The hardships of life often cause doubt to enter our minds as to whether or not the Lord has forgotten us. Our minds ponder, “The Lord has too much to occupy His attention to be concerned about my situation.” In honest moments we must all confess we have entertained such thoughts. Well, if you have had such thoughts you are not alone. As we leaf through the pages of the Old Testament, we meet a prophet named Zechariah. He was given by the Sovereign of the Universe a message to proclaim to a people who were experiencing hardships and wrestling with thoughts that the Lord had forgotten them. The message of the faithful prophet was clear: We can be assured the Lord God of heaven is a God who remembers.
Zechariah was born in Babylonian exile, but he came to Jerusalem when Persian leadership, who conquered Babylon, decreed the Jews could return to their homeland if they so desired (537 BC). He was a contemporary of the prophet Haggai who was older in age, but their messages supplemented each other. Together they encouraged and inspired the people in the midst of discouraging times to complete the rebuilding of the Temple, to spur the people on to righteous living, and to keep the Messianic promises and hope alive.
The name Zechariah means “he whom Yahweh remembers” or “Yahweh has remembered.” A priest, he was already ministering to those who had returned from the exile and resettled in the land when the Lord placed His hand upon him with a visionary message. He burst upon the scene with prophetic passion in November 520 BC, in the second year of the reign of Darius the Persian ruler (Zech. 1:1). His prophetic ministry lasted at least two years, most likely longer, but at least until December 518 BC (Zech. 7:1). Because of the opposition, hardships and lax spiritual commitment the people were encountering, Zechariah shared with them heavenly visions he had received that were to serve as encouragement and reassurance that God had not forgotten or forsaken them and to not lose hope in the Messianic promises given them.
His messages to the people were communicated to him in eight visions, which are filled with a wealth of significance for us today. They can only be briefly summarized as to their meaning.
(1) The Horsemen among the Myrtle Trees (1:7-17) – The horsemen had been patrolling throughout the earth and announce that all was within Divine control and to assure the Israelites that the Lord still loved them and in His Providential timing would restore Jerusalem and bless His people with His fragrant presence.
(2) The Four Horns and Four Smiths/Craftsmen (1:18-21) – The four horns are four kingdoms that scattered Israel (Assyria, Egypt, Babylon, and Medo-Persia) and the smiths will scatter all powers that have opposed God’s people. All brute force will be put down. Such a proclamation was no doubt a source of relived comfort and encouragement to the people of God.
(3) The Man with the Measuring Line (2:1-13) – Zechariah sees a man holding a measuring line in his hand. The man says he is going to measure the city of Jerusalem. The vision declares God’s promise that Jerusalem will be expanded beyond the walls that surround them and the people will one day live in safety, as the Lord will dwell in the midst of them.
(4) Joshua Accused by the Adversary (3:1-10) – The prophet sees Joshua the high priest standing in filthy garments being accused by Satan before the Angel of the Lord. Joshua is a representative of the people. Satan is rebuked, and Joshua is given clean garments. The vision is symbolic of Israel’s forgiveness and restoration as God’s “priestly” nation. This vision is also a prediction of the one day coming High Priest—the coming Messiah, symbolized by a BRANCH and an omniscient, seven-eyed Stone!
(5) The Golden Chandelier/Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees (4:1-14) – The prophet sees a golden lampstand being fed oil from two olive trees. The two olive trees represent Zerubbabel the governor of Judah and Joshua the high priest (some scholars see the two olive trees as the Old and New Testament, others Law and Grace). The golden lampstand represents the Temple and there is provided an abundant supply of divine oil so the light and power for carrying out Israel’s mission can be accomplished.
(6) The Flying Role (5:1-4) – The prophet sees a huge scroll thirty feet by fifteen feet, written on both sides, flying over the whole earth. This vision speaks of God’s judgment upon those who are unrepentant of their sins.
(7) The Woman in the Basket (5:5-11) – The prophet is shown a basket that holds an ephah (three-fifths of a bushel). On the basket is a lead cover. An angel opens the basket to reveal a woman sitting inside, which represents sin/evil/wickedness. There appeared two women with stork-like wings who pick up the basket and carry it to Babylon. This vision pictures that evil must be removed from their lives and from the land.
(8) The Four Chariots (6:1-8) – The prophet sees four horses of different colors pulling four chariots, running in different directions throughout the whole earth. They are under the providential control of God as He carries out His promises and purposes. The people can be assured that every promise the Lord has made will be fulfilled and the wickedness of the nations will be judged and the His people will find peace in the fulfillment of the Messianic hope.
What message(s) can we glean from Zechariah and his visions? We learn that God is a God who remembers. That even in our discouragement, when it looks like God is slow in moving in our lives or when we even think He has forgotten us, in His sovereignty He continues to ride upon chariots of Divine Providence to bring about His purpose and to fulfill His promises to you and I. When circumstances prove difficult and obstacles confront us, we must remember that there is a reservoir of divine grace (picture in the oil) sufficient to help us through any struggle. When we feel we are sinking beneath the load, we are to hold on to Him who is called the BRANCH, whose eyes see our every plight. It is through trials that the walls of our character are measured, and it is through those very trials that the Lord expands the borders of our trust and usefulness. Zechariah exhorts us to put away our sin and develop an inner relationship with the Lord if we expect to experience His full blessings in our lives and experience the fragrance of His presence. God cannot bless sin, but will visit in the bounty of His strengthening presence when we put away our filthy garments. And when the Accuser of the Brethren, Satan, points an accusing finger at us, our Advocate, Jesus Christ, steps in to rebuke our Accuser and extends His forgiveness.
When the enemies of the Lord assail us, we must remember the prophet’s words that in the midst of the battle, victory comes “not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts” (Zech. 4:6). And Zechariah truly gives us a anticipatory promise that someday the Messiah will stand upon the Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4), His feet standing in ultimate victory over all His enemies…and His promise to you and me is that He now stands upon the mountains in our lives and by His Spirit empowering us to victory.
Press on my friend, we serve a God who remembers and not one word of all His good promises will ever fail!