Zechariah Chapter 1:11-17
Comfort For Zion
Zechariah 1:11 So they answered the angel of the LORD who was standing among the myrtle trees and said, “We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth is peaceful and quiet.”
Previously we learned that the angel of the Lord and the man riding upon the red horse were both the same individual; a preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ of which scripture has many examples of. The vision now continues with the other angels represented by the red, sorrel and white horses giving a report to the angel of the Lord concerning the welfare of the nations on earth. The angels report that all the earth is peaceful and quiet; that is to say the nations of the earth are at ease and untroubled by any major disturbances. At first glance this report appears to be positive, surely no one is against a little peace and quiet? In reality, the Lord was very angry with the nations who were at ease due to their mistreatment of Israel (Zech 1:15).
Contrary to popular belief the Lord does not always desire world peace; he has a controversy with the nations (Jer 25:31); and will one day enter into judgement with them regarding the violence done toward Israel (Joel 3:2). Haggai predicted a time of global upheaval where the Lord would reestablish Israel as the head of the nations, restore them to prosperity, and return in glory to dwell among them (Hag 2:7-9). This period of time was described as a “shaking” of nations where the Lord would overthrow the governments of the world and set up his millennial kingdom (Hag 2:20-23). The contrast between the peace and prosperity of the nations and the poverty of Israel reveals the eschatological plan of God has not yet begun to unfold.
Zechariah 1:12 Then the angel of the LORD said, “O LORD of hosts, how long will You have no compassion for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, with which You have been indignant these seventy years?”
This scene gives us a clear picture of the intercessory work of the angel of the Lord in the Old Testament as he advocates for Israel. Having concluded that the angel of the Lord is a preincarnate Lord Jesus Christ it is no surprise we find him here interceding for his people as he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25). Just as Jesus prayed for those whom he had chosen out of the world (John 17:9); here we see the Son of God pleading with his Father to show compassion to Jerusalem and the cities of Judah.
The seventy years mentioned here represent the period of the Babylonian captivity. Before the exile began the prophet Jeremiah predicted the land of Israel would be destroyed and the nation would serve the king of Babylon for seventy years (Jer 25:11; 2 Chron 36:21). Around 538 B.C. Babylon was conquered by Persia and Cyrus the great issued a decree allowing the captives in Babylon to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple (Ezra 1:3). Unfortunately, by the time Zechariah receives this vision almost 20 years later the nation has only just begun to rebuild the temple, they are still in severe economic distress and under gentile dominion. Therefore, the angel of the Lord is interceding on behalf of Israel and asking how long until the Lord shows compassion to Jerusalem in fulfillment of the prophecies of Jeremiah which predicted that after the 70 years of captivity the Lord would bring them back to the land from their exile and prosper them (Jer 29:10-14).
Zechariah 1:13 The LORD answered the angel who was speaking with me with gracious words, comforting words.
The Lord responds to the intercession of the angel of the Lord with a direct message to the interpreting angel who is meant to relay it to Zechariah. The message reveals that the Lord has a zealous love for Israel and is very angry with the nations that have persecuted them (Zech 1:14-15). That the Lord will return to Jerusalem and the temple will be rebuilt upon mount Zion; and that the prosperity of Israel will overflow as the Lord blesses his chosen people in the promised land once again (Zech 1:16-17).
This verse represents the theme of the entire book of Zechariah; not only does the Lord remember Israel but he has gracious and comforting words for them. Indeed, the Lord was angry at their apostasy and to this day it is obvious that the nation of Israel is still under chastisement for their rebellion. However, the Lord will never forget, abandon or forsake Israel for the sake of the covenant made with Abraham (Dt 4:31). The attitude of compassion and love toward Israel despite their rejection of him is not something Christ altered due to them crucifying him. When Jesus approached Jerusalem, he wept over their rejection of him knowing it would bring about unimaginable judgements (Luke 19:41); but he also predicted a time in the future where the nation would see him again and say blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord (Mt 23:39). To this very day the Jewish people are considered enemies of the gospel; however, they are beloved for the sake of the promises made to their fathers, for the gifts and the callings of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29).
Zechariah 1:14 So the angel who was speaking with me said to me, “Proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and Zion.
Several times in scripture the Lord has revealed himself as a jealous God (Ex 20:5). The word for jealousy has the idea of a zealous anger or even envy. However, when the Lord uses this term to describe himself it does not have the normal connotation of sin attached to it. For example, if a wife commits adultery, a loving husband should be jealous over losing something that belonged to him; he cannot remain indifferent if he cares for his spouse. Similar to this scenario God is the creator of all and has created Israel for his own glory (Is 43:7). The nation of Israel is destined to be a people chosen by the Lord as his own treasured possession; as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation (Dt 7:6; Ex 19:6). The Lord cannot tolerate Israel’s unfaithfulness; previously he had unleashed his jealous fury upon them by allowing the nation of Babylon to conquer them (Eze 23:25); but now this love and special affection for Israel is arousing the Lord to act graciously on their behalf. Oh Israel, return to the Lord for although he has torn you to pieces, he will heal you and although he has wounded you, he will bandage your wounds! (Hos 6:1).
Zechariah 1:15 “But I am very angry with the nations who are at ease; for while I was only a little angry, they furthered the disaster.”
This is the Lord’s direct response to the report from the angels that all of the earth was peaceful and quiet. The jealousy of the Lord for his people has now caused him to be very angry with the gentile nations; although he used Assyria, and Babylon as the rod of his anger against wayward Israel these nations went beyond the intentions of God in punishing his people (Is 10:5). A common example is that of a father spanking his child for disobedience and then a stranger using an iron rod to beat the child instead. God was angry with his people and gave them into the hand of these nations to chastise them; but they showed them no mercy and have now aroused the jealous anger of the Lord of the armies of heaven (Is 47:6).
Remember that this entire discourse is due to the angel of the Lord interceding on behalf of Israel. This is meant to comfort them as this same angel guarded them as they crossed the red sea, drowned the Egyptian armies on their behalf and slaughtered 185,000 Assyrians in a single night to protect them (2 Kings 19:35). The keeper of Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps (Ps 121:4); the heart of this first vision is that the angel of the Lord is still amongst the myrtle trees of Israel and he stands ready to protect his people. Indeed, the man on the red horse is extremely angry with the smug arrogance of the nations who have persecuted Israel and one day Yahweh will have a day of vengeance, a year of recompense for the cause of Zion (Is 34:8). Wait for him Israel for one day he will gather the nations and assemble kingdoms in order to pour out on them his indignation and burning anger; for all the earth will be devoured by the fire of his zeal (Zeph 3:8).
Zechariah 1:16-17a ‘Therefore thus says the LORD, “I will return to Jerusalem with compassion; My house will be built in it,” declares the LORD of hosts, “and a measuring line will be stretched over Jerusalem."’ “Again, proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “My cities will again overflow with prosperity…
The same jealous love that led the Lord to punish Israel will cause him to return to Jerusalem with compassion. The Lord promises that his house will be built in Jerusalem meaning the temple will be completed; and a measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem indicating the desolate cities will be rebuilt. We see a near and far term fulfillment of this prophecy in that just 4 years after Zechariah delivered this message the temple was completed (Ezra 6:15); and about 70 years later the walls of Jerusalem were restored (Neh 6:15). However, this cannot be the final fulfillment because the city of Jerusalem has never overflowed with prosperity again; in fact, hundreds of years later during the Roman siege of Jerusalem the city and the temple were destroyed as the prophet Daniel and Jesus had predicted (Dan 9:26; Lk 19:44).
Haggai prophesied a time in the future when the wealth of all the nations would one day be gathered to Jerusalem and the Lord would fill the temple with his glory once more; and that glory would far exceed the riches and grandeur of the previous Solomonic empire (Hag 2:8-9). Before the Babylonian captivity the glory of the Lord had departed from Solomon’s temple (Eze 10:18). Although Jesus himself did set foot in the temple that was rebuilt by Zerubbabel during Zechariah’s lifetime that was not a time of glory for Israel but rather a time of national shame which continues to this day as the Jewish nation rejected the cornerstone and rock of their salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ (Ps 118:22; Mt 21:42). However, a time is coming when Jesus will rebuild this temple himself (Zech 6:12) and the glory of God will return as Christ reigns from his millennial temple atop mount Zion (Eze 43:5). Then and only then will Jerusalem overflow with prosperity!
Zechariah 1:16b …and the LORD will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem."’”
What is the foundation of God’s gracious promises to Israel? Perhaps it is because they were a greater nation than the others? Not possible for he says to Israel The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any of the peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples (Dt 7:7). Then perhaps if they were not the greatest nation, they were the most morally upright? Absolutely not for he says to them you are a stiff-necked people (Ex 33:5). What a mystery that we have such a glorious river of blessings set before us such as spiritual salvation, national preservation, prosperity and glory and yet most have no idea where the source or fountainhead of these blessings come from? The answer lies in the phrase that the Lord has chosen Jerusalem. The foundation of how God deals with his people is in his gracious election of them before the foundation of the world to be special recipients of his love. Just as he says to Israel, he set his love on them because he loved them and was faithful to the promise made to Abraham to redeem them (Dt 7:8).
This concludes the first vision of Zechariah, and I would like to take a brief moment to review what we have learned so far, so that we might move at a faster pace in the visions to come. The first chapter of Zechariah gives us a broad overview of the plan of God to restore Israel; and the rest of the book fills in the details. The main themes provided are that the Lord will never forget Israel; he is still among them regardless of their afflictions; he will judge the nations that oppress them; he loves them and will return to them in compassion; and finally, that he will establish his glorious millennial kingdom with Jerusalem as the capital city from which the Messiah will reign as king over all the earth (Zech 14:9). All of this will only take place when the nation of Israel repents and turns to the one who has struck them; this will happen at the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ when they look upon the one whom they have pierced (Zech 12:10); just as it is written: the deliverer will come from Zion and banish ungodliness from Jacob, and so then finally all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:27).
1 Peter 2:9 But you are A CHOSEN RACE, A royal PRIESTHOOD, A HOLY NATION, A PEOPLE FOR God’s OWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;
In conclusion dear reader, these promises are not only meant for the comfort of Israel but for all of the children of God, just as Christ said there that there would be one flock with one shepherd (John 10:16). We know that whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Rom 15:4). Israel and the Church are not completely separate institutions; we are different branches of God’s olive tree, but we share the same root that is Christ.
Similar to how Israel is in a state of humiliation represented by the lowly myrtle trees in the valley; the Church shares in the humility of Christ in that we are described as the scum of the world and dregs of all things (1 Cor 4:13). Likewise, as the Lord was jealous for Israel, he is jealous for his Church as we are his own possession. Israel is his chosen nation; however, the Church is described as a nation that is not a nation (Dt 32:21); a redeemed people purchased with the blood of Christ, gathered out of every tribe, tongue, people and nation on earth (Rev 5:9). Just as the source of blessings for Israel is the gracious election of God the Church was chosen in Christ before the foundation of the world (Eph 1:4). Just as the angel of the Lord was amongst the myrtle trees of Israel; God has told his Church he will never leave or forsake them (Heb 13:5).
The Church and Israel look forward to the return of the man riding upon the red horse! We trust that every single promise of God will be accomplished by this man; for all the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus Christ (2 Cor 1:20). The Church and Israel cry out to God with the same language as the angel of the Lord; asking how long until he judges the earth (Rev 6:10), ends the satanic rebellion of the nations (Zech 12:9), returns to Jerusalem (Zech 14:4), reveals his true identity to Israel (Zech 12:10), and finally comforts Zion!
Isaiah 40:1-2 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD’S hand Double for all her sins.”