THE DAY IS COMING WHEN THE LORD WILL HAVE COMPASSION AND RESTORE THE FORTUNES OF HIS PEOPLE
This is a message of comfort regarding the Lord’s compassion towards His people. Although some of the Jews have returned from exile and begun the rebuilding program, things have not gone well. There has been much opposition and discouragement. Zechariah’s contemporary Haggai had challenged the indifference of God’s people and stirred up their hearts to repentance. They understood the priority of giving themselves wholeheartedly to the work of the Lord. The temple needed to be rebuilt; the Messiah would some day come to reign over the nations from Jerusalem. But the situation still looked bleak. The oppressing nations were the ones enjoying peace and prosperity. How long would it be before the Lord remembers His promises? Zechariah encourages the people to focus on the future reign of the Messiah which will surely come. In fact the prophet’s name means “the Lord remembers.”
How long, O Lord? Will You forget me forever?
How long will You hide Your face from me?
How long shall I take counsel in my soul,
Having sorrow in my heart all the day?
How long will my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O Lord my God.
Strengthen my eyes, or I will sleep the sleep of death.
And my enemy will say, “I have overcome him.”
And my adversaries will rejoice when I am shaken.
But I have trusted in Your lovingkindness;
My heart shall rejoice in Your salvation.
I will sing to the lord, Because He has dealt bountifully with me.
Mackay: The visions are not intended to be merely personal experiences for the prophet. They convey to him truth that he is to pass on to the people of Jerusalem. Their purpose is to encourage them to abandon the survive-for-the-moment mentality that persisted among them and to persevere in the work they are undertaking, by setting before them the glorious promises of God concerning their future as the people of God. This was a ministry of consolation to the struggling remnant in the land. They could locate themselves in terms of the Lord’s future prospects which extended to include the Messiah and the advance of his cause in New Testament times.
(:7-8a) SETTING OF THE VISION
A. Date of the Vision
“On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Shebat”
Lindsey: This date was five months after the building of the temple was resumed (Hag. 1:14-15; 2:15), three months after Zechariah’s first prophecy (Zech. 1:1), and two months after Haggai’s last prophecy (Hag. 2:20 – a prophecy regarding the destruction of world powers before the millennial rule of the Messiah; cf. Hag. 2:21-23).
B. Political Context of the Vision
“in the second year of Darius”
MacArthur: The Persian emperor Cyrus had died and was succeeded by Cambyses (ca. 530-521 B.C.) who conquered Egypt. He had no son, killed himself, and Darius rose to the throne by quelling a revolution.
C. Source of the Vision
“the Word of the Lord came to”
Interesting combination of Word and Vision: cf. the Incarnate Christ as the
Word – enabling us to see God for who He really is;
God takes the initiative to reveal Himself to man
D. Medium of the Vision
“Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo”
E. Introduction to the Vision
F. Testimony to the Vision – there are going to be a series of 8 night visions
“I saw at night and behold”
I. (:8b) THE SUBJECTS OF THE VISION – FOCUS ON THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
A. The Central Figure – twofold description of the Angel of the Lord = the pre-incarnate Christ (speculation as to the significance of some of these details since no clear interpretation is offered in the text)
1. War-like figure – Commander in Chief
“a man was riding on a red horse”
2. Prince of Peace
“and he was standing among the myrtle trees which were in the ravine”
Zondervan Pictorial Encycl: Found six times, sometimes as myrtle branches (Neh 8:15), often as myrtle trees (Zech 1:8, 10, 11). . . The tree is an evergreen, thirty ft. tall; the leaves are small, shiny, slightly-scented and leathery. The white or pinkish flowers are scented, and are followed by blue-black berries, which can produce a perfume. . . The queens of England carry sprigs of myrtle in their wedding bouquets as a symbol of peace.
Lindsey: standing astride his horse
(not a contradiction to earlier statement that he was riding on the red horse)
Mackay: if any definite location is sought, nothing more specific may be intended than a reference to the lower part of the valley of Kidron outside Jerusalem, where there was a deep gorge with many myrtle trees. We would then have a picture of the Angel of the Lord outside the city indicating that they did not yet fully enjoy the blessings of the Lord’s presence with them, but at the same time he was not far from the city, and was watching over it protectively. Indeed, the Angel was receiving the reports of the horsemen because he was going to order the affairs of the world to suit his plans for his people. . .
(Re myrtle trees) – They are referred to as replacing the brier in the wilderness when the Lord restores the fortunes of his people (Isa. 41: 19; 55:13), and may be an apt symbol of the restored community.
B. The Supporting Cast = angels on a variety of colored horses
“with red, sorrel and white horses behind him”
1. Red – symbolizing war and judgment?
2. White – symbolizing peace and righteousness and prosperity?
3. Sorrel – symbolizing some mixture?
MacArthur: red speaking of bloodshed and judgment (cf. Is. 63:1,2), white speaking of victory (cf. Rev 19:11), and sorrel or a brownish color is possibly a combination of the others. A similar picture is found in Rev 6:1-8. These horses are about to gain a victorious judgment. Since they are messengers of vengeance, they likely represent angels, so frequently employed as God’s instruments of judgment.
II. (:9-11) THE INITIAL DIALOGUE – QUESTION AND ANSWER FORMAT – THE QUIET BEFORE THE STORM
A. (:9) Answer Given by the Interpreting Angel – Voice of Explanation
“Then I said, ‘My lord, what are these?’ And the angel who was speaking with me said to me, ‘I will show you what these are.’”
This angel must always be distinguished from the Angel of the Lord
B. (:10) Answer Given by the Angel of the Lord – Voice of Authority
“And the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered and said,
‘These are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’”
C. (:11) Answer Given by the Surrounding Angels – Voice of Reporters
“So they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.’”
Speaks to the sense of false security among the nations who seem prosperous but have no idea that the wrath of God is about to be executed upon them.
III. (:12) THE BIG QUESTION – HOW LONG??
“Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?”
A. The Assumption: Expectation of Prosperity on the Part of God’s Chosen People
B. The Agony of Pain and Suffering – experiencing the Discipline of God
C. The Argument Based on the Lord’s Character
– His Compassion
– His Faithfulness to His Promises
– His Sovereign Power over the nations
– His Patience and Longsuffering – He gets angry and disciplines His people, but ultimately shows mercy and forgiveness
IV. (:13-17) THE ANSWER: THE TABLES WILL SOON BE TURNED
A. (:13) Word of Comfort to God’s People
“The Lord answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words, comforting words.”
B. (:14-15) Word of Warning to the Nations
1. (:14) Favored Status of Jerusalem Still in Effect
“So the angel who was speaking with me said to me, ‘Proclaim, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.”
Everyone wants to deny this today and say that God is finished dealing with Israel and fulfilling His promises to the nation.
2. (:15) Fear the Impending Wrath of God
“But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.’”
God used these nations to discipline his people; but in their wickedness
they went too far and angered God greatly; their fate will be far worse
C. (:16-17) Word of Promised Restoration and Prosperity to Israel
1. (:16) Faithful Compassion Leads to Restoration and Growth
“Therefore thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built in it,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘and a measuring line will be stretched over Jerusalem.’”
2. (:17) Sovereign Choice Leads to Prosperity and Blessing
“Again, proclaim saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, My cities will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”
“The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease,
For His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.”