In my view, Zechariah is the most challenging of the Minor Prophets. Its difficulty lies in its uniqueness. It is not written like anything within our normal experience. It is full of “visions” (which require interpretation) and “oracles” which, frankly, are supposed to be different from the rest of the book but just sound the same.
And yet, in the gospel story of the end of Jesus’ life, Zechariah is the most referred to literature of the Bible. Ancient people loved it.
Ezra tells us that about the year 520 B.C., Haggai and Zechariah, two prophets of the Lord, rose up and encouraged the people to complete building His temple. Haggai offers God’s criticism against Judah for improper priorities – they’ve given attention to every worldly thing, and not a moment’s consideration to God. The command of the Lord is plain: “Get the temple rebuilt.”
Zechariah likewise calls on the people to rebuild the temple, but mostly, his is an assurance that the temple will be rebuilt. It will involve the efforts of His people, but it will be accomplished by His power. This was to be an encouragement to Judah.
A month before Zechariah began his work, God had promised through Haggai to upset the nations around Judah and cause her to be admired and exalted. It was a huge promise. A month later, nothing had happened. There were plenty in Judah wondering if God’s promises weren’t just false hopes on their part. Throughout Zechariah, the focus is on the assurance of the fulfillment of the promises of God.
Haggai is divided up by dates the author references for the messages given to him. Zechariah also has dates, but his book is arranged more by the different ways he presents his message. It can be divided into seven parts as follows:
1) Dated the 8th month of Darius’ second year, the prophet assures the people that God’s words have always come true. Nothing has changed. 1:1-6.
2) Eight “visions” emphasize
a) God knows what is going on in the world and with His people. He is determined to bless His own (first vision – 1:7-17).
b) God intends to punish those who have made life so miserable for His people (second vision 1:18-21).
c) Jerusalem will be rebuilt and it will be glorious (third vision 2:1-10).
d) God’s forgiveness and cleansing is promised (fourth vision 3:1-10).
e) God Himself will accomplish this (fifth vision 4:1-14)
f) Sin is condemned (sixth vision 5:1-4).
g) Sin is banished (seventh vision 5:5-11).
h) Peace will come to the people of God (eighth vision 6:1-8).
3) In 7:1-14, the prophet Zechariah is involved in an object lesson that unites the monarchy and priesthood if Judah.
4) Dated the 4th day of the 9th month of Darius’ fourth year, God emphasizes his determination to bless his people (7:1 – 8:23).
5) An “Oracle” (9:1 – 11:3) again promising blessing to the people of God.
6) An object lesson calling all of God’s people, especially their leaders, to turn from sin (11:4-17).
7) An “Oracle” (12:1-14:21) describing the blessed kingdom of God’s people.
There are five emphases in Zechariah:
* First, God does know what is going on in the world, because He is making it happen.
* Second, God has a special regard for those who are his, and has marvelous plans for them.
* Third, the blessings are contingent upon God’s people conforming their lives to His directives. Zechariah gives an excellent summary of this lifestyle in 7:9-10 and in 8:16-19.
* Fourth, no one, absolutely no one, will disrespect God and get away with it.
* Finally God’s dream is for all the people of the world to unite under His guidance and give Him the glory he deserves.
None of these emphases has changed. Zechariah may be a little more difficult to read than the other Minor Prophets, but he is immensely relevant nonetheless.