Today we begin the book of Zechariah. He was the other prophet (along with Haggai) that spoke to the exiles during the rebuilding of the Temple (see Ezra 6:14). Zechariah reveals a series of apocalyptic1 visions God gives him. Zechariah begins with a call to repentance. He reminds the returning exiles of the sin of previous generations that led to the exile (1:2), and calls them to repent and return to God (v. 3). Zechariah encourages the remnant to heed the words of God’s prophet, unlike their fathers (vv. 4-5), since they have recognized that God gave to the nation what it earned (v. 6).
Zechariah then has a vision of a man riding a horse (v. 8). This man is identified as the Angel of the Lord in verse 11. Behind Him are other horses, which though not mentioned, likely also have riders. The angel Zechariah is speaking to is an angel distinct from the Angel of the Lord on the red horse (v. 9)2 Who answers Zechariah’s question (v. 10). These riders (under the command of the Angel of the Lord Who was on the lead horse) are angels that patrol the earth (v. 11). The whole earth being at rest is a reference to the promise of Isaiah 14:7. It is the demise of Babylon. In temporal terms, the known world was at rest under Persian rule. In eternal terms, the Babylonian captivity served its purpose. This is why the Angel of the Lord then indicates through His question that it was time for God to show mercy to Judah who had been exiled for 70 years. And this is why YHWH answers “gracious and comforting words” to the angel mediating this vision (v. 13).
The angel then gives Zechariah his prophetic message. God is jealous for Jerusalem and Zion (v. 14). This is not physical Judah, but the spiritual people among them. This is in contrast to His anger with the nations who were at rest (v. 15). They are furthering their judgment (“the disaster”). Their worldly rest is at odds with God’s offered spiritual rest. The same goes for the kingdoms of the world today. This is why God was going to show mercy and build His house (His church) (v. 16). The measuring line being stretched over Jerusalem (the spiritual Jerusalem) refers to the expansion of His “house” to include more than just Israel (see below and Ezekiel 40). This is why God refers to “cities” as opposed to just one city. Zion and the true Jerusalem will consist of those from all the world.
Then Zechariah sees four horns in his vision (v. 18). A horn symbolizes power in the Old Testament (see Psalm 89:17). These horns that scattered God’s people are world powers (v. 19). The craftsmen that Zechariah sees (v. 20) will cast down the horns of the nations – the worldly powers (v. 21). These craftsmen are also angels (see Rev 7:1-3). This speaks of the judgment of the world.
Zechariah then sees a man with a measuring line in his hand (2:1). This brings our minds back once again to Ezekiel 40. The man is going to measure Jerusalem (v. 2 – see 1:16). Another angel appears and speaks of Jerusalem being inhabited beyond walls by multitudes of people (v. 4). This is speaking of the whole world being included in the people of God. The physical Jerusalem had walls for her defense, but the spiritual Jerusalem has God as her defense even as He dwells in her midst.
YHWH then declares that those in the land of the north (Babylon – see Jer 25:9) should flee to Zion (vv. 6-7). This is speaking spiritually. Those of spiritual Zion (God’s people) should flee spiritual Babylon (the world) from where God “spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven.” This is speaking of the scattering of the nations at Babel (which became Babylon). God now calls the nations – all the nations – back to Him. He will judge spiritual Babylon (the world – v. 9), but dwell in the midst of Zion (His people – v. 10) which will consists of many nations that will be joined to Him (v. 11). The “in that day” of verses 11 speaks of the consummation of Zion’s salvation when we will be in the holy land (the New Heaven and New Earth) as the New Jerusalem (v. 12 – see Revelation 21).
Joshua the High Priest now appears in Zechariah’s vision (3:1). He is standing before the Angel of the Lord with Satan (literally “the adversary”)3 next to him, ready to accuse him. So YHWH (One and the same as the Angel of YHWH) rebukes Satan (v. 2). Note that He is “YHWH Who has chosen Jerusalem.” He refers to Joshua as “a brand plucked from the fire.” The fire is the fire of judgment. And realize: Satan’s would-be accusations against Joshua are not unfounded. That his garments were “filthy” (literally “excrement”) points to the reality of his sin and the justness of the judgment (the fire). But the Angel of the Lord commands that Joshua’s excrement garments be removed because He has taken away his sin so He could dress him with “pure vestments” (v. 4). This is a pointer to the atoning work of Christ, whereby Satan has no more right to accuse the saved because our sin is taken away.
Then (after being saved!), the Angel of YHWH tells Joshua to walk in His (God’s) ways (v. 7). And if he does, then as priest of God, he will rule his house and have charge over it, and will have the right of access among “those who are standing here.” And who is standing there? Only him and Satan! By His work, Christ not only removes Satan’s ability to accuse us, but He grants us unlimited access to Him! This is because we are all priests of God in Christ, Who is the Branch (v. 8 – see Isa 11:1, Jer 23:5). He is also the stone (v. 9 – see Isa 28:16). God is building His spiritual Temple, and Christ is the Cornerstone. The seven eyes are the Holy Spirit (see Rev 5:6 and below).
The angel now wakes Zechariah, and he is “awakened” into another vision (4:1). In this vision, Zechariah sees a golden lampstand, somewhat reminiscent of the lampstands that stood in the Holy Place before the veil (v. 2 – see Ex 25:31-40). The “seven” here is symbolic of perfection. The olive branches are symbolic of the Holy Spirit (see v. 6). In the power of the Spirit, Zerubbabel (the governor, here symbolic of the power of God’s people) will level the mountain (representing the kingdom of the world) and will bring the stone (“top” means “head”) that is Christ “forward” into the world, declaring God’s grace to it (v. 7). This is the mission of the church in the power of the Spirit.
In verse 9, the physical Temple is used as a symbol of the spiritual Temple. Both will be completed. One by Zerubbabel (the physical Temple) and one by what he symbolizes – the power of God’s people by His Spirit will build the spiritual Temple. The plumb line is physically in Zerubbabel’s hand to build the physical Temple, but it is in ours to build the spiritual Temple (v. 10). This will be done by the power of the Spirit, represented by the seven eyes, and the olive branches. The olive branches are, specifically, the power of the Spirit working through the Word of God that builds the Temple (see Rev 11:1-14) and brings the light of God (the lampstand) to the world.
1 Remember, apocalyptic visions are highly symbolic visions that reveal spiritual realities using physical symbols (as we saw in Ezekiel and Daniel).
2 Apocalyptic visions are often mediated by an angel.
3 The name Satan is a transliteration of the Hebrew word שָׂטָן – satan.