HISTORY PROVES THAT THE LORD’S URGENT CALL TO REPENTANCE MUST BE RESPONDED TO RIGHT NOW
Zechariah was a contemporary of Haggai and proclaimed a message of encouragement to God’s people who had returned from Exile and faced the daunting challenge of rebuilding. But before proclaiming the word of hope contained in the apocalyptic visions (along the line of the Book of Revelation), Zechariah introduces his prophecy with a ringing call to repentance. ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.” God will remember His people at the proper time; but everything hinges on the spiritual condition of their heart – it must be properly oriented towards God in repentance and faith. They must not stubbornly persist in rebellion or allow their hearts to grow cold like their forefathers had done in precipitating God’s judgment of them in the Exile to Babylon.
(:1) CONTEXT – THE COMMUNICATION OF GOD’S REVELATION
A. Identification of the Time of the Prophecy
“In the eighth month of the second year of Darius”
B. Identification of the Source of the Prophecy
“the Word of the Lord”
C. Identification of the Prophet Himself – significance of the 3 names mentioned here (Stedman)
1. Zechariah = “Jehovah remembers” – takes care of; watches over
“came to Zechariah the prophet,”
2. Berechiah = “God blesses”
“the son of Berechiah,”
3. Iddo = “at the appointed time”
“the son of Iddo saying”
I. (:2-3) THE CALL TO IMMEDIATE REPENTANCE OFFERS THE ONLY ESCAPE FROM GOD’S IMPENDING WRATH
A. (:2) Sin Incurs God’s Wrath
“The Lord was very angry with your fathers”
How much trouble were they in if the God of the universe was very angry with them?
What is the connection between the sins of the fathers and are own well-being?
In what ways had they sinned against God? Described below as “leaving God”
MacArthur: This actually means “to break out in long-controlled indignation,” reminding the people of the severity of God’s wrath and the necessity of His judgment on their past sins in pre-Exilic times.
B. (:3) Only Repentance Can Restore the Fractured Relationship
“Therefore say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
Significance of the name “the Lord of hosts”
Nature and Necessity of Repentance
Implied Timing of Repentance = Right Now – while you have opportunity
Blessings associated with restored fellowship
Mackay: Their physical return to the land of the Lord’s inheritance had to be matched by a spiritual return in obedience to him. . .
This is the essence of the prophetic word of warning and of the promise attached to renewed obedience. The spiritual process involved had often been spelled out at key points in the nation’s history, from their earliest days (Deut. 4:27-31; 30:2-10), at the inauguration of the Temple (1 Kgs. 8:47-48), and by the prophets (Jer. 3:11, 22; 4:1; Ezk. 33:11). It will be taken up later by the prophet Malachi (Mal. 3:7). It is a promise based on the mercy of the forgiving God who receives graciously and loves freely (Hos. 14:2, 4).
II. (:4) THE CONTRAST OF REJECTING THE COMMAND TO REPENT PROVES THE FUTILITY OF STUBBORN REBELLION
A. Negative Contrast Hits Close to Home
“Do not be like your fathers,”
Sad case when you are commanded to reject the behavior example of your Parents
Children could not argue that they were in some way excused from God’s wrath because of the sin of their parent – God is the standard and we are held accountable – still it is sad when our parents fail us
B. Same Call for Immediate Repentance
“to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts,
Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’”
Privilege of access to God’s revelation through His messengers, the prophets
Faithful proclamation of the message of God
Same connection between sin and the fracturing of the relationship
Same necessity of immediate repentance – “Return now”
C. Tragic Closing of the Ears to the Pleas of God
“But they did not listen or give heed to Me, declares the Lord.”
III. (:5-6a) THE CONTRAST BETWEEN MORTALITY AND ETERNITY VINDICATES GOD’S FAITHFULNESS TO CARRY OUT HIS WORD
A. (:5) Limited Perspective of Mortal Men
“Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever?”
B. (:6a) Historical Vindication of the Eternal Word of God
“But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers”
God will faithfully bring about all that He has prophecied – Both the blessings and the curses
Mackay: Both questions are addressed to the people, and point to the transitory nature of human life. Both the past generations – no matter what their sin – and the prophets – no matter how faithfully they had delivered the Lord’s message – had passed away. None could deny that. The point is not the similar fate endured by bad and good alike. Rather the thrust of the questions is to bring home the fact that there is no immunity from the march of time. The people are being urged to recognize their need to respond now, while the opportunity is afforded to them.
Mackay: ‘Overtake’ pictures a pursuer capturing someone who is fleeing, a hunter catching his game, or a wild animal grasping its prey (Gen. 31:25; Ex. 14:9; 15;9). So their forefathers were pursued and caught by the inescapable curse of God. This metaphor is also found in Deuteronomy 28:15, 45, which provides a probable background for this passage.
IV. (:6b) THE CONFESSION OF REPENTANCE BRINGS FORTH THE FRUIT OF SUBMISSION TO GOD’S SOVEREIGN DISPOSITION –
BUT WILL IT BE TOO LATE??
“Then they repented and said, ‘As the Lord of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us.”
Their forefathers ended up changing their mind about their own sinfulness and the Lord’s charges against them. But it was not in time to benefit them. The message to the contemporaries of Zechariah is to Repent NOW while there is still time to participate in the blessings. Ultimately all of mankind will bow the knee before the Lord’s sovereign authority and acknowledge the fairness of His justice and the holiness of His standards.