‘Turn now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings’ (Zechariah 1:4)
“Behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt; the foal of an ass” Zechariah 9:9
Two lessons ago, we learned how the prophet of God, Jeremiah, warned his fellow Jews that if they did not heed the Word of God and repent of their sins, God would allow the soldiers of Babylon to come in, destroy their country, and carry them far away. Most of the Jews paid no attention to Jeremiah’s warnings. Consequently,
the army of Babylon came from the east,
destroyed Jerusalem, broke down the temple and took the Jews captives, transporting them to Babylon, just as the prophet Jeremiah had predicted. Thus the Jewish people were dispersed, because they refused to obey the word of God’s prophets.
Could the Jew’s unfaithfulness frustrate God’s faithfulness?
Read what the prophet Jeremiah told the Jews, who were now captives in Babylon
because of their sins.
He said to them: (Jer. 29:4,10,11) “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, unto all who are carried away captives, whom I have caused to be carried away from Jerusalem to Babylon … after seventy years are accomplished at Babylon, I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you
to return even unto this place.
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you … thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end”.
With this announcement, the prophet Jeremiah was informing the Jews that even if they had forgotten God,
After seventy years, God planned to bring them back to the land of their ancestors. That is what Jeremiah told the Jews who were captives in Babylon. Truly,
God is faithful.
God had not forgotten that He had promised to bless all the nations of the world through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Israel.
God had not forgotten
that He purposed to entrust His Word to the Israelites so that they might pass it on to all the descendants of Adam. In our study we have seen how God chose His prophets from among the Jews, inspiring them to proclaim His holy Word and write it down for the people of future generations. We know how God placed the first five books, Genesis to Deuteronomy, in the mind of
and the hymns of the Psalms in the heart of
We have seen similarly how God inspired other Jews like Joshua, Samuel, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Daniel to write the Word of God. We have observed how all the Writings of God’s prophets announce the wonderful plan which God designed to send forth the Savior of the world through the nation of Israel.
In this lesson we will see how
to the land of Judah where the Messiah was to be born, thus moving forward with His plan to bring the Messiah into the world. We will learn how the Jews returned to Jerusalem after seventy years of captivity, just as the prophet Jeremiah had predicted.
As we begin reading, let us remember that the land of
Babylon was now called Persia,
because Persia had conquered Babylon. Reading in the book of Ezra, chapter one, the Scripture says: (Ezra 1:1-7) “Now in the first year of Cyrus, king of Persia, so that the word of the Lord by the mouth of Jeremiah might be fulfilled, the Lord stirred up the spirit of Cyrus, king of Persia, that he made a proclamation throughout all his kingdom, and put it also in writing, saying, Thus saith Cyrus, king of Persia: The Lord God of heaven hath given me all the kingdoms of the earth; and he hath charged me to build him an house at Jerusalem, which is Judah.
Who is there among you of all his people? His God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem, which is in Judah, and build the house of the Lord God of Israel (he is the God), which is in Jerusalem. And whosoever remaineth in any place where he lives, let the men of his place help him with silver, and with gold, and with goods, and with beasts, beside the freewill offering for the house of God that is in Jerusalem. Then rose up the heads of the fathers of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests, and the Levites, with all those
whose spirit God had raised,
to go up to build the house of the Lord which is in Jerusalem. And all they who were about them strengthened their hands with vessels of silver, with gold, with goods, and with beasts, and with precious things, besides all that was willingly offered. Also Cyrus, the king, brought forth the vessels of the house of the Lord, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put in the house of his gods”.
Did God fulfil what He had promised long beforehand through the mouth of Jeremiah, His prophet?
Of course He did!
We have already seen how God allowed the king of Babylon to destroy Jerusalem, and break down the temple of God–precisely as Jeremiah had prophesied. And now we see how Cyrus, the king of Persia, commanded any of the Jews who so desired, to return to their land and rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem–again precisely as the prophet Jeremiah had prophesied. Truly, the LORD is the King of kings. He is the One who controls the times and the seasons.
The prophet Solomon wrote: “The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, like the rivers of water; he turneth it wherever he pleases.” (Prov. 21:1)
Next, the Scriptures describe how a group of Jews left the land of Persia and travelled back to the land of Judah and the city of Jerusalem. A Jew named
was their leader. When they came to Jerusalem, they were troubled greatly because the whole city was destroyed, and
the temple of the LORD
which Solomon had built was in ruins. Nothing was left there except broken pieces of stone and ashes.
Thus the Scriptures relate how the Jews first had a meeting in the place where the temple of the LORD had been. There they rebuilt the altar of sacrifice and sacrificed some animals. Together they thanked and praised the LORD for protecting them in Babylon and Persia for seventy years and for bringing them back to their homeland.
God was with those Jews,
to help them and strengthen them—so that after many trials and many years of hard work—they were able to rebuild the temple of the LORD, the city of Jerusalem, and even the walls that surrounded it.
Perhaps some of you are asking, “What relevance does the story of the return of the Jews to Jerusalem have for us?” Friends, the return of the Jews to their land is very important because it was in that land of Judah, the southern part of Israel,
that the Messiah would be born.
It was necessary that the Jews return to the land of Judah so that the Redeemer of the world—your Redeemer—could be born there!
At the time of the Jews’ return to Jerusalem, God provided a prophet by the name of
This Zechariah is different from the Zachariah, the father of the prophet John. God sent Zechariah to strengthen the Jews’ faith in God and His promises. Zechariah had an important message to deliver. The time appointed by God to send forth the Messiah was drawing closer!
before the Redeemer would come into the world.
Let us examine some of the words which God placed in the mind of Zechariah. The Scripture says: (Zech. 1:1-6) “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo, the prophet, saying, The Lord hath been sorely displeased with your fathers. Therefore, say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts,
Turn unto me,
saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you. Be not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: Turn now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings; but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord. Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants, the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? And they returned and said, As the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings,
so hath he dealt with us”.
Did you listen carefully to the warning the prophet Zechariah gave to the Jews? He said to them, “The LORD was very angry with your forefathers! Do not be like your forefathers!” Why was God angry with the Jews’ forefathers? God was angry with them because
they did not heed the words of the prophets
that He had sent to them. That was why they ended up as captives in Babylon. Their forefathers were religious, but God was not happy with them because
they ignored the words of the prophets.
The Jews of that time were like people of today who say, “Of course we believe all the prophets!” However, it is obvious that they do not really believe God’s prophets, because they do not heed what the prophets have written in the Holy Scriptures. They have a religion, but they have no personal relationship with God Himself. That is what most of the Jewish ancestors were like. They did not appreciate the words of the prophets. They honoured God
with their lips
but they did not receive His Word into their hearts. Therefore, God sent His servant Zechariah to the Jews, to warn them so that they would not follow the example of their ancestors who had “God, God, God!” on their lips, but ignored the Word which God had sent to them through His prophets.
After Zechariah warned the Jews, he began to tell them
about the Redeemer who was to come.
We do not have time to read everything that the prophet Zechariah wrote concerning the Messiah, but we can read a few excerpts.
In the book of Zechariah, chapter nine, the prophet Zechariah prophesied that the Messiah would enter Jerusalem,
riding on a donkey.
He said, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem; behold, thy king cometh unto thee; he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt, the foal of an ass” (Zech. 9:9)
Zechariah penned a remarkable prophecy which we do not have time to explain in detail. One of the events Zechariah predicted was that the Messiah would be sold for
thirty pieces of silver.
The prophet Zechariah wrote: “And I said unto them, If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear. So they weighed for my price thirty pieces of silver … and I took the thirty pieces of silver, and cast them to the potter in the house of the Lord” (Zech. 11:12,13)
In chapter twelve, Zechariah prophesied that the Jews would not only sell the Messiah,
but would even kill Him!
He said: The LORD says, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications; and they shall look upon him whom they have pierced, and
they shall mourn for him,
as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn … and one shall say unto him, What are these wounds in thine hands? Then he shall answer, those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends” (Zech. 12:10; 13:6)
With those words Zechariah predicted that the Messiah would have wounds (scars) in His hands.
His fellow Jews would persuade the Romans to crucify Him. The Romans would then nail His hands and feet to a cross and later pierce His side with a spear. Everything happened exactly as Zechariah predicted. What the prophet Zechariah wrote is in
with what the prophet David prophesied hundreds of years earlier in the Psalms, when He wrote concerning the Messiah: “They have pierced my hands and my feet.” (Psa. 22:16)
Friends, God wants us to know that
the death of the Messiah on the cross
is the most important part of the plan that He had designed long ago to save the children of Adam from the penalty of their sin. The righteous Messiah had to suffer and die for the unrighteous! That is the message of all of God’s prophets.
Is all of this clear to you?
Do you understand what Zechariah prophesied about the Messiah some five hundred years before the Messiah was born? Do you really believe the message of the prophets—that the Messiah would suffer and die and, as the first to rise from the dead, would proclaim forgiveness of sins and a place in Paradise to all who believe in His name?
(See Acts 26:18-27) Or are you like the Jews, who honoured God’s prophets with their lips, but did not believe their message?
Concerning the message of the prophets, the Scriptures declare:
“Do not treat prophecies with contempt.” (1 Thes. 5:20) “We have also a more sure word of prophecy, unto which ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts” (2 Pet. 1:19)
“Do you believe the prophets?” (Acts 26:27)
God willing, in our next lesson we will hear a word from the prophet who wrote the last book of Holy Scripture before the Messiah came into the world.
God bless you as you seek to give an honest answer to this important question from the Word of God:
“Do you believe the prophets?” (Acts 26:27)
We would invite you to answer the questions attached and send them together with any questions that you might have