Zechariah 1 has the next prophet speaking truth to the people of Judah. He comes after the remnant has returned from their 70 year exile in Babylon. The timing of Zechariah’s prophecy sets it two months after Haggai’s first prophecy and within a month after another prophecy of Haggai. This was between October and November of 520 b.c. Like Haggai, Zechariah’s message is one of encouragement. But he was aware that not all the returned remnant were fully sincere in their desires to serve God, and he instructs them to repent of their sin and return to God with all their hearts and minds.
Zechariah is preaching a message of restoration. “Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts”. God is always in the restoration business. He wants us to come back. But these people have lived in very adverse conditions and have experienced difficult times. They wondered why God was so far from them:
- Their land was desolate and unkempt
- There was extremely hard work needed to rebuild things
- They were short on money and people to do the work
- Crops failed
- Their enemies continued to resist their work
- Like the captives Moses led out of Egypt, the people looked back at their time in Babylon and thought it was easier there
God is clear in reminding the people why their situation is the way it is. “Do not be like your fathers….Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds….they did not hear or pay attention to me”.
God makes clear what happens if people don’t walk in His ways. “But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented”. God’s commandments and promises last forever. Prior generations chose to disobey God, and they faced the outcome of that. But over time they realized that God’s judgment was consistent and never wavered, so they made a different choice – the choice to repent and be restored. That is what Zechariah is encouraging here – to have God’s people rebuild the temple (the work Haggai was pushing them to do) and to rebuild their relationship with God and learn from the lessons of their fathers.
God will deal with us based on how we live. “As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us”. The people were guilty of sin, and they refused to return to God and His commandments, so God was forced to address their sin and exiled them for 70 years. Harsh punishment, but sin carries a significant price tag. We need to realize that God isn’t just going to look the other way regarding sin. It’s why He sent the most precious thing He had – His very Son – to the cross to provide a way for us to be redeemed and freed from sin. But we have to receive that gift of grace. Just as God says “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion”. He is the same for you and me. That’s why Easter happened – because God loves us that much and was willing to send His Son to the Cross to restore us to Himself.