Walk through the Old Testament
Celebrate Freedom Witnessing (Sept 4)
Shelby's Friend's Play
Two students from the North Cobb area killed in car accidents
James in the Orchestra
Kari's Sister's visit
Text – Zechariah 1:7-21, Psalm 137
Last week we did an overview of the Babylonian captivity of the people of Judah which took place between 605 and ~535 BC. If you don't fully understand what was going on there it is fine, it is a lot of history and since we're so far removed, it's hard to really grasp the details. Today we're going to look at some of the details and hopefully you'll understand the faithfulness of God even if you don't understand 70 years of history in the 6th century BC.
Does anyone remember the name of the king of Persia who Isaiah prophesied by name over 100 years before he was even born? Cyrus. Here is a huge rabbit trail, but one that I think is important that we follow for a lot of reasons. Sometimes the way my brain works is strange, like the way I catalogue Bible verses or names sometimes takes me a little while to sort through, but it ends up that I have memorized more verses and names than anyone I know. As I was thinking about Cyrus, I wondered, "How would you possibly spell that in Hebrew?" Because Hebrew doesn't have a soft-C sound or even an S-sound that is close to Cyrus, so I looked it up, and it turns out that his name wasn't Cyrus, but Koresh. Cyrus is our Anglicization of the name Koresh, just like Jesus is the Anglicization of Joshua. Remember the name Joshua for the Messiah, it's gonna be hugely important in upcoming weeks.
Does anyone know why the name Koresh might pique my interest? It's because when I was growing up there was a famous cult leader named Vernon Howell, more popularly known as David Koresh. As I researched the name Koresh I found that David Koresh changed his name in order to claim he was the Messiah and the deliverer of God's people. He gained a small following as the second coming of Christ and convinced his people that Armageddon was taking place at their complex in Waco, Texas. As I researched him I remembered something important that isn't keeping with our lesson today but is important enough to share and I don't know when Zechariah would give me another chance to say this.
One of Koresh's biggest sins in a long list of big sins was his sexual sin, he married basically every woman and girl in his cult. The youngest was 12. I want to remind you that the most consistent mark of a cult is sexual sin, and it's amazing what someone can convince someone of in the name of religion. This is prevalent in Koresh's little cult, in the Mormon cult, and in Islam and Catholicism which most people think are too big to be cults, but they share every major distinction of cult-activity. Your body belongs to you and nobody should ever inappropriately touch you, especially in the name of Christ. Sexual purity is of utmost importance to him and your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, with the gift of an intimate relationship confined within the marriage covenant.
I wanted to share that because Koresh is being seen as more and more as a nice, misunderstood guy, when in reality he was a really wicked man.
So, to Zechariah,
Zechariah 1:7-21 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, "I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, 'What are these, my lord?' The angel who talked with me said to me, 'I will show you what they are.' So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, 'These are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.' And they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, 'We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.' Then the angel of the LORD said, 'O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?' And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, 'Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the LORD, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the LORD of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.'"
And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns! And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" And he said to me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem." Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. And I said, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it."
v.7 On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, "I saw in the night..."
This prophecy is two months after the first one, and is considerably longer than the first, it spans 8 visions and 6 chapters. All of these visions happened in one night, it was a busy night for Zechariah. Each of these builds on the next, so when we get to the end we'll read them all in order.
There are a few important things to see in this verse, first we remember our Zechariah, the son of a priest and a priest himself, has previously called Judah to continue repenting and to listen to the word of the Lord, for it will outlast both its hearers and the preachers who are proclaiming it.
The second important thing is the "Shebat" which is the name of a month. This month is in the spring when nature is waking up again and flowers are blooming and there is new birth happening all around. It is highly symbolic of Israel being saved out of a season of despair, and we'll see a flowering tree in a minute.
v.8 behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses.
We're going to get a really good picture of these horses in chapter 6, but for right now there is a different lesson than the horses being taught. A red horse though, for this lesson, is symbolic of war; we'll see in a bit that this man on the horse is none other than Jesus Christ himself. Notice that there are other horses, these are representative of angels, and the different colors represent different duties; white for peace, red for war, black for death, and sorrel, which is light brown, the Bible never tells us what it represents.
The myrtle tree represents Israel, and at this time of year, it would be flowering with beautiful red and white flowers. A neat thing about the myrtle tree is that when you crush its leaves, it smells really nice; symbolic of the suffering of the believer bringing a pleasant outcome. The Hebrew for myrtle tree is Hadassah, do you know anyone else with that name? Esther's Hebrew name was Hadassah.
v.9 Then I said, 'What are these, my lord?' The angel who talked with me said to me, 'I will show you what they are.'
Zechariah doesn't understand, so we get a great lesson: ask.
v.10 So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, 'These are they whom the LORD has sent to patrol the earth.'
These are God's ministering spirits, his messengers and soldiers to accomplish all of his purposes. Some are to do good, others are to do evil to punish sin. You remember that God told Cyrus that there weren't two gods, one who is good and one who is bad, but that there is one God and he makes good and creates evil. Some of these angels are not nice at all:
Job 1:6 Now there was a day when the sons of God came to present themselves before the LORD, and Satan also came among them. The LORD said to Satan, "From where have you come?" Satan answered the LORD and said, "From going to and fro on the earth, and from walking up and down on it."
In 1 Kings 22 God asks for a volunteer to bring a wicked king to a specific place so that he can kill him there, and some angels speak up, but nothing definitive, and then Satan stands up and says, "Let me go lie to him." and God lets him go; even guaranteeing Satan's success.
So know that God is working from the beginning, and is working today. He has ministering spirits acting constantly in the world. The report of these angels comes next,
v.11 And they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, 'We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.'
This was an amazing time in the history of the world where there were no wars. Remember this is because of the work that God did through Cyrus, and completed through Darius, bringing most of the known world at this time under the control of the Persians. One of the only times in history where there was world peace, and this is not at all pleasing to God, as we'll see in a bit.
v.12 Then the angel of the LORD said, 'O LORD of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?'
The angel of the Lord is Jesus Christ, here we see him beautifully interceding for his people, asking God how long their punishment shall last. There are a lot of terms for angels in the Bible, everything from sons of God to Seraphim (on fire ones), to the word here, Mal'ak, which comes from Melech, which means king. The angel here is not a pretty wingy thingy, but a messenger of the King.
1 Timothy 2:5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus...
Apart from God accepting mediation and having mercy on these people whose sins wouldn't be paid for for another 500 years, both these Jews and we would be utterly without hope. God's response is beautiful:
v.13 And the LORD answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
It may be that what is said next are these words, but I think there were some other words spoken in here which are not revealed to us. It is very dangerous to speak where God has not spoken, so I wouldn't presume to try to say what was said in here, but a great Puritan, John Flavel, did consider what might have been said and he did it very well, and I do not think that God would object to this discourse.
Father: My son, here is a company of poor miserable souls, that have utterly undone themselves, and now lie open to my justice! Justice demands satisfaction for them, or will satisfy itself in the eternal ruin of them: What shall be done for these souls?
Son: O my Father, such is my love to, and pity for them, that rather than they shall perish eternally, I will be responsible for them as their Surety; bring in all thy bills, that I may see what they owe thee; Lord, bring them all in, that there may be no after-reckonings with them; at my hand shalt thou require it. I will rather choose to suffer thy wrath than they should suffer it: upon me, my Father, upon me be all their debt.
Father: But, my Son, if thou undertake for them, thou must reckon to pay the last mite, expect no abatements; if I spare them, I will not spare thee.
Son: Content, Father, let it be so; charge it all upon me, I am able to discharge it: and though it prove a kind of undoing to me, though it impoverish all my riches, empty all my treasures, yet I am content to undertake it.
We have an intercessor because the Son of God willingly took our sins on himself and paid for them in his own life's blood. Apart from him there is no hope of reconciliation or mercy, but in him there is grace upon grace upon grace. Following these gracious and comforting words, Christ commands Zechariah to speak,
v.14-17 So the angel who talked with me said to me, 'Cry out, Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the LORD, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the LORD of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the LORD of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.'"
For sake of time I think this passage basically speaks for itself, that God is done being angry with Israel and is bringing them back to prosper, and prosper they did from this point on for quite a while. One of the evidences of this is that the temple was being rebuilt at this exact moment.
In the first prophetic outcry we see that God was very angry with the fathers of Judah; in this passage God compares his anger towards Babylon to the anger he felt towards Judah as only a little, and the anger he feels towards Babylon to be great. Remember that they were not righteous people, they had no relationship with God, they sinned exceedingly and did terrible things to all sorts of people, including the Jews.
One place we see this played out exceedingly clearly is with Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, better known as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. When they refused to abandon the God of Israel, Babylon tried to execute them with lions and fire, but God was with them and saved them. Besides that the Jews in Babylon were horrendously treated.
In the second passage God is sending destroyers to Babylon for their attrocities.
v.18 And I lifted my eyes and saw, and behold, four horns!
A horn is a symbol of power and violence, like the horn of a bull or elephant or rhinoceros. Zechariah didn't know what they were, so what'd should he do? Ask.
v.19 And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these?" And he said to me, "These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem."
We don't know precisely who or what these horns represent, it could be kings or governments. We know that at least one, and maybe all, represent Babylon. Knowing what they represent isn't as important as seeing what God is doing to them.
v.20 Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen.
Craftsman is anyone who knows what they are doing in building, but specifically here the Hebrew means they are carpenters. Zechariah can see that, but he wants to know their purpose, so he asks, (I love this theme)
v.21 And I said, "What are these coming to do?" He said, "These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one raised his head. And these have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter it."
God is sending specific people or angels or whoever to destroy these powers as punishment for their treatment of his people. Jews before Christ believed at least one of these was the Messiah. Some Jews believed in two Messiahs, one to die and one to reign as king, one Jewish commentator even called one Messiah the "Son of David" and the other the "Son of Ephraim."
Psalm 137 was written to describe the destruction of Babylon:
1By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
"Sing us one of the songs of Zion!"
4 How shall we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
5If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
7Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
the day of Jerusalem,
how they said, "Lay it bare, lay it bare,
down to its foundations!"
8O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
blessed shall he be who repays you
with what you have done to us!
9Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
and dashes them against the rock!
This Psalm recounts how painful the exile was, and how the Babylonians scorned them and burned Jerusalem and the temple, how they were prisoners and mistreated. the middle section is wonderful because it reminds us that we need to only work for God and speak truths about God, and if we're not going to speak truth, it'd be better if our tongue didn't work.
Finally is the imprecation at the end, Edomites is a way of saying the people whom God has created for the sole purpose of showing his power on by destroying. They aren't just the Babylonians, but in this passage they are just the Babylonians.
God is so angry and his wrath is so just and his judgment so complete that he will destroy Babylon down to the very smallest of her babies.
So our major application in this is that God is still working, he is not slack concerning his promises, but patient, and he will repay every atrocity done to his beloved.