Haggai and Zechariah both relayed messages concerning rebuilding the temple and returning Jewish life back to normal. Haggai was more focused. He told Zerubbabel and the people to get to work on the immediate job of rebuilding. Zechariah went on to expand on the responsibilities of the Jewish nation as a witness to the nations around the world. How do you recover from any disaster, such as fire, bankruptcy, job loss, death in the family, divorce, or displacement? How do you reestablish order and culture? What was the role of the Jewish nation then and in its future? Zechariah dealt with these issues, besides encouraging work on the temple.
Zechariah was a visionary. Literally. He saw allegorical visions that painted memorable pictures that would guide the people in returning to God. Close your eyes and image a field of fragrant flowering myrtle trees. A man, the Lord, stands there to care for them, after having ridden one of the four horses, the four empires. He is angry with these empires for having it so easy and being so hard on his people, beyond what was necessary for their discipline. He is there to care for his myrtle trees and vows that they will flourish. How he loves Jerusalem!
Zechariah’s pictures continue. Here is the second of eight. The four horses are now four Ram’s horns, ancient symbols of authority, like crowns or scepters are to us today. The man among the myrtle trees is angry with the empires for having scattered his people. Look now and see four artisans with the power to unmake the horns. Every empire that raises itself up against Judah will eventually be brought down by another nation. This is certain.
A man travels to Israel to measure the limits of Jerusalem, but it far exceeds its walls, as nations pour into it. God claims it for himself and rises to its defense. It’s prosperity seems boundless.
Then we see Joshua, the current high priest, and Satan pointing out his sins. The Lord has him dressed in purified garments and forgives his sins, as he speaks to him of the Branch, the Messiah, the True Vine, who would take away our sins in a single day.
The image continues to build, as we see two olive trees that feed oil into a lamp whose light goes out to the whole world. The nations will see what has happened to Israel and learn. The prosperity and holiness of Israel will place it in the middle of history, where it cannot be ignored.
Then, far above everything, a written document flies across the skies. It denounces two basic wrongs: plundering the goods of others, and all sorts of lying. The same law judges all nations, both Israel and the empires.
Those first six visions encouraged the Jews to prosper. The last two visions are ominous and futuristic. To begin with, a woman sitting in a basket is carried to Babylon, where it will be housed for some future event. Then four chariots, led by four strong horses, go out to wander throughout the earth. Something evil is in our future. Israel has a role to play in a future that has not yet been revealed.
Zechariah has been considered the most messianic and apocalyptic of the Old Testament books. He prophecies about the Messiah who will come into Jerusalem mounted on a donkey, be betrayed for thirty pieces of silver that will be thrown to the potter, be struck so that his followers scatter, be pierce, and finally be king over all the earth. If Zechariah is right, which he seems to be, Israel is back in the saddle of history in order to face off in a great conflict against all the nations of the world. It behooves us to understand why. The reason for the final conflict is revealed by understanding the conflicts of ancient history.