Zechariah 5-6 contains three visions and one picture that Zechariah is to act out. We have been noticing that the book of Zechariah is all about hope and encouraging the people to rise up and do the work that God has put before them. God’s continuous motivation for us to love him and follow him is for us to see what he has done for us and what he promises to do for us. We have repeatedly noted how the apostle Paul’s letters first speak about what God has done for us. After doing so, then Paul will talk about how we ought to live because of God’s gracious work. God did this with Israel also. God rescued Israel from Egyptian slavery. Once they came to Mount Sinai, God asked his people to obey his laws because they had been rescued and because God would do great things in the future for them if they would. This is the idea in this prophecy. There is a clear call to action at the end of chapter 6 based on God’s life purpose for us. It is a question that will ask us if we are building God’s temple. But before God tells us about what he wants us to do, he must give us three pictures to melt our hearts to hear God’s call.
God Will Judge the False (5:1-4)
These first three visions build on each other in their message. The first thing Zechariah now sees is a flying scroll. But this is an enormous scroll measuring 30 feet long and 15 feet wide. Not only is this scroll very large, it is also written on both sides which is somewhat unusual in ancient Near Eastern times. The angel says that this is the curse that is going over the whole land. But the curse is going over the people who steal and swear falsely. They are going to be purged from the land. The first picture as to why we should return to the Lord and return to the work is because wickedness will be purged from the land.
God Will Remove Wickedness (5:5-11)
The second picture in chapter 5 continues this message. In this vision, the prophet sees a basket which represents all the sins in the land. Then a lead cover is lifted from the basket cover, and a woman is sitting in the basket. She represents wickedness. She is pushed back into the basket, the lead cover is put back on, and two women carry the basket away to Shinar, which would be the Babylonia area. This picture not only shows the removal of sin, as we saw in the prior vision, but shows wickedness returning to where it belongs. The culture and sins of Babylon does not belong among God’s people in Israel. God will purge those sins. Babylonian life needs to remain in Babylon. The godly life needs to remain with God’s people. So wickedness is judged and sins are removed from God’s people and God’s kingdom.
God Knows What Is Going On (6:1-8)
The third vision is in chapter 6 and it builds on the prior two visions. The prophet sees four chariots with horses of a variety of colors. They are explained to be going out to the four winds of heaven after presenting themselves before the Lord. We saw these horses in chapter 1 where they reported what was going on in the earth and declared all to be at rest. Now they have been sent out to patrol the earth in every direction. So think about what is happening now. God is proclaiming a judgment on the wicked. Wickedness is going to be purged from the land and from among God’s people. Wickedness will be sent back to where it belongs. It is something that the righteous want. We look around and see evil and wickedness and it can shake our faith. When will God do something? How long will the wicked continue to prosper? We even have songs in our songbooks that wonder the same thing. The Psalms wonder how long the wicked will continue to be wicked and oppress the righteous.
Chapter 6 begins the message of hope. God sees all that is going on in the world. He sees every act and every sin. He sees every wicked person. No one is getting away with anything. The picture of these horses going to the four winds is a picture of coming judgment (cf. Jeremiah 49:36; Daniel 8:8; 11:4; Revelation 7:1). God is stirred up and will bring judgment which will put his Spirit at rest (6:8). Now hold this message in your mind because we are going to bring this back into the mix at the end of the lesson.
A New Temple Builder (6:9-14)
Remember that one of the purposes of the prophet Zechariah is to encourage the people to return to the work of rebuilding the temple (Ezra 5:1-2). Notice what God tells Zechariah to do to show what needs to happen. Zechariah is instructed to take the silver and gold from the exiles who have returned to Jerusalem from Babylon. But look at what he is supposed to do. He is to make a crown out of the silver and gold and put it on the head of Joshua, the high priest. Now it is important to understand that this is an impossible image that Zechariah is performing. Priests could only come from the tribe of Levi. Kings could only come from the tribe of Judah. It was impossible in Israel’s history for a person to function as a priest and a king. But Zechariah puts the crown on the head of the high priest. Notice the proclamation in verses 12-13.
The Branch is going to come and build the temple. He will build the temple and be clothed with royalty, sitting on and ruling from his throne. He is going to be a priest on the throne, harmonizing the two offices. This crown would be put into the temple as a reminder for this coming event. Now I want you to consider how shocking this picture is. This picture is shocking because it shows the merging of the two offices into one, priest and king. But do not miss the other shocking part of the declaration. When the Branch (Christ) comes, he is going to build the temple and sit on the throne. So here are the people building this temple and the message from God is that when the Christ comes, he is going to build a temple. Another temple is coming. Another building project is going to happen in the future when Christ comes. He will build that temple and begin his royal rule as priest and king at that time.
This shows why Jesus spoke the way that he did when he walked the earth. This is why he could tell people that this physical temple would be destroyed and he could raise it back up in three days (John 2:19). Zechariah had prophesied that this temple that the people were building now, which lasted into the first century, would be replaced by Christ’s temple. This is why the writer of Hebrews discusses the need for a change in priesthood so that the Christ could be both priest and king (Hebrews 7). Now bring back what we saw in the last three visions. The arrival of the Branch, the building of the temple, and the enthronement of the Branch is when sin and wickedness would be purged from the land and from the people. So when Jesus told the people that he would rebuild this temple in three days, they should have understood what he was saying about himself if they were aware of the spiritual impact of this prophecy. When the temple builder comes, then wickedness would be purged from the people. But the point I want us to focus on in this lesson is in verse 15.
New Temple Builders (6:15)
And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD. And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God. (Zechariah 6:15 ESV)
You will notice that people who are far off will come and help build this temple. The term “far off” is frequently used as a term to refer to the Gentiles, those not part of the original Mosaic covenant to Israel (cf. Acts 2:38-39). The prophets pictured that Christ would come and cleanse our sins. But the cleansing of our sins meant we would be given a new purpose. We are pictured as builders who are restoring and rebuilding the temple to the Lord. Listen to how Isaiah prophesied the same picture.
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor; he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the year of the LORD’S favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. They shall build up the ancient ruins; they shall raise up the former devastations; they shall repair the ruined cities, the devastations of many generations. (Isaiah 61:1–4 ESV)
The same picture is presented by Isaiah. When Christ came proclaiming the year of the Lord’s favor (cf. Luke 4:16-21) we would be called oaks of righteousness, glorifying the Lord as we rebuild the ancient ruins and devastations. It has always been the work of God’s people to restore and rebuild what has been destroyed. The removal of sin and guilt makes us workers building God’s temple. We are the “far off” that Zechariah is speaking about who will build the temple of the Lord. Listen to how the apostle Paul described this.
And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit. (Ephesians 2:17–22 ESV)
Ephesians 2 pictures the work of Jesus saving us from our sins and allow we who are far away to have access to the Father. So what does this mean? Jesus came to build the temple and to sit on the throne. He is pictured as the cornerstone. He is the critically, most important piece. Further, the apostles and prophets are pictured as the foundation of the temple. We are also being built together into the holy temple in the Lord. We are not only part of this temple, but are also building this temple with Jesus, the prophets, and the apostles.
So this is our picture. God’s cleansing gives us purpose. We are the builders of God’s temple with Jesus as the cornerstone and the apostles and prophets as the foundation. So I want us to ask ourselves the question that is the title of the sermon. Are you building God’s temple? Are you doing your job? Are you fulfilling your purpose? Are you keeping your calling? This brings us back to the original messages of Haggai and Zechariah. Are we more interested in our houses or in building God’s house? We should be just as excited about the task of rebuilding the ancient ruins and rebuilding God’s house. It causes us to look at ourselves and consider how we are doing this work. There is only one way for the temple to be rebuilt and that is by us opening our mouths and living our lives in a way that show people Jesus. We do not live to point to our country, our government, our politics, our culture, or our way of thinking. We point people to Jesus. Our spiritual worship and our spiritual sacrifices are performed by proclaiming God’s glory and living honorably in this world (cf. 1 Peter 2:3-12). The removal of wickedness far from us is our motivation to do the work.
But there must be another motivation for our work. The whole of the three visions is that no one is getting away with wickedness. Everyone will be judged. Thus, we have a critical work to reach people before that judgment comes. God’s cleansing gives intensity to our work. We are working together with God as builders. We must embrace and love the picture of why we are here. We are ambassadors. We are fellow workers. We are working on Christ’s behalf, appealing for people to be reconciled to God. What God has done for us compels us to do the work. Please consider what you will do in the kingdom of God. What will be your role as you do your part to build God’s house?