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8. Haggai and Zechariah: God is King

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Words to Anchor your Soul

Rejoice, O people of Zion!
Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem!
Look, your king is coming to you.
He is righteous and victorious,
yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—
riding on a donkey’s colt.

Zechariah 9:9 (NLT)

A mulligan! Sometimes golfers get to re-hit errant shots without being penalized when playing with gracious people. But life doesn’t afford us do-overs. How I long to be able to go into the past and fix my mistakes! Incredibly, God graciously makes provision for our mistakes. He totally forgives our sins and uses even the worst of life experiences for the good of his children (Romans 8:28-29) and his glory as King. Although he doesn’t generally erase the consequences in this life, he always redeems them.

Despite the grave sins of the Jews that resulted in their exile to foreign countries, God gave them hope and the chance to learn and begin again. He reminded them that his promises to David given long, long before would last forever because their fulfillment depended on God’s faithfulness rather than their own. He promised that one would come whom he had anointed to rule the house of David in glory, whom we now know is Jesus. He promised a future day when justice would prevail and all wrongs would be made right.

This week we will read sections of scripture from two prophets who prophesied in Jerusalem after the Judeans returned from exile: Haggai and Zechariah. Following King Cyrus of Persia’s decree for the Jews to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-4), a group of Jews returned to their homeland in 538 B.C. The ministries of Haggai and Zechariah date to 520 B.C., a mere 18 years after that return.1 The initial group included Zerubbabel and Joshua, the priest. Zerubbabel “who was a grandson of King Jehoiachin and therefore the legitimate heir of the Davidic throne”2 became governor of the reclaimed land.

Part One Study

The first six chapters of the historical book of Ezra provide the background for both Haggai and Zechariah’s messages.

*** Read Ezra 1:1-7 and 3:1-4:23 for background about the situation when Haggai and Zechariah begin prophesying.

Ezra 4:1-16 tells us that the enemies of the Jews opposed their rebuilding the temple by using tactics of discouragement and accusation. As a result, the work stopped entirely in 535 B.C. Fifteen years later God spoke to his people in Jerusalem through his prophet Haggai.

The book of Haggai records five different messages given by Haggai. Four of them begin with a date and a note that the word of the LORD came to Haggai. The other address is in 1:13-15. All of these date to one single year, 520 B.C.

Read Haggai, journaling about these questions in context of the audience.

  • Why was God unhappy with the priorities of his people who had returned to their land from exile? And how has he been trying to get their attention?
  • How did God encourage them, and what encouragement is he giving you about a situation in your own life?
  • What does this book reveal about God that speaks to your heart today?

You may have noted that Haggai’s last message in 2:20-23 refers to the ultimate time of Restoration when God judges the nations and restores the Davidic kingdom, referring to it as “that day,” the Day of the Lord.

I chose a to-do list to represent Haggai’s message to prioritize God over all other things. After all, as Zechariah is about to tell us, God is the true King.

Part Two Study

Now we turn our attention to the prophecies of Zechariah, Haggai’s contemporary. According to Zechariah 1:1, God first spoke to the prophet two months after Haggai gave his initial prophecy. Ezra 5:1-2 tells us that it was the words of Haggai and Zechariah that resulted in the resumption of work on the temple. Neither prophet warned of judgment, but they did challenge the people.

The first major section of Zechariah includes chapters 1-8, which records three messages: 1:1-6 (1st message), 1:7-6:15 (2nd message); and 7:1-8:23 (3rd message). I’ve given you sections to read because of the length of the book, but it’s so worth reading the whole.

Dr. Eugene Merrill says this about Zechariah’s message:

The prophet is concerned to comfort his discouraged and pessimistic compatriots, who are in the process of rebuilding their Temple and restructuring their community but who view their efforts as making little difference in the present and offering no hope for the future. . . He challenges members of the restored remnant to go to work with the full understanding that what they do, feeble as it appears, will be crowned with success when YHWH, true to His covenant word, will bring to pass the fulfillment of His ancient promises to the fathers.3

We will skip most of Zechariah because of its length. Your optional study is to read and comment on it all.

*** Read all of Zechariah 1-8.

Read Zechariah 1:1-6 and 7:1-8:23 in light of the explanation below.

FYI: In Zechariah 7:2-3 the people ask the priests whether they should continue fasting during the fifth month. This yearly fast was a memorial for and lament over the destruction of the temple by the Babylonians on August 14, 586 B.C.4 The fast in the seventh month (7:5) “apparently refers to the anniversary of the assassination of Gedaliah, governor of Judah (Jeremiah 40:13-14; 41:1), in approximately 581 B.C.”5

Consider these questions as you journal:

  • What kinds of people does God expect his followers to be? (Note God’s complaints, comments, and descriptions about their actions and attitudes.)
  • How does God build faith in his fearful people in Jerusalem?
  • How is God calling to you today?

Part Three Study

The final four chapters of Zechariah contain two oracles found in chapters 9-11 and then in chapters 12-14. Your journaling is based on only the second oracle, but read it all if you can.

Highlights of this book include its promise of the coming King and descriptions of his kingdom. This section it makes clear that the promises are in large part unfulfilled. That will occur ultimately when Jesus returns as King (Revelation 19:11-22:5)—thus a crown represents this book.

*** Read the remainder of Zechariah, chapters 9-14, considering the questions below.

Read Zechariah 12-14, focusing on the Messiah, the coming King. Also note references to the Day of the Lord or “that day.” Journal about these questions:

  • What do Zechariah’s predictions about the Day of the Lord reveal about God?
  • What promises about the coming King or kingdom got your attention and why?
  • Compare this section of Zechariah with John 19:35-37; Revelation 1:7; 19:11-21; 21:1-8 and write down your thoughts about the coming King and the time of Restoration.
  • How is God speaking to you from Zechariah today?

You may have read verses in Zechariah that seem familiar. That’s probably because Zechariah is quoted and alluded to many times in the New Testament. “One estimate finds about 54 passages from Zechariah echoed in about 67 different places in the NT, with the lion’s share of these found in the book of Revelation.”6

In her story Dixie shares how she realized that God was not really her King. It’s a story all too familiar because when we let God speak into our lives, we begin to see areas where we sit on the throne instead.

Dixie’s Story

My favorite thing to do is nest. Fixing up my home and making it warm and inviting brings me great joy. In 26 years of marriage, we have lived in eight cities. Moving meant new decorating! Let the fun begin!

With each move, I would become consumed with getting the house “done.” I would wake up thinking about it, and after getting the kids off to school the car, seemed to go straight to the shops. Yes, I had quiet times, attended Bible study, and went to church on Wednesday nights and Sundays, but the thing that brought me the greatest satisfaction was decorating.

In 1990, we made a move from Nashville to Baltimore. This was one move I did not want to make, but God put it on my heart to trust Him and to move, looking for ways to serve Him in Baltimore.

Shortly after moving in, the phone rang. The wife of the president of my husband’s company explained that God had put it on her heart to gather a group of women together weekly in her home for prayer and study, and to seek the Lord about starting a city-wide Bible study class for women and their children in Baltimore. I said I’d come, but with hesitation. I had a house to fix up, kids to get settled, and new neighbors to meet.

About ten of us met for several months in prayer. The Lord raised up small group leaders, a teacher, and a church. No one was stepping up to be the Children’s Director. It was surely not to be me because I had three children, ages three, six and nine. I had things to do. But of course, God kept urging me, telling me this was my ministry to women. This was the way I was going to serve Him in this new town.

My three-year-old was in Mother’s Day Out on Tuesdays and Thursdays, the only time to run errands. Those times were spent, instead, preparing for the upcoming Bible study. The summer was then spent recruiting teachers and gathering supplies for the nursery and preschool children’s classes, putting together arts and crafts projects, and planning little teaching sessions for the older kids. I even attended a leaders’ retreat to learn my role as the children’s director, using my decorating money to pay for a baby sitter.

A great number of women and children signed up for the class, which started in September. In late August I was getting weary and selfish, tired of planning and preparing. One day I was driving from the host church, after having dropped off a carload of supplies, and I started complaining. “Lord, I don’t want to be doing this! Why did I sign up for this? Two days every week for the next nine months will be consumed with this. I will have to get there early and stay late! Poor, pitiful me!” And very clearly and silently, the Lord impressed on my heart, “My child, on what better thing could you be spending your time?”

And I knew then that I would choose God over things. I knew there was not one single thing that would be better than serving these little children, teaching them about Jesus, singing praise songs with them, presiding over their selfless teachers, serving them crackers and juice, and letting their mothers have precious needed time in Bible study and fellowship with other women.

The first year of this study God provided for every need. I don’t think I ever missed a day. If one of my own children got sick, I don’t remember. They must have been taken care of somehow. I made a multitude of new friends in the faith. I served on a leadership team of older, wiser women who impacted my life forever as I observed their Christ-centered lives. I soaked up truth as we met together. These were just some of the benefits to me from choosing God over things.

Young mothers got to be refreshed by being with other women and sharing God’s Word, which hopefully brought transformed lives. Perhaps these women who were served are serving others today. Perhaps these little children are now shining examples of Christ-centered youth. I will never know the full impact of making this one decision to put God before things, but I do know that God showed me that life is not about me. It’s about Him.

“But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Matthew 6:33.

1 Merrill, Eugene H., Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi: An Exegetical Commentary (Biblical Studies Press, 2003), 9.

2 Merrill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 13.

3 Merrill, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, 82.

4 Note on Zechariah 7:2-3, ESV Study Bible, 1759.

5 Note #5 on Zechariah 7:5, NET Bible.

6 ESV Study Bible “Introduction to Zechariah,” 1750.

Related Topics: Prophets, Women's Articles

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