Zechariah is about encouragement. Helping the Jews returning from Babylon to realise that God is in control and there is a bright future in his hands. The great nations, who have overcooked God’s punishment of the Exiles, would meet with their own demise, Jerusalem would flourish, Yahweh would live among them and there appears to be a Messianic promise to one of the leaders, Joshua, of one to come, who would “remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (3:9)
A verse that stood out for me was 4:6, “’Not by might nor by power but my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” It was oft quoted by the leaders in the holiness church I attended in my teens (a sort of Charismatic, second blessing independent fellowship of Believers). It expressed the longing we had for God to do something dramatic, while acknowledging our helplessness to bring it about. We were a small group having little impact on the surrounding community.
In some ways I think that Zechariah was trying to do what those church leaders were trying to achieve – encouraging a small people to think big, because they had a big God, in control of history, in control of the great nations of the earth. Yes, the Temple they were rebuilding might seem to be a shadow of the former one that was destroyed by Babylon but they were not to despise the day of small things 4:10. Evil would be carted off in a basket from Jerusalem to Babylon, where it belonged (5:5-11), while Jerusalem was to practise justice, mercy and compassion, whereby God’s blessings would come upon her (chap 8).
There are more indications of a Messiah – the king righteous and victorious, lowly and riding on a donkey (chap 9), the cornerstone from Judah (chap 10) and Jerusalem looking on the one they have pierced (chap 12), all picked up in the New Testament. And yet, with the promises of restoration, not all would be rosy. Chapters 13 and 14 talk of the nations fighting against Jerusalem. These events seem to be precipitated by the striking of the shepherd and the scattering of the sheep – a quotation that Matthew applies to the arrest of Jesus in Gethsemane. Whether the ensuing disasters then apply to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD or to some culmination of events in our own future is open to speculation. I remember that the Six Day War, when the Arab nations united against reconstituted Israel, aroused much interest in end-time prophecies at the time.
However these events may eventually pan out, whether in the spiritual realm, the physical world or indeed both, we should understand from the prophecies that it is Yahweh who is God over the nations of this world and who controls the destiny of his people, whether it includes national Israel or those who have come to know God through Jesus, the Christ. That knowledge should fill the faithful with confidence and the desire to be the People of God, not just in name but also in the way we live, with justice, mercy and compassion, trusting God to bring about his victory over all things.