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Zechariah points to Christmas

November 20th, 2010 by Vic

“Zechariah points to Christmas”

November 21, 2010

Last week we ran through the book of Jeremiah and noted that he preached repentance to sinners during a time of political, social, and religious corruption.  He was not a popular preacher.  He told the people that God was fed up with their habitual sin and was sending them into captivity for 70 years.  They could surrender to the king God was going to use or they could die in their little make believe world.  Has God changed the contract any today?  Yes, He has added an addendum that promises to make it easier for us to know the commands of God.

Jeremiah announced to them that God was going to give them a new covenant that they could not keep in the Temple and forget about.  God was going to write this new covenant on their hearts.  His Spirit would come to convict them of their sin.

God was going to send a new Priest and King that was a righteous branch from the root of David.  If they will repent of their sins and obey God’s commands God will hear their cries and bless them.

We noted that the promised blessing was really for their children.  If the parents obeyed God and returned to Him, the children and grand children would return to the Promised Land and prosper.  God’s promise to us is not instant gratification for our selfish pleasure.  When God blesses our kids, we are blessed.  If we train our kids to hear the voice of God and see the hand of God, we will be blessed and our children will be blessed.

Now the 70 years of captivity that Jeremiah had predicted they would endure have come to pass in 2 or 3 ways.  In 606 Nebuchadnezzar took all the leaders and young men of Jerusalem captive, but left Jeremiah and the commoners.  70 years after that first exile (536) Zerubbabel returned with 50,000 Jews and started rebuilding the Temple.  In 586 Nebuchadnezzar finished destroying Jerusalem and set up Gedaliah as Governor.  70 years after that date (516) the Temple was completed.  It will be another 70 years (444) before Nehemiah returns to rebuild the walls.

Zechariah was the grandson of Iddo, who is mentioned among the priests who returned with Zerubbabel in 536 to build the Temple (Neh 12:4; Ezra 2:2).  Sixteen years later the Temple is still just a foundation.  In September 520 God called Haggai to preach and encourage the people to finish rebuilding the temple.  Then just 2 months later in October 520 God called Zechariah to prophecy.  Zechariah also was to encouraged the people to finish the Temple, but he looks ahead to the 1st and 2nd coming of the Messiah.  Zechariah sees Christmas clearer than any other OT prophet.

These people living in Jerusalem had never seen the original Temple.  They had heard about it.  They had been here 16 years.  They had rebuilt their abandoned homes.   They had rebuilt fences and planted crops, but had lost their zeal for the house of the Lord.  When good people become apathetic and content with the routines, how does God encourage them?  There are probably many reasons why the 50,000 returning Jews had only finished laying the foundation of the Temple.  There are probably many reasons they had lost their initial enthusiasm.  I’m sure it was not easy to support and protect your family.  God wants to encourage them.  He uses someone to remind them that He will keep His promises.   He reminds them that He wants to bless them.  He reminds them there is hope in God.

1:1-6 Zechariah warns this apathetic people about returning to the ways of their disobedient fathers.  God’s word has not changed.  Your fathers would not listen.  Don’t make the same mistake.

1:7-6:8 God is planning an exciting future for you and your children.  Zechariah sees 8 visions in one night that should encourage the people to rebuild the temple.  The morning is coming.

First vision (1:7-17)

The mounted police in God’s army report that they have made their rounds and found nothing happening.  There were not even any wars.  The angel of the Lord asked God to make something happen in Jerusalem.  God replied, (16-17) “I will build My house and build a new Jerusalem with a new measuring line.”  This is a message of comfort.  God is doing a new thing during a time of peace.  God is working in your life when everything seems routine.  He is working whether you feel stressed or blessed.

Second vision (1:18-21)

Four is the number of the earth.  Horns are nations or world powers.  From four directions world powers have scattered God’s people.  But God is sending craftsmen, metal workers, smiths, or cattlemen to dehorn the super powers.  This is another message of comfort.  World leaders and politicians do not have as much power as they might think they have.

Third vision (2:1-13)

A young man appears with a measuring line to plan the new Jerusalem.  A measuring line is used for new construction.  You would not have to measure to rebuild on the old foundations.  An angel was sent to tell the young man that this new Jerusalem will be different.  The Lord Himself will be its protection.  He will be a wall of fire around them and the light of glory within.  All you exiles who have been scattered throughout the world can live in this Jerusalem.  Flee from the world’s ways.  You are the apple of God’s eye and the Lord will plunder those who try to hurt you.  You are the new Jerusalem.

You exiles will see God working in your lives and know that the Lord is doing what He promised.  You will see the Lord living among you.  People from many nations will honor and obey the Lord God Almighty because of you.  They will know that God is doing a new thing among them.

2:10 is the promise of Christmas.  God came and lived among us 520 years after this vision was given to Zechariah.  God is.  God speaks.  God does what He says He will do.

Fourth vision (3:1-10)

Joshua, the contemporary high priest, is seen as a type of Messiah.  Like the Messiah coming in 520 years Joshua is accused by satan and satan is rebuked by the word of the Lord.  Joshua is clothed in the sins of his people.  He is told to take of his dirty clothes so God can wash away the sins of the world.  Then he’s given festive garments for the holy days and told to put on clean clothes.

An angel of the Lord tells Joshua the requirements of a leader in God’s house (3:7).  Then 2 metaphors of ‘branch’ and ‘stone’ refer to the coming of Christmas.  The branch connects the Messiah with King David.  The stone is connected to the priesthood that provided sacrifices for the sins of the world.  The symbolism is not real clear.  This stone has a written promise that sin will be defeated in a day.  The sacrifices will not need to be repeated.  The stone may be like the plumb line stone in 4:10.  The all seeing eyes of God (4:10) are righteous, just and true.

This is good news (3:10).  Tell your neighbor.  Celebrate Christmas.  Enjoy the gifts of God.

Fifth vision (4:1-14)

This vision is a message addressed to Zerubbabel, the construction superintendent in charge of rebuilding the Temple.  Opposition to rebuilding the temple is described as a mighty mountain (4:7).  You will have opposition.

The vision is explained.  The olive branches provide oil to the 7 lamps.  The 2 trees may be Zerubbabel and Joshua, the contemporary political and religious leaders.  They are described in 4:14 as ‘oiled’ or anointed leaders.

The word of the Lord tells Zerubbabel in vs. 6 that man’s skill and physical strength will not build the Temple, but God will work through Zerubbabel’s hands to complete it (4:9).  You will see God leveling the mountains of opposition.

Sixth vision (5:1-4)

The scroll is a written curse against every thief and everyone who swears falsely.  Swearing is against God and stealing is against your neighbor.  This curse enters the house of sinners and destroys the house from the inside.  It is not invited in, but God directs it in.  God does house cleaning.

Seventh vision (5:5-11)

The flying bushel basket with a woman in it is another representation of the removal of evil.  Like the scroll it pictures sin being removed from the land.  Through woman sin came into the world and without a man, another woman gave birth to the Messiah that bound up sin in a day.  The removal of sin is usually the work of the priest.  Here the wind of the Spirit is suggested.  Satan is under lock and key until his final destruction with Babylon.  The coming of the Messiah confined satan.

Eighth vision (6:1-8)

The 4 chariots affirm that God has power to protect His purified people and they can rest assured.  Like the first vision there is peace in the world.  Most Jews were expecting a revolution to usher in the messianic age.  But Jesus came as a baby and the angels declared peace on earth, good will to men.  Warfare is not the way to enter the kingdom of God or the way the kingdom comes.

After the night of visions Zechariah is told to make a King’s crown and put it on the high priest’s head.  He is instructed to tell Joshua that the Messiah/Branch will build a different kind of temple than this one.  When Joshua finishes building this temple he is to keep this crown in this temple as a reminder of the coming Messiah and the new kind of Temple He will build.  “This will happen if you diligently obey the Lord your God (6:15).”  He will be the great high priest who wears this kingly crown.

Chapter 7 answers the delegates question regarding fasting.  For 70 years the exiles had fasted on the 4th month when Jerusalem was conquered, on the 5th month when the temple was burned, on the 7th month when Gedaliah was murdered and on the 10th month the attack had begun.  Now that the temple rebuilding was going well and God had given them 2 years of peace and prosperity, should they continue to fast?  They came to Zechariah in the 5th month which was the month to fast and remember the burning of the temple.

Zechariah asks about their motives and reminds them they had good reason to fast in the past, but now their fasts were just outward rituals.  They should not be fasting, but feasting and rejoicing for the blessings of God.  Motives and attitudes determine the need for fasting or feasting.

In 8:4-5 God promises to let the old people drink coffee while the kids play in the streets.  He promises that the seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit (8:12) if we love truth and peace (8:19).  People and nations will hear that our God is prospering us and they will seek the Lord.  He will draw all men to Himself.

Zechariah 9:9 (“O Jerusalem, your King comes riding on a colt”) is quoted in Matt 21:5.

Zechariah 11:12, 13 (“They paid me 30 pieces of silver”) is quoted in Matt 27:9-10.

Zechariah 12:10 (“They will look on me, the One they pierced”) is quoted in John 19:34.

Zechariah 13:7 (“Strike the Shepherd”) is quoted by Jesus in Matt 26:31.

Next Sunday is the traditional first Sunday of Advent.  It is proper for us this week to feast and rejoice in God’s blessings.  We do not have to fast to please God, but we do need thankful hearts.  There is a time to fast and a time to feast depending on your relationship with God.  Are you really thankful?  Then rejoice and feast.  Is Christmas really God’s gift to you?  Then rejoice and feast.

Zechariah 2:10 promises that God would come and live among us.  The greatest gift we have received from God is the present of His presence.  The greatest gift we can give may be the present of our presence.  Zechariah saw a new relationship that we would have with God.  He will clean our house whether we want Him to or not.  But for Him to forgive us of our sins, we have to put off the old ways/garments and put on the new.

Let’s rejoice and feast in the Lord.  Probably if I had known that my friend was going to be crucified tomorrow I would have called the church together to fast and pray.  But Jesus saw the plan of God and He planned a Passover dinner, a big Jewish feast.

Ps 95, 100

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