God gave Zechariah a view of the coming Messiah. In turn, Zechariah presented this vision to the people of Judah to give them hope. He encouraged them to live for God and to work for him. Today, we should also read this book to receive encouragement about the triumphal coming return of the Savior.
Introduction and Background
The book of Zechariah is one of the most distinctive of the “minor” prophets, with features as follows:
1. Zechariah’s 14 chapters make it the largest of all the “minor” prophets.
2. Zechariah also has the greatest number of predictions concerning the coming Messiah. Zechariah is alluded to or directly quoted more in the New Testament than any of the other “minor” prophets – at least 41 times.
3. Unlike most of the other prophets, we know a great deal about Zechariah’s background and circumstances. He lived in Jerusalem as a returned exile from Babylon, a contemporary of Haggai. He was a Levite of a priestly family and was therefore a prophet and a priest. His name means “the Lord remembers.”
4. Zechariah’s book is a motivational sermon. By pointing to God’s promises for the future, he encourages spiritual renewal among the people of Judah and spurs them in the rebuilding of the temple.
5. As a writer, Zechariah uses vivid, symbolic, and figurative words (literarily, “apocalyptic language”) reminiscent of portions of Daniel and the Revelation.
Review of Zechariah’s Prophecy
a. The Dreams (ch 1-6):
The first six chapters of the book describe eight dreams that Zechariah received in a single night from God. The dreams included such characters as a man riding a red horse among myrtle trees (ch 1), a surveyor with a measurement line (ch 2), a flying scroll (ch 5), and four chariots led by varicolored horses (ch 6). In each case, an angel from God explained the meaning of the dreams to Zechariah.
Zechariah’s message includes direct predictions about coming days in the life of Judah. However his words also have implications about future events when Christ returns to rule over this earth from Jerusalem. This dual aspect of Zechariah’s predictions is also seen in many other prophetic references and is termed “the law of double reference.” It is important for today’s reader to correctly interpret the predictions in both of their meanings in order to understand the whole picture that God is providing about His plans for this earth.
b. The Four Messages (ch 7-8):
Two years after the dreams, God gave Zechariah four messages. The messages were not cloaked with the dream language of the first six chapters; they are clear, unambiguous, and striking. The messages for Zechariah’s time, and for ours, are as follows:
1. Reality: God demands reality in our lives, not a form of spirituality. We must not follow ritual; our inward hearts must be true to the outward worship.
2. Repentance: In contrast to Judah prior to the exile, mercy and compassion now marked God’s people. They are encouraged here to be generous, particularly with those less materially fortunate.
3. Restoration: Righteousness, peace, and justice will characterize the coming reign of God. God’s people will live in blessing and sinners will suffer the rewards of their deeds.
4. Rejoicing: God loves peace and truth and His people will love what He loves.
Two Salvation Oracles
An oracle is a “burden,” a message that must be delivered in order for the messenger to be unburdened of his task. In this passage, Zechariah unburdens himself of two oracles about God’s salvation. In both cases, the oracles restate the themes of Zechariah’s dreams and four messages.
The first salvation oracle (ch 9-11) deals primarily with the circumstances of Christ’s first coming to earth. This oracle describes the coming rejection of the Messiah but also the joy of Israel when He is finally accepted.
The second salvation oracle (ch 12-14) deals with the second coming of Christ to earth, when He returns to gloriously reign in peace and justice. Heathen Gentile nations will be subdued or destroyed and the Jewish nation will be restored to a position of supremacy under the leadership of the Prince of Peace.
Startlingly accurate predictions of the coming Savior and the coming Prince of Peace glow from the pages of Zechariah. Predictions about Christ include the following:
1. He will ride into Jerusalem on a donkey colt (ch 9:9). This was fulfilled in Matthew 21:4-5.
2. He will be sold for thirty pieces of silver, the price of a slave (ch 11:12) and associated with a potter. And so He was, in Matthew 27:3-10.
3. At His death, He will be pierced (ch 12:7,10). This was fulfilled at Jesus’ crucifixion. This is a particularly prescient prediction, considering that crucifixion had not yet been invented as a form of capital punishment. The Romans would not devise that violent method of criminal death until over 500 years later.
4. His piercing will include His hands (ch 13:6).
5. He will regroup all Israel into the promised land (ch 10:6-12)
6. Christ will return to the earth on the Mount of Olives (ch 14:4-5), the same mountain from which He ascended into heaven at the end of His first coming.
7. At His second coming, the Lord Jesus Christ will return in power to reign in triumph over all the earth (ch 6:12-13).
The fulfillment of the first four items gives us confidence that the remainder will be fulfilled.
There are many titles ascribed to the Messiah in Zechariah, each designed to illustrate a different facet of His character and work. He is described as the Servant who will do God’s will (ch 3:8), the Branch (ch 6:12) who will restore the Davidic line, the Stone ( ch 3:9) who will crush Gentile nations, the Priest-King (ch 6:13), the Shepherd (ch 13: 7-9) smitten for the flock, and the King, the Lord Almighty ( ch 14:6-21 NIV) whose power is unchallengeable.
Implications for Christians Today
Zechariah gives us a message of hope. At times, the economic, political, and cultural insecurities of our world and our own daily struggles leave us with a sense of helplessness. At such times, Zechariah reminds us that’s God’s plan is fixed and on course. The Messiah who was promised and came is also the Shepherd who died for us and loves us now and He is also the King, the Almighty Lord, who will yet return proving that He is completely in control of all. This is a message of hope for us. It is also an incentive to action by us for Him. Let us devote ourselves wholly to Him, in honor preferring Him, so that we may enrich our own position in reigning with Him in a coming day.