“On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berechiah, son of Iddo…” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When a people is picking up the pieces again after suffering through a season of tragedy, what do they need? That is a question astute observers of culture in Jerusalem late in the 5th century B.C. would have been asking. Interestingly, it is a question that astute observers of culture are asking nowadays as well. As an answer to that question, God sent the Israelites the prophet Zechariah. Now, his words were for them, not us. But perhaps there is still a thing or two we could learn for our own lives. Let’s take a look.
As we talked about yesterday, Zechariah’s opening call to the people was to adopt a lifestyle of repentance. In other words, now that they had been freed from their captivity and allowed to begin rebuilding their lives back in Jerusalem once again, they needed to be careful not to fall back into the same sins of their past that landed them in the chaos from which they were only just emerging in the first place. Given the familial alliances they quickly started making with the pagan locals with survival and not covenant faithfulness on their minds, and which we read about in both Ezra and Nehemiah, this was a call they very much needed to hear (and heed!).
With that lifestyle in place–or at least the call to adopt it clear–what did they need to hear now? The answer to that comes in the next several chapters of Zechariah’s prophecy. It takes the form of a series of visions the prophet had on the night of February 15, 519 B.C. This is the word of the Lord that came to him whose introductory statement we encounter in this verse. There is more to his collection of prophecy than these visions, but they collectively form a significant part of the core of what God sent him to say to the people.
The visions themselves, which we will talk through together over the next several days, are not easy. As I said yesterday, the imagery they use puts them in the company of Ezekiel and Revelation in terms of our difficulty in understanding what they mean. There are lots and lots of guesses, but guesses which even when backed by a great deal of education must be offered with humility because we just don’t know for sure sometimes. Some are clearer than others. But if our goal is to precisely identify every last word and phrase, we are going to fall frustratingly short time and time again.
That being said, we can speak somewhat to the theme stretching across all eight of the visions. And that theme is this: God is in control. God is in control and if the people will trust Him (a trust which will be demonstrated by their humble willingness to obey His commands), He will restore them to the glory He always intended for them to have as His people. Again, how exactly that plays itself out we will look at together over the next several days, but that’s the big idea spanning the collection.
Our question reading on this side of the cross is this: What are we supposed to do with these? Again: They weren’t for us. Trying to take any single part of them and make a direct application to our circumstances is going to be a fruitless effort. We can’t justifiably take what was intended for someone else and claim it for ourselves. All the same, these words were preserved and protected down through the centuries by the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit as duly recognized Scripture. And, if all Scripture is God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, reading them solely for their literary qualities isn’t the extent of their worth.
So then, what are we supposed to do with these?
Well, what were these visions God gave Zechariah that night? I know this may sound like a flippant answer, but they were just that: visions. God gave the people a vision of His sovereignty over their present circumstances. Whatever those visions happened to be exactly, God understood they needed to see. They needed to have something on which to fix their eyes in order to give them a hope to drive them forward into the great future God had planned for them.
We are only beginning to emerge from a season of chaos and darkness ourselves, yes? Many things have been destroyed and will not be recoverable. Many more are going to be had again, but not as they were before. The picking up of the pieces of this season will likely last much longer than anyone fully realizes right now. There are not going to be any quick or easy answers on how to rebuild coming out of this season. Those aren’t what we need anyway. What we need, is vision. We need to see the path. Once we know that we can begin walking it, working through the challenges that arise as we go.
Friends, we serve a God who knows our needs. He knows our needs and He has indeed already given us a vision. It is the vision that has been driving forward the people of God ever since Jesus blew open the doors to the kingdom of God. And the vision is this: There is a day coming when all of this chaos will be tamed forever; a day when death shall be no more. There will be no more crying or mourning or pain in that day because the old things will have passed away. The path to this day has been lit with holy flares so that it is easy to follow no matter how dark things get.
And the path is this: Love one another. As we go forward, we must love one another. We must live in such a way that our lives create an abundance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. We must be defined by what is good, true, and beautiful. And we must reject completely all that points us away from the one true God. If we will make these things our aim, we will always know the way to go. Our faithful God never leaves His people alone or in the dark for long. We may yet reach the very bottom of the darkest valleys, but He is always with us. Have hope and keep moving toward the kingdom that will not end. There’s life to be had.