Scripture Reading on Sunday Mornings: Zechariah
SUNDAY MORNING SCRIPTURE READING: ZECHARIAH
THINGS TO KNOW ABOUT THE BOOK
– Author: the prophet Zechariah (1:1) who worked with the prophet Haggai and with Ezra and Nehemiah to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem after the people returned from their exile (see Ezra 5:1-2 and Matthew 23:35).
– Date: Zechariah began prophesying in 520 B.C., just two months after Haggai (1:1; 7:1).
– Purpose: Zechariah’s prophecy to formerly exiled Jews who were now inhabiting Jerusalem was written to establish their faith and obedience in light of the future fulfillment of God’s past promises.
John MacArthur considers Zechariah “the most messianic, apocalyptic, and eschatological in the OT” (MacArthur Study Bible NASB). With this being the case, we should expect to hear a great deal over the next few months about the future. Zechariah prophesied in the sixth century B.C. about events that are now past from our perspective as well as many events that are still future. Therefore, we have a great deal to learn about what is to come by hearing this book read during our Sunday morning gatherings.
Since these reading aids are not intended to exhaust any one aspect of the minor prophets’ writings, and due to Zechariah’s length, much will be left unsaid here. But it will be helpful to us as we transport ourselves back to the original audience’s perspective week after week to recognize five key ingredients in God’s plan for the future. These key ingredients permeate the entirety of Zechariah’s prophecy. And because much of what the prophet said about them awaits a future fulfillment still, they can strengthen Grace Bible Church just as they were intended to strengthen Israel.
Five key ingredients included in Zechariah’s prophecy regarding God’s plan for the future are:
1. God’s People: Israel
2. God’s City: Jerusalem
3. God’s House: the temple
4. God’s Work: righteousness
5. God’s King: Jesus
GOD’S PEOPLE: ISRAEL
Scripture is clear that God made irrevocable promises to Abraham and his descendants (Gen. 28:13; Rom. 11:28-29; Heb. 6:17-18). Therefore, we should expect the Jews (Israel) to maintain a prominent place in God’s plan for the future. Zechariah makes this unmistakably clear in his prophecy. Anytime the prophet mentions the nation(s) of Israel or Judah, the clans of Judah, or a Jew, this is a reminder that God has not forsaken his promise to Abraham and his descendants. So prominent a place do God’s people hold in God’s plan for the future that a day will come when “ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, ‘Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you’” (Zec. 9:23)
GOD’S CITY: JERUSALEM
The significance of the city of Jerusalem is arguably the most prominent recurring theme is Zechariah’s prophecy. Zechariah, along with Haggai his contemporary, recognized the enduring significance of this city in God’s plan for the future. The city is referenced over two dozen times by name in the book because of its importance. Yahweh of hosts is “exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem” (1:14), which he calls, “the apple of His eye” (2:8). This city must not to be confused with the new Jerusalem seen by the apostle John in Revelation chapter 21, though, since Zechariah prophesied that this city would be inhabited by “old men and old women…[who would] again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age” (8:4). People will not need staffs due to old age in heaven, therefore, this Jerusalem is the one located on this side of eternity.
GOD’S HOUSE: THE TEMPLE
As God’s people who had returned from exile were obediently building the temple, they received great encouragement to know that the temple maintained a place in God’s plan for the future. The temple that they were able to construct as recently returned exiles lacked the glory of its prototype (Hag. 2:3). But they were assured by God through Zechariah’s words that not only would this building be completed in their day (4:8-9), but the temple would also one day be rebuilt by “a man whose name is Branch,” who would inhabit the temple in Jerusalem as the one who holds the dual office of priest as well as king. This priest-king would rule from his throne in the temple (6:12-15). Like Jerusalem, this temple would occupy a place on the current earth at a future date since, in the new Jerusalem that is a part of the new heavens and the new earth, the apostle John “saw no temple in it, for the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb are its temple” (Rev. 21:22).
GOD’S WORK: RIGHTEOUSNESS
God has always called his people to obey him. And he has always made clear that their obedience is ultimately his doing. Moses, who gave the Law to Israel, made it abundantly clear that Israel lacked the capacity to do what the Law demanded. Therefore, provision for their obedience would have to be God’s sovereign work in them (see Deut. 29:1-4 and 30:6-8). Zechariah prophesied about the time that Moses spoke of, a time when Israel finally possessed believing (circumcised) hearts and obedient hands on a national level — “And I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness” (8:8). Since Zechariah knew that only God’s righteous would one day dwell in God’s city under the reign of God’s king, he urged them to practice righteousness in the present (8:16-17; 13:9).
GOD’S KING: JESUS
The name Jesus is not found in Zechariah. However, as already mentioned, the prophet is anticipating a time when “a man” occupies a throne in God’s temple, a priest who also rules, who maintains perfect harmony between these two marvelous offices (6:12-15). This man is also called “My Shepherd” by Yahweh of hosts. And he even occupies the impossible place of equality with Yahweh of hosts, being called “My Associate” by him in the same passage (in the ESV, “the man who stands next to me,” 13:7). Zechariah first prophesied of a time when this priest-king rules in the temple (future). Then he speaks of a time when this shepherd is dealt a fatal blow to the chagrin of his sheep (past from our perspective). Then he speaks of a time when this priest-king-shepherd who is equal with God and who is Yahweh comes to subdue all of Israel’s enemies (14:1-5), establish Jerusalem’s prominence and peace (14:10-11), and reign as the singular king over the entire earth (14:9, all future from our perspective). To Zechariah’s audience, these events would have caused great hope and anticipation as well as curiosity. But the clarity of what was revealed necessitated that the shepherd be resurrected after he was fatally struck so that he might reign as priest and king. That’s the necessary order — death, resurrection, kingdom. Could it be any clearer that Jesus, our God-man-priest-king-shepherd, is the focus of Zechariah’s prophecy? Like Zechariah, we should long to see Jesus’ coming day!
AN IMPLICATION FOR SUNDAY MORNINGS
The length of Zechariah is unique among the minor prophets. With 14 weeks ahead of us, we have the opportunity to read this book personally to be better prepared in our understanding for Sundays. Take the opportunity to read Zechariah several times, focusing on the themes mentioned above as well as others that you might find helpful.
A WORD TO PARENTS
Sunday morning Scripture readings are a great time to include our children in the instruction coming from the pulpit. Here are some suggestions for how to help your children glean from what is being read during this time.
– Use Zechariah as a springboard for the gospel. Show them Zechariah’s view of Christ and connect these with the truths communicated in the New Testament. Only those who believe Jesus who practice righteousness will see Christ’s kingdom when he takes his throne.
– For kids who can read or who are on the verge of learning to read and can recognize familiar words, teach them repeated words in Zechariah such as “Jerusalem,” “God, “ “the LORD (Yahweh),” etc. This may help keep them engaged and attentive since they can better identify the text being displayed up front.