Book of Zechariah Chapter 8 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Peace and Prosperity For His People
How does it feel to have a spouse who betrays you?—It's terrible! Your reputation is likely damaged, but much more, you loved that person, felt safe with them, and now they're gone! Yes you loved, but God loves infinitely more. To the Lord God, His people are collectively His Son's beloved bride (Revelation 19:7-9), and what happens to us, affects Him—deeply. He says in Verses 1-2 of this chapter in Zechariah: "Then the word of the Lord of hosts came, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for her.'" God has a reputation, too, but this is not in any way about possessiveness or reputation—it's about love—He really LOVES you and me. Are you willing to fight for your beloved?—God is—"with great wrath."
Prophesies in the Bible often have both a present and a future fulfillment. On the short term, the Temple would soon be rebuilt, and people would once again visit the Temple Mount, called God's "Holy Mountain." You can see it in Verse 3—"Thus says the Lord, ‘I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.’" Anywhere God resides is a place of truth, and that's how Jerusalem would be regarded once more—as the "City of Truth." But on the long term, God is building people of faith into a temple not made with human hands. In 1 Corinthians 3:16, the question is asked of the Lord's people, "Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?"
Again on the short term, Verses 4-5 come into play—"Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in its streets.’" The returnees from Babylon must have thought the words of these verses were incredible because they were so afraid of further wars, unfriendly neighbors and a renewed captivity. Frightened people don't let their children out to play and the elderly would stay inside. These verses would soon become a temporal reality, but they also look ahead to a time of peace called, "The Millenium."
In Verse 6, "Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If it is too difficult in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, will it also be too difficult in My sight?’ declares the Lord of hosts." What is it in your life that you would like to change; that you NEED to change? And in your opinion, is the situation "too difficult" for God? The "remnant" of people who had returned to the land for the most part had a humanistic view of God—They didn't mind approaching Him with rituals, but to think He would keep them safe was a problem. Is it a problem for you?
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Behold, I am going to save My people from the land of the east (literally "from the "rising sun") and from the land of the west (literally the "setting sun"). That's the wording of Verse 7, forming an idiomatic expression that continues into Verse 8: "I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.’" More than once, God would bring His people back from countries all over the world, seen most recently in the 20th Century."
Verse 9 is a direct reference to the "former prophets" mentioned in Zechariah 7:7. The people would return, the Temple was to be rebuilt and God encouraged them: "Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built." Previously the people had become abject slaves who had no income whatsoever, a people afraid of their enemies and at odds with each other, as seen in Verse 10: "For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another."
When life is going badly, it can be hard to imagine that God will make things better because there is a certain strange comfort in doing nothing except to complain about the situation. They were troubled by God, as many are, and did not want to believe that circumstances would improve. So God kept reasurring them through the prophets, as in Verse 11—"now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days,’ declares the Lord of hosts." Sometimes the reason we do not receive God's comforting words is because we are angry and don't want to hear.
He continues in Verses 12-13—"For there will be peace for the seed: the vine will yield its fruit, the land will yield its produce and the heavens will give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to inherit all these things." The key is to have faith in the Lord, no matter what the outward circumstances may be. A wonderful view of faith is seen in Habakkuk 3:17-18—"Though the fig tree may not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, though the labor of the olive may fail, and the fields yield no food; though the flock be cut off from the fold, and there be no herd in the stalls—yet I will rejoice in the Lord. I will joy in the God of my salvation." That's faith within life's difficulties, but the reverse is also true, as seen here in Zechariah. We must trust Him for the good circumstances as well, recognizing that He loves us, and then accept His gift.
He continues in Verses 13-15—"It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear; let your hands be strong.’ For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I have not relented, so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. Do not fear!" The Lord addresses both "Judah" and "Israel" because members of all the tribes of Israel were in the land. Note that God will judge humanity, individually and as nations. His intention is that we will trust Him no matter what, and faithful responses are glimpsed in the following verses:
It's risky to tell the truth—people might use it against us! And yet God is pleased with honesty. We were created to have faith in Him—not in other people or our own cleverness. Verse 16 encourages us to do exactly what we should—trust God and be honest: He says to us, "These are the things which you should do: speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates." And then He continues in Verse 17, "Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate,’ declares the Lord.” What kind of world would this be if people simply told the truth and had no evil intentions toward anyone? Would we need courtrooms, judges, lawyers and the evening news, if no one even thought about evil or perjured themselves? The world would become the kind of place God ultimately intends for you and me.
Verses 18-19 speak of fasts becoming feasts: "Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me, saying, ' Thus says the Lord of hosts,‘The fast of the fourth, the fast of the fifth, the fast of the seventh and the fast of the tenth months will become joy, gladness, and cheerful feasts for the house of Judah; so love truth and peace.’" The "fast of the fourth month" recalled the breaking of the two tablets by Moses (Exodus 32), as well as the first breach in the walls of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar (2 Kings 25:1-4, Jeremiah 52:6-7). The "fast of the fifth" remembered the spies who explored Canaan, the subsequent forty years of wandering in the wilderness (Numbers 13), and the burning of the Temple by the Chaldeans (Jeremiah 52:12-14). The "fast of the seventh" remembered Governor Gedaliah and others at Mizpah, who were slain (Jeremiah 41:1-3). The "fast of the tenth" was about Nebuchadnezzar's final siege of Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:1, Jeremiah 52:4-5). God intends to turn our "fasts" of mourning into "feasts" of joy, because He loves us.
The Jews had been judged by God for their lack of faith in the Lord, becoming slaves who had no privileges or rights of any kind. They lost—everything, including their reputation. They now were back in the land, and God promised them in Verses 20-23: "Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘It will yet be that peoples will come, even the inhabitants of many cities. The inhabitants of one will go to another, saying, 'Let us go at once to entreat the favor of the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts; I will also go. So many peoples and mighty nations will come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and to entreat the favor of the Lord.’ Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘In those days ten men from all the nations will grasp the garment of a Jew, saying, 'Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.'" To "grasp the garment" implies a desire to share their privileges and become united with them. God's faithful people, both Jews and Gentiles, may lose everything for a time, but all will be restored and more, if not in our lives, then in eternity. It is His promise to you and me.
Dear God, I surrender to You, no matter what happens, whether bad or good. I know that ultimately all will be revealed as a blessing because of Your infinite love. I trust in You, Lord. In Jesus Name. Amen.