Introduction to Zechariah

Zechariah: Sawing Through the ZZZs, Volume 2

How are the books of the Bible arranged? What's the importance of knowing the historical context when I read my Bible? What does God desire of His church, and how does the Old Testament help us to understand God's desire for His people?  These and other questions are answered as we look at the first six verses of the book of Zechariah.

Todd WagnerAug 17, 1997Zechariah 1:1-6

Let's pray, and we're going to dig into a book tonight that will keep our attention for a number of weeks. It's a difficult book, but a key book and an important book. It's a book that's quoted 41‑some times in your New Testament. Even if you haven't read this book in its entirety, you've read most of it if you've hung out at all in the part of our Bible that is most familiar to us. Let's pray, and we'll see if we can't get a little context for where we're going to go for the next month or so.

Father, we do come to you and thank you for privilege of being directed and guided by truth that we don't have to listen to the opinions of men, we don't have to read the editorial page of our day to wonder where ultimately history will lead us, for we have God who will endure through many mountains be cast into the sea.

There's a river which will constantly refresh his city, and his is place of strength, and ours is a faith made of stone, and we are on a foundation of rock, and we will not be shaken when we see striving and know that you are God and rest in you. It is our desire that we would have a greater confidence to do that, a greater reason to do that because you would convince us of your Word.

So we ask that now, as we study your Bible, that this Word which is living and active, though the grass withers and though the flower fades, will endure forever. We ask that that Word would pierce us and would do a surgeon's work removing impurity and improper thought and belief from our soul and replace it with a seed which will bring forth the fruit of righteousness and an eternal perspective which will allow others to see your glory in us. We ask, Father, that you would do these things, and we're trusting it in your name, amen.

If y'all remember, we studied, before this particular book, a book by the name of Zephaniah. It means the Lord has hidden. We saw how the Lord had hidden in this prophet, Zephaniah, a good Word he wanted the people to have and to encourage them. We studied that book for a number of weeks, and we talked about how Zephaniah is one of the least often read books of your Bible.

When you try to read your Bible, it sometimes is wearisome and tough to stay awake. You start sawing some ZZZs. The two books of the Bible that start with a Z (Zephaniah and Zechariah) make up this little series. Cutting through some ZZZs, not sawing some ZZZs, we're going to make some sense out of them. So next time you read Zephaniah, now you have a context through which you might be able to do that and do it well. Draw some application to your life.

We saw this was a book, though it was first introduced to our world some 2,500 years ago, has tremendous application for today. I think you will find this next book, this next Z, this book of Zechariah, though it was written some 2,500 years ago, it also will hold great places in your life. You will be encouraged and prodded and comforted by it.

Go to Matthew and hang a left. You'll go to Malachi and then Zechariah. Get to Zechariah 1, put your finger there and go to the table of contents in your Bible. Let me remind you what we did when we started by looking at Zephaniah. We can all find it. "Let us start at the very beginning," as Julie Andrews has sung.

This Bible, which so many of us long to read and love to learn from, can sometimes be a bit overwhelming. Our society has increasingly become biblically illiterate. There's a lot of pressure, especially here in Dallas, Texas, when you come to a church like this, and some guy stands up front and says, "We're going to go through Zechariah," to have to turn there in the appropriate amount of time, lest your pages are the only ones still rustling while everybody else is down there on verse 3. So you stop in Philemon and act like you're reading with us because you're too embarrassed to find out where the heck you're supposed to be.

It really is a book which can be kind of overwhelming the first few times you look at it. So I like to, every now and then, go back and put it together. It is one story. There is a common theme, which runs through it and it deals with God's eternal purposes, which he will accomplish though it looks, at times, like he cannot or will not. Mountains will rise up to incredible heights, and they will overwhelm us, and they will, at times, take away the things we put security in.

As we said at the beginning, our God is stronger than mountains, which in Scripture are often symbolic of great governments and world powers. They will all one day slide into the ocean, slide into the sea, but the Lord will reign and endure forever. This is the book, as it says in Isaiah 40:8. In fact, it's the theme verse, that's tattooed in the front of a lot of your Bibles. "The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever." This is worth investing your time in right here.

It's important to go back to the table of contents because you want to understand your Old Testament especially. It's not written completely in chronological order. There are 39 books in your Old Testament. It is broken up into two groups of 17 with five in the middle. If you've been around me very long, most of you will have a little pencil or pen line drawn underneath the book of Ester in your Bible. From Genesis, all the way down to the seventeenth book in your Old Testament, which is the book of Ester, you have what are called the historical books.

All the history of your Old Testament takes place in those first (according to my Bible) 405 pages. So when I want to find out what is going on contextually, what is going on on page one of history, when I read about the editorial comments of the day or the feature sections of the day, I have to go back and find out what is going on historically. That always happens in one of the books from Genesis to Ester in your Old Testament.

Those books hold pretty true to chronological order. Ester probably happens a little bit before Ezra, but all of those 17 books, you can read pretty much through and get a pretty good chronological feel of what God was doing in the history of your Old Testament. That means the other 22 books all have to fit back in there somehow.

When you read the Psalms, you have to figure out when you read a certain psalm of David what was going on in David's life. It makes a lot more sense when you read Psalm 51, and David cries out and prays God would forgive him that you know what he just went through. Obviously, many scholars place that specific psalm shortly after he committed his great sin of adultery and then murdered to cover up his adultery. Then he cried out that God would not remove him from a mantel of leadership and a place of trust and encouraging his people.

When you read Psalm 90, you're going to find out it's a psalm by Moses. So that happened way back there somewhere in the book of Exodus. What was going on in Moses' life when he wrote that? Psalm 90 comes to life when you see it in the context of the historical book of Exodus.

It is especially necessary when you read the prophets, who were men who spoke specifically to a people at a given point of time to understand what was going on in their world that moved God to speak through these men to prompt these people to behave in a certain way. When you understand the historical context of the day, the words of the Prophets make that much more sense.

So when you read these historical books… The five in the middle are the poetical books because of the language in which they were written. They were written in prose or poetry. The last 17 are prophetical books written with a prophet's tongue and apocalyptic language. Those books come alive when you see where they were specifically written to.

So look right there at your table of contents. Take a good peek at what page Ezra is on so you can look like a scholar here in a minute. Take a good look at where Zechariah is, and then let's turn to the book of Ezra 4. Ezra is the historical context in which the book of Zechariah takes place. I want to give you a little further explanation of the prophets that happen there, the last 17 books in your Old Testament.

There are three types of prophets. Those types of prophets are either called pre-exilic, exilic, or post-exilic prophets. Pre-exilic would mean they happened before the exile. There was a major time period in the nation of Israel's history. It's a 70-year window. Depending on who you ask, it's either from 586 to 516 BC or some would scroll it back from 605 to 536 BC.

The point is, there's a time in the nation of Israel's history where the great world power of the day was Babylon. A man named Nebuchadnezzar wiped out Assyria, and then all the vassal states, all the underlings, who were paying tax to Assyria, Nebuchadnezzar went further than they did and wiped out some more land.

Part of that land included the remnant, the last part of the people who God had left in this track of land which we know today as Israel. It was the tribe of Judah. They were in the city of Jerusalem. In 586, Nebuchadnezzar finished his pillage of the people. God said the reason Nebuchadnezzar, this great mountain of strength, had risen up and crushed the last of God's people is because the people never listened to any of the pre-exilic prophets.

These prophets said, "If you don't stand up and fly it straight, I'm going to spank you. I'm going to put your nose in the corner of Babylon for 70 years, and then I'll bring you back out and see if you're ready to act right. I want to bless you. I will bless you. I've intended to make you a nation through which all that nations of the world will be blessed. I've intended to make you a nation of priests, but you're not following the program."

God, because he loves this nation and loves these people, will discipline them, so he can use them. He brought them about into a great time of discipline, where for 70 years an entire generation of people died in a foreign land. After that 70 years, God brought those people back. That's where you're going to pick up the historical flow of God's work in the Old Testament. There are three types of prophets. The first is the pre-exilic prophets who the nation of Israel never listened to.

The next group is the exilic prophets. There are only three of those: Daniel, Ezekiel, and Jeremiah. Those guys were all called exilic prophets because they wrote to the people sometime during that 70-year window (for the most part). They told them, "God's not done with you, but learn from what you need to learn from right now. As you have your nose in the corner, as you are having a little time out session here, learn what you need to learn. Meditate on what you've done wrong so when God comes back to you and says, "Okay, let's take another run at this together," you'll be ready to walk with him in obedience.

The three who wrote once the people got out of their time of discipline and back into the land of Israel are guys who are called, oddly enough, post-exilic prophets. There are three of those. They're the last three prophets in your Old Testament: Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi. Haggai and Zechariah wrote in a time period of about four to six months that constantly overlapped each other.

In fact, in the year 520 BC, Haggai laid a message on them in about September. He came back and nailed them in October. Then he took a month off, and Zechariah came at them. That's where you're going to start to read tonight. Then Zechariah pulled back, and in the month of December, Haggai let them have it one more time. Ezra 4 is the historical context of what these two guys are up to.

So turn back to that historical book of Ezra. You're somewhere in 530, 520, or 525 BC when you are with me in Ezra 4. This is the last of the historical books in your Old Testament. Let's read some together. It says in verse 1 of chapter 4, "Now when the enemies of Judah and Benjamin heard that the people of the exile were building a temple to the LORD God of Israel…"

Here's a little bit more history. The people had been in this time of discipline for a number of years. The first part of the exile started in 605 BC. You count 70 years down from that, and you get to about 536 BC, which is when the next of the great world powers rose up and squashed Babylon. It is, if you know your world history, the nation of the Persians and the Medes.

They had a king named Cyrus. One of the great confidences you have in Scripture is that God does what no other person can do, and that is see into the history. Not through some rough similarities as in Nostradamus where you try to read into what he said and plug it into history, but clearly.

Isaiah, about 150 years before his time, prophesied in Isaiah 45 that God will raise up his servant Cyrus. Isaiah was this pre-exilic prophet who lived in Jerusalem, who prophesied to the people and said, "You're in deep trouble, and discipline is coming. You're going to go into exile, but after a while, God's going to raise up," and he nailed it.

He said, "Somebody by the name of Cyrus, and this Cyrus will be my servant, and he will do what I tell him to do." Part of what God told Cyrus to do is to let the Jews leave their place of imprisonment and go back home and build the temple to their God. So they were back there in that land, and they got to go back in 536 BC. When they got there, they built the altar very quickly so they could begin to do sacrifices. Then they laid the foundation for the temple.

After that they got lazy, and for 16 years the temple laid dormant. With the altar sitting there and the foundation laid, they just quit building. It would be like if we stopped before we started putting the steel up out back here. We raised the money, we started the work, but then people started to say, "The building is too big. It's not going to go with the campus." So we got some external opposition, and then also there was a spirit of indifference among us. We really didn't think it was that significant.

This was clearly a different situation. God had spoken from on high on that date. "Build the temple here." We believe he spoke through the agreement of the people, but it wasn't a vote that God put it to then. He said, "You go back and build the temple, so I can dwell in the land, you can walk with me, and I can prosper you like no other nation has been prospered. You will become a kingdom of priests, and I can do great things through you."

As they got back there, Ezra 4 says, the enemies heard they were back there building this temple. "…they approached [the governor] Zerubbabel and the heads of fathers' households, and said to them, 'Let us build with you…'" Zerubbabel said, "No. We're not going to have any unholy people doing holy work. You cannot help us."

The people didn't like that so much, so they decided to write back to Cyrus and say, "These people are going to get very independent, and they're going to rebel against you like they rebelled against everybody." So in verse 4, it says, "Then the people of the land discouraged the people of Judah, and frightened them from building…"

They have their eyes on their enemies who said, "Don't do what God has told you to do," and they got easily discouraged from the external opposition. The external opposition wet itself with the natural deference of men to please self and to honor self. So they had, now, a convenient excuse to not labor to build God's house.

They just got back in the land and started to build their own businesses, and they started to build their own homes. They lost their community project, which was to build a place where God would be glorified. They became more concerned with disciplining themselves with the things that glorified themselves than they did in disciplining themselves with the things that glorified God.

Look what happens. There's a letter that comes back telling the folks to stop, and in verse 17 here it is. The king sent an answer to these guys who were trying to get the specific people of Jerusalem to stop building. He said this in verse 18.

"'…the document which you sent to us has been translated and read before me. A decree has been issued by me, and a search has been made and it has been discovered that that city has risen up against the kings in past days, that rebellion and revolt have been perpetrated in it, that mighty kings have ruled over Jerusalem, governing all the provinces beyond the River, and that tribute, custom and toll were paid to them.

So, now issue a decree to make these men stop work, that this city may not be rebuilt until a decree is issued by me. Beware of being negligent in carrying out this matter; why should damage increase to the detriment of the kings?' Then as soon as the copy of King Artaxerxes' document was read… they went in haste to Jerusalem to the Jews and stopped them by force of arms."

A great people rose up against the Jews who were trying to be faithful to God. Chapter 4 verse 24 puts you perfectly where we're going to begin in Zechariah. "Then work on the house of God in Jerusalem ceased, and it was stopped until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia." Turn to Zechariah.

Do you understand what's going on now historically? Darius is the second king in the great world power of Persia. He has succeeded this man, Cyrus, and Cyrus first said, "Go back and rebuild the temple." So a bunch of people went back; some 42,000 Jews left 70 years of industry. You need to know this. The Jews prospered in Babylon. They were a hardworking people, and many repented when they got there. They knew they had been disciplined by God.

As you know, Daniel rose to great places of power, as did his friends (Shack, Rack, and Benny if you watch VeggieTales). They had risen to great places of power. Many of them liked what they had there in Babylon, so they wouldn't go back. There were a number of people who knew that serving the Lord was better than any prosperity they might have in a foreign land. So some 40,000 to 50,000 of them went back to Jerusalem.

This is the right people in the right place who had gone back to do the right thing. But as often happens, the right people in the right place who are seeking to do the right thing can get easily discouraged by two things: external opposition and the natural inclination of men to become self-serving.

You're going to see an application right here that I'm going to drive you at all through this book. That is that we are the right people who are hopefully at right place, who are hopefully trying to do the right thing which is to honor the Lord. We will continually run into external opposition who will mock at our desire to live truly holy lives. Not only will we have opposition from without, but we're going to have poison in the pews.

People are going to tell you, "It's nice to go to church. It's nice to be back here in God's little community, but let's not take this Jesus thing too seriously." I will tell you that poison in the pews is always more dangerous than persecution without. When God comes at the nation of Israel in 520 BC where he majors, where he really comes at their hearts hard, he's not saying, "Don't be scared of these enemies who don't want you to build." He comes right at them and says, "You need to conquer this evil within that loves self more than it loves the sovereign."

Isn't that our battle? We're in a wicked city that doesn't really want us to live a life that honors the Lord. More than our battle with Dallas, Texas, and the battle is strong, we have a battle right here. We have a battle with that person sitting next to you. The battle with that guy or that guy who you'll begin to date in this room who will want you to compromise certain levels of purity and integrity.

We have to battle with each other the way we'll do business. We have to battle with ourselves the way we file our tax returns. We have to battle with ourselves in the way we'll relate to one another, not being a respecter of persons. We have to battle with ourselves that we will seek to put each other's eyes in the Lord and not draw attention to ourselves. Don't we? That is a battle that is great.

The Lord says, "You're the right people in the right place who want to do the right thing, but you have to stay about the right business. You have to stay focused on me because I'm not looking for a lot of external performance." You're going to find out when we look at a little cross-reference in here in these two prophets who relate so well to each other, Haggai and Zechariah, they did some really good things after 16 years. God got their attention. Somebody came to their town, preached a mighty message, and they said, "He's right."

In one area it looks like they really responded, but then just three months later, here comes another guy. A young man, Zechariah and he says, "You've done some good things, but you haven't done ultimately what the Lord seeks to have done in your life. That is to win your hearts back to him." I'm glad you're here tonight. I hope you stick with us as we go through this book.

You're in the right place, and you're here to do the right things. That is to sing of the goodness and mercy of God. I want to tell you, tonight I beg of you, that you get really serious about not just doing the godly thing in one aspect or with one hour and a half of your life, but that you truly begin to say, "God, you don't want just something done with my hands. You want my heart."

Second Chronicles 16:9 says, "For the eyes of the LORD move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His." It's going to be my prayer as we go through Zechariah and specifically the message of tonight, that as his eyes go back and forth through the city of Dallas, he sees some people here who hearts are fully his. That doesn't mean we don't live in a world that constantly tests our affections. It means we work hard at making our first love the God of the Bible, the God of our fathers, the God of Jesus Christ, the God, Jesus Christ.

Every one of us has a first love. I mean that as present tense. Right now, there's something in your life that you love more than anything else. What Zechariah 1:1-6 is going to ask us is this simple question... Is it Jesus Christ? Do you love him more than pleasure? Do you love him more than any material thing?

Do you love him more than any reputation you think you might win through certain behavior? Do you love him more than the acceptable fashion of the day? Those are the people whose hearts are fully his who he looks to strongly support. He will strongly support this church when we return to him with our whole heart.

Zechariah. His name means the Lord remembers. Let's just read for a while. It's been 16 years. They've built the altar, built the foundation, and the temple laid dormant. It says, "In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to Zechariah the prophet, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo saying, 'The LORD was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, "Thus says the LORD of hosts, 'Return to Me,' declares the LORD of hosts, 'that I may return to you,' says the LORD of hosts.

Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds. "' 'But they did not listen or give heed to Me,' declares the LORD. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not My words and My statutes, which I commanded My servants the prophets, overtake your fathers? Then they repented and said, 'As the LORD of hosts purposed to do to us in accordance with our ways and our deeds, so He has dealt with us.'"

You have to understand this is a very dark time in the nation of Israel's history, anybody who had any knowledge of the former glory that that nation had. It was at one time the greatest power on the entire earth. Can you imagine being raised in 1980, maybe the heyday of Americana as we know it? Back when there was some national pride like we haven't experienced. Or maybe right after the Gulf War where we really rallied again as a country.

Those of us who are a little older (not me) than I am, like back at the end of World War II when our nation celebrated like crazy and came together. We thought, "This is the hub of power in the world. It'll never shift from here." Then all of a sudden, can you imagine the next 10 to 20 years? If slowly, ghost towns took over Washington DC, and all the places of great power in our country became vacated because our nation was taken as exile into another land.

Then you come back. The White House has been razed. The Washington Monument is knocked over. Congress has been leveled. You go there, and you're commanded to rebuild some of these great institutions. So you start with your little best efforts, and you start to weep because you know these historic buildings will never be reproduced in their glory. You think there's no way we'll ever rise up to be a world power again, and you begin to weep.

There was a great weeping that went on back in 520 to 530 BC in the nation of Israel. They thought, "Golly, that's never going to be like it was." God said, "I want to tell you something. Don't look with your eyes. Believe with your heart." Haggai came to the people and prophesied some very practical truth to them. "Build the temple. Just do the next thing." He was a very practical prophet.

He came right to them and said, "Before you worry about what's going to happen 100 years from now, you need to do what should've happened 16 years ago. That is, continue to build and do the work of the Lord, so God can come, and you can worship him again, and he can abide in this temple which is how he decided to relate to that nation in that time. You just do the next thing." He preached that for two strong months.

If you look over there with me in Haggai… Turn to your left one page and look at chapter 1, verse 12. You're going to find a guy named Zerubbabel. He was the governor, the leading politician of the day. Joshua was the high priest, the leading spiritual leader of the day, "…with all the remnant of the people, obeyed the voice of the LORD their God and the words of Haggai the prophet, as the LORD their God had sent him. And the people showed reverence for the LORD. Then Haggai, the messenger of the LORD, spoke by the commission of the LORD to the people saying, 'I am with you'…"

He's saying that because you're getting back into relationship with him. You're beginning to be obedient. You're starting to build the temple again. In verse 14, twenty-three days after Haggai preached his first sermon, it says, "The Lord stirred up the spirit of the people. All the spirit of all the remnant of the people came and worked on the house of the Lord of Hosts, their God, on the twenty-fourth day of the six month in the second year of Darius the king." Sixth month, second year, twenty-fourth day. That's a very practical prophet who moved the people to do a very practical thing.

Look what happens. You're over there in verse 1 of the next book, and it's the eighth month, just two months later. Here comes another prophet. He's not going to be so practical this time. He's going to be much more prophetic. He's going to come, and he's going to talk about things that are way out there. He's much, much, much more of a visionary.

Haggai was a very practical exhorter. He taught about what they needed to do next, but Zechariah spoke way out there. Haggai had his speed down there on building the temple and its foundation. Zechariah has visions in the night. We'll start next week with eight different night visions of Zechariah.

The people are very discouraged. What does God do when the people are discouraged? He tells them what they need to do to begin to experience the joy of the Lord. The first thing is to be obedient. The second thing is, in the midst of being obedient, you meditate on truth. God is going to reveal truth to the people. He gives the people a vision.

Proverbs 29 says, "Without a vision, the people will perish." Haggai says, "Without obedience, I will punish." Let me equate the two real quick. Haggai says, "Build. Do what the Lord has told you to do. Be faithful about building, if you will, righteousness and obedience in your life."

So Zechariah comes along and says, "It's good you want to be obedient, but you need to have a vision in the midst of your obedience for the God you serve. He is a great God. He will do things far beyond anything you can imagine. You know those former things you thought were great? You just wait for what God's going to do with you. The temple of Solomon and the temple of David will pale in comparison to the temple which I will bring in the life of my obedient people as soon as this nation turns to serve me and love me.

This would be a great book to teach if some of you are wed, if you will, to a personality in some religion or some specific church. If some of you are encouraged by, specifically, my gifts and what the Lord does with our body, or if I got leveled by a car this week, and next week we had a guy who came up here, and maybe he had different strengths in the pulpit than I've been encouraged to know I have, and he's a little bit more monotone.

Maybe he's a little bit more drab and not as illustrative in some points. Maybe he talks for two hours instead of one. You get my point. You guys started to go, "Oh gosh. What are we going to do now that we've lost one of the point people of our body?" I'll tell you what you do. If your heart gets pure, if your heart gets right, God will do more with this church than he could ever have done with Chuck Swindoll or Tommy Nelson or you plug in who think could make a difference in this pulpit.

If Charles Haddon Spurgeon would come here next week and preach, it wouldn't make a bit of difference if our hearts don't turn. God is saying, "Quit thinking, 'If we only had this, then we could do great things.'" What he's saying to them is what he's saying to us. No matter who has been prompting you or encouraging you. He wants to raise up the right people to do that. The point is this. "Will you be my people?" He comes to this very dark time in the nation's history, and he encourages them.

Let me show you something really exciting very quickly. In chapter 1, the guy's name is Zechariah. It means the Lord remembers. His daddy's name is Berechiah. That means Jehovah blesses. His granddaddy's name is Iddo. That means at the appointed time. He takes this little guy, Zechariah, and his daddy, Berechiah, and his daddy, Iddo, and he comes, and he combines those three at this dark time in the nation's history. You put them together, and it simply means this. God remembers and blesses. When? At the appointed time.

When they stood up, and they heard this guy, whose name means God remembers, speak, and God blesses at the appointed time, they need to have a vision for the great things God is going to do with them. Do you remember Psalm 46 we read at the beginning of the service? "When the morning breaks at the appointed time, great things will happen with his people."

This is one of the last prophets in your Bible in your Old Testament. One of the first prophets who appears in your New Testament comes in Luke. He is born to a guy whose name is Zachariah (with an a), also Zechariah (the exact same root) whose name means God remembers, to a mommy whose name is Elizabeth which means his oath or his covenant, and you have a young guy born by the name of John from parents whose names mean the Lord remembers his oath.

It should encourage you. Some of you are thinking, "That's just a coincidence. You don't really know that." I want to show you something. Turn back to Genesis 5. We're going to go very quickly through the genealogy of Noah. I want to show you about the sovereignty of your Lord. I want to show you that he remembers, and he will accomplish, and his greatness is to be exalted among the nations.

Let's go through Genesis 5, and we're going to read the genealogy of this guy named Noah. You're going to see if there's not a little bit of a message that God wanted to bring to us during this most dark time in the history of the planet earth, just like he brought a message to the people of Israel that there was a dark day in that land. So he remembered, and he will be blessed in the appointed time.

Or, like he did when the nation of Israel, some 500 years later was under Roman oppression and the Lord remembered his oath, and John was born who was the forerunner of the Messiah. He said, "Repent. Prepare you for the Lord."

What I want to show you is that the Lord does remember his oath, and the Lord is about bringing in a vision of hope to a world that is hopeless even today. If we would respond to the Lord's prophet today, if we would respond to his Word which beckons you to trust in his promise for your future, your life would change, and my life would change. "Without a vision, the people will perish." Do you have a vision for what God wants to do with you?

Before we read Genesis 5, there's a story about a little girl named Victoria who lived in England. She was the daughter of the queen. She was the next ruling monarch there was to be in England. They didn't want to tell her she was going to be a queen because they were afraid it was going to spoil her, but as she grew older, and she began to act in an independent way and not understanding all the importance of the things her teachers were trying to teach her and guide her in the way of truth, nobility, and righteousness.

One day, her tutor sat her down and showed her the genealogy of the ruling family in England. She traced it down, and she showed little Victoria and said, "Do you see what this is right here?" She goes, "That's my name." She says, "Do you see where you're going to be next?" She says, "I'm a princess." The teacher says, "That's right, and the next thing you're going to be is a queen."

Little Victoria looked at her teacher and said, "If I'm going to be a queen, then I shall begin to act as a queen." They say from that day forward in little Victoria's life, her life changed. She began to listen to her teacher that she might learn how to rule well over the people because she had a vision for where she was going. What God is doing with his broken people right here is he's casting a vision.

They said when Walt Disney built Disneyland he went out and took hot air balloons all over that piece of property near Anaheim. He showed people this is where Magic Kingdom is going to be. This is where Frontierland is going to be. This is where Adventureland is going to be. This is where the castle is going to be. He gave people a vision for what he was going to build with brilliant colors and hot air balloons. People went at the task with a full charge.

God is doing something far greater with your life and my life than building the Magic Kingdom. He is building something great. It says in Colossians 3:1, "Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is… Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth." You need to know whose son you are. If you're a son of the King, we need to begin acting like the King and have a vision for the greatness.

Look at this. I want to show you the encouragement of God. Let's go through. You'll see the names right there, starting in chapter 5, verse 1. "This is the book of the generations of Adam." Adam literally means man. You'll see that to Adam was born an individual whose name was Seth, there in verse 4. Seth means appointed one. You go down a little further, and you come across Enosh. Enosh means mortal or frail.

You go down a little further from Enosh. You'll find he had a son by the name of Kenan which means sorrow or wondering nomad. You go down after that; you have a guy by the name of Mahalalel. El is for Jehovah or God, and it means blessed one or blessed Lord. You go down a little bit further; you have a guy named Jared. Jared means shall come down.

Go down a little bit further. You have Jared's son, who is a guy named Enoch. Enoch means teacher or teaching one. Then you have Methuselah which comes from two words. One is muth, which means death and the other which means to bring. You go down from that, and you have a guy by the name of Lamech. We have a word in our English, lamentations or lament, which has the idea of mourning. It comes from the root of lamech which is the same Hebrew word. Then you have Noah, which is related to the prophet Nahum's name, which means rest or comfort.

If you go through and you take all of these generations from Adam all the way down to Noah, and you put them together into English, this is what it means. Listen to what it says. "Man is appointed mortal sorrow, but the blessed God shall come down teaching that his death shall bring the despairing rest." Isn't that amazing? You say, "That's coincidence." You go study, and you try and write a genealogy. Let me read you some facts. This is the genealogy of Jesus Christ in the gospel of Matthew.

You have to write in this a genealogy where the number of words is divisible by seven (the perfect number), also the number of letters that are used in the genealogy are divisible by seven, the number of vowels and consonant in the genealogy of Christ are divisible by seven, the number of words that begin with a consonant are divisible by seven, the number of words that occur more than once are divisible by seven, and the number of words that occur only once are divisible by seven.

Only seven words that are not nouns are used, only seven other kinds of words other than those seven that aren't nouns are used, and the number of names that are used and the number generations must be divisible by 21. You try and write a genealogy with all those things that the perfect root of them all is seven, the perfect number, and you have the genealogy of Jesus Christ in Matthew 1.

You go back, and you read the genealogy from Adam to Noah, and you'll find out he's telling you that God is about doing a good work. He remembers, and he is sovereign, and he is behind this. He alone is the one who can comfort you and bring you rest. He shall come down to those who are full of lament and despair.

Do you remember what the first words of this one whose genealogy I just described to you were when he spoke of that book of Matthew? "Blessed are the…" What? "…the despairing, the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God. If you will come and take your rest in me, if you will make me your ark of respite from the coming judgment, if you know I alone am the way, the truth, and the life from the coming flood of God's wrath, you who are despairing shall find life."

He takes Zechariah, whose daddy's name means blessed, whose grandfather's name means at the appointed time, and he says, "I've remembered you, and I'm going to do a great work with you." Look at verse 2. It says, "The LORD was very angry with your fathers." So what happened? They were banished from the land. We've studied that. We've seen that. We want to learn from them. He would exhort you, "Don't make the mistake your fathers made." Look what it says in verse 3. Let's keep reading.

"Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Return to Me," declares the LORD of hosts, "that I may return to you," says the LORD of hosts.'" Is there a word that sticks out there for you a little bit? Three different times, he identifies himself as the Lord of hosts. It says in the NIV, "The Lord Almighty."

The Lord Almighty and the Lord of hosts comes from a word which in English is Sabbath, which is the transliteration from the Greek word. It takes the Greek word and brings it into our English. It's the Greek word sabaoth, which means the Lord of all the heavenlies, of all the hosts, of all the powers, or of all the universe. This is God who calls you to trust in him. Do you remember what we read in Psalm 46? "Cease striving and know that I am [the Lord of hosts] ."

"Zerubbabel, it's not going to be up to you to rebuild the temple. You don't need to defeat those armies. Joshua, the high priest, it's not going to be up to you to covert the people. It's up to me, the Lord of hosts, the Lord all sovereign." He alone will do it if you trust in him. As we sit out here, and I challenged you at the very beginning, do we want to be a righteous body? I think we do. How are we going to become righteous? It's not going to be with the works of our hands. It's going to be with the condition of our heart.

How in the world can our heart get right? I will tell you. You despair at the corruption that is within. You go to the God of rest, you go to our Noah, you go to our Yeshua, the Lord who saves, and you cry out to him. You say, "God, would you make us righteous? Would you deal with us? Would deliver us from our despair?" In that, in crying out to him, he will deliver us, and he will give us rest, and he will give us hope.

When we cease striving… Their fathers never did that. They thought their own obedience to the law, their own sacrifices in the temple, or their own warring with surrounding nations was what was going to make them great. They never gave their heart completely to him. Verse 3. "Therefore say to them, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts [the Lord of Sabbath, the Lord you should rest in] …'"

By the way, that's why the Jews were told to celebrate the Sabbath. They were industrious, hardworking people. God said, "One day a week, I'm going to make you sit still and quit making money. Trust in me and do nothing but worship me because the truth is I alone can make you great. I alone can bring prosperity to your land. So one day out of the week, you sit still, and you worship and honor me, and you rest."

So it should be for us. There's a day when we stop all of our hustle and bustle and trying to get ahead in the world, and we just stop and we focus corporately on the Lord of hosts. We cease striving, and we know he is God. We don't try and come here and submit our resumes to show him how much he should love us this week. We come, and we fall at the foot of the cross, and we say it's the Lord of hosts who has made us righteous.

"Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets proclaimed, saying, 'Thus says the LORD of hosts, "Return now from your evil ways and from your evil deeds." But they did not listen or give heed to Me,' declares the LORD." Don't be like your fathers.

Here's a fact. Do you know this? The people who this was written to had just come out of 70 years of discipline, 70 years of being punished. They had been sent away over there, and they had suffered from the sins of their fathers. It is fact…it is a hard fact, but it's a true fact…that your sin has an effect on other people. The things you do and I do have repercussions, certainly with those who are closest to us, but it'll have repercussions in the city of Dallas.

God intends to use us as salt and as a light to bring this city, and to bring individuals in this city to a position of hope and righteousness. When we begin to lose our zealousness for the task, and we're God's hands who he intends to use to reach this land, God's work will be thwarted. He'll eventually say, "I'm done with this church," and he'll raise up another church.

It's been said without a vision, the people will perish, and God would say, "Without a vision, I'll send people to another parish, a parish where there's going to be somebody exhorting them to be the people who God has called them to be."

What are your children learning from you? What's your roommate learning from you? Are they learning how to handle stress? Are they learning how to handle relationships? Are they learning how to handle disappointment? Are they learning where your ultimate hope truly lies from you? If not, you're setting your children and those who you're influencing up for a major disappointment.

It is a tremendously convicting thing to have kids now who can start to mimic your actions and to watch the way they handle frustration, and you see a little bit of you in there when it doesn't look just like Christ and to realize the only place that he or she could've learned that is they've seen daddy do that or their Sunday school teacher who I have to quit have them hang out with them all that time. It is convicting.

I sat with my little girls. I remember we had about six girls over one night not too long ago for Ally's little birthday party. We had pizza we made for them. They were all getting ready to dive into their pizza, and I said, "Before we eat the pizza, let's pray together." They go, "All right. We'll pray," and different ones were wanting to pray. I said, "Wait. Before you pray, stop. Do you know why we pray?" They all looked at each other, and finally, one girl raised her hand. She said, "So we can eat?"

I said, "No. That's not exactly why we pray. We pray because we take a moment to remember that it's the Lord of hosts [I didn't say that then], the Lord who provides, the Lord who is sovereign over all. Who gives your dad and your dad and your dad and me strength and gives us the means through which we might provide for you, our children, and the goodness you have before you of friends, of comfort, of a roof, or of a bed.

It doesn't come from the strength of your fathers. It comes from the goodness of God who works in us and in his mercy has allowed us to have these things. We want to take a moment to thank him because, ultimately, the fact we have friends who love us, mom and dads who care for us, presents to share at a birthday party, and the fact that we've lived yet for another year is a gift from him. That's why we pray. Now let's pray."

I want my kids to learn that kind of stuff from me. I don't want them to learn there's always food on the table, always money for college because your dad is a hardworking entrepreneur, a good investor, a smart man who's well-educated. No. If I'm well-educated, if I use the mind the Lord has given me, praise be to him, but honor be to him, as well. May I always remember who the giver of the gift is and never teach my children to love the gift and forget the giver. He says, "Don't be like your fathers."

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul writes this too. He says, "I don't want you to forget about what happened with these people of old." We can learn, when we read the book of Zechariah, from what happened with these people. God exhorts us to learn from their mistakes. He wants us to be people who don't repeat the sins of our fathers.

He wants us to be a people who, no matter how much as a church in the past… He says, "I can really do great things with you, if your hearts will return holy to me. I have remembered my blessing to you, and at the appointed time, I will do great things. You just continue in obedience." There needs to be the practical preaching of building the temple with the constant remembrance of why we build it.

Galatians 6 says, "We have, through the Spirit, by faith, a hope of our righteousness which is to come." Ultimately, the reason we're going to pursue a life of holiness and righteousness is because we see our family tree leads to a King who is sinless, who says that when he appears, we will be made like him. That's your destiny. He's saying, "If you're my boy, if you're my girl, begin to live like that now." Why? So the world can see my glory, and they can see the working of my power taking a selfish people and making them into selfless people.

In a world which puts all kinds of pressure on them to be corrupted and to leave God out of what they're building into their lives, he says, "You can stand firm against that because I am with you to accomplish the task." He says, "I will never leave you or forsake you." Even though we fight a mountain of indifference within, he says, "You hang in there, and you stay connected to me. You see striving to be righteous by the work of your hands and by the work of your flesh. Don't try and earn favor with me, maybe like some of your fathers and mothers did. Cease striving and know that I am God."

Let me close with one observation. You'll see what's going on here in verses 4 and 5, where he comes and he says, "Return from your evil deeds." He wrote this in the eighth month. Do you remember what happened? Back in the sixth month, it looks like they were obedient to what God called them to do. They rebuilt the temple. But catch this. In their one act of obedience, they took the very practical prompting of this preacher of righteousness, Haggai, and they did what they told him to do, which is to build the temple.

Haggai himself came back at them strong in chapter 2. He said, "Let me tell you something. You have the building of the temple right, but now you have to change what you're building it for. You've built the palace, but don't make yourself the prince. You think that because you've done certain things now, God is going to be pleased with you."

Repentance is something that Christians do once and for all. Where we say, "I will repent of living for me, and I will begin to live for the Lord." It looks like the people did that in Haggai 1:12-13. Repentance for us as a body is also something you continually do day by day. When you battle in trusting in yourself, and when you battle in constantly going back for little self-pleasing activities, you have to continually return to the Lord. Many of us have already come to him, and we have been a lamenting people, despairing in our sorrow, and we have found the blessed God who has come down. We have found rest in him.

We need to hear from Zechariah who reminds us now again today, "It's great you've done that first step, but on the continual basis, day by day, meditate on the greatness of what is to come. Remember as you look forward to my wonderful work in you and righteousness on that glorious day when he appears, that's the motivation for Godly living today. That's your motivation for being the people who I want you to be, and you're going to have to constantly battle your desire to go back to a lukewarmness and lose your first love for me."

Zechariah is going to take us to the future. He's going to show us the destiny of God's people. It's that destiny, it says in 1 John 3:3, "He who has his hope fixed on this," which means the return of the King when he is revealed, and we look like him. " [He] who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself…"

Zechariah comes and says, "That's great you started to build a temple. That doesn't make you righteous. You need to have a heart that is fully committed to God. I want you to love him and see striving for your own righteousness by building the temple and begin to abide with him." Jesus himself said, "Apart from me, you can do nothing."

Do you have that sense in your life? Do we have that sense as a church that it's not up to us to go and to do anything else for the Lord but to live in relationship with him? See, what God really wants from us is to build the temple. We need to work out the standards of righteousness in our lives. We don't do it apart from him.

We do it constantly saying, "Lord, everything I do, I want to do in relationship with you. Apart from you, I can do nothing. You are the Lord of hosts. You're the one with patience and goodness and kindness and love and gentleness and self-control. Not me." Have you failed this week in some of those areas where you've gone out, and you haven't been as loving as you needed to be with your spouse? Where you've lost a little bit of your love for purity when you sat at your computer, or you went and watched a movie?

It's because you haven't stayed connected to your first love and, in the Spirit, through the Spirit, by faith allowed him to live in you. That's what will make us a great people. Have we done the right thing? We've come to worship in the night. We're the right people. We have despaired in our sin. We cannot lose the thing that ultimately will make us useful in his sight, which is a deep abiding relationship with him.

The Lord remembers his blessings at the appointed time. It's not here yet. You battle now with a world that seeks to take you down. You battle a world of indifference. But listen in the coming weeks to the prophet, Zechariah, who will remind you of the greatness of the Messiah who is to come. We'll be reminded of the greatness of the Messiah who has come and who will come again so that we might be most useful to him. "The eyes of the Lord go to and fro throughout the earth, looking for those whose hearts are fully his that he might strongly support them." Let's pray.

Father, we got a mouthful tonight of some history as we set up this book and where we're going to go. We don't want to just be a people who are in the right place to try and do the right thing for the right reason. We want to be a people who come and live in relationship to you. We don't want our outward obedience in one event to be confused in our life with true righteousness. We thank you that you brought us here tonight for whatever reason.

Now having come, we want to leave here tonight with a desire to meditate, ultimately, on your purpose for us. We don't want to think that by doing one thing and sharing in your work maybe through giving or in sharing through your work maybe by serving tonight, or maybe trying to live a life glorifying to you by the way we have abstained from certain physical relationships…

We want to leave some of that behind and say, "God, it's not what we're doing. It's who we want to live in relationship with. We want to return to you with all our heart. We want to focus on you with every decision we make. We want to abide with you because we know apart from you, we can do nothing. We want to have a vision of that day when we are with you and we see not dimly but face to face." With that as our vision, we can begin to live that way by faith now.

That, Lord, is our struggle. So, Father, we pray we would people who would be constantly filled with your Spirit, that our first love would always be Jesus Christ, and his living in us. We thank you, Father, that you took those of us who lamented and despaired because of our sin, and you, the blessed one, has come down and has taught us where righteousness is, and we can find our rest in our Messiah, who alone is the way, the truth, and the life.

Our Lord of hosts, our Lord of Sabbath who gives us rest from having to perform, from having even to work up inside the energy to do righteous things. We just pray, Father, that we would yield to you, that you would fill us with your Spirit and you would bear fruit in our lives. Father, I pray that goodness and mercy would reign in us and through us because our hearts return to you. In Christ's name, amen.

About 'Zechariah: Sawing Through the ZZZs, Volume 2'

In this second volume of "Sawing through the ZZZs", Todd Wagner unravels one of the richest, most complex of the minor prophetical books, revealing a timeless message of hope to all who will hear. Using night visions, oracles and symbols, God gives the prophet Zechariah a warning to the struggling, disillusioned nation of Israel freshly returned from exile in Babylon. This glimpse into their immediate and distant future exhorts them - and us - to repent, obey and persevere. The Lord is near to His own and this prophetical work concludes with a glorious look at the Messiah and the hope of His triumphant return.