Preaching on the Book of Zechariah
Rather than simply making comments on the lectionary, I am going to use this column to share with you the titles and main points of a Sermon Series that I have done. While I do follow the lectionary, I also often choose to make my own way through different portions of the Bible, believing as I do that the “lectionary was made for man, not man for the lectionary.”
For instance, for the first Sunday in Advent, we had Zechariah 14:4-9 as the Old Testament reading. That passage is about the second advent of Christ, and while it fits the theme of Advent, it made me wonder about the book of Zechariah itself. Who was he? Why did he say this? Why did he say it this way?
Well, I’m not sure I succeeded in answering all these questions; however, I will let you know what I did.
First, I spent the four weeks of Advent on Zechariah.
Week one: Zechariah 1:1-7
I looked at chapter 1.1-7 with special attention to 1:3 which I took to be the theme of the book…3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts. (Zechariah 1.3)
The prophets, Haggai and Zechariah, encouraged the returning exiles to rebuild the
Zechariah, however, along with Haggai, sees this issue as something more than a bricks and mortar affair.
Zechariah 1.3 says, “Return to me…and I will return to you.” Well, of course, they had returned from
Their response is indicated in the 1.3a, but the 1.3b actually is a summary of the rest of the book. The Lord will return to them in a variety of ways.
Week 2: How Can We Go on with the Work – Zechariah 3
There are 8 visions, beginning in 1.8. They are all quite different; however, in differing ways they are encouragements to a very discouraged group to continue in their work because the Lord was ‘returning’ to them in blessing and restoration. The middle section of the visions concerns two key men; Joshua, the priest, and Zerubbabel, the governor. I chose to spend two weeks on these two visions.
The leadership of the people of God was, of course, central to their success. But, how can guilty people and guilty leaders possibly curry favor with God? Of course, they can’t; but God can grant them forgiveness. That seems to underlie this section. In fact, how can anyone serve the Lord? Aren’t we all compromised to a certain degree?
The vision is a courtroom scene with the angel of the Lord as the judge; Satan as the prosecutor and Joshua in the dock, albeit with dirty clothes (unimaginable for priest). He stands convicted without Satan having to say a word.
I made two major points. The first was that only a person who is clean or forgiven can serve the Lord, and this scene from the courtroom shows that the Lord unilaterally forgives. This is demonstrated by the Lord’s word to Joshua that he take off his dirty clothes and put on splendid robes. “I have taken your guilt from you.”
The second point concerns justice. How can God forgive a guilty man? It is the same dilemma Paul speaks of in Romans. God can’t forgive a guilty person; but he does. But isn’t he the judge of the universe. This appears to be a travesty of justice! But, wait. The basis of forgiveness is a promise to be fulfilled in the future. “I am about to bring My servant, the Branch…” (Zechariah 3.8) There is the answer.
God’s forgiveness meets the canons of justice, while also expressing God’s love for sinners. Joshua can and does live in light of the future promise of God to send his servant, the branch to be the means by which God can forgive a guilty man; and further, why he can forgive a guilty people.
Week Three: Zechariah 4: The Golden Lampstand
Where the question raised in week two concerned forgiveness from guilt resulting in freedom to serve the Lord, this vision of a lampstand raises yet another question. How can God’s people continue in the work he has given them? Won’t they just poop out? To answer that, we now have a vision of a lampstand, the likes of which we have not seen in the Old or New Testaments.
Attention is now paid to Zerubbabel, the political leader. He is a very able man as presented in both this letter and that of Haggai. The point of the vision seems to be the continuing supply of oil which comes from the Olive Trees via conduits to the lampstand.
How then can the people of God keep on going? The answer is given in verse 6.
Zechariah 4:6 (ESV)
6 Then he said to me, "This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.
That, I think, is what the lampstand represents. Not might, not right, but God’s Spirit which is given to Zerubbabel, and his people day by day.
You can see how this leads into the New Testament realization of what is pointed to in Zechariah.
Ephesians 5:18 (ESV)
18 And do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit,
We are so concerned with being wise, dynamic and smart. But what we really need is God’s Spirit to enable us to continue in what he has started in us.
We so easily burst into project after project; but the ones that are needful in the
Week Four: Christmas Eve Morning: Zechariah 8:1-7
With 4 weeks for 14 chapters, one obviously has to make some choices about which parts of Zechariah to preach on. I chose to finish on this passage, since it picks up one of the great themes of Advent, as well as advancing the point of Zechariah 1.3 that God will return to his people. In this chapter, the return spoken of is the 2nd coming of the Lord, which Zechariah tells in a very unique way.
When we do think of Christ’s 2nd coming, we rightly think of power, clouds and glory. Then we think of the heavenly
But the images in Zechariah, while complementary, are different. We have a picture of a park with elderly people sitting peacefully, untroubled by illness and young children running around without a hint of fear. Then the chapter ends with a great festival, and with people from many lands coming to
I used chapter 8, because it casts its light on the future, but as Barry Webb – (The Message of Zechariah – The Bible Speaks Today Series) says the final reality is always viewed, in the Old Testament, as a light that casts its reflection backwards to motivate and guide life in the present.” “It is the goal the people of God are longing for, and every advance towards it is a cause for celebration.”
I highly recommend Barry’s wonderful commentary.