC. And that places this first prophecy of Zechariah’s at 520 BC. We’re not given a day, but the month mentioned would indicate a time of somewhere around October, November, or December.

Now, as I mentioned Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to their land. However, in Ezra 4:5 we’re told that the people of the land – the non-Jews who were already there at the time – they discouraged the Jews from building their temple. It says that that discouragement lasted, “all the days of Cyrus king of Persia, even until the reign of Darius king of Persia.”

So, the temple building began under Cyrus but really faltered until Darius took the throne. And now in his second year in 520 BC God is taking some action to make sure that his people start doing what he sent them there to do.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “came the word of the LORD”

And what kind of action is God taking? Well, he’s sending his word.

That phrase we just read, “came the word of the Lord” occurs 222 times in the Old Testament. The first time it occurs in Scripture is in Genesis 15 regarding Abraham after he had defeated the kings to recover his nephew Lot and right before God made a covenant with him. But the majority of the uses of this phrase occurs in the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel – one, a prophet to Judah before the exile and the other, a prophet during the exile.

And now Zechariah comes on the scene and he uses this same exact phrase that had been in use for so many centuries. He utters this phrase 9 times – all in chapters 1-8. The Lord’s word is coming to him just like it did to Abraham so many centuries before and just like it came to the prophets of old – before and during the exile.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet”

And as we know, the Lord’s word came to this man named Zechariah, after whom this book is named.

He’s identified as the son of Berechiah – who is himself the son of a man named Iddo.

Now, there are several Zechariahs mentioned in Scripture:

  • There was a Zechariah who was a king of Northern Israel and Jeroboam’s son.
  • Zechariah was the name of the grandfather of the Judean king Hezekiah.
  • There was a Levitical gatekeeper by this same name.
  • There was a Zechariah in the family of king Saul of Israel.
  • There was a harpist by this name who rejoiced at the coming of the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem.
  • Zechariah was the name of someone sent by king Jehoshaphat to teach people God’s word.
  • In the times of king Joash, there was a prophet by this name who proclaimed to the people the evils of their apostasy. This Zechariah is likely the one that Jesus mentions in the New Testament as having been killed between the altar and the temple.
  • There was also a Zechariah who returned with Ezra the priest.
  • There was a Zechariah who pledged to put away his foreign wife under the ministry of Ezra.
  • And there are several others actually – both in the Old and New Testaments!

So, while there are many references to Zechariah in the Scripture, there’s of course only one post-exilic prophet Zechariah whose writings have been preserved for us.

This Zechariah – as we mentioned – is said to be the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.

By the way, it’s Zechariah who is the prophet – not Iddo. Sometimes that’s difficult to understand by a simple reading of the KJV. Zechariah is the prophet, whatever else Iddo may have happened to be.

Now, there’s a reference in Nehemiah 12:16 to a Zechariah who is the head of the household of Iddo. And these two men were priests. So, if this is the Zechariah who is mentioned in this book, then Zechariah is both a priest and a prophet.

Now, in Ezra, this Zechariah the prophet is mentioned twice. And in both cases he’s said to be the son of Iddo – with no mention of Berechiah. We can surmise any number of reasons as to why that is. But it isn’t unusual for grandsons to be referred to as “sons” of their grandfathers in the Old Testament.

Anyway, that’s the man – the prophet whose prophesies we’ll be studying.

What is Zechariah 1 About? Verse 2

So, now that we’re done with the introduction to this section, let’s get into the first message that God has for this prophet to proclaim to his fellow countrymen. And it’s a message of past judgement.

2 The LORD [hath been sore displeased/was very angry] with your [fathers/ancestors/forefathers].

Now, we’ve noted that this book is one that is filled with encouragement. But that’s not what we find in verse 2.

The message in verse 2 reminds the people of God’s great anger against their ancestors. Literally, in the Hebrew the verse starts with the verb form of “to be angry” and ends with the corresponding noun form. So, mechanically the word order goes like this: “ANGRY was Yahweh against your fathers ANGER.”

And I suppose that someone who is new to the Bible – and especially the Old Testament – might wonder why God was so angry. And the Lord will explain that in just a little while.

But certainly, the cause of God’s anger – and the reality of the results that God’s anger produced in the lives of their ancestors would have been obvious to the Jews of Zechariah’s time. They had – after all – just returned from exile in Babylon. And the main force behind that even happening was God’s very real and just anger.

What is Zechariah 1 About? Verse 3

But that’s not how things need to be for these people that Zechariah is now addressing – for the ancestors of those former Jews upon whom God’s anger was poured out. No – God wants to give these new Jews another chance.

3 Therefore say thou unto [them/the people],

Thus [saith/says] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];

[Turn ye/Return/Turn] [unto/to] me, [saith/declares] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty],
[and/that] I [will/may] [turn/return] [unto/to] you, saith the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty].

What is Zechariah 1 About? “saith the LORD of hosts”

Now, notice the authority that comes with this message of hope in verse 3. Did you catch how many times we’re told that this message comes directly from the Lord? He states that truth emphatically three times. That assurance – that this message is exactly what the Lord wants them to hear – it makes up the majority of the words in this verse.

And really, it starts sounding rather redundant in English. And even though in Hebrew there are two different words the Lord uses to say the word, “says” … yet, the redundancy would have been noticeable even to the original Hebrew audience. My point is that the unusual repetition here is not just an abnormality that’s created by translation from one language into another.

No – the Lord wants to make sure that these people know who is speaking this command. It’s the Lord – the God of the Hebrews – the God whose temple they’re supposed to be building – the God who cared enough about their ancestors to be angry with them and deal with their sin. This is their God speaking.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “Therefore say thou unto them”

And he’s speaking to “them.” Zechariah is commanded to give this message to “them.”

Who’s that? The fathers that God has been angry with?

No – it’s the people who were contemporaries of Zechariah.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “Turn ye unto me and I will turn unto you”

And the message is super simple. Really, when you cut out all the supporting words like “thus saith the Lord of hosts” the message is four words in Hebrew. Ten words in the KJV. It’s simple!

This is it. Return to me. And I return to you.

The Jews had departed. They had gone astray. And I think it’s important to note what they departed and went astray from.

Because God isn’t accusing them of leaving a creed. He wasn’t charging them with turning from a religious system. Those things might be in view. But the main object which they left wasn’t a thing. It was a person. It was the Lord. Their God.

And therefore, it’s not some creed or system or regimen that the Lord is commanding that these people return to – but rather they must return to him. The idea of the religion of the Bible really boiling down to a relationship with God is not unique to the New Testament. It’s right here even in the Old Testament.

And so, that’s the message for all of us as well. This is what God wants us to do as often as we find ourselves straying from him. We need to return… to him! When you are distant from God, the ultimate answer isn’t engagement in church programs or any other sort of external religious exercise. Those things are fine and good in their place. But they’re ineffective in facilitating your return to a person – to the God who loves you.

Picture how ineffective this is in human relations. If you have personally offended a fellow human in a very grievous way, will showing up to his house to shovel his driveway or wash his car – will that just immediately and magically mend all of your issues with that person? No, you need to actually talk to that person and restore the relationship before you do anything for him.

And that’s what God prescribes for his people the Jews. Return – not to stuff and actions – but to a person – to me.

And so, as we’ve noted now many times, the commanded action is that the Jews turn. This action indicates a rejection of their own ways and an embracing of the one true God and his desires and his work in the earth.

And that second line that promises that the Lord will turn and fully embrace these people is related to the first line (that the people would turn to God) in the sense that it’s a promise. If the people turn to God he promises to turn to them. There’s no possibility that they will turn to him just to have their embracing him met with coldness by the Lord toward his people. It’s a promise – “if you turn, I will turn as well.”

And the attendant idea is that God is very willing to do this. No one is twisting his arm. He’s ready and willing and waiting to be reconciled to his people.

What is Zechariah 1 About? Verse 4

Well, the Lord had made similar statements to the ancestors of these people with little result. And therefore, the Lord reminds them of this fact and warns these Jews not to act like their ancestors in this regard.

4 [Be ye not as/Do not be like] your [fathers/ancestors/forefathers],
[unto/to] whom the [former/earlier] prophets [have cried/proclaimed/called out], saying,

Thus [saith/says] the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty];

[Turn ye/Return] now from your evil [ways,
and from your evil doings/wickedness/ways and your evil practices]:

but they [did/would] not [hear/listen],
[nor/or] [hearken unto/give heed to/pay attention to] me, [i.e., they would by no means obey me…]

[saith/declares/says] the LORD.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “Turn ye now”

So, notice that the message that God sent to these people’s ancestors was basically the same as the message he is giving them now. The message to God’s covenant people, the Jews, had been the same for centuries. “Turn!” or “Return!” or “Come back!

What is Zechariah 1 About? “from your evil ways, and from your evil doings”

The pre-exilic Jews were on the wrong “path” – which is another way to translate the word “ways” in the KJV. That’s referring to a road or path that you would walk down. The problem with the metaphorical path that these people were on was that it was characterized by the moral quality of “evil.”

And unsurprisingly while these pre-exilic Jews were on this road of evilness, they were doing things that matched the morality of that road. The people were engaged in “evil doings.”

And yet, despite the wickedness that these people were involved in and how offensive this all was to the Lord, yet he held out to them the possibility of turning from those things and returning to him.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me”

But what was the response of the Jews before the exile to God’s gracious call to them? Well – they didn’t turn. They didn’t even hear or listen! They paid no attention whatsoever to God’s gracious call.

They acted as if there would never be any fallout from their disobedience to the Lord of hosts – the Lord of armies – who commands those armies of heaven.

What is Zechariah 1 About? Verse 5

But there was indeed fallout. And that’s what the Lord reminds the children and grandchildren of these disobedient pre-exilic Jews now through Zechariah.

5 [i.e., as for…] Your [fathers/ancestors/forefathers], where are they?
and the prophets, [do/did] they live for ever?

What is Zechariah 1 About? “Your fathers, where are they?”

Now, God is gracious here in the brevity of his statements in this verse.

God could have called to mind the horrors that the pre-exilic Jews faced as a result of their disobedience. Their land was invaded by terrifying armies. Their cities were destroyed. Their homes burned. Their temple burned to the ground. This once-free people had become slaves. This people who had been the object of God’s favor had become the objects of his wrath. They were mocked and taunted in captivity. They were placed in compromising humiliating situations. They were targeted for mass extermination – think of the story in Esther with Haman and his plot to murder all the Jews.

So, God could have mentioned all of that and much more to get this new generation of Jews to listen to his call to turn to him. But he doesn’t. Instead, the Lord just asks a simple question. “Where are your fathers? Your ancestors? Where are they?

And of course, to a thoughtful attentive Jew, they would have gone through in their minds all that I had mentioned. They didn’t need to be reminded of details. They knew very well what happened as a result of their ancestors’ disobedience.

And so, we see that God asks them what happened to their ancestors. Well, they suffered for their disobedience.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “and the prophets, do they live for ever?”

But what about the next group that the Lord mentions? The prophets. Why does the Lord mention them?

Well, in my mind, the key is to identify which prophets God is referring to.

Choice #1 is that these prophets that God references as not living forever is a subgroup of the larger group of prophets – these then are the false prophets. The Old Testament doesn’t seem to have a word or phrase like we do in English or in biblical Greek that designates a false prophet as opposed to a true prophet. A false prophet in the Old Testament is simply referred to as a prophet.

So, perhaps God is here referring to the false prophets – so many of whom were telling the pre-exilic Jews that they were safe. No reason to fear what those other prophets were warning regarding God being angry and wanting them to turn from their sins and back to God. No reason to fear an invasion by Babylon. And sometimes these false prophets would get really spiritual and argue this way – the Lord’s temple is in Jerusalem and therefore there is no way that he will let his temple be destroyed. I mean, it’s his temple!!!

But despite what these people claimed, God is now able to look back upon them and ask for rhetorical effect, where are those guys who said there’s no danger and that God isn’t angry?

So, that’s the first choice regarding who these prophets are that God mentions in verse 5.

The second choice is that these prophets that God is referring to are all the prophets, good and bad – but with a primary focus on the good ones. In this case, God is saying that yes, the pre-exilic disobedient Jews are gone. They were dealt with for their disobedience. And yet, it’s not just disobedience that causes the passing of a generation. Even the prophets – even the good ones – they pass on just like everyone else.

But why would God say that? Why would he mention that even the good prophets passed away?

What is Zechariah 1 About? Verse 6

It’s because in verse 6, God ends this first message through Zechariah by pointing to a great contrast. The rebels died and are gone. Even the prophets – good and bad – died and are gone. But on the other hand, you have God’s unchangeable, unshakeable words.

6 But my words and my [statutes/decrees], which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not [take hold of/overtake/outlive] your [fathers/ancestors/forefathers]?

[and/then] they [returned/repented/paid attention] and [said/confessed],

Like as the LORD [of hosts/who rules over all/Almighty] [thought to/purposed to/said he would/determined to] do unto us,

according to our ways,
and according to our [doings/deeds], [i.e., because of our sinful ways or what our ways and practices deserve]

[so hath/indeed] he dealt with us.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “my servants the prophets”

So, note first that the prophets are simply servants of the Lord. The word they give – the good ones, at least – is the Lord’s and not their own. They’re simply messengers of the sovereign Lord.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “did … my words … not take hold of your fathers?”

And so, God’s words – spoken through his prophets – took hold of the pre-exilic Jews. “Took hold of” is a term that evokes images of hunting. It’s as if God’s words of judgement had hunted the Jews until they caught them – as in, when they were exiled.

  • That word that’s translated as “take hold of” is also used of Laban when he caught up to and overtook Jacob when Jacob was fleeing his crooked father-in-law.
  • This is the word used of Joseph’s Egyptian henchmen and their pursuing and overtaking Joseph’s brothers as they left Egypt with money in their sacks that they were unaware of.
  • Or when Pharaoh sent his army out after the Jews who left Egypt in the Exodus.

We could go on and on as this word occurs 50 times in the Old Testament. But suffice it to say that God is using a very picturesque word – one that involves hunting and pursuing and catching.

OK, so God mentions that his word overtook the Jews of old. Well, what words is God speaking of as overtaking them? Does he have any subset of all of the things that God has ever said in particular in mind? I think we do.

There’s another very important context in which the word we have translated here as “take hold of” is used. And that’s at the end of Deuteronomy. That’s where God moves Moses to remind the people of the covenant that he made with them – which is encapsulated in the Ten Commandments. At the end of Deuteronomy there are three times in which this word is used. You can turn there or just listen to these verses as I read them.

KJV Deuteronomy 28:2 And all these blessings shall come on thee, and overtake thee, if thou shalt hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God.

OK, so there’s a promise to Israel. Obey the Lord and you will be amazingly blessed! In fact, it’s as if the blessing from God will pursue you like an eager and zealous army! That’s what Israel was promised by God for obedience to God’s words.

But then there has to be some repercussion if they disobey. And so, the Lord says just about the same thing again – but now he’s not talking about obedience and blessing. Rather, he’s going to address what happens when the people disobey a few verses later in Deuteronomy 28:15.

KJV Deuteronomy 28:15 ¶ But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee:

And it gets even worse, as the Lord uses this word one more time a few verses later in verse 45.

KJV Deuteronomy 28:45 Moreover all these curses shall come upon thee, and shall pursue thee, and overtake thee, till thou be destroyed; because thou hearkenedst not unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to keep his commandments and his statutes which he commanded thee:

And this is the special context that is in the Lord’s mind as he speaks through Zechariah. God had told the ancestors of the Jews of Zechariah’s day that obedience will result in unimaginable blessing! But disobedience will eventually result in curses that would be just as unimaginable.

And so it happened – disobedience to God’s words in the covenant he made with them finally resulted in exile for those people. And now, the Lord reminds the Jews that he kept his word.

What is Zechariah 1 About? “and they returned”

That much is clear. But it’s at that point where we are thrown a bit of a curve ball as we attempt to interpret the rest of verse 6.

I don’t know who you might think the “they” is referring to. There are two options.

Either “they” is referring to the Jews who went into exile. Or “they” refers to those post-exilic Jews who were listening to Zechariah.

And what makes it really difficult is that there is no final, “Thus says the Lord” to finish off the thought.

So, if “they” is referring to the Jews who went into exile, then the Lord is saying that those people acknowledged their sin in Babylon and they returned to the Lord in their hearts.

But, if “they” is referring to the Jews who were listening to Zechariah’s message then it’s saying that as they were listening to Zechariah’s reminder to them of their ancestors unfaithfulness, they themselves acknowledged that unfaithfulness – in addition to their own unfaithfulness in terms of refusing to rebuild the temple – and they repented and acknowledged that God is right and that they and their people have been wrong. And so, Zechariah is just reporting what happened as a result of his first prophesy to them.

Honestly, I think it’s something of a toss-up as to the identification of “they.” Most commentators seem to take it as the Jews of Zechariah’s day. And I personally like that interpretation.

That seems to go along with the generally very positive and hopeful tone of this whole book. It also allows God to move on from this opening oracle of past judgement to now him being able to work with a people who have actually repented and paid attention to his message. Plus, this goes along with what we hear about in Ezra and Nehemiah where the people do God’s will and finish building the temple under the leadership of Zechariah and Haggai and Joshua and Zerubbabel.

So, can you picture the difference then between what the former prophets and Zechariah faced when they proclaimed God’s word to his people? Jeremiah and all the others were ignored or persecuted or even killed. But Zechariah gives this super-simple message – “turn and I will turn, says the Lord” and all of a sudden the people do exactly what God says! They turn! They acknowledge God’s righteous judgments of times past. This is amazing!

But it shouldn’t be. This is after all the right thing to do. When God speaks, his people ought to listen and respond.

And so, these Jews who heard Zechariah’s message are an example for us. As we hear God’s word, is it our practice to ignore it? Is it our practice to flare up against it, even, and attack the one who’s giving us that word? Or is our response a humble and quick accepting of God’s demands?

That response is the only one that will receive God’s encouragement and hope. So, may the Lord help us to be like these Jews in hearing and promptly obeying God’s word.

A Summary of Zechariah

A Summary of Zechariah: So, for the last year and a few weeks, we’ve grown accustomed to turning our attention to the book of Job. But unfortunately we came to the end of that book and now we need to move on to something else.

And as I prayed, a few different possibilities were in my mind. Finally, it seemed that the Lord had placed a specific book in my mind as the next subject of our study.

But it’s a really hard book. It’s really rather cryptic. And for that reason I initially despaired of even trying to seek to explain this book in front of all of you. But the Lord is able to give us understanding and help with this, so we’ll press on.

A Summary of Zechariah: In Brief

The book I’m referring to has a number of very interesting accounts. Allow me to lead you on for a little while longer! This book has horses and myrtle trees. There are four horns and four craftsmen. This book has a man with a measuring line, and the High Priest Joshua standing before the Lord being accused by Satan. There’s a candelabra being fed with olive oil. And don’t forget the flying scroll and the woman in the ephah being sent to Shinar. Chariots, a crown of gold, questions about fasting, and oracles about the nations and about Israel all are featured in this book. And this book – which is in the Old Testament – features several exciting but veiled references to the coming Messiah.

And so, of course, the book that I’m referring to and which we’ll be studying for a little while is the Old Testament book of Zechariah. So, let’s turn there.

A Summary of Zechariah: The Lord Remembers

Now, the name Zechariah (zakar + yah) means “Yah Remembers” – the LORD remembers. Well, what does the Lord remember? We’re going to see in this book that the Lord is displayed as remembering his people, Israel. He hadn’t forgotten them.

A Summary of Zechariah: Exile

Why is that important? Well, because the Jews had been in exile. Look at Zechariah chapter 1, verses 1-2.

KJV Zechariah 1:1 ¶ In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,

2 The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.

Let’s skip verse 3 and read verses 4-6.

KJV Zechariah 1:4 Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying,

Thus saith the LORD of hosts;

Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings:

but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me,

saith the LORD.

5 Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?

6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers?

and they returned and said,

Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us,

according to our ways, and according to our doings,

so hath he dealt with us.

Now, this is pointing to the reality of the exile of Judah by Babylon. A long time prior to Zechariah’s ministry, God had been calling these people to repent. They refused. And so, God had to send them out of their land for 70 years.

Now, at this point as Zechariah is prophesying, God is speaking with the children and grandchildren of those exiles. And he does so – it says here – in the second year of Darius.

By the way, that’s one of three time-references in this entire book – in chapter 1, verse 1. The second time-reference that we’re given is in chapter 1, verse 7. And then the last time-reference we’re given is in chapter 7, verse 1.

And we’ll try to get into the details of the time frame discussed in this book as we deal with the individual chapters and verses throughout this study. But suffice it to say that a certain number of Jews had returned from Babylon at this point in history. And they were charged by King Cyrus of the Persians – and by the Lord himself – to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem.

But the people got discouraged.

Is there anyone in here like that? You have a task that you know that God wants you to perform but it’s hard and you’re ready to quit. That’s what was happening in Israel in Zechariah’s time.

And so, God sent this prophet, Zechariah – as well as the prophet Haggai – and their job was to encourage the people to continue the work that God had for them.

So, in the midst of this situation, God has the following message of encouragement for his covenant people, the Jews. That’s verse 3 of chapter 1 of Zechariah.

KJV Zechariah 1:3 Therefore say thou unto them,

Thus saith the LORD of hosts;

Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts,
and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.

So, draw near to God and he will draw near to you. That’s the message that the Lord gives Zechariah to start off this book of the recorded prophecies that were given to him. God is ready to receive his formerly disobedient people. He’s ready to restore and forgive. He’s giving them another chance. This is a hopeful book. The Lord indeed is remembering (zakar-ing!) his people.

And in God’s manifold wisdom, he doesn’t choose to convey this message of hope and encouragement in a straightforward manner. Instead, God gives visions to Zechariah, which the prophet then records for us to read now thousands of years after they were originally given.

So, in chapter 1 and verse 8 and running through to the end of Zechariah chapter 6, the prophet relates to us 9 visions. And all of them contain some message of hope for God’s previously forgotten – but now remembered people!

A Summary of Zechariah: First Vision

Look at chapter 1, verse 8…

KJV Zechariah 1:8 I saw by night,

and behold a man riding upon a red horse,

and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom;

and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white.

And that’s it. That’s literally what Zechariah sees. Now, this isn’t happening in the physical material realm. This is a vision. That’s very important to note.

We need to read the Bible literally. And part of that literal reading is taking the author seriously when he tells you that what he’s conveying to you he saw in a vision. Not in this material world – but rather something that God portrayed to the prophet.

So, the prophet isn’t saying that he woke up at night to peek out his window and then he saw myrtle trees and horses of several different colors. God is giving him this vision in a supernatural way. But he is literally seeing these things even if they are not literally, physically, materially there.

Now, sometimes, these visions can be confusing to us. And while that’s sort of embarrassing to us and humbling and maybe even a little frustrating, we’re actually in good company. Because Zechariah himself couldn’t understand what these things meant either. Verse 9…

KJV Zechariah 1:9 Then said I,

O my lord, what are these?

And the angel that talked with me said unto me,

I will shew thee what these be.

And of course the angel explains what Zechariah is seeing. These horses go throughout the earth and discover that all the nations are calm and peaceful at this point in history. And yet, Jerusalem and greater-Israel are in ruins. God’s place is desolate.

And so, the Lord speaks words of comfort. He expresses his anger toward the nations and then promises to rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem and repopulate Jerusalem.

And while certainly some of this was fulfilled in the years between the Old and New Testaments, its ultimate fulfillment will occur in the Millennium when Jesus the Jewish Messiah reigns in this great city of Jerusalem.

So, that’s Zechariah’s first encouraging vision. God is going to favor Israel once more.

A Summary of Zechariah: Second Vision

So, let’s move on to the second vision. Read chapter 1, verse 18.

KJV Zechariah 1:18 ¶ Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.

Now, mind you, this is still in Zechariah’s dream vision. We’re in his dream visions until the end of chapter 6.

And what Zechariah goes on to relate in this second vision is that the horns – probably looking to him like literal animal horns – that they represent the nations that have oppressed God’s people the Jews. And these nations are the ones that are now at ease, as the horsemen just attested to.

But there’s good news. God is going to send some craftsmen to shave down and cut off these horns so that they won’t scatter God’s people anymore.

Now, are God’s covenant people the Jews still scattered? They are. Are there still nations that are seeking to scatter them yet again? Yes. But there’s a day coming when that will no longer be the case.

And the Jews didn’t experience this deliverance in Zechariah’s time or in the time leading up to Jesus’s first advent. They’re not experiencing this today. So, can you guess when this will finally happen for them? Once more, in the Millennium when Jesus their Messiah King and ours is reigning in Jerusalem.

So, that’s the end of Zechariah’s second vision. God will deliver Israel from their enemies.

A Summary of Zechariah: Third Vision

So, let’s move on to Zechariah’s third vision.

Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line in his hand in chapter 2, verse 1. And that prompts him to make the following comment in verse 2.

KJV Zechariah 2:2 Then said I,

Whither goest thou?

And he said unto me,

To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.

Well, that’s still not so clear to us or to the prophet. And so, an angel comes and explains a bit more to Zechariah. Basically, the idea is that Jerusalem will once again be inhabited. And that God will protect her and actually dwell in her.

And because of that, God calls for his scattered people to come back to the land and to escape from the places to which they were previously scattered.

And then we get this awesome glimpse of the Lord sending… the Lord to deliver the Jews from the nations that are oppressing them and then to personally dwell in their midst.

And the result is that not only will the Jews be gathered to the Lord, but even many nations will be as well.

So, that’s Zechariah’s third vision. Jerusalem will be repopulated, dwelt in, and protected by Jesus – their Messiah and ours.

A Summary of Zechariah: Fourth Vision

Let’s briefly consider then his fourth vision.

Read chapter 3, verse 1.

KJV Zechariah 3:1 ¶ And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD,

and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

And so, with Joshua we have the representation of Israel’s religious system and leadership. The problem that will become apparent as you read through this vision is that Joshua is in filthy clothes. Israel’s religion had become defiled by gross idolatry and immorality and disobedience. That’s why God had to kick them out of the land.

But that’s not the emphasis of this vision. The emphasis is on restoration.

The Lord rebukes Satan – not listening to the accusations that he was hurling against the High Priest. And then Joshua is clothed with fine and clean garments, signifying that God has once again cleansed his people’s religious system and leaders.

And that’s just the beginning. God was going to do something much better in the future. Because it’s here in this vision that God prophesies that he is going to bring forth the man he identifies mysteriously as “The Branch.”

And we learn here and in the book of Jeremiah that this Branch is the Messiah – whom we now know to be Jesus of Nazareth. And this vision will end by speaking of the peace that this one will bring to Israel and the whole world.

So, that’s the fourth vision. A cleansed and restored religious system and leadership – ultimately, preparing the way for the ultimate High Priest – Jesus the Messiah.

A Summary of Zechariah: Fifth Vision

Time for Zechariah’s fifth vision.

And we find that in chapter 4. Let’s read verses 1-3.

KJV Zechariah 4:1 ¶ And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,

2 And said unto me,

What seest thou?

And I said,

I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:

3 And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.

And so, that’s what he sees. So… what does that mean?! That’s what we all wonder.

And again, thankfully Zechariah is just as in-the-dark as we are! And so, he asks the angel about what this means.

And the Lord then gives a message to Zerubbabel that’s based on this vision. Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah at this time. And God wants him to know that God will use him to rebuild the temple – not by might nor by power – but by God’s spirit. Just like the oil in the vision constantly was being supplied to the candle contraption – so too God’s spirit would continually provide the needed grace and strength for Judah’s governor to finish the work on the temple.

And toward the end of this vision, Zechariah asks about those two olive trees and olive branches that provide the oil. And God says that these are the two anointed that stand before him. And so, I honestly don’t at this point feel prepared to give the interpretation of that. One source says that these represent Joshua and Zerubbabel. I’m just not quite sure yet. And that’s why we’ll be going through each of these chapters in some detail in the coming weeks.

But, the big idea is that not only has Israel’s religious system been set right – Israel’s governing system has been fixed. Both their High Priest and now their Governor are both receiving God’s help and grace and acceptance. That’s the big idea behind this fifth vision.

A Summary of Zechariah: Sixth Vision

So, let’s move on to the sixth vision.

Now, the sixth and seventh visions as I count them seem to be related in that they picture something flying in the air.

So, let’s become acquainted with the sixth vision in chapter 5, verse 1.

KJV Zechariah 5:1 ¶ Then I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll.

Or a scroll that was flying. And we’ll see that this scroll is a full 30 feet long and 15 feet wide!

And we’re going to see the activity of this scroll. It destroys sinners – people who are transgressing against God’s law.

And that seems to be perhaps not be so encouraging. And yet, we need to recall that much of the suffering and misery in this life is caused by people sinning against others. In fact, this was a large part of the reason that all Israel needed to be exiled – they couldn’t stop sinning against and abusing one another. And God was gracious with them for a long time. And that actually encouraged them to keep on sinning in more extreme ways.

But God is picturing a time when it’s as if his law flies through the air and into homes and deals immediately with sin. This will be a good thing.

And I think this is picturing a time when Jesus the Messiah reigns on earth and sin is dealt with promptly and appropriately.

A Summary of Zechariah: Seventh Vision

So, let’s get to the seventh vision.

It begins in chapter 5, verse 5 with an ephah – a large container – going out of the land of Israel.

But what’s really interesting in this vision is the content of that container. Look at verse 7.

KJV Zechariah 5:7 And, behold, there was lifted up a talent of lead:

and this [is/!] a woman that sitteth in the midst of the ephah.

So, the heavy lead lid of this ephah is lifted and we’re confronted with a woman sitting in it. And again, let’s remind ourselves that this is a dream vision outside of the realm of time and space. This is not a literal woman with flesh and blood and a soul. This is the portrayal of such a woman.

My point is – don’t feel bad for the woman. This vision could have the warning: “No women were harmed in the giving of this vision.” This is not advocating putting women in ephahs, either! Don’t do that.

So, we’re told then that this woman is wickedness! That’s the meaning of this woman. Wickedness is being taken out of the land of Israel – purged out.

But she ends up somewhere. And that’s in the land of Babylon, where there will be a place made for her.

God’s temple goes up in Jerusalem and as a result, wickedness needs to find its own place somewhere else.

So, to summarize visions 6 and 7, sin will be dealt with in Israel and wickedness will be cast out. And in its place, the Messiah will rule in Jerusalem.

A Summary of Zechariah: Eighth Vision

That gets us to the eighth vision of Zechariah.

Let’s read chapter 6, verse 1.

KJV Zechariah 6:1 ¶ And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold,

there came four chariots out from between two mountains;

and the mountains were mountains of brass.

So, we get the picture of strength. And we’ll see that there are four horses, all of different colors. And they go forth to the south and to the north. And they quiet the north country – perhaps Babylon.

And I hope to find more significance in this vision as we study it in a more concentrated fashion later on. But for now, that’s what we see – God’s spirits as he calls these horses going forth to put down rebellion from the nations. And this certainly will be the case when Jesus the Messiah reigns.

A Summary of Zechariah: Ninth Vision

Alright, on to the ninth and final vision.

This vision ends chapter 6. And in it we see some exiles coming from Babylon to make a crown. They put that crown on Joshua the High Priest. Well, that’s strange because priests don’t wear crowns!

Ah, but there will be a priest who wears the crown in Israel someday. And that’s this enigmatic figure referred to once more as “The Branch.” He’s going to rebuild the temple.

Wait – I thought Zerubbabel builds the temple! He does – but there’s going to be another one after that! And Jesus the Messiah will build it.

And what’s more – he will rule as a priest and a king. Kings and priests were separate offices in the Old Testament. But Jesus will be both king and priest. I should say, he is right now both king and priest!

And that’s the end of the visions in this book.

A Summary of Zechariah: Fasting

The next section runs from chapter 7, verse 1 to chapter 8, verse 23.

And the situation is laid out for us in chapter 7, verses 1-3.

KJV Zechariah 7:1 ¶ And it came to pass in the fourth year of king Darius, that the word of the LORD came unto Zechariah in the fourth day of the ninth month, even in Chisleu;

2 When they had sent unto the house of God Sherezer and Regemmelech, and their men, to pray before the LORD,

3 And to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the LORD of hosts, and to the prophets, saying,

Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?

So, the question is whether they should weep and fast. Apparently, after the exile – to commemorate the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon and the destruction of the former temple, these Jews had been holding some sort of formal religious observance marking these events with some level of somberness and sorrow.

And God’s response will be one that we’ve heard numerous times in the Old Testament. And that is to say that God was aware of their external religious devotion – fasting and weeping – and yet, that fasting wasn’t really for him. The external show of humility and repentance was not matched by the internal reality of a truly repentant heart.

And so, God calls on them to do what he wanted their ancestors to do. Not the external religious devotions devoid of all internal reality – but he wanted their hearts and he wanted them to do right. And that God’s big emphasis through to the end of chapter 7. Live right! Don’t expect to live as a pagan and then do some little religious exercises and consider yourself to be fine with God. No – live it! Live your faith.

And then God begins chapter 8 breaking out with wonderful magnificent promises to restore Israel and Judah and to do them tremendous good and to bless them. And he just wants them to learn from the mistakes of their fathers and to do right.

And then finally at the of chapter 8, the Lord returns to their original question about fasting. And God basically says that he’s going to make those fasts into feasts. He’s going to turn their sorrow into singing.

And the result will be that all sorts of nations will come and seek out the Jews because they want to go up to the House of the Lord in Jerusalem! What a day that will be!

A Summary of Zechariah: Burdens

Now, we still have chapters 9-14 left.

And these chapters consist of prophesies concerning a large range of time – from Zechariah’s day through to the Millennium when Jesus the Messiah is reigning in Jerusalem.

A Summary of Zechariah: Burden 1

Chapter 9 starts with an oracle against an area that extends from up north in modern-day Syria down through the Mediterranean coast near Israel.

And many of those nations and cities in that area will be destroyed. But God will protect Jerusalem in that day.

And then we have an amazing reference to Israel’s king coming lowly and seated on a donkey – which is referenced by the Gospel writer concerning Jesus’s coming into Jerusalem at the start of his passion week.

And to the end of chapter 9 there seem to be alternating times of military loss and victory for the Jews, with victory being the permanent condition eventually for them.

Chapter 10 then is addressed to the Jews and is full of promises of future strengthening of them and answering of their prayers.

Chapter 11 then is addressed to Lebanon at the beginning with threats of burning and destruction.

And then for the majority of that chapter there’s this talk of shepherds and sheep and staffs being broken and 30 silver pieces being given to the potter and a foolish shepherd who will not care for the flock. And I trust that we’ll gain more insight into that chapter as we study it in detail.

A Summary of Zechariah: Burden 2

Then, chapter 12. It’s a burden concerning Israel.

All the nations one day will come against Jerusalem. And God will protect that city and fight for it and destroy those nations.

And then at that time, the people of Israel will all mourn when they see the one whom they’ve pierced. We all know who that is! Jesus the Messiah!

Then in chapter 13 God tells of a time when he will open a fountain of cleansing for Israel. And he’ll destroy all idols. And there will be no more false prophets in the land.

But in the midst of that discussion, God foretells striking his shepherd and having the sheep scatter. And from there into chapter 14 God speaks of a major battle that’s to occur in Israel. But God will fight for them and carve with his foot a valley into the midst of the Mount of Olives and living waters will flow from Jerusalem into the Dead Sea and Mediterranean Sea. The Lord will rule the whole world in that day and every nation will come to Jerusalem to worship Jesus and everything will be utterly holy to the Lord.

And that’s the book of Zechariah. I hope this introduction will help us see the big picture as we get into the details in the coming months.

Haggai 2 Sermons KJV About Commentary Bible Study

Haggai 2:1-9

And actually, this isn’t all God has to say about his divine presence. He continues with that theme is chapter 2 verses 1 through 9. We’ll read that.

[2:1 In the seventh month, in the one and twentieth day of the month, came the word of the LORD by the prophet Haggai, saying, 2 Speak now to Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and to the residue of the people, saying, 3 Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing? 4 Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the LORD; and be strong, O Joshua, son of Josedech, the high priest; and be strong, all ye people of the land, saith the LORD, and work: for I am with you, saith the LORD of hosts: 5 According to the word that I covenanted with you when ye came out of Egypt, so my spirit remaineth among you: fear ye not. 6 For thus saith the LORD of hosts; Yet once, it is a little while, and I will shake the heavens, and the earth, and the sea, and the dry land; 7 And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations shall come: and I will fill this house with glory, saith the LORD of hosts. 8 The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, saith the LORD of hosts. 9 The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the LORD of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the LORD of hosts.]

So it’s about one month after Haggai’s second prophecy. And God now wants to continue to encourage his people. Why did he need to encourage them? Well, some of them were alive to see the first Temple – Solomon’s Temple. Remember that glorious Temple? Now, this second Temple actually was larger than that first one according to measurements we find in the Scripture. But even though this second Temple was larger, it was a little less glorious looking. After all, we know that in Solomon’s time gold was so plentiful that silver really counted as nothing. That’s a lot of gold! And a good deal of that gold was used in his Temple. In addition to that, there were skilled craftsmen carving wood and fashioning metal. There were other precious adornments in that first Temple. And of course, there was the ark of the covenant in there as well. But this second Temple of Zerubbabel’s… well, it had wood in it. Did it have some gold? I think it probably did. But it certainly didn’t have as much as it had previously. Were there carvings in it? Maybe some. And they apparently didn’t have the ark. And so in these ways this second Temple seemed to be less glorious than the first. The people perhaps wondered if it was even worth working on this seemingly-inglorious project.

But God doesn’t view this as some inglorious task. This is of utmost importance to him. So he comes and tells his people through Haggai to “be strong!” He tells them to work. And he again reminds them of his presence – “I am with you!” That’s in the present.

He also looks back to the past. He reminds Israel of the promise he made with them when they left Egypt. I think this is referring to his covenant that he made with them at Mount Sinai. That’s the covenant that brought Israel into an official relationship as a nation with the Lord. His spirit – or probably something like his essence – was among them at that time and was still presently.

So with Lord’s presence with his people in the past and present in view, he turns also to the future. He says he’s going to shake the heavens, earth, sea, land, and all nations. I think this is looking back to his activity in delivering his people from Egypt. He shook that nation with plagues and judgments. And remember when Israel left Egypt, the Egyptians gave them gold and other valuable objects. Well, here God promises to shake not just one nation but all nations. And the result is that all the nations are going to bring what’s desirable among them to this Temple in latter days. Some have interpreted this to be a Messianic prophecy. I don’t think that’s the case. We need to ask ourselves – “What do the nations desire?” Currently judging by the way things are in this world I think that most of them aren’t desiring Messiah. Well, what s this talking about then? I believe the answer is in verse 8 – the silver and the gold belongs God. This second Temple is lacking these kind of things. But God is promising to make his Temple glorious with gold and silver and other precious materials in latter times.

The question we all have is – when is this going to happen? I mean, do you remember Pastor Fuller’s discussion of the glory of Herod’s Temple – the one that existed in the time of Christ? That Temple was glorious. And it came after Zerubbabel’s. Is that the fulfillment of this prophecy? I don’t think so. I don’t know of a shaking of all nations at that time or a shaking of all creation. And really, only the Romans were involved in bringing wealth to the Temple at that point. But God here promises that all the nations will bring their wealth.

I think the key to when this shaking will take place is the end of verse 9. God promises that when this shaking happens he’ll bring peace to “this place” which is probably referring to Jerusalem. When has there been peace in Jerusalem since Haggai issued this prophecy in about 520 BC? I can’t really think of a time. But I know a time will come when Messiah returns and will set up an earthly kingdom over which peace will reign. I know nations and their kings will stream to Jerusalem and bring their glory there. So for these reasons, I think this is speaking of a time yet to come in the future.

So this is the 3rd encouragement to do God’s will. Being reminded of God’s constant unending presence – in the present as it was in the past and as it will be in the future.

Haggai 2:1-9 Illustration

Isn’t it an encouragement (to keep following the Lord) to remember all that he’s brought you through? Do you remember his presence with you back then? And isn’t it amazing to know that he’s still with you? And then we’re reminded that the Lord will never leave or forsake us. He will be with us always. To the end of the world and then even after that. We can’t flee from his presence. He won’t let us go.

Haggai 2:1-9 Application

Are you allowing this blessed truth that God is with you now as he has been in times past and will be into the future – are you allowing it to be the catalyst to continue doing his will? Don’t give up, brethren. He’s with you if you’re his.

Haggai 2:10-19

But while we think of the past, we can certainly see God’s presence with us. But if you’re like me – and actually like Israel – you can call to mind not only God’s presence but actually your own failures in the past. Let’s read about that in Haggai’s 4th message from the Lord in verses 10-19.

[2:10 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 11 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Ask now the priests concerning the law, saying, 12 If one bear holy flesh in the skirt of his garment, and with his skirt do touch bread, or pottage, or wine, or oil, or any meat, shall it be holy? And the priests answered and said, No. 13 Then said Haggai, If one that is unclean by a dead body touch any of these, shall it be unclean? And the priests answered and said, It shall be unclean. 14 Then answered Haggai, and said, So is this people, and so is this nation before me, saith the LORD; and so is every work of their hands; and that which they offer there is unclean. 15 And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the LORD: 16 Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten: when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17 I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the LORD. 18 Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the LORD’S temple was laid, consider it. 19 Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth: from this day will I bless you.]

This prophecy happens about 2 months after the last one Haggai delivered. And it starts out seemingly not so happy again. Haggai asks some priests about the law. In particular, what does God say about a piece of meat that had been sanctified – if it touches something else, does whatever it touched become holy? The answer, as any priest would have known, was “no”. That wasn’t part of the law. But what about this? If something that’s holy touches these things and they’re not made holy… then if any of these things touched something unclean, what would happen? The answer? Those things would be made unclean. So touching a holy thing doesn’t make it holy. But touching something unclean does make it unclean. And then God uses that as a picture of how he viewed this nation of Israel. Anything unclean that touched them in any way made them unclean. They were so easily swayed by the paganism around them. And unfortunately they had no positive influence on those around them. And yet even all the holy things they knew and practiced didn’t ultimately make them holy as God wanted them to be.

So with that stated, then God again calls his people to consider some of the realities he already reminded them of in Haggai’s first prophecy. “Remember before you started building the Temple and I made life so difficult for you? And you didn’t turn to me – that’s what I truly desired. Well, remember that time and now be aware of this reality. From this day onward I will bless you.” What a beautiful statement. What a relief. “I will bless you.” And this was a bold promise to make from the prophet Haggai. Haggai had started his ministry only about 3 months ago from the time of this most recent prophecy. And before that time Israel had apparently experienced difficulty after difficulty directly from the Lord for their disobedience. And now Haggai pronounces blessing from the time that the Temple started to be rebuilt. This is a rather startling claim. How could they be sure he was telling the truth? That’s what verse 19 is getting at. The seed is still in the barn. Nothing has born fruit yet this season. It’s not as if Haggai could look around at the produce of the land and kind of gather that this year was just going to be a better year for planting. No, this was a word from the all-knowing Lord. And thus it would certainly happen.

So what we have in this 4th prophecy is this. It’s a reminder of past failures because of disobedience, coupled with promises of present and future blessings for doing God’s will. This is yet one more encouragement to obey God.

Haggai 2:10-19 Illustration

Have you been saved? We’re talking about doing God’s will. What in this day is more the will of God than you trusting his son to be saved? Have you trusted Christ – that he suffered for your sins so that you could be forgiven and be a child of God? If you have, then you can certainly identify with this prophecy. Remember the old things you got in to before you knew Christ? Remember the shame? Remember the years of wandering? Of fruitlessness? Your vain life? But now that you know Christ you’re experiencing blessing. No, everything isn’t just easy. But relationships perhaps are being mended. You have a peace that totally eluded you before. You have confidence of your eternal destiny. The Lord is using you to advance his kingdom in ways small or large. Things have changed for the better generally. This is all from God. And what can we do but humbly give him thanks for these wonderful blessings? Blessings instead of the curses we deserve.

Haggai 2:10-19 Application

So have you taken note of the blessings that God has used to replace the curses he sent on you previously? Remember those curses, but don’t focus on them. Focus on God’s promise of blessing both now and into the future – really forevermore.

Haggai 2:20-23 Explanation

And really these blessings for those who obey the Gospel and the curses for those who disobey and disbelieve continue on – into eternity. And we see some parallels to this in the next and last prophecy of this book. Let’s read verses 20 through 23.

[2:20 ¶ And again the word of the LORD came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, 21 Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth; 22 And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen; and I will overthrow the chariots, and those that ride in them; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. 23 In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the LORD, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the LORD of hosts.]

This prophecy comes out the same day as the last one. And it’s addressed to only Zerubbabel. Some of the content is familiar. We’ve already seen God’s promise to shake the heavens and the earth. But this time Zerubbabel is told that God will totally overthrow the pagan kings of this world. And when God does that he’s going to take Zerubbabel and make him as a signet ring. What does that mean? Well, there are a few things to say about this. First, a signet ring was something very precious to a king. So precious in fact that he would keep it on his person constantly. So that act of giving someone this ring would have been an act of supreme trust. The signet ring was used to give the king’s authority to something like a document—like we saw in the book of Esther with Haman’s edict and then Mordecai’s as well. So that’s what a signet ring is. But why does God mention a signet ring anyway? And why does he say he’ll make Zerubbabel like one of those to him? In the book of Jeremiah in chapter 22, God has a message for Zerubbabel’s Grandfather Jeconiah. The message is that even if Jeconiah was a signet ring – something precious to him – yet God would cast him away. And then God goes on to curse Jeconiah’s line and say that none of his descendants will prosper sitting on David’s throne. So it sounded like Jeconiah and all his lineage were cast off from the Lord. But here in the book of Haggai, God reverses this curse in a way. Picturing the signet ring as Jeconiah, you can imagine then God coming and picking up the ring which is now Zerubbabel and putting it on. When God goes to topple all the nations and their kings, he will prefer Zerubbabel because God had chosen him.

But this toppling of nations hasn’t happened yet as far as I can tell. And Zerubbabel is dead now. So what I – and I think just about all the commentators – see happening here is God using Zerubbabel to symbolize the Davidic line – and ultimately Christ, the son of David. When God overthrows all nations and sets up his Millenial kingdom, Christ will reign on the throne.

So what do we have in this 5th and final prophecy? Really what we have is a promise of future judgment for those who refuse to do God’s will. And along with that we have the assurance that God will favor those who are doing his will – even their descendants.

Haggai 2:20-23 Application

The kings of the pagan nations had no concern for doing God’s will. And they will be overthrown some day along with everyone else who refuses to love and obey God. Zerubbabel on the other hand was following the Lord. And as a result both he and his family to future generations would be blessed… Would you submit to God and do his will? In our context, for any one here who doesn’t know the Lord, would you obey him by believing his son? If you do this you and your family after you for perhaps a long time will reap the rewards. And really for the rest of us who know Christ, this last prophecy wasn’t so much a challenge or commandment to Zerubbabel as it was a promise. No strings attached. Just a promise from God of future blessings and an assurance of God’s favor.

We’ve seen throughout this book that God wants to get your attention if you’re putting off doing his will. He wants you to get to work. And he may make life difficult until you do. But once you do, he’ll promise you his presence. He’ll stir you to be able to do his will. His presence will be with you always. You will remember past failures from your life of disobedience. But the blessings you receive will far outweigh those memories. And when judgment comes in the future, God will still have a plan for you, while he’ll need to punish those who have no interest in doing his will.

Haggai 1 KJV Commentary Analysis Application Bible Study

Haggai 1:1-12

Let’s find the first encouragement God gives the Jews to do his will. We find it in 1:1-12. Let’s read that.

[1:1 ¶ In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month, in the first day of the month, came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet unto Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, saying, 2 Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, This people say, The time is not come, the time that the LORD’S house should be built. 3 Then came the word of the LORD by Haggai the prophet, saying, 4 Is it time for you, O ye, to dwell in your cieled houses, and this house lie waste? 5 Now therefore thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 6 Ye have sown much, and bring in little; ye eat, but ye have not enough; ye drink, but ye are not filled with drink; ye clothe you, but there is none warm; and he that earneth wages earneth wages to put it into a bag with holes. 7 ¶ Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Consider your ways. 8 Go up to the mountain, and bring wood, and build the house; and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the LORD. 9 Ye looked for much, and, lo, it came to little; and when ye brought it home, I did blow upon it. Why? saith the LORD of hosts. Because of mine house that is waste, and ye run every man unto his own house. 10 Therefore the heaven over you is stayed from dew, and the earth is stayed from her fruit. 11 And I called for a drought upon the land, and upon the mountains, and upon the corn, and upon the new wine, and upon the oil, and upon that which the ground bringeth forth, and upon men, and upon cattle, and upon all the labour of the hands. 12 ¶ Then Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, and Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God, and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him, and the people did fear before the LORD.]

Haggai 1:1-12 Explanation

So this is how the Lord begins to speak to his wayward people. Did this sound encouraging to you. Whether it did or not, we see here that God sends a message through Haggai to the two leaders of the Jews – Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the high priest. And this message is necessarily negative. God needs to state the obvious to his people. He tells them that he knows what they’re saying. They’re convincing themselves that it’s not time yet to do the Lord’s will and rebuild his Temple. But it hasn’t been time for now 17 years! When will the time come to start doing his will? God’s had enough. He shoots back at them and asks a rhetorical question. I’m paraphrasing, but he says something like “Oh it’s not time to rebuild the Temple, is it? To rebuild my house? You really have no concern for my house? What about you? Each one of you runs to his own nice house. And your houses actually have ceilings. Mine? Well, look at it. It’s in ruins.”

God then commands them to consider their ways. He points to the fact that really every endeavor they attempt to undertake comes to little or absolutely nothing. Yeah, they can plant seeds. But there’s not much of a crop as a result. They can put on clothing. But everyone is still cold. They can eat. But no one feels full. The one who earns some money brings it home and puts it into a bag in order to save it. But it’s as if that bag has holes in it! The money metaphorically falls right out of the bag. What little they were able to make and bring home, God pictures himself as blowing on it and it flying away like so much dust. God admits that he’s the one behind all these hardships of theirs, trying to get their attention because they’re refusing to rebuild his house. He called for a drought on everything. To an agricultural society, that’s deadly.

And why was God doing this again? He restates it – because my house lies desolate while everyone runs to his own comfortable home. So God rebukes his people. But he doesn’t stop there. He offers the correction. What do you suppose the correction to letting God’s house lie in ruins is? Yeah, rebuilding it! He tells them as much. He instructs them step-by-step. “Go up to the mountains. Get wood. Come and use that wood to build my house.” Nice and simple, really. “Just do what I sent you to do almost 20 years ago!”

How do the people respond to that rebuke? Let me ask you, how did those people, the Jews, respond to God’s rebuke through his prophets before they were exiled in Babylon? Think of it. Some of them would have struck whatever prophet that gave God’s message of rebuke. Some would have lied about that prophet. Some would have planned to murder that prophet. And by-and-large, no one listened to the prophet delivering God’s message of rebuke in those days. But what did we see here? Remember this message was primarily to Zerubbabel and Jeshua. But what other group responded with them? The rest of the people. Here’s how they responded to this message. All the people including their two leaders obeyed God’s word through his prophet. That’s incredible. It shouldn’t be. Obedience to God should be a normal activity. And yet far too often it isn’t.

So what we see in this first prophecy is this. We see words of rebuke that yield a response of obedience. That’s the first encouragement to do God’s will we see in this book.

Haggai 1:1-12 Argumentation

Wait, words of rebuke can be an encouragement? Rebuke and encouragement might seem to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. But remember, whom the Lord loves he chastens. Wise men love instruction. They love correction. The wounds of a friend are better than the kisses of an enemy. God’s our best and heavenly friend. And when he wounds he does it in love and for a purpose. He does it for our good.

Haggai 1:1-12 Illustration

Can any of us relate to being encouraged to do God’s will through words of rebuke? King David could. He murdered Bathsheba’s husband Uriah after committing adultery with her and then took her as his wife. He spent a while acting as if nothing was wrong. Whatever else we can say about that episode we can say this. David was certainly not doing God’s will at that point. And so God waited a little while and then he sent Nathan the prophet to rebuke him for his sin. And how did David respond? “I have sinned.” As the song goes, he “rent his heart and [did] his will.”

Haggai 1:1-12 Application

What about you? How are circumstances for you? Have you taken an inventory of your life? Is God withholding rain from heaven for you, literally or metaphorically? Is he allowing everything you’re pursuing to be fruitless and disappointing? Is he making life hard for you? Now, don’t get me wrong. In this life we shall have tribulation. That’s what Jesus promised us. Things will be difficult. But can you trace your hardships back to an unwillingness to do God’s will? Search your heart. Or even better, ask God to search your heart and reveal any wicked way in you. And when it becomes apparent what is holding back God’s blessing, confess it to God. Say to God about that sin what he says about it in his word. And with God’s help forsake it and move forward doing God’s will.

Haggai 1:13-15

So we just saw words of rebuke that yield a response of obedience. That’s one encouragement to do God’s will. We see a second encouragement in verses 13-15 of chapter 1. Let’s read that next prophecy from Haggai.

[1:13 Then spake Haggai the LORD’S messenger in the LORD’S message unto the people, saying, I am with you, saith the LORD. 14 And the LORD stirred up the spirit of Zerubbabel the son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and the spirit of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest, and the spirit of all the remnant of the people; and they came and did work in the house of the LORD of hosts, their God, 15 ¶ In the four and twentieth day of the sixth month, in the second year of Darius the king.]

Haggai 1:13-15 Explanation

So sometime between the 1st day of the 6th month and the 24th day of that same month Haggai is again commissioned by the Lord to speak to his people. Haggai’s first message was one of rebuke. But how would we characterize this message? It’s pretty pleasant, isn’t it? After the rebuke, how do you think this statement sounded in the ears of the Jews – “I am with you.” That must have been very comforting. God gives a reassurance of his divine presence with the people.

But that’s not all he gives to them. They apparently started the work after the last message from Haggai. But now on the 24th day of the 6th month – about 3 weeks after the first prophecy – God goes a step further and stirs the spirit of the people to do his will – to rebuild the Temple. So, they originally consented and started to do the work. But then God comes in and graciously bears them along in doing his will now.

So the second encouragement to do God’s will that we see here is this. A reassurance of God’s presence and a stirring of spirit to do his will.

Haggai 1:13-15 Illustration

Jesus left us with the command to make disciples. This is a rather difficult endeavor. What was his encouragement? “Lo, I am with you always.” I am with you. He promises us his divine presence as we attempt to do his will. And isn’t this area one in which we need God to stir our spirits? We can feebly and yet faithfully try to disciple folks. But unless God is with us and stirring our spirits to help us do the work, we really won’t get very far. And it just occurred to me as I was making final touches on this message that this point was the thrust of Pastor Fuller’s message this morning, wasn’t it? We can’t do it, but God can!

Haggai 1:13-15 Application

So the first prophecy in this book was a message of rebuke. And if you and I respond to the rebuke God sends to us through his word like the Jews did, we will receive the kind of comfort this prophecy gives. God will surely be with you as you strive to do what’s right in his sight.

Haggai Commentary, Meaning, Pronunciation, Summary

Haggai Commentary Introduction

Let’s open our Bibles to the Book of Haggai. Haggai – Zechariah – Malachi – Matthew

The year was 520 BC. God’s people had returned from exile in Persia in 539– 19 years earlier. They came for one major purpose – to rebuild the Temple that had been destroyed by Babylon in 586. According to the Book of Ezra the Jews returned to their homeland and gave sacrificially to that work of rebuilding the Temple of Yahweh. They not only gave financially, but in the second year of their being there – 537 or 538 BC – they actually started the work of rebuilding the Temple – Cleaning off and re-using the stones that were still there. Getting wood to furnish it – since all the previous wood was burned. They even had a celebration commemorating the fact that they started this work. It was a great source of joy for them to be involved in rebuilding God’s temple.

And yet, right after the people start building, they face some opposition and stop their work. And so for about 16 or 17 years the Temple lies desolate. No one is working on it. It’s a eye-soar in the middle of Jerusalem. And yet the Jews are still there in the land. But they’ve abandoned the primary reason God sent them back to that land – to rebuild his Temple!

You and I can be like that, can’t we? Think of the numerous things that God has called us to do as Christians – evangelize the lost, edify the saints, worship and glorify him all the time, raise our families in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, be zealous for good works. The list can go on. We have a lot to do… Are we doing it? Have we been discouraged from doing God’s will?

The Jews who returned from exile were discouraged. And God is so gracious. He didn’t let them wallow in despair forever. He did however let the Jews just sit there for 17 years, not doing his will. Was God doing anything with them during those years? He was. He was actually making life difficult for them in an attempt to shake them out of their complacency. But actually that didn’t work. So finally, God decided he needed to step-in in an unmistakeable way and get his people’s attention. How would he do that? He sent two prophets. One was Zecharaiah. The other is the prophet whose book we’ll be studying today – Haggai.

In this book of Haggai we’re given five of Haggai’s messages from the Lord to his discouraged and somewhat unmotivated people. So I would summarize this book with this title – “Encouragements to do God’s Will”.

Haggai 1 Commentary

Learn more about Haggai 1 here.

Haggai 2 Commentary

Likewise, you can study Haggai 2 here.

Haggai Commentary Conclusion

So, you might be wondering – how did Israel react to the prophecies of Haggai – these encouragements to do God’s will? We’re finishing this prophecy on the 24th day of the 9th month in the 2nd year of Darius. After that, chronologically speaking, the book of Ezra records this – “And the elders of the Jews builded, and they prospered through the prophesying of Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the son of Iddo. And they builded, and finished it”. And it goes on to tell us that the Jews finished the Temple on the 3rd day of the 12th month in Darius’ 6th year. Haggai started his prophecy in the 6th month of the 2nd year of Darius. How long did it take for the Jews to finish the Temple, then? 3 ½ years. How long had they waited and dragged their heals before starting the work? Probably about 17 years. They could have saved a lot of time just getting to work and doing what God wanted them to do originally.

And isn’t that like you and me? How many times have we found ourselves wasting precious time putting off doing God’s will? But God is so gracious and patient. He will wait for you to do right. But in the mean time you and I loose out on numerous blessings and find ourselves facing some pretty tough situations – all because we’re so slow to obey God. May the Lord help us and encourage us to do his will.