One of the reasons we miss the true meaning of End Times prophecy is that we become so focused on trying to understand the labels and descriptions (e.g., Who is “Gog”? When will the temple be built? What does “666” mean?) that we miss the even more important spiritual message behind them. When these kinds of questions finally get answered, they will also be answers to some serious spiritual issues to which they were connected. Just as God has a greater plan for our life, so He has a greater plan for His work on earth. The return to build a temple wasn’t about an earthly structure as much as it was about building something far greater in the spiritual realm.
Read verses 1-8
Q: Why do you suppose that nearly every reference to God in this passage uses “the Lord of hosts”?
A: The word “hosts” could most often be literally translated as “armies” or as a single expression encompassing the whole of the heavens or universe. So there would be multiple meanings to the people of this time:
He is the Lord of all the heavenly armies. There is no power that can stand against Him. It’s the greatest exultation of His name in terms of sovereignty and power. This is a powerful message at a time when Israel and Jerusalem have been desolate for 70 years and the powerful Medo-Persian Empire is seemingly in control.
He is the Lord of the armies of Israel. Ever since coming out of Egypt, Israel was organized not just by tribes, but by armies. They were only victorious when led by the Lord, who gave them victory. It’s a powerful reminder that they can overcome any earthly obstacle as long as they’re in submission to God. Regardless of their small numbers, when God is on their side, they are undefeatable when it comes to achieving His purposes.
He is the Lord of the armies of the earth. God gave power to whomever He wished, even using others to punish Israel for their sin and disobedience. It conveys a message that God is in control regardless of the appearance of circumstances from an earthly point of view.
He is the Lord of the heavens. The predominant false religion of Israel’s captors was the worship of the sun, moon, and stars. This title expresses the foolishness of engaging in the worship of things which are already in subjection to the One True God, and a reminder of His superiority over the gods of their captors.
Point: From every angle, in ever conceivable way, God is in control and reigns supreme over all.
Q: God declares, “I am exceedingly jealous for Zion”. What is the biblical definition of jealousy? How would its true intent and goal apply to God’s plans for Jerusalem?
A: Jealousy is the focused action of keeping someone in a faithful and devoted relationship to them alone, as exemplified in the example of marriage. The actions that God will take on Zion will result in removing all obstacles related to infidelity and establishing a faithful and committed relationship to Him and Him only.
Point: Sometimes people restrict their view of prophecy concerning Jerusalem to just events which will happen in and around the city. As with all prophecy, however, there is a greater message and spiritual lesson at work.
Q: What are God’s goals in v.2? How does it fit in with the biblical definition of jealousy?
A: He is not just going to return to Jerusalem, but spiritually transform it into the “City of Truth”. Exclusive adherence to God’s truth is the cornerstone to establishing the degree of faithfulness that spiritual jealousy demands.
Q: How does v.4 fit within the context of a people who are wholly devoted and faithful to God?
A: It’s a picture of obedience to the first commandment of the second tablet, “Honor your father and your mother, that your days may be prolonged in the land which the Lord your God gives you.” (Ex. 20:12)
Point: Through nearly every prophet God has consistently taught that the proof of love and devotion to HIM is one’s love and devotion to their neighbor. If you don’t love your neighbor, by God’s standard of measure you can’t possibly love Him.
Q: In the final “thus says the Lord” in v.7-8, what is the greater spiritual goal than merely physically returning His people to the city of Jerusalem?
A: “I will be their God in truth and righteousness.” It’s a re-established relationship based on obedience to His Word and ways.
Application: Why is it foolishness to interpret End Times prophecy in this case as simply being the restoration of the people to the land and the re-establishment of the city of Jerusalem? If there are greater spiritual issues at work in their literal fulfillment, what should we be personally doing in preparation for their fulfillment?
Application: It’s not about the city, but the spiritual condition of the people IN the city.
Read verses 9-13
Q: What is the main work that the people of this time were supposed to be primarily engaged in? What was God’s immediate purpose for bringing them back to Jerusalem?
A: “...to the end that the temple might be built”. It’s interesting to note that reconstruction does not begin with things more closely associated with people’s earthly needs such as their own houses, the city around the temple, or even the walls of the city; it begins with that thing which is supposed to be the closest, visible evidence of their relationship with God.
Q: What is the word of encouragement twice expressed in these verses?
A: “Let your hands be strong”. (v.9 & 13)
Q: Was this merely meant as encouragement to keep their strength up?
A: The intent is to motivate the physical with awareness of the greater spiritual issues at work. God was not just promising short-term blessings in v.10-12, but blessings that would extend beyond their lives and to the whole world. They were to be strengthened by the knowledge that “I will save you that you may become a blessing”, that God had a greater plan for them that did not end when the temple was completed.
Application: Regardless of our calling or gift, God is working something in us far greater than within us individually or even during the limits of our lifetime. How well do you understand your role in God’s greater plan? Is it possible to be distracted from His real work by only focusing on the details of the present? Aren’t we saved to become something more for God to everyone around us?
Application: It’s not about work, but the spiritual witness provided in the course of carrying out the work.
Read verses 14-17
Q: Why should their faith be encouraged by God’s statement in v.14-15?
A: They have personally witnessed and experienced the fulfillment of the first part, the results of His wrath. Therefore, it is a sure thing that He will do what He’s promised, to “do good” to them. The fulfillment of the past confirms the certainty of the future.
Q: So knowing the results of disobedience to God’s Word firsthand, what actions of obedience are they to undertake to confirm their faith in God’s promise to do good to them?
“...speak the truth to one another...” (v.16)
“...judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates.” (v.16)
“...let none of you devise evil in your heart against another...” (v.17)
“...do not love perjury...” (v.17)
Note that these are all relationship issues involved in loving one’s neighbor.
Point: God doesn’t want a temple devoted to Him populated by so-called worshipers who don’t obey ALL of His commandments. God’s greater plan than just a PLACE to worship, is having worshipers who prove themselves worthy of Him.
Application: Confirm or refute this statement: True spiritual revival is proven by the degree to which personal relationships and the treatment of others is changed.
Application: It’s not about a place to worship, but the spiritual quality of the worshipers.
Read verses 20-23
Q: Why would these last two “thus says the Lord” statements be especially powerful to the people of Zechariah’s day?
A: Sociologically they were at the very bottom of the societal structure in place at the time since they were a conquered people removed from their land and in subjection to the reigning empire of the time. They had little value or influence.
Q: But what is the greater purpose for which God will elevate them in the eyes of others?
A: To lead others spiritually, to direct everyone to the One True God. Far more important than social status or earthly wealth, they will possess the more important distinction of being the undisputed spiritual leaders of the nations pointing them to God’s Word and ways.
Application: It’s not about being the center of attention, but being the spiritual center to redirect attention.
Jesus expressed the New Testament equivalent of this teaching as...
“You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.
— Matthew 5:13-16
At times we need to engage in major projects which result in a building or such, but what is God’s greater plan at work behind such things?
Looking at the big picture of your own gifts and calling, what are the greater spiritual issues and goals at work?
How highly do you prize personal faithfulness as the key for success?