Zechariah makes several cryptic statements regarding shepherds. Who these men are, when these events took place is by no means clear, but these prophecies seem to concern the Messiah, Jesus the Good Shepherd. Thus we may assume that the events foretold here reflect those things which occurred at the time of the crucifixion and the devastation which befell Jerusalem at the hands of the Romans in 69 AD. Zechariah represented the Messiah who came to superintend or rule over the other shepherds who had been misusing their authority and abusing the sheep. Yet he was rejected by his flock, his own people.
The reaction of Zechariah to the people’s rejection as shepherd caused him to break his 2 staffs, “Favor” or blessing and “Union”. This may be an indication that once the Messiah was rejected, the Lord now expanded the focus of His covenant from the Jews to include the Gentiles as well, that is, the rest of the world. The covenant is not negated for it is eternal but now its blessings are taken from the Jews and extended to all mankind. The Lord had promised in the Law of Moses that if His people rejected Him, He would cast them off and punish them. Part of their punishment involved the acceptance of a false leader. This may be a reference to the coming antichrist (or a past one; or both).
In our modern world people often choose to follow and idolize the most charismatic leaders and politicians. They are seduced by their rhetoric and their empty promises. Those who accept any false Messiah or leader will find that he will lead them into destruction because he will lead them away from the Lord and enslave them to his will and their own lusts and desires. Yet the Lord is able to deliver all who repent and call on Him for He alone is the true good shepherd who loves those in His care.
From the center, Zechariah’s visions move back out into Judah in the 6th vision, that of a flying scroll. This represents and reaffirms the Mosaic covenant, for it symbolizes the Torah, the law of Yahweh with its curses and blessings. This scroll shows that the Lord’s presence, His covenant, promises and law are not limited to His temple but pervade every aspect of the life of His people. The Law of God, the Law of love and grace should fill us deeply so that we hate evil and wickedness and so separate ourselves from idolatry, from worshipping and valuing what the world maintains is important.
This then leads to the 7th vision which moves us out again to the nations. Their wickedness and idolatry, symbolized by the woman in the basket, is transported from Jerusalem, the place where Yahweh dwells, to Babylon, representative of the world and sin. This vision conveys the religious autonomy of Judah. Foreign powers usually installed their own gods in territories which they had conquered as a means of enforcing their dominion. Here, the foreign goddess is removed. This indicates that, in spite of the political conditions, it is Yahweh, not Persia that rules Judah. This vision also relates to vision 2 though here Yahweh’s agents are two women with stork’s wings, also agents of the pagan goddess.
The fact that agents of evil act at Yahweh’s direction indicates that He has total control over evil itself. He limits it and uses it to accomplish His purposes. This may be troubling to us as we are assailed by deadly “natural” disasters, storms, earthquakes and floods as well as the cruelty and violence of terrorists and fanatics. These things may be caused and used by Satan to harm and discourage us, but the scripture tells us that God uses even evil to bring about good. The greatest good comes when such trials and tribulations drive sinners to repentance and faith in the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Thus in the midst of tribulation we ought to pray The Lord lead sinners to faith as well as ask Him to keep us, and them, safe.
Vision 5 is the 2nd of the two core visions. The golden lamp stand represents the presence of Yahweh, for it stands fixed and sure, symbolic of His permanence and immutability and of His presence with His people. Yet the lamp stand is also the people of Judah, shining the truth about The Lord as a witness in the world. The two olive trees which supply the lamp with oil represent Zerubbabel, the symbol of Davidic monarchy and Joshua, the high priest. The presence of Zerubbabel signifies the continuity of God’s covenant, for he is representative of the Davidic dynasty. As a descendant of royalty he lays the foundation stone, and carries the plumb line. This line represents the law and the word of God for the plumb line measures the righteousness of God’s people. His presence here also establishes the continuity of this temple with the old one and its worship, which in the days of the monarchy was led by the king.
The two core visions, when combined indicate that these two offices, the high priest and the Davidic ruler are equal in authority. The new leadership of Judah was to be a co-rulership in which the two served together as the equivalent to the Davidic king. They both mediate the law and provide the light of truth to the nation and the world. Ultimately, the Davidic kingship would be restored, but not by political or military might but by the power of the Lord’s spirit in Christ who, as the anointed one, the Messiah, would assume the roles of both high priest and king.
The church today is the lamp stand of the Lord, yet she has lost her influence and her light has been greatly dimmed. The Anglican Church is the national church of Great Britain. At one time it was considered to be the conscience of the nation, though these days, but no longer. The Christian church as a whole seems to have lost its influence, at least here in the West. Perhaps we would all be better off if the church and her leaders were seen as equal to the heads of state and governments and could influence their decisions. These days, however, it seems as if democracy and the right to personal freedom trumps everything else. The individual is King, not God. Perhaps it’s time for the church to shine her light once again.
As we progress in Zechariah’s night visions, we proceed from the very broad, universal realm to the more specific international and national levels. Thus we see that this 3rd vision has a national focus: Judah and Jerusalem under divine protection. Though no longer an autonomous political force but merely a province in the Persian Empire, Judah remained the focus and center of Yahweh’s plan for redeeming man and recreating the earth. Yahweh manifested His universal covenantal love through Jerusalem where He will reside. The vision conveyed His acceptance of the present political structure while anticipating an improved future brought about by the His activity.
The 4th vision is one of two which lie at the core of God’s message through Zechariah. It shows a change in the government of Judah for it concerns the cleansing and commissioning of Joshua, the high priest. He serves the people as mediator between them and The Lord. His uncleanness is theirs. Yahweh cleanses Judah by His grace, just as He does Joshua. This vision presents the reader with a view of the heavenly court of which Joshua is made a member, entering into the full counsel of Yahweh. This vision places the Lord’s stamp of legitimacy on the expanded office of the high priest as the head of civil authority.
Zechariah noted that Satan stood by to make accusations against Joshua. The filthy rags the High Priest wore showed that he, like all men, was a sinner. Satan’s design was to accuse him as being unholy and unfit for his duties. But the Lord cleanses him and declares Him righteous. In the same way, Satan accuses the believer before the Lord and rightfully so for all believers are unclean sinners. But the Lord has cleansed them by His blood and so He declares them righteous. Therefore though the accusations and fiery darts the devil sends our way may seem formidable, we need not fear them. God Himself has made us righteous so whatever Satan says to discourage or discredit us is a lie.
Zechariah, like Haggai, was concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple and the renewal of the spiritual life of the people. He encouraged the Jews by reminding them of God’s presence with them. The 8 night visions he described provided eight glimpses into the supernatural realm presented in a progressive and meaningful structure. They portrayed the Lord at work in both the spiritual and physical realms on behalf of His people at the time of the restoration from exile. They were meant to convey His approval of Judah’s current political situation. This approval served to ease the transition to a more acceptable future for the people, now bereft of monarchy and autonomy, and ensure their survival as a people.
The first vision was of a universal truth. The horses which range over the whole earth are Yahweh’s intelligence-gathering system and so represent His omniscience. The action of the horses indicate that while the nations of the world rested secure in their power, Yahweh was already preparing to act. He is in control of all things, for He knows and sees all. Whatever happens is the fulfillment of His purpose and His plan of action. The 2nd vision shows His work among the nations and powers of the world. Yahweh used His craftsmen, including Persia, to subdue those nations, represented by the horns, which had scattered His people. This indicates that all of His enemies are powerless in His hands as are all nations. Even Persia would soon suffer the same fate as the other horns.
Most if not all modern nations and governmental leaders would be astounded and outraged by Zechariah’s revelation that all nations, leaders and politicians serve at the will of The Lord. Few would admit that He has any power and authority over them. Many would even say that God has no such control nor do evil people or terrorists act under the limits of His divine providence, but there it is in Zechariah. This awareness of God’s omniscience and omnipotence ought to be a comfort to God’s people. Although we like to speak out against those who terrorize us or the politicians and groups who seek to overturn God’s Laws we ought to wait patiently. It is not for us to avenge God’s name but to uphold it. He will always have His way no matter how hard humans try to circumvent His will.
I would like to thank all my Facebook friends, relatives and acquaintances for your greetings to me on my Birthday. I won’t say which birthday it was but I am young enough to remember Howdy Doody, Wagon Train and Leave It to Beaver. The last show mentioned Terri and I found a great help to get through hurricane Irene, Sandy and its aftermath and this blizzard as we had the DVDs of reruns borrowed from the library to watch. Amazing how great that show was. Also, the first president I voted for and elected was Nixon when he beat McGovern. Even then I was a staunch conservative. I did, however, vote for Carter in 76 but always Republican after that.
Well again, let me say thanks. I received over 70 greetings on FB alone. This was a great encouragement as I am currently unemployed. I had to leave my church because, to paraphrase Don Corleone, they made me an offer I had to refuse.
This shows what a great medium social networking is. You don’t have to remember weeks in advance to buy a card. You save on the stamp and you still get to send a greeting. The response was a great blessing. Thank you all.
The prophetic ministry of Haggai among the returned Jewish exiles is mentioned in Ezra 5:1 & 6:14. When the Jews returned from exile in Babylon their primary task was to reconstruct the Temple of the Lord. We know from Ezra and Nehemiah that they failed to do so largely because they became disheartened due to opposition from their Samaritan neighbors. The people’s fear led them to abandon the Lord’s work and focus on building their own homes and farms which then became their primary focus. Because they lacked faith, because they acted selfishly, the Lord did not bless their undertakings. They experienced agricultural loss and financial problems which should have driven them to the Lord, but instead only deepened their depression and selfishness. They believed that the Lord had abandoned them.
Haggai preached against this and motivated the leaders and people to rebuild the temple. It was vital that they should do this so that they could worship The Lord as He had commanded and atone for sins and uncleanness through their sacrifices. They were to walk in obedience to the Lord’s covenant which their ancestors had violated and for which they had been punished. In repentance they would find the Lord’s forgiveness and blessings.
One way in which the devil tempts us to sin is fear of man, fear of what others will say, fear of ridcule and estrangement. Such temptations come in the form of people who disparage our faith. They influence us to think that perhaps our faith and sacrificial living is in vain. They tempt us to live as they do without regard to God’s will. We then forget God’s promises and His power and begin to live like we don’t need Him or His help just like those who do not know Him do. We begin to rely on things other than God, to place our faith in the things and values of the world or other people, ourselves included. In order to overcome such temptations we must forsake the alluring values of the world and get into God’s word and into the fellowship of the saints as well as the ministry to the oppressed, the blind and all those who are hurting.