It is ever the tendency of preachers, when we think God’s people are becoming indifferent to the things of God, careless in ordering their lives, and lax in the service of Christ, to sternly scold them, threaten them with the whip of the law, or bribe them with the promise of blessings. We know that God’s saints are no longer under the law, but under grace. We know that the scoldings, threats, and bribes of legality have no effect upon the hearts of men. Yet, when push comes to shove, we are terribly prone to revert to the use of the law.
That ought never be the case. It is Christ crucified, grace experienced, love manifest, and mercy sure that draws our hearts after our God and Savior. Nothing inspires devotion like devotion. Nothing promotes gratitude like grace. Nothing motivates love like love.
God the Holy Spirit taught these things to his prophet Zechariah; and Zechariah used them to inspire Israel during the days of Haggai and Ezra to zealously devote themselves to the building of God’s house in Jerusalem. He spoke to Israel about the sure promises of God’s grace and mercy, his presence and power, and the glory that God promised would come with Christ the Messiah. In these fourteen chapters Zechariah speaks of Christ’s first advent to redeem us with his blood, to put away the iniquity of his people in one day by the sacrifice of himself (3:9), and of his glorious second advent, declaring, “the Lord my God shall come, and all his saints with thee” (14:5).
That is what the book of Zechariah is all about: ― Christ our God and Savior saving his people. Yes, this prophecy was addressed to the Jews who had returned from Babylonian captivity; but its message is to God’s people in this gospel day.
The phrase, “in that day”, is used by Zechariah 20 times. He uses this phrase 16 times in the last three chapters. “That day” of which the prophet speaks is this gospel age. It began with our Savior’s first advent and extends to the end of the world when Christ comes again. In this day…
· God pours out the Spirit of grace and supplication upon chosen sinners, granting repentance to whom he will (12:10).
· There is a Fountain opened (Christ crucified) for cleansing from sin (13:1-2).
· Though all the world fights against us, God’s church and kingdom is perfectly safe and constantly triumphant, under his constant care and protection.
· And the purpose of God shall be fully accomplished in the end of the day. ― God’s glory in Christ shall be seen in the final defeat of all his foes and in the complete salvation of all his people (14:16-21).
Can we be sure of these things? Indeed, we can, because the whole work is his work, the work of Christ our Savior and our God, typified in mighty Zerubbabel (4:6-7, 9). ― “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.”
Zechariah’s prophecy really has just two divisions.
· Zechariah 1:1-8:23 describe the circumstances of the people during the building of the temple at Jerusalem, the present circumstances of Judah and Israel.
· Chapters 9-14 speak about the future, the things God would do once the temple was finished.
The book of Zechariah begins by reminding the people that it was the sin, rebellion and unbelief of their fathers that brought them into Babylon. Wrath is the response of God’s justice to sin. It is never arbitrary. Yet, in wrath our God remembers mercy. Look at the third verse of chapter 1. This is a word of grace and assurance the Lord God told his prophet to tell the people. ― “Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.” What a word of grace this is from God in heaven to sinners upon the earth! He promises that he will turn to every sinner who turns to him.
After calling the people to repentance, the Lord gave his prophet eight visions to set before his people, visions full of comfort and encouragement.
1. Four horsemen among the myrtle trees depict Israel (God’s elect) scattered among the nations, but not forgotten (1:7-11). ― Zechariah’s name means, “God remembers;” and he reminds us that our God ever remembers his own.
2. Four horns are used to portray the nations and their power; but along with these four horns the prophet describes four carpenters (skilled craftsmen) as God’s agents of deliverance by whom the powers of the nations (the world) shall be broken and subdued (1:18-21). Can these represent anyone other than gospel preachers, the instruments by which he sends his word of deliverance to his people (Eph. 4:11-16)?
3. Then Zechariah speaks of a man with a measuring line (2:1-13) measuring Jerusalem, the City of God (his church), assuring God’s people of prosperity and glory beyond measure. This is similar to what Ezekiel describes in Ezekiel 40, and to what John describes in Revelation 11. ― The presence of the Lord as a wall of fire round about his people makes walls unnecessary and the vastness of the City makes them impossible.
4. Then we see Joshua the high priest cleansed, clothed, and crowned (3:1-5), as the angel of the Lord stood by.
5. In chapter 4 Zechariah describes Christ, the Light of the World, as he is displayed in his church, portrayed in the vision of the golden candlestick.
6. The flying scroll (5:1-4) is the Word of God by which he both rules and judges the world.
7. The woman with a basket (“an ephah”) describes both the full measure of wickedness for which God shall judge the earth, and the limitation of it by God’s decree and power (5:5-11).
8. In chapter 6 (vv. 1-8) the prophet describes four chariots and the men riding in them as four spirits of the heavens, sent from the presence of the Lord to continually patrol the earth and punish evil.
There are more direct prophecies of Christ in the book of Zechariah than in any other Old Testament book, except Isaiah. Zechariah speaks of our Savior both directly and typically.
1. Christ is the Man who measures his church (2:1-5). He is the only man who can. He alone knows the number of God’s elect. And he is “unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her” (v. 5; Isa. 26:1; 9:8; Isa. 60:19; Rev. 21:23).
2. Christ is the Angel of the Lord who commands the salvation of his people (3:1-5; Rev. 10).
3. Christ is the Servant of God whom he shall bring forth (3:8; Mark 10:45).
4. Christ is called “the BRANCH” (3:8; 6:12; Luke 1:78).
5. It is our great Redeemer who is the all-seeing Foundation Stone upon which God’s church and kingdom is built (3:9; 1 Cor. 3:10-11; 1 Pet. 2:6-8).
6. It is our all-glorious God and Savior of whom the prophet speaks, when we read in verse 9 of chapter 3, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
7. Christ our Savior is typified in Zerubbabel (4:6-9).
8. The Lord Jesus Christ is our Priest upon his Throne, our Priest and King, who builds his temple, bears the glory of it, and maintains the counsel of peace for us (6:13; Heb. 6:20-7:1).
9. Christ is that King who came in humility, riding upon an ass’s colt (9:9-12; Matt. 21:4-5; John 12:14-16). He is just, having salvation. He speaks peace to the heathen. His dominion is from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth an everlasting dominion (John 17:2). It is by the blood of his covenant that the prisoners of hope go forth from their prison. He renders to his own double for all their sins (Isa. 40:2).
10. He is the Lord our God who shall save his flock and make us stones in the crown of his glory (9:16).
11. It is Christ who was betrayed by his own friend (11:12-13; Matt. 27:9).
12. His hands were pierced in the house of his friends (12:10; John 19:37).
13. Christ is the Fountain opened for cleansing (13:1; Rev. 1:5).
14. Zechariah even presents our Savior in his dual nature as the God-man. In 6:12 he is called the Man. In 13:7 he is called Jehovah’s fellow, slain by the sword of justice in our place.
15. Zechariah saw Christ as the Good Shepherd whose life was given for the sheep whom he came to save (13:7).
16. Then (14:4-9) God’s prophet speaks of our Savior’s glorious second advent.
Zechariah’s prophecy is full of Christ and, being full of Christ, it is full of pictures of God’s saving grace in Christ.
Zechariah 3:1-5 gives us a tremendous picture of God’s grace displayed in the experience of conversion. Joshua the high priest of Israel stands before us in these verses as a picture of every sinner who is chosen, redeemed, called, and converted by the grace of God in Christ. And the Angel of the Lord standing by is our all-glorious Savior and Advocate, the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
Obviously, our Savior is not one of the angelic hosts that he created. He is called “the Angel of the Lord,” because he is Jehovah’s Messenger, the Angel of the covenant. This One who is called, “the Angel of the Lord” in verse 1, is Jehovah himself. We know that because he is called, “the Lord” (Jehovah) in verse 2. This Man who is God, the Angel of the Lord, the Lord Jesus Christ, is our almighty Advocate and effectual Intercessor (Heb. 7:24-27; 1 John 2:1-2).
In chapter 8 (vv. 7-13) we see a prophecy regarding the sure salvation of God’s elect. The Lord God declares, “Behold, I will save my people;” and save them he will. He promises to make himself the God of his chosen “in truth and in righteousness” ― in accordance with the truthfulness of his own covenant, oath, promise and character, and in perfect righteousness by the sacrifice of Christ. He promises to make his people prosperous and to make his elect remnant possessors of all things (1 Cor. 3:21-23), and to make them who were “a curse among the heathen…a blessing.”
In Zechariah 9:12-16 the Lord’s promise of salvation to his elect is expanded. He promises his “prisoners of hope” that he will give them “double” (v. 12). I take that to mean the same thing promised in the gospel message in Isaiah 40:1-2. ― God in Christ gives believing sinners “double” for all their sins. He gives pardon and forgiveness; and he gives justification and righteousness. Then, he makes worthless sinners saved by almighty grace instruments of great usefulness in his hands, each one “as the sword of a mighty man” (v. 13; 1 Cor. 1:26-29), and promises that they shall be stones in the crown of his glory (v. 16; Isa. 62:3; Eph. 2:7).
In the 10th chapter (vv. 6-8) Zechariah’s prophecy speaks of God’s saving grace as the effectual, irresistible operation of his omnipotence. The Lord promises not only to “hiss” for them, but also to “gather them.” Grace is not merely the hissing for, but also the gathering of God’s elect. Every redeemed sinner shall be gathered into the fold of mercy.
Chapter 12 (v. 10) tells us how it is that lost, dead, helpless sinners who will not and cannot look to Christ in faith of their own accord are made to believe by the operation of God’s grace. God pours out his Spirit upon his elect, as “the Spirit of grace and supplications.” When he does, Christ is revealed and the sinner looks to him in repentance and faith.
Zechariah describes the church and kingdom of God in chapters 2 (vv. 11-13), 4 ( v. 2), and 8 (v. 3). Many commentators go to great lengths to try to prove their imagined theory that God’s church is not to be found in the Old Testament. Precisely for that reason, it is important to point out what should be obvious. It is certainly true that the Old Testament prophets did not clearly see the full meaning of all that they wrote by inspiration (1 Pet. 1:10-12). However, Zechariah, like many others, gives an unmistakable prophetic picture of God’s church, family, and kingdom being made of chosen sinners from many nations in the midst of whom the Lord dwells. These blessed people, a multitude that no man can number, out of every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue are the Lord’s own peculiar portion in the earth (2:11-13).
God’s church is his candlestick in this dark world (Zech. 4:2). It is the church of God that is the instrument by which he upholds and from which he causes to shine the Light of the world. His church is his candlestick in the earth (Rev. 1:13). Particularly, each local assembly of blood-bought sinners, saved by his omnipotent grace, is the means by which the Lord our God maintains the light of the gospel in the world from one generation to another until the end of time (1 Tim. 3:15). His holy mountain, the mountain of the Lord of hosts, that Jerusalem which is “a city of truth” (8:3), is “the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”
Zechariah 11:16-12:9 speak of God sending an idol shepherd, the man of sin, anti-christ (2 Thess. 2:8), and of the opposition of all the world against his church in that great battle that shall rage until our King comes again (Armageddon). But the Lord God declares, “I will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem” (12:8).
In Zechariah 14:12-13 we learn something about the everlasting torments of the damned, those who have opposed our God, his Christ, his gospel, and his people.
“And this shall be the plague wherewith the LORD will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; Their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth. And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the LORD shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour, and his hand shall rise up against the hand of his neighbour.”
Oh, what a place of darkness, woe, and agony beyond description that must be in which there is nothing but everlasting, constantly increasing hatred of men and women for one another, each blaming the other for his torment!
The Feast of Tabernacles
In 14:16-21 the Lord God tells us a little bit about the glory that shall be ours when Christ comes again, and the Feast of Tabernacles (The Feast of Faith in Christ) is ours forever.
“And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the LORD will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles. In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD; and the pots in the LORD'S house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the LORD of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the LORD of hosts.”
God required that the feast of tabernacles be kept by the Jews in the Old Testament in remembrance of their wilderness journey, when they dwelt in tents. It typified of Christ’s incarnation, who was made flesh, and tabernacled among us. Spiritually, we keep this feast by faith, by trusting Christ, by believing that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (1 John 5:1). We keep the feast now; but in heavenly glory we shall keep it perfectly, ever feeding upon our Savior, ever rejoicing in him. When the tabernacle of God is with men, when the beast is destroyed, when Babylon is fallen, when at last we are triumphant forever over the world, the flesh, and the devil, we shall worship the King, the Lord of hosts with our brethren out of all the nations of the earth, and “keep the feast of tabernacles!”
Child of God, read the promises of God your Savior, and begin now to enjoy the glory that soon shall be yours in perfect fulness. This 14th chapter tells us of heaven’s glory and blessedness by telling us some things that shall not be there. When Christ comes and glory begins, there shall be no more darkness (vv. 6-7), or winter (v. 8), or thirst (v. 8), or unbelief. We will worship and keep the feast (v. 16). There will be no more sin. In that great day, every pot, every gift, every service, even the bells on the horses will say, “Holiness unto the Lord!” And “there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts” (14:21). There will be no enemy to disturb us, no foe to plot against us, no evil to drive away, and no part of the land of God’s promise unpossessed!