The King and His Kingdom
Homework for July 14th: Read Zechariah 9:1 through 10:12
In chapter 9 Zechariah begins by issuing a warning to the neighbors of Israel. These warnings came to pass over the next 300 years. Tyre fell at the hands of Alexander the Great. Hadrach was wiped out with no trace left behind. The people of Hamath were also eventually conquered and integrated among the other peoples of the region. God here is reminding His people that He punishes other nations besides Israel. God protects his people (9:8) by bringing down those around them that torment them.
This passage also includes the great Messianic prophecy that was fulfilled in Matthew 21:5-11. The King enters the city riding, not a war horse, but on a donkey, a symbol of peace. The kingdom of the Messiah was not to be won by violence, but would overcome the other nations without any war at all. Consider how the kingdom that Jesus has established has outlasted so many of the great kingdoms of the world: not by war or even political activism, but simply by Christians remaining faithful. The Roman Empire crumbled under its own weight, while Christians quietly put their trust in God to provide for them.
The Messiah is furthermore the cornerstone (10:4). While the shepherds of the people rejected Him, He rose again to be the chief cornerstone, fulfilling Psalms 118:22. See also Matthew 21:42.
God’s Promise of Restoration (Chapter 8)
Homework for July 7th: Read Zechariah 8:1-23
God’s promises made in chapter 8 suggest a twofold fulfillment. In the near term, the people will see Jerusalem return to being a city that is safe and prosperous. Further down the line, Jerusalem (perhaps a figurative, rather than literal city) will become the center for those that seek to worship Jehovah.
The “Holy Mountain” mentioned in verse 3 is a reference to Isaiah’s prophecy when he said, “the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains” (Isaiah 2:2). God promised to establish a kingdom greater than all the kingdoms of the world. Isaiah foresaw it, and here in Zechariah 8, he repeats the promise.
The Path to Restoration
Homework for June 30th: Read Zechariah 7:1-14.
Chapter 1 takes place during the second year of King Darius of Persia. The dreams recorded in chapters 1 through 6 apparently came to Zechariah during that timeframe. Two years later, Zechariah receives another message from God, which he reports beginning in chapter 7. This new message returns back to the original message concerning the need for obedience. Notice how 1:4-6 proclaims a similar message to 7:8-12.
God calls upon his people to turn their eyes to Him. Fasting is not a time for self-pity, it is a time to look towards God in a spirit of repentance. Feasting is not a time to congratulate ourselves on our successes, it is a time to thank God for His many blessings.
The fast in the fifth month was a tradition that dated back to the beginning of the Babylonian captivity. Since they could not worship in Jerusalem after the exile, they declared a fast instead. God answers the question from Zechariah 7:3 with a question: Is your fast self-centered, or God-centered? God’s response as He continues in verses 8-12 is that they are asking the wrong question and focusing on the wrong thing. God cares about how they treat one another, not so much about their adherence to religious traditions.
The chapter continues with a call for the people to do the good works that had always been expected of them, but that they seldom followed. Their forefathers had been overcome by the temptation to take advantage of others in any way they could. This is why Zechariah 7:11-14 is written in the past tense. Their forefathers had been cautioned (see Jeremiah 7:3-7, Micah 6:6-8, Hosea 6:4-6, Ezekiel 18:5-9), but they did not listen to the warnings of God’s prophets.
Prophecy of the Priest - King
Homework for June 23rd: Read Zechariah 6:9-15.
In the prophecy in Zechariah 6:9-15, the prophet is called upon to meet three Jews who are delivering a gift from Babylon. They are instructed to fashion a crown for Joshua, the high priest. This seems to be a contradiction, as the crown should be reserved for the Ruler, or King. These apparent contradictions continue through the remainder of this passage.
Zechariah reports that the Messiah is to take on dual roles as both High Priest and King. This is clearly fulfilled in Jesus, and is beautifully explained in Hebrews, as the writer identifies Jesus as both Priest and King in Hebrews 1:3.
Finally, notice the admonition at the end of verse 15. “And this shall come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Zechariah’s message has remained consistent, all the way back to chapter 1.
Zechariah’s Dreams Conclude (part 4)
Homework for June 16th: Read Zechariah 6:9-15.
Chapters 3 and 4 turn attention towards two of Zechariah’s contemporaries. Joshua, a descendant of Aaron (see 1 Chronicles 6:1-14 and Haggai 1:12), was the High Priest residing among the people. Zerubbabel was the governor appointed by the King of Persia, but also the grandson of the last King of Israel (see Matthew 1:12). So the anointed King and High Priest take center stage during these two dreams.
First things first: Joshua must be cleansed of his sin if he is to serve as God’s high priest. Satan tries to accuse him, but by God’s grace and mercy Joshua is cleansed and the Devil is rebuked.
Second, Zerubbabel is called upon to lead the people in the reconstruction of the temple. The foundation had already been laid (4:9), but the prophecy is certain and sure that Zerubbabel will also place the capstone (4:7) as the people call upon God to bless the completed structure.
The combined efforts of Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel the surrogate King (a direct ancestor of Jesus, see Matt 1:12) are needed to lead the Jews forward both economically and spiritually.
Zechariah’s Dreams Continue (part 3)
Homework for June 9th: Read the next pair of Zechariah’s dreams, 2:1-13 and 5:1-4.
Zechariah wastes little time announcing the coming of the Messiah. In 2:9, the One speaking says, “Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me.” God was ready to send Immanuel to live among His people.
Furthermore, in 2:11 Zechariah uses the phrase “in that day”. Zechariah will go on to use this phrase a total of 20 times. “That day” refers to the days of the Messiah’s kingdom. As we continue through Zechariah, notice the times he uses this phrase and how it connects to the Messiah.
At the same time the Messiah is introduced, God is building His city for His chosen people, “the apple of His eye” (2:8). The inhabitants are not born into His kingdom like the Israelites, they choose to abandon the wickedness in their past (5:3) and live a life of righteous obedience to God. This choice gains them entry into the city of “New Jerusalem”.
Zechariah’s Dreams - Part 2
Homework for June 2nd: Read the next pair of Zechariah’s dreams, 1:18-21 and 5:5-11.
The nation of Israel split into two kingdoms in the time of Rehoboam, son of Solomon. The kingdom called “Israel” was led by Jeroboam, of the tribe of Ephraim. The kingdom referred to as “Judah” was led by Rehoboam of the tribe of Judah and lineage of David.
The kingdom of Israel quickly fell away from obedience to the law of Moses. God punished them by sending the Assyrian empire to conquer them in about 721 BC. The kingdom of Judah also fell away from obedience, but much later. God sent the Babylonian empire to conquer them in about 588 BC.
When the first group of 50,000 Jews returned to Jerusalem some 70 years later, they had still not made a renewed commitment to God, His law, and to proper worship. So years passed before they rededicated themselves to obedience and their work for God.
Zechariah’s dreams - part 1
Homework for May 26th: Read the first and last of Zechariah’s dreams, 1:7-17 and 6:1-8. It would also be very helpful to read the book of Haggai (only three pages) to see his perspective on what was happening in Jerusalem at this time.
Zechariah’s eight dreams can best be understood by reviewing them in pairs. The first and the eighth make a pair. Then the second and the seventh are a pair. Also the third pairs with the sixth, and the fourth with the fifth. The Bible Project video on Zechariah does an excellent job explaining this.
We know from our own experience that dreams are strange. Zechariah is no exception. But in his case, God enclosed messages inside these bizarre dreams. These messages were meant for the people of Israel, to encourage them to be obedient to God’s commands.
In the days of Zechariah, God had provided “rest” to the nations by establishing the Persian Kingdom over the land of Israel, and eastward. This kingdom kept the peace. There was no war in the Middle East at that time. This was the “rest” Zechariah referred to in his first dream (1:11). But the Jews who had returned to their homeland with the permission of Cyrus, endured great difficulty rebuilding their city and establishing themselves back in Jerusalem. It wasn’t until they became obedient to the teaching of Haggai and Zechariah, and finished rebuilding the temple, that Israel found rest.
introduction to Zechariah
Homework for May 19th:
Read the book of Ezra. You can skip the sections where Ezra cataloged the families that returned to Palestine with him (2:1-67, 8:1-14, 10:20-43).
Background on Zechariah
In 538 BC King Cyrus of Persia released the Jewish people to return to their homeland. They gradually moved back, with one of the first migrations led by the prophet Ezra. They immediately began to rebuild the temple, but quickly became distracted and temple construction halted for many years.
Two prophets returned with the people. Haggai and Zechariah were leaders among the people and shared God’s prophecies with the Jews (Ezra 5:1, 6:14). Haggai bluntly announced that they struggled because they had neglected reconstruction of the temple (Haggai 1:3-8). Zechariah called the people to obedience, proclaiming their submission to God’s commands were a condition for receiving His favor. Under the leadership of Ezra, Haggai, and Zechariah, the Jews finally finished reconstruction of the temple about 20 years after they had started.
As Zechariah’s writing continues, he shares with his readers the blessings awaiting God’s faithful servants. God will establish His kingdom, and they must be prepared to become citizens of this new kingdom, or be left behind.