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Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hope for the Depressed (Zechariah chapters 1-6)

Hope for the Depressed

The Book of Zechariah (chapters 1-6)

Zechariah was one of Gods’ prophets to Judah and a contemporary of Haggai. His ministry began in 520 B.C. just two months after Haggai had finished prophesying. A prophet does not deliver his own message, but he is faithful to give only the message that God gave him. God used these two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, to bring hope to His people.

The Jewish people had recently come back to their homeland after spending seventy years in Babylonian captivity. Their city, Jerusalem, had been destroyed by the Babylonians along with the temple of the Lord. But those dark days of captivity were behind them and now they had returned to their homeland ready to rebuild.

After they got back to their homeland it didn’t take long for problems to arise and discouragement to set in. First of all the temple builders realized that the new temple they were building would never compare with the old one that had been destroyed. God had blessed their forefathers with gold and riches so that they could build a grand temple. But these returning Jewish exiles were poor and struggling. Why wasn’t God there with more provisions for them to build?

And secondly their neighbors, the Samaritans, made trouble for them by influencing the Persians to pass laws forbidding them to continue rebuilding the temple. (Ezra 4:5) The Israelites became depressed and quit building. It was hard to keep the faith and build the temple when so many forces were arrayed against them. The Israelites believed that the hindrances that came up with the building of their temple meant that God was not into their rebuilding. Obviously if God had been with them everything would have gone smoothly, wouldn’t it?

It was into this mix that God gave a prophetic word to His people through Zechariah. God comes to Zechariah by night and gives him eight visions to give to his discouraged people. The visions of Zechariah (Zechariah 1:8-6:7) brought hope for his fellow Israelites, but they also bring hope for us and speak of the Hope at the end of the age. Bible scholars believe that some of these prophecies have a double fulfillment. Zechariahs’ prophecies were fulfilled back then for the people of Judah. They did rebuild their temple and God prospered them. But Zechariahs’ prophecy also gives us hope for a time when wickedness is removed and Christ, the Messiah will come again and a new glorious temple will be built.

Basically the meaning in the eight visions that God gave Zechariah for his people is that God will save them and bring judgment on the nations who are trying to harm them. God promises Zechariah and his people that He has chosen them and will bless their rebuilding. He will be a protective wall of fire around Jerusalem. God will judge their enemies and He will send “The Servant, the Branch, to save”- Jesus Christ. (Zechariah 3:8:9) In the fifth vision of the golden lamp stand and the olive tree, the Lord promises that He will empower His people and give them His Spirit. (Zechariah 4:6) Four of the eight visions foretell ridding individuals and the whole earth of sin. The fourth vision shows Joshua, the high priest, standing before God in filthy garments. His sin is removed from him and he is given clean rich robes to wear. The sixth vision shows that dishonesty will be cursed, the seventh that wickedness will be removed and the last vision tells that the spirits of heaven will execute judgment on the whole Earth because of sin. (Zechariah 6:5,7) The importance of the fact that sin is taken away before God brings in a new day of blessing is an important part of Zechariahs’ message in these visions.

The sixth vision of the flying scroll is particularly graphic! It is a vivid picture showing how dishonesty is cursed by God. “I see a flying scroll. Its length is twenty cubits and its width ten cubits” says Zechariah. Then God interpreted, “This is the curse that goes out over the face of the whole earth: ‘I will send out the curse,’ says the Lord of hosts: ‘It shall enter the house of the thief, and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It shall remain in the midst of his house and consume it, with its timber and stones.’” Zechariah 5:2b, 3a, 4) According to Biblical scholars, a roll or scroll is employed in Scripture for a pronouncement of judgment.

After Zechariahs’ visions God shows him that Joshua is being crowned, but then the language changes and the one being crowned is the Lord, and He is building the temple. Here is that double meaning again. – a promise for the present and a fuller promise for the end of the age. Zechariah 6:15a reads: “Even those from afar (believing Gentiles) shall come and build the temple of the Lord.” You see, we have a part of this too.

These Israelites from long ago were given hope by Zechariahs’ prophecies. Now they knew that God was with them, even when their problems seemed so big. Do we sometimes make the same mistake they did? Do we wonder where God is when our problems overwhelm us? These Israelites questioned whether their efforts in building Gods’ new temple would ever be worth anything. They compared their temple to the grand temple of their forefathers and it didn’t measure up. Do we have those same problems? Do we sometimes wonder if our lives really matter? Do we fear that our efforts don’t compare with someone else’s? When we have prayers that don’t seem to be answered, do we think that God doesn’t care? The comforting words that God gave through Zechariah are for us too.

God tells us not to be discouraged if our work seems small (or unimportant). (Zechariah 4:7-10) “For who has despised the day of small things?” (Verse 10) We give importance to the size of things, but God doesn’t see things that way. His ways are not our ways. Zechariahs’ prophecy also reminds us that what God has begun in us He will complete. And our prayers will be answered even if it isn’t in our time frame. We are to depend on the Holy Spirit to accomplish the things that God has called us to do. And we are called upon to remember that our gift is important to building God’s church.

Gods’ message to Zephaniah is a double message. The promises of victory are for Christians as we live our lives today. But these promises are completely fulfilled for us at a later time also. Only at the end of time when Jesus has come again and all sin is completely removed, will we have the total victory through Christ.


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