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Word Studies, Devotionals, Sermons, Illustrations
Old and New Testament.
Moody Bible Institute
Moody Bible Institute. Used by permission. All rights reserved)
The word of the Lord came to the prophet
Zechariah. - Zechariah 1:1
TODAY IN THE WORD - As we begin to study the
book of Zechariah, we’ve moved forward about 100 years in time. Since
Zephaniah’s day, Judah had been conquered and exiled to Babylon. Later, the Jews
had been given permission to return to their homeland; a relatively small group
had done so in 538 b.c. under the leadership of Zerubbabel, the governor, and
Joshua, the high priest.
Zechariah’s family had been among those who
returned (his grandfather Iddo is listed in Neh. 12:4). The prophet began his
ministry in 520 b.c., during the reign of King Darius of Persia, proclaiming the
word of the Lord to these repatriated Jews, a community numbering about 50,000
people. It’s known that Zechariah was a priest, and tradition says he was also a
member of the “Great Synagogue,” a ruling council of the day. His name means
“the Lord remembers,” evoking God’s covenant faithfulness (cf. Ps. 86:15).
Zechariah’s immediate purpose was to rebuke, encourage, and motivate the people
to rebuild the Temple, which had been destroyed during the conquest. His book is
highly literary in nature, and conveys a strong Messianic theology. In fact,
Zechariah has more to say about the Messiah than any other book except Isaiah,
and the New Testament cites or alludes to the book of Zechariah over 40 times.
Some of his prophecies have already been fulfilled in or near the first coming
of Christ, while others await the end times, which means that the book also has
an eschatological or apocalyptic flavor. In addition, we’ll find here the same
“mountain peak” hermeneutical challenge as we did in Zephaniah--to the prophet,
various future events looked close together, while from our perspective in time,
some are past and some are future.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY - More often than usual, this month we’ll be suggesting
supplementary Bible passages for your reading or study. We want you to see how
the images and themes of Zephaniah and Zechariah connect with images and themes
elsewhere in Scripture.
If you repent, I will
restore you that you may serve me. - Jeremiah 15:19
TODAY IN THE WORD -
The Book of Common Prayer begins a time of confession with these words:
“Here in the presence of Almighty God, I kneel in silence, and with penitent
and obedient heart confess my sins, so that I may obtain forgiveness by your
infinite goodness and mercy. Amen.”
In a similar spirit,
the great hymn “Just As I Am” admits: “Just as I am, without one plea, / But
that Thy blood was shed for me / And that Thou bidd’st me come to Thee. / O
Lamb of God, I come! I come! / Just as I am, and waiting not / To rid my
soul of one dark blot. / To Thee whose blood can cleanse each spot, / O Lamb
of God, I come! I come!”
Repentance, as Zechariah also made clear in today’s reading, is a matter of
life and death (cf. Deut. 30:11–20). These early verses set the tone and
summarize the point of what follows: learn from history, repent and do
right, and blessing will follow.
What was the history? Disobedience, rebellion, and idolatry, as we’ve seen
already in the message of Zephaniah. God was faithful to send prophets to
warn them, but the nation had refused to listen. Their sin had brought on
His anger and the punishment of the Exile. “Where is that generation now?”
Zechariah asked rhetorically (v. 5). The Hebrew verb overtake is a hunting
term--the Word had pursued and caught them (v. 6). Had they really thought
they could escape God’s decrees?
To the remnant who had returned to Palestine, God now said, “Return to me .
. . and I will return to you” (v. 3). Is His love then conditional? No, but
His blessings are. Conditional upon what? Repentance and obedience (cf. Jer.
18:7–10). To return to the Lord, the people must turn from their evil ways
and pursue righteousness. Such repentance also involved acknowledging the
justice of God; that is, admitting that He was right to do as He had done to
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Why not answer today’s call to repentance in your own prayer time?
I will return to
Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. - Zechariah 1:16
TODAY IN THE WORD -
After a female emperor penguin lays her egg, she goes to sea to eat and
regain her strength. In the meantime, the male cares for the egg, keeping it
warm with his feet. In the Antarctic at that time of year, it’s completely
dark, and temperatures are well below freezing. He can’t leave to get food,
so he fasts for about two months.
Thousands of these penguins gather together for warmth. A large circle of
them rotates slowly so that each bird has an equal turn in the warmer
center. And all the while each father carefully protects his egg.
The emperor penguin provides us with an object lesson in the loving care of
our Father God, a theme that undergirds today’s reading as well.
For the next week or so, we’ll be studying eight visions seen by Zechariah,
narrated as a single night’s experience. These visions are highly pictorial
and symbolic, and they often include interpretive clues given to the prophet
(and to us) by an angel.
In this first vision, Zechariah saw a man riding a red horse, with other
horses following his instructions. The picture seems to be of a military
patrol, and indeed the horses bring back a reconnaissance report that the
world is at peace. In the person of the patrol’s commander, Zechariah most
likely saw a vision of the preincarnate Christ (such an appearance is called
a “theophany”), while the horses represent angels.
The angels’ report made God angry. Why? The nations of the world shouldn’t
be so smug, because God’s people were still oppressed and living under
foreign domination. Though Babylon, for example, had been the instrument of
God’s judgment, such nations had overstepped their bounds and would soon be
TODAY ALONG THE WAY - Today, set yourself the goal of memorizing verses
about Christ’s role as our advocate or intercessor.
TODAY IN THE WORD - In
Courage to Stand, Philip Graham Ryken observed: “Many Christians testify to
the grace and goodness of God. Yet how often do they explain how much God
hates sin and how severely He intends to deal with it? News of divine
judgment has an essential place in evangelism. People have to hear the bad
news about sin and death before they can receive the good news about
forgiveness and new life in Christ.”
Judgment was passed on
Israel’s enemies in today’s reading--the just wrath of God was the focus of
Zechariah’s second night vision. This follows up on the first vision, in
which God assessed the situation and promised judgment.
This vision has two parts. In the first, Zechariah saw four horns.
Generally, horns symbolized strength--these horns were probably man-made
objects, something like trumpets, and possibly crafted from animal horns.
They represent the nations which had conquered Israel and Judah, especially
Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. An alternative interpretation
suggests that “four” is a symbolic number, signifying completeness, and in
this view the horns stand for all the enemies of God’s people.
In the second part, the prophet saw four craftsmen, who unmade or destroyed
the four horns. They represent nations, namely Egypt, Babylonia, Persia, and
Greece, who had overthrown or would overthrow the first set of nations.
In the fate of these nations, we find a dramatic contrast. Whereas they had
felt stable and secure in the first vision, now they’re terrified and
defeated. Whereas they had “lifted up their horns” (that is, made war)
against God’s people in the past, now their horns will be cast down. How did
this drastic change come about? By the Lord’s decree, who had justly judged
their sin and now sent punishment.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY - How are your evangelism skills these days? In your
presentations of the gospel, be sure not to skip over or downplay the part
about sin and sin’s punishment, death.
“Shout and be glad, O
Daugher of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the
Lord. - Zechariah 2:10
TODAY IN THE WORD
Delicious smells drift from the kitchen window. The kids are out in the
backyard playing. Dad is trying to mend the back fence. Mom steps out on the
patio and rings a bell hanging there. Immediately, Dad and the kids drop
what they’re doing and head for the dining room, stopping on the way to wash
their hands. Dinner is served!
How did they know? Of
course, they knew because that bell was the dinner bell, a signal they’d
heard many times before. Its cheerful chimes lifted their spirits and called
them to the waiting feast.
In a similar way, today’s reading, particularly verse 6, is a trumpet call
summoning the exiles home: “Come! Come!” From every direction, God called
Zechariah’s first night vision spoke of judgment and restoration, and the
second focused on the judgment part of that. In this third vision, we learn
more specifics about the restoration and blessing of God’s people. Some of
these specifics apply to the immediate future (already past to us), and some
to the end times.
The prophet saw a surveyor holding a measuring line with which he intended
to measure Jerusalem. The measuring line suggested building or establishing,
and was thus a symbol of restoration. God was promising that the city would
be completely rebuilt. After all, Jerusalem was the “apple of His eye,”
precious in His sight (vv. 8, 12).
Jerusalem would be blessed with three P’s: prosperity, protection, and
presence. That the city would overflow with people and livestock shows its
prosperity. God would protect the people with a “wall of fire,” an image
reminiscent of the Exodus. Best of all, He Himself would dwell with them and
be the city’s glory (vv. 5, 10; cf. Rev. 21).
During the millennial kingdom, not only Israel but many nations will be
united to God and will be called His people (v. 11). This will be the
ultimate fulfillment of His world-embracing covenant with Abraham (Gen.
12:3; cf. Isa. 2:2–4).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY - Today’s reading is one of several in Zechariah that
describe a marvelous “homecoming”--Jews coming from throughout the world
back to their homeland.
See, I have taken away
your sin, and I will put rich garments on you. - Zechariah 3:4
TODAY IN THE WORD
An event that shaped the life of John Wesley was his rescue from a fire when
he was only a child. When his face appeared at an upstairs window in the
burning house, two brave men ran in to carry him out, the last person to be
saved from the fire.
For the rest of his
life, Wesley thought of himself as a “brand plucked from the fire” (v. 2,
NASB). He even included this verse in an epitaph he composed for himself,
recognizing that God had saved him and set him apart for a special work.
In today’s reading, the high priest Joshua (also called Jeshua in Ezra and
Nehemiah) is the original “burning stick snatched from the fire.” In this
fourth night vision, Zechariah saw the Jewish remnant’s religious leader, a
living symbol for the nation. He stood before the “angel of the Lord,” a
title often indicating the preincarnate Christ (see also 1:12–13).
When God called Joshua or Israel a “burning stick,” He meant that the people
had been saved from grave danger. The metaphor also showed helplessness,
that is, the stick could do nothing for itself. The context is itself a
second picture, that of a court of law. The man stood silent before his
would-be prosecutor, Satan, but the Lord was his defense attorney and spoke
on his behalf (cf. Rev. 12:10).
Next, we see a third picture: filthy clothes. These represent the nation’s
sinfulness, so when God reclothed Joshua, this signified forgiveness and
restoration. Such clothing imagery has deep historical roots--God mercifully
provided garments for the fallen Adam and Eve (Gen. 3:21)--and is similarly
used in the New Testament--for example, new linen is given to the bride of
the Lamb (Rev. 19:8; cf. Isa. 61:10).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Today, imagine one of the vivid pictures from the Scripture reading.
Meditate on it and its meaning in the context of Zechariah. Why do you think
God chose to communicate truth to us in this way?
“Not by might nor by
power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. - Zechariah 4:6
TODAY IN THE WORD
At a small midwestern Bible college one summer, the president’s cabinet met
to pray. Finances were low--so low they couldn’t meet the next payroll.
During the meeting, an assistant called the business manager out to look at
some mail that had just arrived.
In the mail was a
check for a large sum of money, plus several smaller checks. Together they
totalled precisely the amount of money to meet the need! The college’s
administrators rejoiced, and praised the Lord for His provision. He had
known the need already, and had sent the funds in His time. God is always in
control--a truth we see clearly in today’s reading as well.
In the fifth night vision, Zechariah saw a gold lampstand and two olive
trees. This was a message from God to Zerubbabel, the governor of the
returned exiles. He encouraged him to lead the nation to finish rebuilding
the Temple, and to trust in Him though the odds seemed overwhelming. By
faith, this “mountain” could be leveled (v. 7).
The lampstand symbolized the service and witness of God’s people, and
especially how they are to be a light to the nations. Like the church
lampstands in Revelation 1, this lampstand showed God’s glory. The bowl of
oil represented the Holy Spirit, fueling the light and present in abundant
supply. The two olive trees likely stood for Zerubbabel, the political
leader, and Joshua, the religious leader. By showing both the royal and
priestly lines, this symbolism furthermore implied the Messiah.
As we know from the historical books of the Old Testament, the nation
responded to God with obedience and rebuilt the Temple, completing the
project by 516 b.c. They listened, trusted, and obeyed!
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
In today’s reading, God gave Zerubbabel the encouragement that He would be
with him as the nation rebuilt the Temple. Figuratively speaking, a problem
that seemed like a mountain could be flattened through God’s power (vv.
The wicked will not
stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the assembly of the righteous. - Psalm
TODAY IN THE WORD
When advertisers want you to get a message, what do they do? They might put
attention-getting ads on the radio or television. When you’re online, those
extra sponsor boxes keep popping up. As you’re driving home from work, a
billboard falls right into your line of sight. Relaxing on the beach, you
look up and see a banner ad towed by a small plane. On occasion, you might
even see an airplane using smoke to write a message in the sky.
When God wanted His
people to get the message, He sent His prophet Zechariah a vision of a
scroll flying across the sky! Of course, the scroll was God’s Word, and to
say that it was “flying” meant that it was unrolled, while also suggesting
motion and life. The scroll’s dimensions were huge, and this added to the
idea that it was easy to see, obvious, or clear. That is to say, God’s
commands were not a hidden mystery, which made the sins of the people that
much more flagrant.
Because of their sin, the interpreting angel told Zechariah that the scroll
was a “curse,” reminding us of the Law’s blessings for obedience and curses
for disobedience (see Deut. 27–28). Two specific sins are condemned:
stealing (a violation of the eighth commandment) and swearing falsely or
perjury (a violation of the third commandment). Since the people were no
doubt guilty of more than this, these are probably just a few examples of
their sinful behavior.
Sin cannot be tolerated in God’s presence. When He comes to dwell with His
people, as He had promised in earlier visions, evil won’t be allowed to
remain in the land. Sinners will be banished from His presence--the
equivalent of spiritual death. When the scroll entered the sinner’s house to
destroy it, this was a picture of the destiny of the wicked (v. 4; cf. Ps.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
As we’ve been considering Zechariah’s eight night visions this week, you may
have had the urge to sketch out one of the scenes he saw. Go for it today!
This is the iniquity
of the people throughout the land. - Zechariah 5:6
TODAY IN THE WORD
A five-volume history recently published in English about Auschwitz, the
Nazi death camp, reveals the horror of what happened there. At least 1.1
million people died in 1940–1945, the vast majority of whom were Jews.
The books include
construction plans for gas chambers and crematories, prisoner lists, and
rare photographs. There is an almost day-by-day calendar of events, along
with notes on how few of the 8,000 guards were ever brought to justice.
References are given from war crimes proceedings, records, and memoirs.
There are also quotes from first-person narratives--testaments secretly
buried around the Auschwitz grounds, written by prisoners.
These records chronicle the evil of Hitler’s regime. In a similar way,
Zechariah’s visions and other Old Testament passages serve as prophetic
records of evil. This seventh night vision reinforces the point that “on
that day” sin will be judged, though here the focus seems to be national
rather than individual.
Zechariah saw a basket, normal except that it was larger than usual. We know
this because it held a woman, who symbolized wickedness. Her destination was
Babylon, and the picture of her basket on a pedestal or in a house (v. 11)
indicated that she would be worshiped there.
Why was Israel’s sin personified as a woman? Is the Bible sexist? No, we
have the creation account as proof that both men and women are created in
God’s image (Gen. 1:27). A possible reason is simply that the word
wickedness (v. 8) is feminine in Hebrew. Or perhaps the reason is that in
biblical figurative language, God is male while His people are female--for
example, the church is called His bride.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
For today’s reading in Zechariah, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary gives 2
Corinthians 7:1 as the ideal application: “Since we have these promises,
dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body
and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God.”
Fear God and give him glory, because the
hour of his judgment has come. - Revelation 14:7
TODAY IN THE WORD
In his commentary on this passage in Zechariah, theologian John Calvin
concluded with a prayer asking God for the grace to accept the following
“That all things are governed by thee, and that nothing takes place except
through thy will, so that in the greatest confusions we may always clearly
see thine hand, and that thy counsel is altogether right, and perfectly and
singularly wise and just; and may we ever call upon thee, and flee to this
port--that we are tossed here and there, that thou mayest ever sustain us by
thine hand, until we shall at length be received into that blessed rest
which has been procured for us by the blood of thine only-begotten Son.
God’s sovereignty is indeed a port of rest for every believer. That’s the
theme of Zechariah’s eighth and final night vision. In it, he saw four
chariots, pulled by different colored horses, between two bronze mountains.
The four chariots are “four spirits of heaven,” that is, angels, who will
execute God’s judgments (v. 5). The mountains may symbolize Christ’s
strength in judgment, or they might be specific references to Mount Zion and
the Mount of Olives.
There’s a symmetry here with the first night vision (see January 10). Then
the angels were sent out to assess the situation, now they’re sent
throughout the world on a mission of judgment. It’s uncertain if the
directions in which they go have specific meanings, except that the north
(v. 8) points to Babylon.
The horses’ colors may represent specific judgments. Commentators have
speculated that red means war, black means famine, white means violence or
conquest, and dappled means pestilence or plague (cf. Rev. 6:1–8). The point
here, however, is not the exact nature of the judgments, but the sovereign
and awesome nature of who “the Lord of the whole world” is and what He will
do (v. 5). Judgment will satisfy His justice and give His Spirit rest (v.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
A month ago, it’s unlikely you would have predicted that you would spend
January studying the books of Zephaniah and Zechariah. When Today in the
Word arrived in the mail, you may have been quite surprised! Yet God knew,
and had sovereignly planned these devotionals just for you.
Here is the man whose name is the Branch.
. . . [H]e will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne.
TODAY IN THE WORD
In the legends of King Arthur, retold many times in literature and music,
one of the main themes is the establishment of a just and righteous kingdom.
Against a society of warring states, King Arthur tried to establish a united
England. His knights of the Round Table lived by the code of chivalry that
obligated them to defend the weak, to show mercy to their enemies, and to
use their strength in the cause of goodness.
Those who are familiar with the
legends know that King Arthur ultimately failed in his quest. But the
legends also say that one day the King will return!
This vision of a just and righteous kingdom is shared by the biblical
prophets. One day, God will send a perfect King whose kingdom will never
fail. That’s the central theme we find in today’s reading. The symbolic
action narrated here follows the eight night visions, and probably belongs
with them in an outline of Zechariah.
God instructed the prophet to collect gold and silver from three donors
(probably lately-returned, prominent exiles who wanted to help rebuild the
Temple), have a craftsman named Josiah (or Hen) fashion a crown, and place
it on the head of the high priest, Joshua. Afterwards, the crown was to be
kept as a memorial of this prophecy.
What did this action illustrate and foretell? It heralded the future Advent
of Messiah, the Branch, in whom the offices of king and priest would be
united (v. 13; cf. Heb. 7:1–3).
In the words of Haggai, “the desired of all nations will come” (2:7). He
will “build the temple of the Lord,” that is, establish worship of the one
true God throughout the earth (Zech. 6:13). “Those who are far away will
come and help to build the temple of the Lord,” promised God, meaning that
Gentiles will also be involved in these events (v. 15; cf. Isa. 60:3–10).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
If you wish, sometime in the near future plan a supplementary worship time
for your church group or a group of friends. Pick songs that celebrate the
Advents of Christ--both of them.
Stop bringing meaningless offerings! Your
incense is detestable to me. . . . [E]ven if you offer many prayers, I will
not listen. - Isaiah 1:13, 15
TODAY IN THE WORD
In the Gospels, Jesus reserved His strongest condemnations for the religious
leaders, especially the Pharisees. They did acts of righteousness just to be
admired by others. They tithed their spices but neglected true obedience.
They exalted themselves and loved to be shown honor. They were like their
forefathers, who persecuted the prophets. They were “blind guides,” “full of
hypocrisy and wickedness,” “snakes,” and “whitewashed tombs, which look
beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones”
(Matt. 6 and 23, esp. v. 27).
Why was Jesus so hard on them? Since
they were leaders, they had led others astray. And in centering their
religious life around themselves, they had missed the point of worship. God
is the center of true worship!
In today’s reading, Zechariah similarly rebuked his fellow Israelites for
their self-centered religious practices. About two years after the night
visions, the people of Bethel sent a delegation with a question: should they
fast and mourn in the fifth month or not? It was during the fifth month that
the Temple had been burned; throughout the years of the Exile, the Jews had
remembered that disaster by fasting and grieving (2 Kings 25:8-10; Ps. 74).
But the Exile was over, they had returned home, and the Temple was being
rebuilt, so they were a bit confused about how to behave.
The Lord’s reply through Zechariah, which consisted of a series of
rhetorical questions, showed that their religious observances generally were
self-centered, ritualistic, and insincere. Both their feasting and their
fasting were “for yourselves” (vv. 5–6). Furthermore, other prophets,
including Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, had already condemned the nation
for this same sin, so they should have already known the answer to their
question (v. 7; cf. Isa. 58).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Here’s a question for personal self-examination today: Why are you doing
spiritual practices like prayer, Bible study, worship, and church service?
Is it for show, for your own ego, or to assuage guilt feelings? Or is it a
loving, obedient expression of intimacy with your Savior and joy in His
presence? You may not always have spiritual “feelings” during these times,
but they should always be an extension of your faith in the presence of God,
not the approval of yourself or others.
Administer true justice; show mercy and
compassion to one another. - Zechariah 7:9
TODAY IN THE WORD
Jackie Robinson, the player who broke baseball’s color barrier, endured a
difficult rookie season with the Brooklyn Dodgers. Fans hurled racial slurs
and mailed death threats, opposing pitchers threw beanballs, and even some
of his own teammates started a petition against him.
One man who stood by him was shortstop
Pee Wee Reese. At one game, fans sitting close to the field abused Robinson
mercilessly, and it looked as if he might be near the breaking point. At
that moment, Reese walked across the field to where Robinson was playing,
and put his arm around his teammate’s shoulders. The crowd fell silent.
Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese showed the courage to stand for what was
right, even when the majority opposed them. Similarly, Zechariah exhorted
the Israelites to pursue righteousness, even when many were practicing
hypocrisy and self-centeredness.
In today’s passage, the prophet moved from yesterday’s condemnation of false
religion to an exhortation to true religion. The emphasis, as we can also
find in other prophets, was on justice, mercy, and compassion (v. 9; cf.
Micah 6:8). Specifically, the people should not oppress widows, orphans,
foreigners, or poor people, nor should they think evil of others (v. 10; cf.
James 1:27). These extend the command to love our neighbors as we love
ourselves (Lev. 19:18; Mark 12:33).
The failure of the pre-Exilic Israelites to obey God in these areas and
others was what had led to the Captivity and Exile (vv. 11–14). Strong
phrases are used here--they refused, stubbornly turned their backs, stopped
up their ears, and hardened their hearts. Their behavior was willful and
intentional, not an accident or the result of ignorance. The metaphor of a
whirlwind reflected the scattering of the Jews throughout the world, also
called the Diaspora.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
In applying today’s Bible reading, let’s follow up on yesterday’s “Today
Along the Way.” Yesterday, we asked a question for self-examination through
the Holy Spirit. Did God speak to you during this time?
Jerusalem will be called the City of
Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy
Mountain. - Zechariah 8:3
TODAY IN THE WORD
Geckos have some of the stickiest feet in nature. They can hang their entire
body weight off one toe, and climb up nearly any wall, no matter how slick
Biologists and engineers looking to
duplicate the gecko’s abilities in synthetic glues have recently uncovered
its secret. It uses millions of tiny foot hairs to adhere to surfaces
through weak molecular attractive forces. Each foot hair ends in about a
thousand even tinier pads at its tip. These pads are arranged in precise
geometric sizes and shapes and determine the level of stickiness. The total
adhesive power of an average gecko would support 280 pounds!
As sticky as geckos’ feet are, God’s faithfulness is even “stickier.” He
never lets us go, and His promises endure forever. That’s the lesson we
learn in today’s passage, in which restoration and blessing were promised to
In the reading, we see farmland that is abundantly fruitful, and old people
and children enjoying life in the midst of safety and plenty (vv. 4–5, 12).
This memorable picture of peace and prosperity, which will be realized in
full during Christ’s coming reign on earth, parallels other, more well-known
Bible passages (cf. Isa. 65:17–25; Jer. 31:10–14). God loved Israel and had
pledged Himself to her in an everlasting covenant relationship. He will
bring His people home, and return to Jerusalem to dwell with them (vv. 3,
In the big picture, we see a strong contrast (vv. 10–11, 14–15). As the
people looked to the past, they saw judgment; as they looked to the future,
they saw blessing. Whereas previous times had been hard, the future held
fruitfulness and comfort. In the days of Conquest and Exile, they’d known no
security, but in the future, God Himself would save them and use them to
bless others--an irony, since those others had previously cursed them (v.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
As you’ve been studying Zechariah, you may want more in-depth resources to
aid your understanding and interpretation. This week, obtain a commentary on
Zechariah at your local Christian bookstore or church library.
Let us go with you, because we have heard
that God is with you. - Zechariah 8:23
TODAY IN THE WORD
One Sunday in a rural Scottish village, the offering plate was being passed
in church, as usual. But what happened next was certainly not usual.
A small boy put the offering plate on
the floor and stepped into it. When asked what he was doing, he replied that
he had no money, so he wanted to give himself to God instead. The pastor
scolded him for disturbing the service and sent him back to his seat.
But God had a plan for that boy, and took him at his word. His name was
Robert Moffat, and he became a pioneering missionary to southern Africa!
What drives present-day evangelism and missions is God’s heart for the
nations, on display in today’s reading. Yesterday we read about the
blessings God has planned for Israel, with the eight-times-repeated refrain,
“This is what the Lord says.” Today, we find two more statements foretelling
blessings, both based on the sure foundation of God’s promise.
In all Zechariah’s prophecies, the key to the blessings described is the
presence of God: His resolve to save His people and dwell with them in
Person. His presence and the blessings flowing from it are a promise not
only for Jerusalem and Israel, but for the whole world--God’s vision in this
regard is global! The blessings themselves will show His presence, and
people of many nations will seek the Lord in Jerusalem (vv. 20–23; cf. Ps.
God’s redemptive purposes have always encompassed all humanity, as we see
from start to finish in the Bible: from His promise following the Fall to
His covenant with Abraham to a plethora of end times prophecies to Paul’s
calling as an apostle to the Gentiles (Gen. 3:15; 12:3; Micah 4:2–3; Col.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Zechariah prophesied that God’s presence with Israel will be a witness to
the nations. In truth, every Christian is a witness, a light who attracts
others to Jesus (Matt. 5:14–16).
Never again will an oppressor overrun my
people, for now I am keeping watch. - Zechariah 9:8
TODAY IN THE WORD
The city of Tyre was rich and
powerful. Living in this important ancient center of commerce and trade, its
citizens trusted in their wealth and military strength. The island fortress
had walls 150 feet high, and the city also boasted a strong navy.
By the time of today’s reading, Tyre
had already withstood two long sieges by the superpowers of the day. Assyria
had tried to conquer the city for five years, but failed. Then for 13 years,
Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians had thrown their armies against the city,
but Tyre had remained independent and prosperous.
In light of this history, it took tremendous faith and guts for Zechariah to
prophesy the doom of Tyre and other enemies of Israel (cf. Ezek. 26:3–14).
Chapters 9–11 constitute a single prophetic oracle, one of two that occupy
the rest of the book. An oracle may be defined simply as a “pronouncement or
revelation from God.” One meaning of the Hebrew verb is “to lift up,” as in
“to lift up one’s voice,” the calling of a prophet.
From our perspective in time, the judgments in today’s reading have mostly
already been accomplished. Alexander the Great defeated or destroyed the
nations mentioned here, including his conquest of Tyre about 333 b.c. How
did he do it when others had failed? He built a breakwater out to the city’s
island fortress, and triumphed after a mere five-month siege. Amazingly,
Alexander and the Greek army bypassed Israel and completely spared Jerusalem
and the Temple!
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Tyre seems to have been a society quite confident in its physical strength
and material goods. Surely we as Americans are tempted by this same
See, your king comes to you, righteous
and having salvation. . . . He will proclaim peace to the nations. -
TODAY IN THE WORD
A little more than 31 years ago, an engineer named Ray Tomlinson typed the
first e-mail sent from one computer to another over a network. Now more than
half of all Americans use e-mail, with about 90 million people considered to
be “active” users. Nearly 10 billion electronic messages are sent worldwide
Said Sonia Arrison, director of the
Pacific Research Institute’s Center for Technology Studies: “E-mail has
affected every aspect of human communication, from dating to conducting
business and even to conducting war. . . . It is also a good way to
transport the goods and services of the 21st century: ideas.” That first
e-mail message, according to one news article, “launched a revolution in the
history of human communications.”
The incarnation of Christ likewise marked a revolution in the history of
divine communication with humanity. After many generations of other methods,
God’s final, perfect revelation would be His only begotten Son. Zechariah
foretold Him in today’s reading!
In the rapidly-shifting time perspectives of prophecy, we’ve zoomed ahead
from events mostly fulfilled under Alexander the Great to the advents of the
Messiah--one of which to us is already past, and one future.
What qualities would characterize the coming King? He would behave
righteously and act to save or redeem His people. He would be gentle, but
also powerful--powerful enough to bring peace to the whole earth! That He
would come riding on a donkey showed humility as well as royalty, since in
King David’s day the donkey was regarded as a royal mount. This specific
prophecy was fulfilled on Palm Sunday, during the Triumphal Entry into
Jerusalem (v. 9; Matt. 21:1–11).
What would the King do? He would fight on behalf of His people, using them
as a bow or sword against their enemies (v. 13). He would free the prisoners
(cf. Isa. 42:6–7). And He would disarm the nations and end all war--a
prophecy to be fulfilled in the Millennium.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
As we delve more into the messianic prophecies of Zechariah, we’ll recommend
more parallel readings in “Today Along the Way.” Today, you might wish to
read John 12:12–19, an account of the Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem,
exactly as predicted in our Scripture reading.
The Lord their God will save them on that
day as the flock of his people. They will sparkle in his land like jewels in
a crown. - Zechariah 9:16
TODAY IN THE WORD
This past summer, the nation was riveted by a drama near a small
Pennsylvania town. After accidentally drilling into an abandoned shaft, nine
coal miners were trapped 240 feet below ground in a nearly flooded tunnel.
More than 100 workers drilled day and night in a race to save them. Would
they be in time?
After about 80 hours of drilling,
pumping air in and water out, and technical problem-solving, the rescuers
finally reached the trapped men and pulled them up to safety through a
special rescue tube. “I didn’t think I was going to see my wife and kids
again,” said one rescued miner. “It was a miracle. Between God and my wife
and the kids, that’s the only things that got me through.”
Rescue and life are what the Messiah’s Advent signify as well. Continuing
from verse 13, we again see the Lord marching forth as a Divine Warrior to
save His people (cf. Hab. 3:11–15). This metaphor is often accompanied in
Scripture by thunderstorm imagery, showing the superior, supernatural,
utterly different nature of His battles.
The bowl simile in verse 15 is particularly rich and complex. Since the bowl
was full, it suggested the completeness or totality of the Lord’s victory.
It also implied the joy of victory, since it’s linked to an immediately
preceding statement about wine. Most importantly, since a sprinkling bowl
would have been full of blood from the sacrifices, this figure of speech
meant that God’s triumph would inspire worship.
Verse 16 also used figurative language to summarize God’s salvation and love
for His people. In one picture, they were a flock, implying that He was
their Shepherd, a familiar and comforting metaphor of care, guidance, and
provision (cf. Ps. 100:3). In a second picture, they were sparkling jewels,
that is, God’s special treasure, living trophies of His glory (cf. Isa.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Our suggested extra reading today is Psalm 18:7–19. As in our main reading,
the Lord is pictured as a mighty, supernatural warrior coming in power and
glory to save His people. The difference is that in Zechariah, God comes to
rescue a nation, while in Psalm 18, He comes to rescue an individual: “He
drew me out of deep waters” (v. 16).
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
from him the tent peg, from him the battle bow, from him every ruler. -
TODAY IN THE WORD
Anyone who’s ever been on a family camping trip knows the importance of a
single tent peg. If even one stake or length of rope is out of place or not
set securely, the tent will sag lopsidedly, rip, or even collapse.
“Tent peg” is one of the less familiar
metaphors for the Messiah mentioned in today’s reading, but it’s a good one.
This chapter continues the themes of the past few days: Messiah’s coming,
His mission of rescue and restoration, and the blessings resulting from His
First, we see images of spring showers, focusing on the fact that it’s the
Lord who sends rain, not idols (vv. 1–2). God was angry with false prophets
and deceiving leaders--the people needed to listen to their true Shepherd,
not to be led astray by empty lies.
There are also many pictures of strength and victory here. God planned to
make Judah “like a proud horse in battle” (v. 3). The nation will overthrow
their enemies (v. 5). When the Lord brings His people home, they will “pass
through the sea of trouble,” a clear allusion to the Red Sea Crossing and
His miraculous rescue of them from bondage in Egypt (vv. 10–11).
This homecoming will bring back Jews to the Promised Land from every corner
of the earth (vv. 8–12). When God says He will “signal” for them (v. 8), the
Hebrew word literally means “whistle.” That is, the Lord is going to whistle
for His sheep!
The most powerful images in this chapter refer to the Messiah, Jesus Christ
(v. 4). He’s the cornerstone, the first and most important brick in God’s
building (cf. Isa. 28:16; Eph. 2:19–21). As we’ve mentioned, He’s the tent
peg. He’s also the battle bow, or the Divine Warrior we’ve already seen
fight to save His people. And He’s the ruler, or King, whose righteous reign
will bring peace to the nations.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Throughout Zechariah, we’ve encountered vivid figures of speech, including
metaphors, symbols, and personifications. For example, in verse 3 of today’s
reading God promises to make Judah “like a proud horse in battle”--a simile
for strength and victory.
He was despised and rejected by men, a
man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. - Isaiah 53:3
TODAY IN THE WORD
In Companions for Your Spiritual Journey: Discovering the Disciplines of the
Saints, Mark Harris wrote that our “most profound source of hope” is found
in the suffering of Jesus:
“Christians who suffer are able to
look into the eyes of the suffering Jesus of the Cross. This Jesus is a man
touched with the feeling of our infirmities, a man who knows that we are
made of dust, a man tested in all points as we are, a man of sorrows,
acquainted with grief.”
By the Spirit, Zechariah and other prophets foretold the rejection and
suffering of the Messiah. This first of two oracles now concludes on a
negative note: Messiah would come, but incredibly, He would be despised.
Thankfully, we have the benefit of hindsight and the New Testament to help
us make sense of why this happened and how this fits into God’s plan.
For most of the chapter, Zechariah lived out a two-part object lesson. In
the first part (vv. 4–14), he acted as a good shepherd--in fact, as the Good
Shepherd, a type of Christ. In the second part (vv. 15–17), he played as a
warning the opposite role--a cruel, selfish shepherd whom we know as
The flock that Zechariah led was “marked for slaughter,” that is, for
judgment. Why would Israel be punished so severely? Because the flock
detested him--that is, the nation would fail to recognize and accept their
rightful Shepherd. Symbolically, the two staffs of Favor and Union would be
broken--God’s blessing and national unity would cease. The Good Shepherd’s
“pay” would be thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave in ancient
times and of Judas’ betrayal of Christ (cf. Matt. 26:14–16; 27:3–10).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
If you have time, do some additional Bible study today. Read John 10, the
passage about Jesus being the Good Shepherd, and make a list of connections
and parallels between this chapter and Zechariah 11. Two main areas that
should stand out are the shepherd imagery and the Jewish rejection of their
They will look on me, the one they have
pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child. -
TODAY IN THE WORD
Have you ever had this feeling? You’re driving along the road, thinking of a
thousand different things that need to be done, when you happen to glance
into your rearview mirror. Back in the distance, you see a red traffic
light. Between you and the traffic light is another red light, this one
flashing on top of a police car headed your way.
That sinking feeling that you’ve blown
it--we’ve all had it at one time or another. Magnify that feeling about a
bazillion times, and you’ll know how Israel will feel when they look on the
“one they have pierced,” and realize their colossal error in rejecting Him.
In today’s reading, we will study Zechariah’s second oracle, which continues
to the end of the book. Through it all, we’ll see one basic scene: Messiah’s
Second Advent, when He’ll return to complete His work of redemption and
establish His rule on earth. No one can resist His sovereign power (v. 1).
The oracle first shows Messiah’s physical deliverance of Israel. The nation
is pictured as the cup of God’s wrath, which will send the nations reeling
(v. 2). Just as drunken men are overcome by alcohol, so the wicked will be
overcome by divine judgment. Israel will also be an “immovable rock,” strong
and secure (vv. 3–5). God’s people will be a fire in dry grass, defeating
their enemies as quickly as such a fire spreads (v. 6).
In yesterday’s prophecy, Israel was condemned, but now the nation is
redeemed when the Shepherd returns. “On that day” the Lord will save,
shield, fight, win, and pour out His Spirit. “On that day,” God plus the
weakest person will be a mighty warrior.
By God’s grace, Israel will receive spiritual deliverance as well. They’ll
see the Crucified One and grieve. To “look on” Him carries the idea of
responding in faith (v. 10). With their eyes opened to the truth, they will
repent with sincere and godly sorrow.
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
Spend some time in prayer today rejoicing in your Savior. Through the lens
of Scripture, behold Him, confess to Him, praise Him, and meditate on His
greatness and love. He paid the ultimate price for your salvation--He gave
His life that you might have eternal life!
A fountain will be opened to the house of
David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and
impurity. - Zechariah 13:1
TODAY IN THE WORD
The Atacama Desert, on the Pacific coast of Chile, is considered to be the
driest place on earth. Often the area, which includes many mountains, goes
without rain for several years, and on average receives only .004 inches of
rain per year. Rainstorms that hit the tropical forest on the other side of
the Andes generally cannot rise high enough to do the same on the Atacama
side. Some sections of this high, cold desert have not experienced rainfall
for over 400 years!
The physical dryness of the Atacama
Desert reflects the spiritual dryness of Israel in today’s reading. We’re
still learning about the Messiah’s dealings with Israel, here for the most
part at His Second Coming. After the Spirit has been poured out, and after
the nation has recognized its sinful rejection of Christ and repented, then
will come God’s forgiveness, pictured here as a cleansing fountain (v. 1).
The cleansing from sin will involve an end to worship of other gods, and an
end to false prophecies (vv. 2–6). People who have done these things will
hide and lie, as opposed to the open blasphemy practiced among the original
audience of Zechariah’s message. Even family members of such sinners will
have God as their first and all-consuming priority (cf. Deut. 13:6–9).
Verse 7 returns briefly to Christ’s First Coming. Jesus quoted the lines
about the Shepherd being struck and the sheep scattered as fulfilled in His
arrest (Matt. 26:31). A severe refining process will precede a remnant’s
return and restoration (vv. 8–9).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
The long-awaited One has come! The Living Water is available today! Are you
excited about this message? Have you shared this good news recently?
The Lord will be king over the whole
earth. On that day there will be one Lord, and his name the only name. -
TODAY IN THE WORD
At the 1999 U.S. Open, Andre Agassi won one of the hardest-fought,
come-from-behind victories in recent tennis history.
After winning the first set against
Todd Martin, he dropped the next two sets on tiebreakers. He didn’t give up
though, and fought back tenaciously with tough serves, pinpoint returns, and
relentless volleying to counter Martin’s 23 aces. After three hours and 23
minutes, he finally won the fifth set 6-2 to clinch his fifth career Grand
While we can’t really say that Christ’s victory will be “come-from-behind,”
it certainly appears that way at the beginning of today’s reading. During
the battle of Armageddon, the nations will fight against Jerusalem, and at
first will be winning. But then the Lord will arrive, fight, conquer, and
make the city safe forever (vv. 2–5, 10–11). He’ll stand on the Mount of
Olives, which is one reason why some scholars think Christ will return to
this specific place. In the passage, though, the focus is on the fact that
He’ll powerfully make a way of escape for His people. “On that day,” nature
itself will obey God’s sovereignty, reminiscent of the day the sun stopped
in the sky for Joshua (vv. 6–7; Josh. 10:12–14).
When Christ returns to do battle--this is the same battle as pictured in
Zechariah 12 (see January 28)--He’ll be accompanied by “all the holy ones”
(v. 5). These might be angels, but are more likely believers. Before the
Tribulation period preceding the Second Coming, believers will have been
“raptured” to be with Jesus, and at this point they’ll return to fight with
and for the Lamb (Rev. 17:14).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
As we see in both the Old and New Testaments, Jesus is coming again! At His
Second Advent, He’ll judge the nations, establish His kingdom, and dwell
The kingdom of the world has become the
kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign for ever and ever.
- Revelation 11:15
TODAY IN THE WORD
One classic hymn proclaims:
“O worship the King, all glorious
above, / And gratefully sing His wonderful love; / Our Shield and Defender,
the Ancient of Days, / Pavilioned in splendor, and girded with praise. / O
tell of His might, and sing of His grace, / Whose robe is the light, whose
canopy space. / His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form, / And
dark is His path on the wings of the storm / All hail to the King! in
splendor enthroned; / Glad praises we bring, Thy wonders make known. /
Returning victorious, great conqueror of sin, / King Jesus, all glorious,
our vict’ry will win.”
The book of Zechariah closes on this
same note of triumph and glory. The nations who attacked Israel will be
struck with a plague, and will give up their wealth. Best of all, the entire
world will come to worship the one true God at the Feast of Tabernacles (vv.
Why the Feast of Tabernacles? This feast celebrated the harvest, suggesting
the completion of God’s plan for history and the gathering of all believers.
It also commemorated the journey of the Exodus, reminding us of God’s
special dealings with Israel. It was the last and greatest festival on the
Jewish calendar, a time of joy and thankfulness. In all these ways, the
Feast of Tabernacles is a fitting symbol for history’s climax.
Why do the book and this second oracle end with pots and pans (vv. 20–21)?
The significance is that “on that day” everything will be dedicated to the
Lord. In the past, only a gold plate on the high priest’s turban had “Holy
to the Lord” engraved on it; but now, figuratively, even the horse’s bells
will have God’s name on them, meaning they’ll be consecrated or holy. No
evil will be allowed in God’s house (cf. Rev. 21:27).
TODAY ALONG THE WAY
About any subject, but especially in regard to the Messiah and the end
times, what new things did you learn this month? What spiritual truth or
principle have you come to understand for the first time? What part of God’s
character do you grasp more clearly than ever before?
Copyright Moody Bible Institute
Used by permission. All rights reserved
by F B Meyer
He stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom.
The myrtle in a lowland vale is a
beautiful emblem of the people of God. They do not aspire to be forest
trees, but are content to fill a little space if He be glorified. As the
myrtle seeks its home in shady and moist lands, so the believer needs shadow
and moisture. God’s ideal for us is a lowly plant, fragrant in scent, and
graceful in its appearance.
But, however lowly and humble the
myrtle might be, the Angel of Jehovah, who could have been none other but
the Lord Jesus Himself, was there. At dead of night the prophet beheld Him
sitting on a red horse, and attended by a retinue of horsemen, who had come
back to Him after walking to and fro in all the earth. The Lord has his
throne in the midst of his people, and his servants post over sea and land
to do his bidding on their behalf.
And thus the prophet overheard the
colloquy. The Lord’s inquiry and the Angel’s answer were clearly
distinguished. He also heard the appeal made by the Redeemer of Israel to
the Eternal, as He pleaded that God would avenge his peoples cause, and was
answered with good and comforting words The Angel Jehovah who pleaded for
Israel (Zephaniah 1:12) still pleads for his Church: and is similarly
Yes! we are the objects of divine
solicitude. Jesus with his bright angels is on our side. Not more really was
He with the disciples of old, who were but as myrtles, than He is with us.
He is still displeased with those who invade our lives with their cruelties.
He is jealous for his people with a great jealousy. He will yet comfort
Zion, and choose Jerusalem. However dark your night, dare to believe that
the Lord of the Angels has stooped to your myrtle-tree life to help and
I will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst of
Jerusalem was to be rebuilt; but it
would soon outgrow the narrow boundaries of the walls which Nehemiah and
Ezra had reared with so much care. The multitude of men and cattle would
pour over the ramparts as villages spread themselves out over the open
country. What then: would there be no wall to arrest the foe and preserve
the inhabitants from attack? Yes; there would be one, because the presence
of God would be as a wall of fire round about. Nor would this be all,
because He would be the glory in the midst (Isaiah 4:5).
How busy some of us are in building
walls to our lives—the walls of property; of family alliances; of
preparation against all kinds of ill. But the utmost we can do is not enough
to defend us against the inevitable perils and dangers of our mortal life.
Better far is it to bide within the enfolding, encouraging presence of the
Eternal God, which is as a rampart of fire. Can plague or pestilence pass
through fire? Travellers light a cordon of fires to surround them with their
protection from tigers and wolves; so the soul hides in God. Notice the
exquisite similitude—we are safe as “the apple of his eye.” What a safe
environment is furnished by the brows, lids, lashes, strong frontal bones,
and lachrymal water to cleanse each defect. We raise the arm at once to
protect the eye. So safe art thou, O weak believer!
But we need not defence only, but
illumination; not the fire around alone, but within; not deliverance, but
salvation. Where can this be obtained, save in the indwelling of the Son of
God, making our hearts so full of his burning purity that sin might be
abashed and no sacrilegious foot intrude?
A brand plucked out of the fire.
Such is the divine economy, that God
makes much of brands, fragments, castaways. What others regard as unworthy
of their heed is dear and priceless to the great Lover of souls. The smoking
flax, the bruised reed, the woman that was a sinner, the dying thief, the
brand plucked from the fire, charred and blackened and almost useless—those
whom man rejects as worthless—the base things of the world, and the things
that are despised; these are chosen to bring to naught the things that are,
so that no flesh should glory in his presence.
Hear the enemy and the Son of Man speaking concerning that smoking brand.
The enemy says: It is so worthless and useless, so nearly eaten through with
fire, so black and charred—cast it back again into the flame, and take some
other. But Jesus says: Because it is so nearly worthless, because no one
else would find any use for it, because all others would fling it back to be
consumed—there is the more reason why I should take it in hand: nothing less
than Divine skill or patience will avail.
And see what He will do for that
charred ember. He will take away the filthy garments, clothe with change of
raiment, and set the fair miter of priesthood on his head. From the verge of
the pit to the proximity of the throne!
“The fair miter” may fairly be taken
to represent a fresh enduement of the Holy Spirit for service. We must
receive a new anointing ere we can go into the temple of God, to perform the
priestly offices of praying for the people, and of coming forth to bless
them. Let us break in on the heavenly ceremonial, pleading for one another
that none may be missed, but that on each the fresh miter may be bestowed.
Two golden spouts. (r.v.)
What a sermon there is in a wick! Sit
beside it, and ask how it dares hope to be able to supply light for hours
and hours to come. “Will you not soon burn to an end, you wick of lamp?”
“No; I do not fear it, since the light does not burn me, though it burns on
me. I only bear to it the oil which saturates my texture. I am but the
ladder up which it climbs. It is not I, but the oil that is in me, that
furnishes the light.”
Yes, that is it, and when we
anticipate the future, our hearts might well misgive us if we were counting
on meeting its demands from our only slender resources. But this is not
necessary;we do not give light to the world; we only receive the oil from
the Holy Spirit and the spark of his fire; and if we burn steadily through
the long, dark hours, it is because we have learned to translate into living
beauty those supplies of grace which we receive in fellowship with Jesus.
But how necessary it is that nothing
interrupt the flow of oil; that there be no uncleanliness permitted to clog
and obstruct the narrow bore of the golden spout of faith. Let us daily see
to this; let us watch and pray, that there may be no hindrance or
impediment; let us draw from our King-Priest more and more of his grace, to
enable us to persevere. It cannot be too often repeated, that it is not what
we do for Him, but what He does through us, which really blesses men. Be
satisfied then to be only a wick, unseen amid the glory of the light that
crowns it, and willing to be consumed by the daily removal of the charred
fringe. Delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus may be
manifest in your mortal flesh.
Then said I to the Angel that talked with me, Wither do these bear the
The first vision of this chapter
denounces those who had sinned against the first and second tables of the
law; the record of their sin would be written in unmistakable syllables, and
would consume the houses of evil-doers with dry-rot (Zechariah 5:4). But the
second vision is most consolatory. A woman who symbolizes the wickedness of
the land is thrust into an immense ephah, and covered with a leaden weight,
and then is borne away from the Holy Land by two women in whose wings are
strength and speed. Its destination was Babylon; thence had come the
principal forms of iniquity, with which the chosen people were cursed, and
thither would they return. But what encouragement to every pious Jew to know
that the wickedness which had brought God’s judgments on the land was
removed beyond recall!
This choice is presented to every one
of us:—If we refuse to confess our sin, it eats out our heart and life, as
cancer and consumption do the fiber of life. If, on the other hand, we
confess, and seek the grace of the Holy Spirit, our iniquity will be purged,
and the power of sin broken. With swift and sure salvation will God come to
our relief, and the chains that bind shall drop from off us like wreaths of
hoarfrost before the sun. What though the tendency and possibility of sin
remain yet within us; yet the thrall of wickedness is abolished. However
many the dark transgressions of the past, when sought for, they cannot be
found; and whatever the temptation without, and the frailty within, we are
learning to abhor that which is evil, and cleave to that which is good. So
our path mounts up on a stairway of light to the gates of everlasting day.
“Awake to righteousness, and sin not.”
Behold the Man whose name is The Branch.
Three men came from Babylon, where
many Jews remained, even after the return under Ezra and Nehemiah; they
brought presents to the new-found temple. Their names were Robust; the
Goodness of God; God-knows. Of the gold and silver a double crown was made,
and placed on Joshua’s head: one circle, as emblem of the priest; the other,
of the king—the two signifying the final gathering of Israel’s outcasts to
the Messiah, who would then be recognized as their true King and Priest. In
the Jewish commonwealth it was without precedent for the same man to be both
king and priest; but as the time drew nearer the advent of the Lord,
revelation concerning his marvelous Person grew in clearness, and the
majestic combination of glory in his character became apparent. In his
Church Christ is Priest and King, after the order of Melchisedec, and
between the two offices is no dispute.
As Branch, He is a scion of David’s
ancient stock; and through his far-reaching boughs the sap of the eternal
purpose breaks into flower and fruit. He sprouted out from his place,
Bethlehem, as predicted, and as befitted one of David’s line.
As Builder, He began to build the
Temple of the Lord, laying its foundations in the blood of his cross. He
quarries the stones from the hearts of his people, and superintends the plan
of the growing structure, as its Architect. Through the ages tier after tier
is being added, though the builders pass and He will place the top-stone at
his second advent. The Temple grows towards completion. Let us ask whether
we have been built into its fabric, or left as those huge boulders at
Baalbec, shaped for the Temple but never carried beyond the quarry.
When ye fasted and mourned … did ye at all fast unto Me, even to Me?
The men at Bethel asked this question
of the priests; it was answered by the prophet. The fast of the fifth month
was in memory of the fall of Jerusalem; that of the seventh commemorated the
murder of Gedaliah, when the last blow was struck at Jewish independence.
The question was: Should the restored Jews continue these fasts now that the
events they recalled were forgotten in the abounding joy of the new state?
It was a question of rite and ceremony and outward observance; and the
prophet answers in effect: “Ye take much trouble and thought about the
observance of a man-constituted religious rite; would that you were equally
solicitous to practise those virtues, and denounce the vices, which were the
theme of so many expostulations and warnings of the older prophets.”
God invariably demands a religion
which does not consist in outward rites and ceremonies, but is inward and
spiritual; and demands true judgment, the showing of mercy and compassion,
the forsaking of oppression and evil imaginings. This is unpalatable enough
to the natural man, who pulls away his shoulder.
On the general question, one would
advise that there is no need to observe the sad anniversaries of our sins
and their accompanying punishment, if once we are assured of God’s free
forgiveness. When He forgives and restores, the need for dwelling on the
bitter past is over; and we should put off our sackcloth and array ourselves
with festal garments. This is a most salutary and necessary lesson. Too many
of us are always dwelling beside the graves of the dead past. Each month has
an anniversary of something we have lost. “Not looking behind” should be the
motto of our Christian life.
Should it also be marvellous in mine eyes, saith the Lord?
Marvelous! Marvelous! Probably there
is no adjective more frequently on our lips than this, in these wonderful
years when we are reaping the harvest of centuries of patient sowing, and
when any morning the newspapers may announce a discovery which will
revolutionize our methods of illumination, or locomotion, or military
The other day we were told that the
philosopher’s stone was found at last; and that silver can be transformed
into gold; tomorrow we may rub our eyes at the marvelous news that the North
Pole has been reached. Men resemble the little child led into a toy-shop, or
listening to a lecture at the Royal Institute, with open-eyed wonder and
But none of these things are wonderful
to God; they are but the unraveling of his thoughts, the discovery of his
secrets! They are only marvelous to us because we are as yet in the baby
stage, waking up to know a little of what a wonderful God He is. Like a
little child in Wonderland, our God is leading man from room to room,
telling him such wonderful stories of his nature and creative work, as make
us continually exclaim, How wonderful!
But there are more wonderful things
than these—that rebels should be forgiven, prodigals restored, the sons of
darkness changed into children of light, Satan driven out before the
Stronger than he, the unclean heart made the pure temple of the holy God.
Talk they of marvels in the natural world! These pale before the star of
Bethlehem, the sunset of Calvary, and the radiance of the Resurrection
morning. And we shall see greater things than these, when we follow on to
know through unending ages.
Because of the blood of thy covenant, I have sent forth thy prisoners.
The state of the Jews in Palestine is
presented under the figure of prisoners, shut up, as Joseph of old, in
disused water-pits, from which the water had been drawn off, leaving a miry
swamp behind. Jeremiah sank in one of these, almost to suffocation. But all
the while they might reasonably be prisoners of hope, not of despair; of
hope, because the seventy years had expired; of hope, because the purpose of
their captivity had been achieved; of hope, because God had entered into
covenant with their fathers, and had ratified it with blood. And, because of
this, they would go forth out of the pit.
These words will probably be read by
many other prisoners: prisoners of circumstance; prisoners in the hands of
strong oppressors; prisoners in the utmost extremity. They fear every day
because of the fury of the oppressor, as though he were ready to destroy.
Behold, I bring to such of these as are united with the Son of God, good
tidings of great joy! God will ever be mindful of his covenant. You may
forget, or be utterly unworthy of his continued favor; you may have involved
yourself in difficulties of your own making, the consequences of your own
sin; but you must never forget that you are bound to God by the blood of an
everlasting covenant. In the depth of your despair you may appropriate the
psalmist’s words, “Remember the covenant!” And He who brought again from the
dead the Lord Jesus, the Great Shepherd, will raise you from the dark
dungeon, and make you sit with princes. He will certainly chasten, but He
will assuredly redeem. Be of good cheer, ye prisoners of hope! According to
covenant, God comes down the long corridor to throw open the prison doors.
They shall be as though I had not cast them off: for I am the Lord their
God distinguishes, in these words,
between the civil rulers of the people, called shepherds, and the people,
his flock. He was determined to interpose on the behalf of his people, and
to redeem them from the troubles in which their rulers had involved them.
The distinct mention of Judah and Israel foreshadows a more complete
restoration than that which had brought them from Babylon; in which Judah
alone, with a few other Israelites from the other tribes, participated. This
restoration is yet future; but when it comes, it will be so complete that
the long history of the centuries shall be obliterated; and both the house
of Judah and the house of Joseph will be as though they had never been cast
Hast thou been cast away from the hand
of God—not as far as thy salvation is concerned, but for his purposes of
service? Be sure to put away your sin. Ask for rain in the time of the
latter rain—the gracious rain of the Holy Spirit; put away the false ideals
which you have followed, as Israel false gods; then He will bring you again.
Your sins shall be remembered no
more—the deep gulf of separation shall be bridged; the years devoured by the
locust shall be restored; the dead past shall bury its dead; the river of
the water of life will flow again into the channels which it filled once
with music, but have so long been dry; and you shall be as though you had
never been cast away. If you take the precious from among the vile, you
shall not remove. God not only forgives, but obliterates the memory of past
failure and sin. He reposes as much confidence in us as though we had never
deceived Him; He treats his prodigals as though they had never gone astray.
I took two staves, the one I called Beauty, and the other I called Bands.
The prophet exercised his office
amongst the poor of the land. They gave heed unto him (Zechariah 11:11), and
recognized that he spoke the word of the Lord. It always has been so; and
such people make the best flock, for pastoral oversight.
One day, the prophet appeared amongst
these humble folk with two staves: Beauty, to represent the possible
excellence of the people whom God loved; Bands, to denote the unity by which
the entire nation should have been bound in one. These twain he broke to
show, first, that God would be compelled to choose another people to set
forth his praise; and, secondly, that the unity of Israel would be annulled.
When his hearers had received these announcements, wrung from his heart,
their sole response was to make a collection amongst them in recognition of
his pastoral care; and this amounted only to the price of a good
bond-servant (Exodus 21:32). What a miserable return for all the prophet’s
team and words!
All this was symbolical of our Lord.
He longs for the beauty and unity of his Church. But, alas! how bitterly He
has been disappointed! How hopelessly He has snapped his staves! How
ungraciously his reward has been meted out to Him! (Matthew 26:15). The
historical counterpart of this scene was afforded in his closing discourses
and final betrayal; and its spiritual counterpart is being enacted day by
day. O my soul! hast thou missed the beauty and unity He chose for thee?
Hast thou esteemed his service of small account! Art thou like the
Pharisees, that use the price of blood for the Potter’s Field? (Matthew
27:6–7, 10). Repent thee, lest the Good Shepherd be compelled to adopt
severer methods, and pass thee also through the refining fires.
They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn.
The fulfillment of these words is
evidently future. A time is undoubtedly coming when the Jews shall recognize
that Jesus is their brother. That scene in Joseph’s palace, when he made
himself known to his brethren, and they looked on him whom they had cast
into the pit and mourned with bitter tears, shall be literally enacted
before the eyes of the world. The prophet tells us that this great
reconciliation will take place, when their foes will be in the siege against
Jerusalem; from which we infer that they will be restored to their own land
in unbelief, but will be led to recognize Jehovah-Jesus when He comes to
their rescue (Revelation 1:7).
But the interesting point for us to
notice is the precise place in which their morning breaks out with its
exceeding great and bitter cry. It is after they have been saved (Zechariah
12:7); after they have been engirded with strength; after their foes have
been destroyed. Then the sluice-gates of sorrow are opened, and the bitter
tears gush forth. They look on Him whom they pierced, and mourn. This is the
true place of penitential grief. It was when the woman had been already
forgiven that she loved much, and covered the Lord’s feet with tears.
Do not chide yourself if your sorrow
for sin is meager and belated. This is quite likely to be the case, until
you have deeper experience of the love of your dear Lord. But the more you
know Him; the more you gaze on the piercings of his heart, the more you will
mourn, as one that is in bitterness for the first-born. Pour on me this
grace, O Lord, and give me this brokenness of heart! It was the figure of
Christ on the cross that broke down Count Zinzendorf’s proud heart.
Awake, O sword, against my Shepherd, and against the man that is my Fellow.
There is no uncertainty as to the
application of these striking words. On the eve of his death our Lord
appropriated them to Himself. To his troubled disciples was He not the
Shepherd and they the little flock? (Matthew 26:31). How well every word
suits his lips!
He was a Shepherd, true, stedfast to
his Father’s charge. There is a special emphasis in the pronoun my: since
the Father had given over to his care a number of souls who were his, but
whom He committed to the Son with the charge that He should lose none, but
raise all of them up at the last day.
But He was more than Shepherd. He was
Jehovah’s Fellow. From eternity He had dwelt in the bosom of the Father. He
counted not equality with God a prize to be grasped at, as though there were
any uncertainty about it. It was his native right. To all the deep secrets
and purposes of God He was privy in all the plans of creation, providence,
and redemption, He had fellowship. My Shepherd, said the Almighty; and my
Fellow. But, O my soul, stand still and wonder; He who was all this became
also a man! What an astonishing combination: The man that is “my Fellow!”
The mediator between God and man was Himself — man.
But listen to the appeal to the sword
of Divine justice. It had slept. Even since the sin of Eden it had remained
quiet and unavenging. The pledge of the Son to come in the fullness of time
met all its demands. But when He came it awoke. He was made sin for us: He
bore the penalty of our transgression: He was led as a lamb to the slaughter
and slain. And now, O sword of Divine Justice, thou hast returned into thy
sheath, never again to awake.
In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the
In the days which the prophet
anticipated, the knowledge and love of God would be universally diffused.
The method in which he expresses this is as significant as it is beautiful.
Horses were forbidden under the Jewish law, because of the temptations they
presented to pride and war; but they would become dedicated to God, and
their furniture or trappings would be emblazoned with the same sacred words
that shone of old from the high priest’s golden frontlet. So, the commonest
utensils in the Lord’s house would become as sacred vessels.
Such a day ought to be our every-day
experience. “Holiness to the Lord” should be written on our commonest and
most ordinary actions. The holy emotions and intentions that thirst in our
bosoms on the Lord’s day and in the Lord’s house should always characterize
us. Whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, we should do all for the
glory of God.
Many bells ring in our lives hour by
hour: for awaking from our sleep, for meals, for work in the school or
factory, for our attendance on those who employ us. There is the bell of
call for the surgeon, the clergyman, the man of business. Let us look on
each summons, from whatever quarter, as being the call of God, as much so as
the recurring duties of the priests in the temple of old; and let us regard
each opportunity as a sacred bowl, from which we may pour out some holy
libation to the glory of God. We can only live like this when we have
consecrated ourselves absolutely to God, and regard our entire life as being
marked out in all its details as a sacred plan. It is good also carefully to
observe our priestly office, and to remember that we are a holy nation as
well as a royal priesthood.
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