When Nebuchadnezzar destroys Jerusalem in 586 b.c., he carries her chief citizens off into exile in Babylon. Thousands don’t survive the brutal journey. Those who do must start their lives over in a hostile land where they are subjects of violence, slavery, and every manner of wickedness. That’s why Babylon becomes synonymous with evil. In this vision, the wickedness of Judah is contained and sent far away to Babylon, where it is not only tolerated but is worshiped. Civilization reaches its nadir when wickedness is worshiped.
6 That night I had an eighth vision. I looked up and saw four chariots emerging from between two mountains made of bronze. 2 The first chariot was pulled by red horses; the second was pulled by black horses. 3 The third was hitched to white horses and the fourth to spotted, strong horses.
A final vision echoes the first vision as four great spirits of heaven unleash judgment upon the whole earth.
Zechariah (to the heavenly messenger): 4 What are these, sir?
Heavenly Messenger: 5 These are the four winds of heaven that disperse His power and enact His will. They have been standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole earth awaiting His command. Now the Lord has dispatched them to patrol the earth. 6 The chariot pulled by black horses will travel to the north land, followed by the white horses and then the spotted horses, which travel to the south land.
7 The strong horses and their chariots went on their patrols of the earth with great speed and excitement at God’s command: “Go now. Patrol the entire surface of the earth.” They did as they were told.
Eternal One: 8 Watch, Zechariah. The horses going to the north land have appeased My restless, vengeful Spirit.
9 The word of the Eternal came to me describing how He would fulfill His promise of restoring Jerusalem and His temple.
Message: 10-11 Find three men who have returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Their names are Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah. Then collect money, silver and gold, from the Babylonians for rebuilding Jerusalem, and travel to the house of Josiah (Zephaniah’s son) who has also returned from Babylon. You will find Joshua (Jehozadak’s son) there. With the money you took from the Babylonians, fashion a crown for Joshua, the high priest, and place it on his head.
12 Once Joshua accepts the crown, tell him these words from the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies: “Pay attention to a man who is named ‘Branch.’ He will branch out from where He is and will build the Eternal’s temple. 13 Yes, He is the temple builder of the Eternal One and will carry honor. He will sit on the throne of His kingdom to rule, and He will sit on a throne as a priest. Between those two there will be a peace agreement.”
14 The crown will then be taken from Joshua’s head and placed in the temple of the Eternal One as a reminder to Heldai,[a] Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Josiah[b] (Zephaniah’s son). 15 People will come from great distances to assist with the building of the Eternal One’s temple. Tell the men, “If you do exactly what the Eternal, your True God, says, this will happen as you have seen and heard it. Then you will know for certain the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, sent me to you.”
“Branch” is a prophetic title for the Anointed One, that royal descendant of David whom God will send to usher in a new age of justice, peace, and joy. In Zechariah’s day, the people wonder if Zerubbabel is that king. Ac cording to the prophet, God has designs on him as the one to rebuild the temple and occupy the throne, but he is not destined to reign alone as the Anointed One will. Zerubbabel reigns with Joshua, the high priest. Together they are anointed, acclaimed, and crowned leaders to watch over God’s people.
7 Two years after I saw the eight visions, on the fourth day of the ninth month (called Chislev) of the fourth year of the reign of Persian King Darius, the word of the Eternal came to me, Zechariah. 2 The situation was this: the citizens of Bethel had sent a delegation, including Sharezer and Regemmelech and his men, to seek the favor of the Eternal One 3 by questioning the priests working in the temple of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, and by questioning the prophets.
Delegation: During the fifth month of every year, I fast and mourn. Should I continue separating myself from the impure world on these occasions as I have for so many years?
4 The word of the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies came to me and told me how to address their question.
Message: 5 Ask the citizens of the land and the priests, “When you fasted and mourned during the fifth and seventh months for the last seventy years, were you really fasting for My benefit or just for yourselves? 6 When you were feasting on holy days, weren’t you just eating and drinking for yourselves instead of honoring Me? 7 Aren’t these the same directives the Eternal One gave you through the work of earlier prophets, when Jerusalem was bustling with people and prosperous, when the villages around Jerusalem throughout the south[c] and the western valleys were settled?”
8 The word of the Eternal came to me, Zechariah, again.
Message: 9 Here is what the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, has to say: “Dispense true justice, have mercy on others, and show all people compassion. 10 Do not take advantage of those who have lost a spouse or a parent, or those who are outsiders or poor. Don’t purpose to do evil toward your fellow Israelites.”
11 Some refused to listen. They turned their backs on this message and plugged their ears. 12 They made their hearts as hard as flint, refusing to listen to the law or the messages the Eternal, Commander of heavenly armies, sent by His Spirit and enacted through earlier prophets. That’s why His great wrath and calamity fell upon His people.
Eternal One: 13 When I called out, they chose not to hear Me, so when they called out, I returned the favor and decided not to hear them. 14 Like a sweeping tornado, I blew them throughout the nations, scattering them in distant lands where they were aliens, all alone. That’s how the land and its cities were emptied out and left so barren that no one even traveled through it. This is how your pleasant hills and valleys turned into empty lands.
The New Testament God is not a God of fluffy love as some suppose. His judgment, while difficult to comprehend, is real; and fear of it should motivate repentance now.
15 Then I saw another sign in heaven, great and amazing: seven messengers with seven plagues—plagues that marked the end. With these the wrath of God reached its end.
2 And then I saw something like a sea made of glass mixed with fire flashing through it. Those who had been victorious over the beast, its image, and the number of its name were standing on the sea of glass, holding the harps of God in their hands. 3 As they stand and play their harps, they sing the song of Moses, the servant of God, and the song of the Lamb.
Victors: Great and amazing are Your works,
Lord God, the All Powerful.
Right and true are Your ways,
King of all nations.
4 Who will not fear You, Lord?
Who will not glorify Your name?
Because You alone are holy,
all the nations will come
and worship before You,
For Your righteous judgments have been revealed.
5 After I had taken all this in, I looked again; and the inner part of the tabernacle of witness opened in heaven. 6 Out of the temple came seven messengers, clothed in pure linen, bright and shining, their chests clad in a golden sash, carrying seven plagues. 7 Then one of the four living creatures stepped over to give to the seven messengers seven golden bowls brimming with the wrath of God who lives throughout the ages. 8 The temple was full of the smoke billowing from the magnificent glory of God and from His power, and no one could enter the temple until the seven plagues of the seven messengers accomplished their God-ordained end.
A song of David.
1 Eternal One, I come to You in prayer.
Hear me out; I plead with You.
Lend an ear to my requests.
In Your faithfulness and justice, respond to my pleas.
2 Be kind and slow to judge Your faithful servant,
for compared to You, no one is truly just.
3 My adversary has pressed in, drawn closer, threatened my life;
he’s crushed me, driven me underground.
He’s forced me to live in the dark;
it’s as if I joined those who died a long time ago.
4 That’s why my spirit is growing faint inside me; I have nothing left;
my heart is completely empty and desolate.
5 And yet I can’t forget the days of old, the days I’ve heard so much about;
I fix my mind on all You have done;
I ponder the work of Your hands;
6 I reach out my hands to You.
All that I am aches and yearns for You, like a dry land thirsting for rain.
7 Hurry and answer me, O Eternal One,
for my spirit is weak, my courage is gone.
Do not turn away; let me see Your face;
otherwise, I’ll die and be like all those who have gone to the grave.
8 Make me hear of Your faithful love in the morning,
for I trust in You.
Teach me how I should walk,
for I offer my soul up to You.
9 Rescue me from my enemies, Eternal One,
for You are my shelter from them.
10 Teach me how to do Your will,
for You are my God.
Allow Your good Spirit to guide me
on level ground, to guide me along Your path.
11 For the sake of Your name and the good of Your reputation,
preserve me, O Eternal One.
In Your righteousness, save my life from burden and misery.
12 In Your loyal love, silence my enemies for good;
destroy all those who take pleasure in my suffering,
for I am Your faithful servant!
- 143:6 Literally, selah, likely a musical direction from a Hebrew root meaning “to lift up”
24 There are four creatures on earth that are small,
but they are very wise and we can learn from them:
25 While ants are hardly a strong species,
they work constantly to store up food during the summer;
26 While badgers are animals without many defenses,
they are wise enough to make their homes in the rocky cliffs;
27 While locusts live without a ruler,
they all know how to move in formation;
28 While a lizard is easy enough to catch in your hand,
it is shrewd enough to enter the palaces of kings.