Zechariah, the Dreamer
I am here, Jesus:
The name of Zechariah is usually associated with Haggai, in that two months after the latter spoke forth for the rebuilding of the Temple, the former also made his appeal for the same purpose. But Zechariah unlike Haggai, was a young man, when his call to prophecy came, and his method, approach and attitudes are very dissimilar. His prophecies, accompanied by progress in the work on the Temple until completion, look forward to the realization of great days for the Jewish people and their religion of love for God and purity of soul.
Zechariah was born in exile, the son of Berechiah, a priest, and grandson of Iddo, who had some reputation as a seer or prophet himself, as well as priest. His name, meaning Jehovah's Memorial, was well suited to this young man: It meant recalling God's demands and requisites as well as seeking to know His plans through visions similar to those of Ezequiel.
Zechariah was not interested in the dark days of Israel's past. He felt that with Jews once more in the Holy Land of Israel and in Jerusalem, - a miracle of God, - the future would be bright and resplendant. Therefore, Zechariah dreamed dreams in the night. These dreams of the prophet are of great significance in understanding the Apocalyptic literature of later writers, like Daniel, centuries later. These visions are personal in nature, which the prophets interpret as images containing the messages which God has designed to send in this fashion. For the prophet, they express God's Truths.
It is interesting to observe, however, that while visions were also seen by earlier prophets, God Himself was the speaker. There was no need of an intermediary between the Lord and His medium of expression. But with Zechariah, the Lord God Himself does not enter; it is rather through a divine messenger or angel that Zechariah is able to obtain the meaning of the visions he receives. In fact, in all the visions of the prophet, there is present an angel who tells him what his visions represent.
What, then, did these visions from God tell Zechariah and in what form were they transmitted to him? I shall go into some detail with these visions, a series of eight, and then explain what they meant for the Jewish people.
Vision one might be called "among the myrtle trees." The prophet is in a valley, in which the night seems all the darker because of the foliage. There comes the noise of horses' hooves, but despite the dark night, a red horse and his rider can be distinguished. He stops before the prophet. As leader, he is an angel and he has come to earth to see what conditions there are like. He declares all the world is at peace, and Zecharich is given the message that the Lord shall comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.
In the second vision, four horns, enemies of Jerusalem, are beaten down by four carpenters: hence the day of peace and rest for Judah shall come.
The third vision, the man with the measuring line, indicates that Jerusalem has outgrown her walls, and that the safety of the city lies in her protector, the Lord.
The fourth vision, in which the accused is Joshua, the high priest, takes one to the purely contemporary scene, wherein Haggai, whom I have reviewed in previous messages, advocated the supremacy of the religious element in Jerusalem and Zechariah felt strongly for Zurubbabel, in a frank desire for a nationalist community, a free nation independent of Persia and emphasis on the political. While the prophet here was not in favor of Joshua, and in the vision has him brought up for trial, accused by Satan, and dressed in filthy garments, he nevertheless sought an understanding whereby Joshua would limit himself to religious affairs and permit Zerubbabel to have a free rein as leader of the Hebrew nation. The Persians, however, did not permit Zerubbabel to continue as political leader, fearing an uprising, and they removed him from leadership.
In the fifth vision, however, Zechariah sought to assure Joshua of his support as a religious figure. As a matter of fact the next vision is purely religious. From the olive trees, which stand close to a 7-branched golden candlestick or House of God, oil is passed from candlestick to a lamp, which represents God's grace to the restored Hebrew nation. God's Temple will be built and the ecclesiastical services maintained. Again, the prophet makes mention of Zerubbabel, for the angel who speaks in the dream says: "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying: Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts." Who art thou, O great mountain, before Zerubbabel? thou shalt become a plain and he shall bring forth the top stone (complete the building) with shouting of "Grace, grace, unto it." (Zechariah, Chapter 4, verses 6 - 7)
The prophet meant that God's favor of Zerubbabel would enable the latter to finish the Temple, and that the restored Hebrew nation would be fed by God's spirit, just as the 7-branched candlestick would be fed by the miraculous olive trees supplying the oil for the lamps. Many commentators have had difficulty with the verse "even they shall see with joy the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel, even those seven, which are the eyes of the Lord, that run to and fro through the whole earth" (Chapter 4, verse 10). The seven refer to the lamps or candles on the candlestick. The prophet also meant that the troubles which were hindering the Temple from being completed such as the continued opposition of the Samaritans, and the interference of the Persian Satrap Tatenai, would not deter the completion of the Temple, as the zeal of the Lord would make this a certainty. This prophecy was, of course, fulfilled, and the Temple continued to flourish for some 580 years or so, supplying the Hebrew people with their inspiration and rules for righteous living and love of God, despite the lack of a national ruler in the secular sense, and the difficulties that mounted ever higher as Persia, Greece, and the Roman Empire used Israel as their pawn in their ruthless struggles and crushing power politics.
It should be remembered that what has always kept Judaism alive was the Spirit of God, and the ideals of love to God and fellow man, a sense of righteousness, reverence for life and the rights of others, and an intense faith in the Lord. The vitality of Judaism lies in its spiritual and moral values, not in the power of its warriors, size of its army, or extension of territory.
Now to the sixth vision "The Flying Roll" or huge scroll containing invectives against thieves and dishonest persons, is a warning to the people of Jerusalem not to enter into the depicted ways of the wicked. Idolatry is depicted in the vision of the ephah, or eight gallon measure, in which a woman, who represents sin, is sitting. This woman will be banished from Israel and transferred to the land of Shinar: the old Hebrew name for Babylon. This is the seventh vision.
The last vision is that of the four chariots, each drawn by horses of different colors symbolizing the various empires which had in the past caused, or in the future, was to have caused injury to Israel. These chariots, dominating and harnessing the horses, indicate that God's agents have kept, and in the future (as in the case of Rome) will keep these great empires within bounds and destroy them. The chariots had already accomplished their mission of destruction on Babylon; Persia and Egypt are now chafing at the divine reins; only Rome is still to be accounted for.
Jesus of the Bible
Master of the Celestial Heavens
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