This vision – the first of eight – shows how aware God is of what is going on in his world. His four horses (representing the four corners of the earth) have returned, and reported that the world is feeling secure, however fragile that security is. God’s response, though, shows that he is angry against the nations for using excessive force against his people, and that he is jealous for them. His words of comfort carry on in verses 16 and 17, which conclude the vision.
Read: Zechariah 1:16-17
What words are repeated in these verses from verses 12 and 13? What is the teaching point about God’s character?
What is being promised to God’s people (note: a measuring line measures an increase in size, and ‘my house’ = the temple)?
Verse 17 includes the word ‘again’ three times in the original language (“My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem”). How does that build confidence that God’s promises will be fulfilled?
We, too, have unfulfilled promises from God of a better world where we will experience God’s mercy. When people doubt God (see, for instance, 2 Peter 3:3-4), how can we have confidence that what God has promised will actually happen?
Looking back over this first vision, how has it built your trust in God’s knowledge, and his word, and his compassion, and his plans?
Pray: that you would be willing to take comfort from your merciful and comforting God, knowing that you have every reason to trust him, and find real security in his plans.
God is giving Zechariah the first of eight visions, reassuring his people that despite appearances, his plans are on track – they have returned to him, and he will return to them. As Jeremiah promised, the 70 years of exile are over (verse 12), and the LORD Almighty will no longer withhold his mercy. A great reversal will occur; God will discomfort the settled, and comfort the unsettled…
Read: Zechariah 1:14-15
Zechariah is told to proclaim the ‘word’ that God is jealous. In what way is God’s jealousy a good thing (see for instance Exodus 20:4-6)?
How is God’s anger in verse 15 the same as (or different from) his anger in verse 2?
Why, then, is the security in verse 15 a false security?
The nations have ‘added to the calamity’ (or, as other versions put it, they have ‘overstepped all limits’). How, do you think?
When do you feel most secure? Is that a true or false security?
Pray: thanking God that he is jealously protective of his people, and praying that you would find real security in the death of Jesus Christ.
God is still speaking to his people on 15th February, 519 BC. In fact, their repentance (chapter 1, verse 6) unlocks a series of eight visions which were all given on the same day. The way that they’re arranged means that the main point lies right at the centre – in visions four and five. God is promising that he will cleanse his people by his Spirit, taking away sin in a single day.
In the meantime, the first vision continues with a message of comfort…
Read: Zechariah 1:12-13
God is called the ‘LORD Almighty’ in verse 12 (or, literally, God of armies). Why might you / might you not ask a God like that for mercy?
God suggested in Jeremiah 29:10 that the exile would last for around 70 years. What, then, is the angel praying in verse 12?
What kind of words does God speak in return? In what ways might Zechariah be reminding us of Isaiah 40?
In what ways has the LORD promised to show you mercy? How might you, similarly, pray in line with his promises?
Pray: Give thanks for his promises of mercy in response to repentance. Pray that, as he has promised, he would be good to you as you turn to him.
Compared with the opening verse of the book, verse 7 starts three months later (15th February, 519BC). Previously God had promised to return to his people (verse 3), but three months on, perhaps the people were asking whether God was fulfilling his promises. God’s battered people were still living in a tiny province in one corner or the Persian empire, and the rest of the world seemed to be doing very well for itself.
Read: Zechariah 1:7-11
Describe the vision in these verses (hint: the man, the angel, and the angel of the LORD are probably the same character). What impression does it leave you with?
Myrtle trees are mentioned particularly in Isaiah. Have a look at Isaiah 41:17-20 and 55:8-13. Why does Zechariah mention myrtle trees at this point, do you think?
The horses are sent to “go throughout the earth” (verse 10). What is Zechariah implying about God’s knowledge, and in what way is that good news for God’s people?
Why do you think the world is described as being ‘at rest and in peace’. Bearing in mind verse 16, is that a real peace?
Many Christians now are marginalised while society seems at peace. What is the comfort here?
Pray: for struggling churches and isolated Christians, that they would know that God is aware of them, and have confidence that God will one day totally restore his suffering people.
At church tomorrow, we’ll be looking at the first two visions that Zechariah sees, out of a total of eight which run from Zech 1:7-6:15. Assuming that he saw all eight on the same evening (15th Feb, 519BC), it must have been quite a disturbed night…
Read: Zechariah 1:7-21
These two visions (of the man among the myrtle trees, and the craftsmen) are both explained. How are they meant to leave God’s people feeling?
When the whole world is found to be at rest and in peace in verse 11, is that a good or a bad thing?
What repeated words do you notice in verses 12 to 17?
Who do you think the craftsmen might represent in verses 18 to 21?
What, then is the main message of this passage to God’s people?
Pray: that the message of these two visions would leave us aware of God’s mercy and comfort, proclaimed by Zechariah, and demonstrated in Jesus Christ.
Zechariah 1:1-6 works as an introduction to the book, which goes on to tell the story of how God’s people will be cleansed (chapters 1-6) and his shepherd will suffer (chapters 7-14), as his kingdom is brought in. The message of the introduction, though, is that unless God’s people are repentant, in contrast to their ancestors, they will never hear the message that Zechariah has to bring. It is only humble people, in other words, who are teachable.
Read: Zechariah 1:6 (particularly the second half of the verse – “Then they repented…”)
‘People rarely accept responsibility any more for the things they’ve done wrong’. Do you think that’s true? Is that true of you?
Assuming (as most people do) that this refers to the people in Zechariah’s day, why do you think they take responsibility for things that have happened in the past?
What does this verse imply about people, and about God?
In this verse, then, exactly what is meant by repentance? In what ways is it more than saying sorry?
When was the last time that you prayed to God in repentance? From this part of the Bible, and 1 John 1:8-9, why is it so important?
Pray: in repentance, asking that God would make you humble and teachable, and trusting that because of Jesus’ death, he will forgive your sins and purify you from all unrighteousness.
Through Zechariah, God has begin speaking to his people living in Jerusalem in 520BC. They may have returned to the city, but God is inviting them to return to him personally. What is striking, as verse 4 reminds them, is that this is not the first time that God has made this appeal. In Jeremiah’s time, God had similarly called to his people, but he was ignored and the destruction of Jerusalem followed. In verses 5 and 6a, God continues to remind his people to learn from history…
Read: Zechariah 1:5-6a
Do you always keep your promises? If you give warnings (e.g. as a parent) do you always see them through? Why / why not?
Jeremiah (quoted in Zech 1:4) had begun his ministry a hundred years before Zechariah. What had happened to Jeremiah and his hearers (‘the ancestors’), and why does Zechariah draw attention to this?
What, then, is the difference between the prophets, and the message from God which they pass on?
If someone said to you, “The Bible was written by people who died a long time ago”, what would you say?
Some of God’s warnings of destruction have been fulfilled, but others have yet to be fulfilled (e.g. Acts 17:30-31). What, then, is the continuing warning?
Pray: that we would take God’s words seriously, knowing that their human authors may have died, but that what God says (seen in the light of the cross) still has continuing power.