Zechariah 2 has the prophet sharing another vision God has given him. “And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand! 2 Then I said, “Where are you going?” And he said to me, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is its width and what is its length?”. This was an angelic being who was doing God’s work of measuring Jerusalem to see if it was big enough to hold those that God would bring back to the city. God’s restoration of the remnant was coming, and He wanted to be sure it was able to handle the people.
It’s going to be a large influx – so large that they won’t all fit within the walls, so God gives them a promise. “I will be to her a wall of fire all around….I will be the glory in her midst”. In that day, city walls were a big deal when it came to protection. But God makes it clear that they don’t need a wall to protect them from their enemies – He was going to take care of that Himself. God has been waiting for this time to restore His people to His chosen city and will bless it with or without walls.
God makes it clear that His people are special. “He who touches you touches the apple of His eye”: Those words are used to describe something precious to the Father, something that can be injured and needs His protection. And God makes it clear that is exactly what He is going to do – to keep His people safe and cause those around them to know that He is the source of their protection and strength. “Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me”. As they see God do His work in their lives, they will know that He alone is their protection and strength.
God gives His people the biggest promise of all at the end of this vision. “I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you”. They have been exiled for 70 years, scattered all across Babylon and other nations. But now God is bringing them back and restoring them to Himself in His city. That’s the business God has always been in, and is today as well. He longs to have us come back to Him and rebuild our relationship with Him. He’s there with open arms, just waiting for our return. Will you come back to God? And if you have, will you walk with Him day by day in sweet fellowship and obedience? That is what God desires from us.
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.
Haggai 2 has the word of God coming to the prophet a second time. This time in October 520 b.c. There were celebrating the Day of Atonement and Feast of the Tabernacles and God tells Haggai to speak to His people. “Who is left among you who saw this house in its former glory? How do you see it now? Is it not as nothing in your eyes”? We are 66 years after the temple was destroyed so there were likely some people who had been around then and saw the temple in its former glory. They were caught up comparing what they were building versus what they remembered of the former temple and it was taking them off course. It wasn’t going to match that which Solomon had built.
But that didn’t make it less important. It didn’t do the people of Haggai’s day any good to think of how magnificent Solomon’s temple was compared to their own rebuilding work. So Haggai urges them on – to keep on working. “Be strong….work….for I am with you….according to the covenant that I made with you when you came out of Egypt. My Spirit remains in your midst. Fear not”. They aren’t facing this task along. God is with them and gives the leaders and people of Israel three clear commands. Each of these three is essential to getting the work of God done. Great things are not accomplished without action.
While the building itself won’t compare to Solomon’s temple, this one will exceed the original in that God’s promise is to fill the temple with His glory. And as he does, “the treasures of all nations shall come in, and I will fill this house with glory….The silver is mine, and the gold is mine, declares the Lord of hosts”. Solomon had all the treasures as raw material and used them in building the temple. This time, what belongs to God will come later. They didn’t need to be discouraged if they didn’t have money for the building project. They had to boldly trust the God who owned every resource, and then give generously.
It really isn’t about the temple, but the relationship and what God promises. “But from this day on I will bless you….for I have chosen you”. God promised blessing to His people if they put their priorities back in order, with Him and His work first. He promises to also take care of them. “I am about to shake the heavens and the earth, and to overthrow the throne of kingdoms. I am about to destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the nations, and overthrow the chariots and their riders”. Haggai reminds the people that God is in control. He encourages them to stay the course and walk in obedience to God!
Haggai 1 has this prophet getting after the remnant that has returned after their 70 year exile. His prophecy begins in 520 b.c. and is under the rein of Zerubbabel who was governor of Judah and Joshua who was the high priest. When Haggai speaks to God’s people, they have been back in Jerusalem for 18 years, but for the last 14 years, the work on God’s temple has come to a halt. The people had convinced themselves it wasn’t time to rebuild the temple – the work was too hard. “These people say the time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord’.
There was a shortage of manpower and money. There were crop failures and their enemies resisted what they were doing. Life had actually been easier in captivity. But God speaks to them through Haggai. “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in your paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins”? God expects them to focus and get after building His temple. Haggai addresses the problem head on. “Consider your ways. You have sown much, and harvested little. You eat, but you never have enough; you drink, but you never have your fill. You clothe yourselves, but no one is warm. And he who earns wages does so to put them into a bag with holes”.
Life hasn’t been so good has it? Haggai reminds them that their unwillingness to obey God’s desire is creating quite a mess in their life. And if once wasn’t enough, he reminds them even more strongly. “Consider your ways….You looked for much, and behold, it came to little. And when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why? declares the Lord of hosts. Because of my house that lies in ruins, while each of you busies himself with his own house”. In case they didn’t connect the dots, Haggai does it for them. Their situation is because they have ignored God’s desire to rebuild His temple and put things back in place. It is about God’s timing, not what they feel it should be.
We too need to consider our ways. How we live matters. Haggai calls out the people of Judah and they finally listen and “obeyed the voice of the Lord their God.” But even more, “the people feared the Lord”. Haggai was able to touch their hearts and help them realize the God they serve and how important the work was. Through Haggai and his words, “the Lord stirred up….the spirit of all the remnant of the people. And they came and worked on the house of the Lord of hosts, their God”. The stirring of their spirit wasn’t just a spiritual experience but resulted in a stirring of action that caused them to restart the hard work of rebuilding God’s House!
Zephaniah calls out the sin of God’s people very clearly – they simply do not listen. “She listens to no voice; she accepts no correction. She does not trust in the Lord; she does not draw near to her God”. Stubborn and unwilling to submit to God’s authority, Zephaniah repeats these four phrases and tells us the root of Jerusalem’s sin:
- God called to His people, but they did not listen.
- Correction certainly came, but she did not receive it as correction from the Lord.
- God never gave her a reason to stop trusting in Him; He never proved Himself unfaithful or untrustworthy. Now God’s people will openly deny and contradict God’s word and promises.
- The worst offense is saved for last. God longs for relationship with His people, but they rejected His desire and went their own way.
God makes it clear that His people won’t be allowed to go on their merry way and ignore Him. “Surely you will fear me; you will accept correction. Then your dwelling would not be cut off according to all that I have appointed against you”. And as is often the case, God will do what He needs to in order to get their attention. I’ve had a number of 2X4 moments in my life, where God does something in order to gain my attention. He’s going to do that to His people, and will cause them to know that He is God.
God has a plan for His people who will be the center of a coming nation. “But I will leave in your midst a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord”. Even as God’s chosen people though, they will understand that they are under His power and protection. They will be under the leadership of the Lord Jesus and His redeemed and they will know that their standing is because of His extravagant grace. God continues to show that He is in the redemption business, and even when His people have chosen to walk away from Him and been punished as a result, He always is ready to welcome them, and us back.
We often underestimate the joy God has in His people, and too often think God is annoyed and frustrated with us. “The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; He will rejoice over you with gladness; He will quiet you by his love; He will exult over you with loud singing”. He is not only able to save us, He takes great joy in doing it. All that is required is that we repent and believe and come running back to Him. He can’t turn loose His lavish love for us if we don’t make the first step. He wants to sing about our return and restoration!
Zephaniah 2 has the prophet pressing God’s people to take action and gathering together in a solemn demonstration of national mourning and repentance. “Gather together, yes, gather, O shameless nation, before the decree takes effect”. God is in the restoration business. He always wants us to turn from our sin and return to Him. Zephaniah warns the people to take action “before the day passes away like chaff—before there comes upon you the burning anger of the Lord, before there comes upon you the day of the anger of the Lord”.
God has to deal with sin. It is in contrast with His nature, and He can’t turn His head and ignore it. The often-unwritten story behind most every prophecy of judgment isa description of what will happen if there is not repentance. God will take action. There needs to be a sense of urgency in that repentance. God is patient, but He won’t wait forever. Zephaniah tries to make that clear as he tells the people that they need to take action and repent. It is the first step in receiving forgiveness. We must confess, repent and believe. Jesus came to give us that avenue of forgiveness.
God gives a message to all of us. “Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, who do his just commands; seek righteousness; seek humility; perhaps you may be hidden on the day of the anger of the Lord”. No one will escape God’s judgment. In more than one place in scripture, God promises to hide His righteous in the day of great judgment. We will stand before Him and face His judgment based on how we have lived. No one will be exempt. No one will get a pass. Only those who have dealt with the sin of their life will be spared. That’s why Jesus came – to give us a way to cover our sin with His blood and take us through God’s judgment unscathed.
The rest of the chapter describes God’s judgment and action against a number of nations. “Woe to you inhabitants….the word of the Lord is against you”. I can think of no worse place to be than on the wrong side of God’s judgment. Nations will face God’s judgment and He will deal with each according to how they live. It is certainly not going to be a pretty site, and in many cases, God promises to wipe them off the face of the earth. God completes a circle of judgment against Israel’s neighbors for all they have done to His people.
Zephaniah 1 has this prophet bringing the word of the Lord to God’s people in the day of Josiah. And the word he has to share isn’t pretty. “I will utterly sweep away everything from the face of the earth….I will stretch out my hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem”. God’s had enough of their sin and is going to deal with their sin and idol worship of Baal. He is a jealous God and doesn’t tolerate our choice to share our affection with another god.
What’s driving God’s anger toward judgment? “Those who have turned back from following the Lord, who do not seek the Lord or inquire of him”. When we get full of ourselves and believe we can live without Him, things go poorly. When we turn our back on Him and His Word and stop seeking His direction, we are setting ourselves up for correction. God expects us to walk with Him. “I will search Jerusalem with lamps,and I will punish the men who are complacent, those who say in their hearts, The Lord will not do good, nor will he do ill”. God hates lukewarm. He wants us hot and on fire for Him. If we aren’t, we face the reality of His judgment.
The prophet proclaims the truth that God’s judgment is on the way. “The great day of the Lord is near, near and hastening fast; the sound of the day of the Lord is bitter; the mighty man cries aloud there. A day of wrath is that day, a day of distress and anguish, a day of ruin and devastation, a day of darkness and gloom, a day of clouds and thick darkness, a day of trumpet blast and battle cry”. It won’t be pretty, particularly for those who are not walking with God and set free from their sin.
Sin wil be the determining factor of what happens on Judgment Day. God will examine us and determine if “they have sinned against the Lord; their blood shall be poured out like dust”. It’s really pretty black and white. We’re all sinners, scripture is clear on that and certainly life validates what God has said. So we have the option of addressing that sin problem through God’s grace offered to us through the blood of Christ, or standing before Him on our own and giving account of our choices. God will hold us responsible for those things, and that sin will separate us from God for eternity if we haven’t received the salvation of Jesus. Are you ready for that day?