Introduction to the Book of Zechariah
and Study of Zechariah 1-4
September 27th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
Copyright 2016

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Zechariah (Overview)

The fourteen-chapter book of Zechariah picks up where Haggai leaves off. Zechariah encourages the people to continue their work on the temple, shares his experience from eight visions, and prophesizes regarding the coming of the Messiah. His name is not as well-known as Isaiah or other prophets, but his book was very influential in the events and writings of the New Testament. Zechariah is quoted or referenced more often during the Passion sections of the Gospel than any other prophet and also influenced passages of Revelations more so than any other Old Testament author (1). For example, you will see references to four horsemen and a lampstand in Zechariah's vision that are foreshadowings to John's experience revealed in the last book of the Bible.

Zechariah is the second to last book in the Old Testament and is a little bit longer than some of the ones we have read recently. We will break up the study of this book into three days:

    Zechariah 1-4 (Don't Repeat Mistakes) - September 27th
    Zechariah 5-8 (God Calling) - September 28th
    Zechariah 9-14 (Your King Comes on a Donkey) - September 29th

References used in this study include the following books:

  • Baldwin, Joyce G, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL, 1972

  • Boadt, Lawrence, Reading the Old Testament: An Introduction, Paulist Press, Mahwah, NJ; 1984

  • Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version, Zondervan Bible Publishers, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993

  • Life Application Study Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, M; 1991 (with commentary from an inter-denominational team of experts)

  • Men's Devotional Bible, New International Version, Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI; 1993 (with daily devotionals from Godly men)

  • The New American Bible, Sponsored by the Bishop's Committee of the Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Catholic Bible Publishers, Wichita, KS, 1970

  • Peterson, Eugene, The Message, The Bible in Contemporary Language, NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, 80920, 2005

Zechariah 1-4 (Don't Repeat Mistakes)

Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:

“The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. 3 Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty.

- Zechariah 1:1-3 (NIV)

Summary of Chapters

These first four chapters record a set of visions experienced by Zechariah that represent messages for the people as they rebuild the Temple in Jerusalem. In chapter 1, prior to revealing the visions, Zechariah tells the readers that the LORD warns them not to make the mistakes of their forefathers who had forsaken him.

Zechariah then reports the first vision, in which he saw a man, four horses of different colors, and four craftsmen that symbolized the nations sent by God to punish Israel and the nation that allowed Israel to return.

The next vision is described in chapter 2. Zechariah sees a man with a measuring line who determines that Jerusalem will have no boundaries. The LORD tells all the exiles to return because he will also return to live among them and many nations will become his people.

In the vision described in chapter 3, Zechariah sees the LORD, Satan (The Accuser), and Joshua – who represents Israel. Joshua was filthy at first, but was cleansed in the vision, just as Israel had been cleansed by its punishment and exile.

Chapter 4 describes the vision of a gold lamp stand that represents God and two olive trees that represent his servants Zerubbabel and Joshua. Zerubbabel will oversee the rebuilding of the temple, but it is by the LORD’s spirit, not the power of man that it will be done. The temple will be smaller than the previous one, but no less glorious or sacred.

    Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

    - Zechariah 4:10 (NIV)

Reflection and Application

What are we to make of all of these fantastic visions? Haggai’s book was very brief and straightforward. It was hard not to miss the points he was raising and apply it to our lives. By contrast, we could spend a lifetime analyzing the visions n Zechariah and debating every point with each other, such as the reason for the different color horses and why they are not the same color in a later vision, and so on.

Fortunately, Zechariah begins with a concrete point – don’t repeat the mistakes of the past. Easy enough to understand, hard for any of us to do. We appreciate the reminder. These visions represent one of the many ways that God chooses to communicate with us. Sometime he is direct and specific, as in the book of Haggai, other times he is more subtle, like when he speaks in a whisper, or uses physical imagery, as he did with Ezekiel or when he delivers a complex vision, as he also did with both Ezekiel and with Zechariah. God knows that each of us learn in different ways. Some of us may be more engaged by trying to imagine and understand these visions instead of just reading instructions. For example, if some of the people in Israel did not understand why they had to go into exile, then maybe the vision of Joshua getting cleansed will bring the point home for them.

Sometimes we may go through difficult periods of our life. Perhaps it’s just the randomness of our world that led to our bad situtations or maybe God allowed it to happen in order to help us build character or empathy or patience or humility or some other attribute, as he did with the exiled Hebrews. If we find that everything in our life has failed then we may be more likely to learn our dependency on God. Whereas if life is a bed of roses, we may be tempted to forget about him and assume we are in control.

Some of the Hebrew people were disappointed that the temple was smaller than the previous one, but this was to be a lesson to them that all things are not as they seem. While the temple would be smaller, the influence of Jerusalem would be unlimited, for God’s bailiwick is not constrained by the walls of the Temple. Let us remember that if we find ourselves in a situation where a project or an assignment seems too small. If we put our hearts into it we may find that the impact is bigger than what we may have anticipated.

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. Have you ever used a plumb line to build a wall or anything else? How about a level that consists of a glass tube with air bubbles to help you verify horizontal planes?
    2. What do you use for a spiritual plumb line or level?
    3. What works of God have you found to be disappointing at first?
    Recommended Prayer
    Father in heaven, we know that there is no limit on your boundaries and no limit on what you can achieve with the tiniest mustard seed. Help us to appreciate and understand what you are doing in our lives.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns


    (1) Baldwin, Joyce G, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, An Introduction and Commentary, Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries, Inter-Varsity Press, Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL, 1972, p.59

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Zechariah 5-8 (God Calling)

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