Zechariah Chapter 1


Like Haggai, Zechariah was a prophet to the remnant which had returned from seventy years’ exile in Babylon. As we commence this study of the book of Zechariah, it is necessary that we familiarise ourselves with the circumstances of these remnant Jews. At the point where Zechariah begins to speak it had already been fifteen years since the return of the first Jews from Babylon and the commencement of the rebuilding of Jerusalem. There had been several setbacks to the rebuilding work, until finally the work had been completely stopped by a decree of King Artaxerxes (the king of Persia), as Ezra 4:23-24 tells us:

"As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia."

This is the point where Zechariah enters the scene - as we see from Zechariah 1, verse 1: "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:..."

Now let us put ourselves in the shoes of these beleaguered Jews, starting with the glorious promise spoken to them by the prophet Jeremiah at the beginning of the exile more than seventy years earlier (Jer. 29:10-14):

This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfil my good promise to bring you back to this place. For I know the plans I have for you,’ declares the Lord, ‘plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back from captivity. I will gather you from all the nations and places where I have banished you,’ declares the Lord, ‘and will bring you back to the place from which I carried you into exile.’”

Wow! What a promise! ... And yet here we find them - fifteen years after having returned from exile - and nothing is working out for them. The rebuilding effort has been stopped and there are foes on every side. They must surely have been feeling rather miserable - feeling indeed as if God's promises had failed and that He had forgotten all about them. Do you think you would have felt the same? Yes, I do, too....

However, in the midst of this God calls his prophet Zechariah and shows him eight visions. These visions will be our main subject matter as we study this glorious book. We will discover that these visions were given to encourage the people in a particular way, with a view not only to their immediate future but the distant future as well.

The Man among the Myrtle Trees

In the first vision (verses 8-17), an angel is speaking to Zechariah, and there is another angel on a red horse standing among the myrtle trees. What is interesting is that Zechariah refers to this specific angel as 'the angel of the Lord' ('Malak Jehovah' in Hebrew, which means 'messenger of God'), while he refers to the others just as 'angels'. We discovered this term (angel of the Lord) throughout the Old Testament as we read the following: Genesis 16:7-14, Genesis 21: 17-19, Genesis 22:15-18, Genesis 31:11-13, Exodus 3:1-5, Exodus 23:20-23, and then in the New Testament in 1 Corinthians 10:4. It became very clear to us through these readings that this 'angel of the Lord' had divine qualities and spoke as God Himself. Paul, in 1 Corinthians 10:4 confirms that this 'angel of the Lord’, who travelled with Israel through the desert (“that spiritual Rock that followed them”), was none other than Christ Himself ....

The man among the myrtle trees - Christ Himself - is there as commander of God's forces with the angels (“they whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro through the earth”) reporting to Him. Upon receiving their report He cries out to the “Lord of hosts” on their behalf (verse 12), interceding for Jerusalem, and speaking comforting words regarding the future of the Jews and God's city (verse 13). How Zechariah’s words must have consoled and encouraged the remnant in the midst of apparent defeat, proving not only that they were still precious to God’s heart, but that He was still zealously working on their behalf. He was indeed busy in the unseen realm, bringing about that which He had promised so many years ago.

Likewise, the vision of the four horns (four kingdoms/powers), verse 18, and the four craftsmen coming to destroy them, verse 20, shows that He is angry with those who brought calamity upon God's people and will yet destroy them. Despite everything seeming to be otherwise, God is doing exactly what He said he would do....

So now, how about us and our lives? How many of us have been in a similar position where God has guided us in a certain direction, assured us of certain things but then nothing seems to happen ... Time goes by, and yet what he promised does not come to pass ... There is a tremendous lesson for us here in Zechariah 1. Don’t be fooled by appearances – there is a spiritual realm in which there is much activity going on in order that God’s purposes (for the Body and the members of it) can come to pass in the physical realm.

Just as in His mercy, God allows Zechariah to see these things and encourage the people saying, 'Do not be anxious, God has shown me that He is indeed VERY busy in the background bringing about all that He promised and you will soon see it all unfold', so he can show you. If you are discouraged, dear friend, ask God to reveal to you all the things that He is doing in the background that you cannot see. In the meantime, we have the promises of God to comfort and encourage us, and we have the gift of faith to believe what we cannot yet see.