Zechariah 11:4-17

This is what the Lord my God says: “Shepherd the flock marked for slaughter. Their buyers slaughter them and go unpunished. Those who sell them say, ‘Praise the Lord, I am rich!’ Their own shepherds do not spare them. For I will no longer have pity on the people of the land,” declares the Lord. “I will give everyone into the hands of their neighbors and their king. They will devastate the land, and I will not rescue anyone from their hands.”

So I shepherded the flock marked for slaughter, particularly the oppressed of the flock. Then I took two staffs and called one Favor and the other Union, and I shepherded the flock. In one month I got rid of the three shepherds.

The flock detested me, and I grew weary of them and said, “I will not be your shepherd. Let the dying die, and the perishing perish. Let those who are left eat one another’s flesh.”

10 Then I took my staff called Favor and broke it, revoking the covenant I had made with all the nations. 11 It was revoked on that day, and so the oppressed of the flock who were watching me knew it was the word of the Lord.

12 I told them, “If you think it best, give me my pay; but if not, keep it.” So they paid me thirty pieces of silver.

13 And the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the handsome price at which they valued me! So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them to the potter at the house of the Lord.

14 Then I broke my second staff called Union, breaking the family bond between Judah and Israel.

15 Then the Lord said to me, “Take again the equipment of a foolish shepherd. 16 For I am going to raise up a shepherd over the land who will not care for the lost, or seek the young, or heal the injured, or feed the healthy, but will eat the meat of the choice sheep, tearing off their hooves.

17 “Woe to the worthless shepherd,
    who deserts the flock!
May the sword strike his arm and his right eye!
    May his arm be completely withered,
    his right eye totally blinded!”

(Zechariah 11:4-17 NIV)

Before we continue our study of chapter 11, let’s “connect the dots” from our last few studies to help set the context for today’s passage.  This is a very complex passage, so please bear with me as we work through the text.  If you have questions or are unclear, don’t understand something, feel free to reach out – I will do my best to find an answer.

In our last study (11:1-3), we saw this as the transition between Chapter 10 verses 10-12 and Chapter 11 verses 4-17.  Zechariah 10:10-12 addressed the nations that persecuted the Jewish people during their exile; Assyria (including Babylon) and Egypt were named, but any nation that participated was implied.

Zechariah 11:1-3 looked backward to 10:10-12, using metaphors familiar to those living in the trans-Jordan region.  This passage also looked forward, as we mentioned, to the time of Jesus, when the city of Jerusalem would be destroyed again and Temple would be destroyed again.

As we begin today’s text, we see the Lord instructing Zechariah to take on the metaphorical role of a shepherd to a flock of sheep.   The sheep were a metaphor for the nation of Israel, and the shepherd was a metaphor for the Great Shepherd to come, Messiah (Jesus).

Now that Zechariah had his assignment, what happened?   Verse 5 says that the sheep are owned by someone else; in this case, the “owners” referred to here are commonly thought to be the Romans who would eventually take over Israel and would rule throughout the time of Jesus’ life and ministry on earth.

So how were the Romans, as the owners, treating their “flock”?  Remember that the primary value of the sheep was for their wool, not their meat.  Verse 5 says that the owners (the Romans) would only be interested in selling the sheep as meat to make a profit.  In fact, the word “them” (referring to the sheep being slaughtered) is feminine.  This means that the female sheep (ewes) meant for breeding and producing offspring were being killed and eaten.  This was not a sustainable practice – the herd would be eaten and dwindle to nothing over time.

Verse 5 also makes three condemning remarks about this practice of slaughtering the sheep and destroying the flock:

  • there was no accountability for the Romans and their predatory actions
  • the other shepherds (the Jewish religious and cultural leaders) did absolutely nothing to stop the slaughter
  • they gave God credit for becoming rich (this was their own greed, not God’s goodness that made them rich in this case)

When Jesus was on earth, He addressed greed and not caring for those who needed help.  In one situation, Jesus asked what good it would be for someone to gain the whole world if they had to forfeit their own soul to obtain it (Matthew 16:26).  Jesus compares the unmatched value of a person’s soul against the fleeting lie of wealth, possessions, and power, and finds that there is no comparison.  The value of a soul wins every time.

So what happens?  The Lord says He is fed up with trying to protect and provide for His people.  If the Jewish religious and cultural leaders don’t care, why should He?  From a human perspective, Zechariah’s job as a shepherd is doomed a failure before he starts.

In verse 7, Zechariah is speaking again.  He obeys the Lord’s directions in verse 4 and shepherds the flock, even though he knows they are doomed for slaughter and someone’s dinner plate.  Zechariah makes special note that he cares for the oppressed of the flock (the sick and injured).

Doesn’t this sound familiar?  When Jesus publicly announced His ministry and purpose that day in the Temple, remember what He said?  He would give hope, freedom, sight, and favor to those who needed it most (Luke 4:17-19).

Zechariah also said he carried two staffs (shepherd’s crooks):  One he named Favor, and the other one he named Union.  These two staffs represented two of God’s many attributes.   The first staff, Favor (also translated Beauty) represented God’s grace, His gentle leadership by example and by design and intent.  The second staff, Union, represented the harmony and “one-ness” of those who peacefully dwell under the shepherd who leads with Favor (grace).

In verse 8, the shepherd deals with three bad under-shepherds in a month.  This is a very hard verse to understand, and there is much conjecture about who or what these “shepherds” might have represented in both Zechariah’s day and in Jesus’ day.  By dealing with these problem shepherds, the shepherd is also rejected by the other under-shepherds.  Again, this is a metaphor and most scholars believe that this symbolism ultimately points to Jesus as the Great Shepherd (Jesus) being rejected by the Jewish religious and cultural rulers of His day.

In verses 9 – 14, Zechariah now switches metaphorical roles and takes on the role of the “bad” shepherds mentioned in verse 5.  He tells the sheep they are on their own, and he does not care what happens to them, even if they die or are killed and eaten.  He breaks the Favor (grace) staff in front of the people.   By breaking this staff, Zechariah symbolically broke his promise to continue on in his shepherding job that normally paid about 10 pieces of silver a year and signs himself on as a slave that normally paid about 30 pieces of silver a year (v. 12).  He was looking out for himself and himself only.  After Zechariah is paid his slave’s wages, the Lord tells him to throw the payment to the potter in the Temple (v. 13).  Zechariah then cuts up the second staff (Union), which represented the reuniting of Israel and Judah (v. 14).

Obviously, this points to the prophecy of Judas Iscariot’s actions (Matthew 26:14-16 and Matthew 27:1-10).  These symbolic actions of the bad shepherd also point to the rejection of Jesus by the Jewish religious and cultural rulers, and for their selfish actions that completely ignored the needs of the Jewish people, as Jesus pointed out in Luke 11:46.

In verses 15-17, the Lord instructs Zechariah to continue to act as a foolish shepherd.  This metaphor is of another shepherd, an imposter, that the people will follow in place of the rejected shepherd (Jesus).  This imposter will not care for the sheep, but will in fact prey upon them and devour them.

Jesus reiterated His rejection by the Jews and their acceptance of another leader in John 5:43.  In Zechariah’s prophecy and in Jesus’ prediction, they both pointed to a future time when Satan will lead many astray in the end times.

The Lord closes this chapter and section by giving a short poem (v. 17) that describes the punishment and demise of the foolish shepherd (Satan) in the final ending of the story.  With a withered arm and a blind eye, the false shepherd will no longer be able to attack or even take aim against the flock.  God is the victor, and ultimately shepherds His people with Favor and Union (grace and unity).

May we shepherd well (care for) those around us, even if we are rejected or hurt for attempting to do so.

And may we look forward to God’s righteous rule one day, when all will be well.

Come, Lord Jesus!

Blessings,

~kevin

Zechariah 11:1-3

11 Open your doors, Lebanon,
    so that fire may devour your cedars!
Wail, you juniper, for the cedar has fallen;
    the stately trees are ruined!
Wail, oaks of Bashan;
    the dense forest has been cut down!
Listen to the wail of the shepherds;
    their rich pastures are destroyed!
Listen to the roar of the lions;
    the lush thicket of the Jordan is ruined!
(Zechariah 11:1-3 NIV)

Looking back to chapter 10, we see the Lord reminding His people of their total dependence on Him, and not on good luck charms, fortune tellers, or any others who claim to know or see the future.  God will gather His people that are scattered to the far reaches of the earth; He will bless them and protect them.  God will also declare war on the nations that oppressed His people while they were in exile.  As we noted last time, this promise was for the short term (in their lifetime), in the mid-term (in the life of Jesus), and in the long term (for eternity).

As we open chapter 11, the mood changes.  Gone are the happy moments of victory; now God describes the results of His declaration of war on those that oppress God’s people.

These three verses use familiar landmarks and features in and around the trans-Jordan area as bold imagery and metaphors for what will happen.

In Zechariah’s current timeframe, the references to Lebanon are about the cedar trees, the largest trees known to that region.  The size of the trees reflected their pride and the amount of shade (area) they covered (the size of the nation).  One could easily make the correlation with the great Assyrian nation.

The reference to the cypress and oak trees reflects the smaller size of those trees with respect to the cedars of Lebanon.  One could correlate those smaller trees with smaller nations like Egypt, etc.  The point here is that if the largest trees (nations) are being brought down, the smaller trees (nations) should be fearful and understand they are not immune from the Lord’s judgment as well.

The shepherds’ wails are the cries of the kings that have lost their flock (their glory, the people they rule over).

The lions’ roars are the deposed kings that are forced out of their kingdoms when their home is ruined, just as the lions in the trans-Jordan area are forced out of their lairs among the thickets along the Jordan River when the river overflows its banks.

This prophecy also points forward (from the vantage point of Zechariah) to the time of Jesus, when the Temple would be destroyed and the gates of Jerusalem burned again because of the rejection of Messiah (Jesus).  The religious leaders will be deposed, without a flock (people to rule over), and without a home (the Temple).  All this happens because of their pride and arrogance when they reject Jesus as Messiah.

May we walk with the Lord in humility and in faith (Micah 6:8).

Blessings,
~kevin

Zechariah 10:1-12

10 Ask the Lord for rain in the springtime;
    it is the Lord who sends the thunderstorms.
He gives showers of rain to all people,
    and plants of the field to everyone.
The idols speak deceitfully,
    diviners see visions that lie;
they tell dreams that are false,
    they give comfort in vain.
Therefore the people wander like sheep
    oppressed for lack of a shepherd.

“My anger burns against the shepherds,
    and I will punish the leaders;
for the Lord Almighty will care
    for his flock, the people of Judah,
    and make them like a proud horse in battle.
From Judah will come the cornerstone,
    from him the tent peg,
from him the battle bow,
    from him every ruler.
Together they will be like warriors in battle
    trampling their enemy into the mud of the streets.
They will fight because the Lord is with them,
    and they will put the enemy horsemen to shame.

“I will strengthen Judah
    and save the tribes of Joseph.
I will restore them
    because I have compassion on them.
They will be as though
    I had not rejected them,
for I am the Lord their God
    and I will answer them.
The Ephraimites will become like warriors,
    and their hearts will be glad as with wine.
Their children will see it and be joyful;
    their hearts will rejoice in the Lord.
I will signal for them
    and gather them in.
Surely I will redeem them;
    they will be as numerous as before.
Though I scatter them among the peoples,
    yet in distant lands they will remember me.
They and their children will survive,
    and they will return.
10 I will bring them back from Egypt
    and gather them from Assyria.
I will bring them to Gilead and Lebanon,
    and there will not be room enough for them.
11 They will pass through the sea of trouble;
    the surging sea will be subdued
    and all the depths of the Nile will dry up.
Assyria’s pride will be brought down
    and Egypt’s scepter will pass away.
12 I will strengthen them in the Lord
    and in his name they will live securely,”
declares the Lord.
(Zechariah 10:1-12 NIV)

To summarize chapter 9, we saw the Lord promising to intervene on behalf of His people, conquering its foes, bringing peace to the region, defending them from their enemies, and causing them to flourish again.  From our vantage point in history, we see that the Lord made this promise in the short term (in their lifetime), in the mid-term (in the life of Jesus), and in the long term (for eternity).

As we begin chapter 10, the Lord reminds His people to be dependent on Him for rain that causes their crops to grow and provides them food (v. 1).

The Lord also speaks against the remaining false religious practices of the Jewish people.  Gone are the Baal worship and Ashteroth poles and other cultic practices that caused their exile and God’s judgment against them.  But some smaller forms of false worship were still in existence.  This included idols (teraphim – household gods – objects used as good luck charms), diviners (fortune tellers), and dreamers (those who supposedly had the ability to interpret dreams, but were making up stories for profit).

The Lord also condemned “shepherds” – any false religious person who led God’s people away from God.  In the Hebrew text, God uses the word “he-goats” or male goats in place of our English word “leaders” to insult these leaders, showing that they are not sheep at all, but goats intent on leading God’s people away from Him.

In verse 3b, we see the Lord among His people, promising to guide and deliver them – in direct contrast to the false religious leaders and practices mentioned above.

The Lord then uses word pictures to illustrate His work among His people:

  • war horse – God will transform His people from defenseless victims (sheep) to victorious warriors (war horses)
  • cornerstone – from rejected and discarded building materials to key components in a structure (see Psalm 118:22, Matthew 21:42, and 1 Peter 2:6-8, all pictures of Jesus)
  • tent peg – grounded and secure in the Lord; unmoveable
  • battle bow – victorious
  • every ruler – God will raise up current and future rulers from Judah
  • warriors – mighty men, victorious in battle

All this is because God is with them, not because of their own power or might (v. 5).

In verses 6 – 7, the Lord promises to strengthen both the southern kingdom (Judah) as well as the northern kingdom (tribes of Joseph) and bring them back to the Promised Land.

In verses 8 – 10, the Lord will call His people home from the far corners of the earth that He has scattered them – from Egypt, from Assyria (including Babylon), from Gilead, and from Lebanon.

In verse 11, the Lord promises to go ahead of His people and remove the barriers to their return.  This included physical barriers like seas and rivers as well as enemies like Assyria and Egypt.

In verse 12, God ends this section just as He started it in verse 6 – by promising to strengthen His people in Himself so they will walk in His name.

The Apostle Paul reminded the Ephesian believers to do the same thing – to look to the Lord for their strength:

10 Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.
(Ephesians 6:10 NIV)

And how did Paul recommend that His people be strong in the Lord? By preparing for battle with the full armor of God (Ephesians 6:11-20).

May we realize that the spiritual fight is on – every day.

May we prepare well for the battle ahead and depend on the Lord, not our own power.

Blessings,
~kevin

Zechariah 9:11-17

11 As for you, because of the blood of my covenant with you,
    I will free your prisoners from the waterless pit.
12 Return to your fortress, you prisoners of hope;
    even now I announce that I will restore twice as much to you.
13 I will bend Judah as I bend my bow
    and fill it with Ephraim.
I will rouse your sons, Zion,
    against your sons, Greece,
    and make you like a warrior’s sword.

14 Then the Lord will appear over them;
    his arrow will flash like lightning.
The Sovereign Lord will sound the trumpet;
    he will march in the storms of the south,

15     and the Lord Almighty will shield them.
They will destroy
    and overcome with slingstones.
They will drink and roar as with wine;
    they will be full like a bowl
    used for sprinkling the corners of the altar.
16 The Lord their God will save his people on that day
    as a shepherd saves his flock.
They will sparkle in his land
    like jewels in a crown.
17 How attractive and beautiful they will be!
    Grain will make the young men thrive,
    and new wine the young women.
(Zechariah 9:11-17 NIV)

As we finish up chapter 9 today, we see God intervening on behalf of His people.  Here is an outline that summarizes the chapter:

  • vv. 1-8 – God begins in northern Persia and conquers everything on the way to Jerusalem
  • vv. 9-10 – The king will arrive in Jerusalem among great celebration, bringing peace to the city, to the region, and to the known world
  • vv. 11-17 – God will intervene to defend, protect, and provide for His people

Verse 11 starts with “as for you”, implying that there is an “also” in the statement.  This is a reminder of God’s covenant relationship made with Abraham (Genesis 15:9-21), continued with Moses (Exodus 24:5-8), and now extended to the returning Jewish exiles.

While those words were for the ancient Jewish people, we also see Jesus use this same blood/covenant phrase at the Last Supper (Mark 14:24).  Through Jesus, this “also” is extended to us, as Jesus offered His blood as the ultimate sacrifice for our sins.

Verse 11 also uses the phrase “waterless pit” to depict the captivity of God’s people.  Remember how Jeremiah’s adversaries threw him into an abandoned cistern to die, and how God stirred up compassion in a servant to speak to the king to rescue Jeremiah so he would not die there (Jeremiah 38:1-13)?  The “waterless pit” (cistern) is used to describe the desert conditions of the Jewish people being held in Babylon and other remote locations. To be prisoners set free showed God’s action on behalf of His people, to deliver them from death to life.  Likewise, Christ’s death and resurrection offers us deliverance from death to life, but we must accept His free gift of life – He will not force it on us.

In verse 12, the Lord shows that the prisoners must respond to God’s offer.  Faith in God and His offer begets (leads to) action.  And what is that action?  Returning to the Promised Land, the “fortress” (walled city) that God Himself protects using a wall of fire around the city (Zechariah 2:5).  God promises a double blessing to those who will step out in faith and obey.  God had promised the double blessing as a compensation for past sorrows (Isaiah 61:7).

While the nations (including Judah) were disarmed (v. 10), God was not (v. 13).  The Lord depicts Judah (the southern tribe) as His bow, and Ephraim (Israel, the northern tribe) as His arrows, signifying that both were necessary to accomplish His purposes (you need both the bow and the arrows to have and use the weapon).

The Lord uses stormy weather (lightning, thunder, winds, v. 14) to portray His conquering march through the nations (vv. 1-8).  There will be bloodshed of the enemies, and the Lord will protect and defend His people (v. 15).

God uses an analogy of a king’s crown to describe His love for His people.  God’s “crown” is His promised land for His people, and the “jewels” in that crown are God’s people, sparkling as precious gems throughout the land (v. 16).

Finally, God paints a picture of the hope, blessing, and bounty He is about to provide to His people.  He describes a place where there is peace in the land, where the harvest is good, and young men and women flourish (v. 17).

May we remember that we are beautiful and precious in God’s sight!  As followers of Jesus, God sees us redeemed and whole through the lens of Christ, not as sinful, wicked people, as His enemies.  Our acceptance and confession of Christ as Savior and Lord has taken away our condemnation and given us new life in Christ.

If you have never taken that step of faith today, do you see yourself as a prisoner dying of spiritual thirst, longing to be set free from the waterless cistern of life?  Do you see God’s offer of salvation awaiting you, a free gift?

If you see yourself as that prisoner, what is holding you back from accepting His gracious offer?  Are you willing to take that step of faith today, to take Him up on his offer to rescue you from your hopelessness of sin and despair?  Only Christ can take us out of that pit leading to death and give us new life.

Blessings,
~kevin

Zechariah 9:9-10

Rejoice greatly, Daughter Zion!
    Shout, Daughter Jerusalem!
See, your king comes to you,
    righteous and victorious,
lowly and riding on a donkey,
    on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
10 I will take away the chariots from Ephraim
    and the warhorses from Jerusalem,
    and the battle bow will be broken.
He will proclaim peace to the nations.
    His rule will extend from sea to sea
    and from the River to the ends of the earth.
(Zechariah 9:9-10 NIV)

As we opened the prophecy of chapter 9 last time, we saw the Lord take back His territory for His people.  Just as Jerusalem’s conquerers had come from the north, so the Lord will start in the northernmost parts of the Persian kingdom and conquer everything in His path until He reaches Jerusalem.

In today’s passage, we see God bringing celebration and joy, protection and peace.  Similar to the previous passage, the timeframes are more general in nature; more of a description of an end result rather than a specific event.  That being said, scholars normally associate today’s verses with the reign of King David, who was the model of Messiah to come.

Verse 9 begins with a call to celebration and joy in Judah and Jerusalem.  In the Hebrew language, cities and regions were always referred to in the feminine noun form; hence, the use of the “daughter” references.  The Lord could have just spoken the names of the city and region; instead, He uses the term “daughter” to also signify the restored covenant family relationship that He has with them.  The former days of the “wild child” of Judah described in Jeremiah are now replaced with a loving, restored relationship.

Remembering back to Zechariah 2:10, the Lord called His people to rejoice because God had made a promise to come live among His people once again.  Today’s passage is a call to rejoice and celebrate His eagerly anticipated arrival.

The focus now turns from the people to the king (v. 9b).  He comes humbly, bringing justice (righteousness) and salvation (victory).  This was clearly something God had done, not something the king was able to do on his own.  The reference to riding on a donkey points to peace and humility.  Again, this refers to both King David (2 Samuel 16:2) as well as Jesus’ triumphal entry (Matthew 21:5, John 12:15).

Verse 10 speaks of events that will take place upon the king’s arrival.  The first three lines of verse 10 refer to global disarmament, both of the northern kingdom of Israel (referred to as Ephraim), and the southern kingdom of Israel (referred to as Jerusalem).  The breaking of the battle bow is a reference to mutually agreed-to peace between adversaries.

The last three lines of verse 10 indicate that the king will speak peace to the nations.  Also, Israel’s God-ordained original geographic borders will be restored (Exodus 23:31).  King Solomon (King David’s son and heir to his throne) asked the Lord for these same geographic boundaries in Psalm 72:8.

May we remember that we can have peace with God through Jesus (Romans 5:1) in this life as well as the life to come.

May we also remember that while Jesus came in humility, riding on a donkey, giving His life as a ransom for our, He is also coming back one day to rule in peace and righteousness.

Today, may we look forward to that day when Christ returns with anticipation, celebration, and joy.

Blessings,
~kevin

Zechariah 9:1-8

A prophecy:

The word of the Lord is against the land of Hadrak
    and will come to rest on Damascus—
for the eyes of all people and all the tribes of Israel
    are on the Lord
and on Hamath too, which borders on it,
    and on Tyre and Sidon, though they are very skillful.
Tyre has built herself a stronghold;
    she has heaped up silver like dust,
    and gold like the dirt of the streets.
But the Lord will take away her possessions
    and destroy her power on the sea,
    and she will be consumed by fire.
Ashkelon will see it and fear;
    Gaza will writhe in agony,
    and Ekron too, for her hope will wither.
Gaza will lose her king
    and Ashkelon will be deserted.
A mongrel people will occupy Ashdod,
    and I will put an end to the pride of the Philistines.
I will take the blood from their mouths,
    the forbidden food from between their teeth.
Those who are left will belong to our God
    and become a clan in Judah,
    and Ekron will be like the Jebusites.
But I will encamp at my temple
    to guard it against marauding forces.
Never again will an oppressor overrun my people,
    for now I am keeping watch.

(Zechariah 9:1-8 NIV)

From our last few sessions together, we walked through chapters 7 – 8, where God was looking inward, focused on Jerusalem and Judah.  The Lord was ushering in a renewed relationship with Himself and a new day in the corporate life of His people.

In today’s passage, the Lord looks outward to the neighboring nations and their fates.  Remember in the book of Jeremiah where the Lord predicted that the conquering armies would come from the north (Jeremiah 1:14-16)?  Now the Lord is saying that He will come from the north to protect Jerusalem and all His people in the land of Israel.

It’s important to note that scholars generally agree that these predictions come with a wide time span, and are more of a description of an end result rather than of a particular time period.  Some of these events referenced seem to refer to events that the Lord has already completed in the past (around the eighth century BC).  Other events seem to refer to events that were happening in Zechariah’s timeframe (fifth century BC).  Still, other events seem to reference what will happen in the future.

The Lord begins his conquering journey in Hadrak, one of the northernmost cities in the Persian kingdom.  From there, the Lord heads south to Damascus.  From Damascus, the Lord heads further south in His drive to take back His own, conquering Hamath, Tyre, Sidon, Ashkelon, Gaza, Ekron, and Ashdod.

Even the Philistines, the archenemies of the Lord, will give up their detestable dietary practices and follow God’s direction concerning food (what to eat, how to prepare it, etc.), as the Lord breaks their pride and self-sufficiency (v. 7).

Finally, the Lord will arrive in Jerusalem and will protect His people and His land with His army.  No one and nothing will be able to overtake them again.

In today’s passage, we see a great reminder of what God has said about Himself throughout the centuries, and what He had John record in His final revelation:

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.”
(Revelation 1:8 NIV, emphasis mine)

May we remember that the same God who took care of the ancient Jewish people is the same God who cares for us, who loves us, and desires to walk with us each day.

May we rest in His care and protection, assured of His promises no matter what we’re going through.

Blessings,

~kevin

Zechariah 8:1-23

The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.”

This is what the Lord says: “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the Faithful City, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each of them with cane in hand because of their age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?” declares the Lord Almighty.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.”

This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Now hear these words, ‘Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.’ This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty. 10 Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbor. 11 But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,” declares the Lord Almighty.

12 “The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13 Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.”

14 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,” says the Lord Almighty, 15 “so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. 16 These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17 do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,” declares the Lord.

18 The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

19 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.”

20 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21 and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22 And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.”

23 This is what the Lord Almighty says: “In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’”
(Zechariah 8:1-23 NIV)

A quick personal note on today’s text… it has taken several days for me to understand the application and implications of today’s text, the “what does it mean to me?” part where the Lord speaks to my heart so I have something to say and share with you as readers.  The ironic thing is that this text is fairly straightforward – there are no deep mysteries or hidden meanings locked up in historical context, language, or customs.  While it is my desire to write every day, sometimes the Lord tells me to wait on Him.  So I wait.  Thank you for your patience – I trust this is worth waiting for as the Lord speaks to your heart through today’s text and thoughts.

By way of review, chapters 7 – 8 are a question to the priests and prophets in Jerusalem from a delegation of Jews from Bethel (12 miles north of Jerusalem), and God’s response to them.  They wanted to know if they still needed to keep the ritual of mourning and fasting on the anniversary of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple since the rebuilt Temple was nearly complete.

Before the Lord answered their question, He gave them a history lesson as to why the people were exiled and the Temple was destroyed, and a reminder of what He expected from His people.

As we walk through Chapter 8 today, the Lord switches perspectives:

  • from the past to the present and future
  • from wrath and discipline to jealous love and abiding joy
  • from dysfunction and death to health and life

In verses 1 – 8, the Lord paints a portrait of what life will be like going forward.  The current generation (even the elderly that had lived in Jerusalem before its fall) had only known pain, loss, enslavement, exile, death, and despair.  God paints a word picture of what hope, vibrancy, love, relationship, beauty, and joy looks like:

  • God will once again dwell among His people (v. 3)
  • Generations of families (even the elderly) will live among them (v. 4)
  • Children will play safely in the streets (v. 5)
    (if you were with us through the study of Jeremiah, this was also a promise that the Lord had made to His people after the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile of the Jews to nations all over the earth – see Jeremiah 30:19-20; 31:12-13)

God then asks a rhetorical question:  “Is this too hard to imagine?  Does it sound too good to be true?” (my paraphrase).  The implied answer is, of course, a resounding “No!”, as if to say that it’s all in a day’s work for the Lord (v. 6).  In fact, the Lord promises to bring back all the exiles to Jerusalem (v. 7) and to restore the covenant relationship between His people and Himself (v. 8).

After the Lord paints this picture of hope and restoration of relationship, He preaches a “sermon” through Zechariah to the people.  This is clearly the Lord talking – notice how many times the phrase “This is what the Lord Almighty says” appears!

The Lord begins with the encouragement to “let your hands be strong” – signifying the Lord’s encouragement to continue the Temple rebuilding.

The Lord then contrasts the former hard days of their ancestors with the days of hope and promise to come (vv. 10-15).  The Lord also reminds His people of their responsibilities to reflect His character in their lives – truth, justice, peace, and kindness must be central to who they are and how they live their lives before the Lord and with their neighbors (vv. 16-17).

In verses 18 – 19, the Lord now answers the question that the Bethel delegates asked back in 7:1-3:  Do they still need to keep the rituals of mourning and fasting over the anniversary of the destruction of Solomon’s Temple now that the rebuilt Temple is almost complete?  The Lord responds that the fasting and mourning are now to be replaced with feasting and joy to celebrate the renewed covenant relationship between God and His people.

As God’s people move from ritual to covenant relationship, God shares what impact this restored fellowship will have on the other people groups and nations around them:

  • Others will actively travel to Jerusalem to seek the Lord (v. 20)
  • These seekers will bring other seekers with them (v. 21)
  • The Lord will draw many nations to Himself (v. 22)
  • God will use His people to evangelize the world – they will beg the Jewish people to introduce them to God Almighty (v. 23)

Do these words sound familiar?  Listen to what Jesus said:

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.
(Matthew 5:14-15 NIV, Jesus speaking)

God gives us the message of hope and light from the despair and darkness that we formerly lived under.  He then uses us to be beacons of hope and light to a weary and hurting world around us.

May we have the courage to hear the Lord’s word pictures of healing, of hope, of restoration, of grace, of relationship that He painted for the Jewish people in today’s text.

May we realize that Jesus painted those same word pictures for us – that death is defeated once for all by Him and through Him, that the days of mourning and fasting over sin’s eternal death-grip on us are done and replaced with joy and celebration of our new life with Christ.  The blood and sacrifices of old are fulfilled; Christ now offers bread and wine to remember that we celebrate both now in this life as well as in eternity future with Him.

Blessings,
~kevin