Summary: These people were only a few years out of the despair that failure brings but they were repentant & becoming obedient. So God gives them the assurance that He has responded to their repentance & obedience & has purposed a time of blessing.
ZECHARIAH 8: 9-17
ENCOURAGEMENT FOR THE PRESENT
Although the previous prophecies in Zechariah 8:1-8 will only find their fulfillment in the establishment of Christ’s kingdom on earth the prophet does have an accompanying word of encouragement for the people of his generation. And from these prophecies a blessed elixir of consolation and encouragement can be drawn by his hard pressed county-men. Hopes for the future can distill inspiration for the present trials and tribulations which the struggling restored community must overcome.
These people were only a few years out of the dark despair that continual weighty failure brings but they were repentant and becoming obedient. So God gives them the divine assurance that He has responded to their repentance and obedience and has purposed a new time of blessing for them (CIT).
I. SURVEY THE PRESENT AND THE PAST, 9-10.
II. NEW DAYS OF FRUITFULNESS, 11-12.
III. NEW PURPOSE FOR HIS PEOPLE, 13-15
IV. IMPLEMENTING THE WORD, 16-17.
I. SURVEY THE PRESENT AND THE PAST, 9-10.
These words of encouragement in verse 9 are for those who have been listening to the preaching of the prophets over the long haul (for many years). "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, 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.’" (See personal commentary on Haggai 2:18.)
This strengthening message is to you who "in these days" have been hearing, who have been taking hold of the Word of God, "the words of the prophets." The participle denotes a continuous hearing. Those who have been continuously listening to God are the ones who can personally claim these promises though their effects will reach beyond them to the whole repentant remnant. They were the ones who heard and responded to God’s words. For they were not just any words but these were God’s words directed to "you who are listening." Those that would receive special blessings from God must give audience to God over the course of time.
These words were from the mouth of the prophets. [Mouth is singular indicating they spoke with one accord.] Whoever else may be included, Haggai and Zechariah were certainly intended (Ezra 5:1-2). Twenty years prior to this time the physical foundation of the Temple had been laid and the altar rebuilt but for the next seventeen years no more progress was made for the people gave in to hindrances and difficulties and turned to attempting to prosper themselves. But the prophets preached and the administrators and populous repented and returned to the LORD, and now the good effects of their obedience to the Word of God were to be seen in the present progress toward the completion of the Temple.
Thus those listening were instructed to let your hands be strong, or be strengthen and continue your work. Let your hands be strong is an idiom for the expression, be of good courage. Those who hear the Word of God and act on it should be strengthened and encouraged when they see its results. They were to survey what had been accomplished since they undertook to obey God’s voice. For there was a great contrast between the time before they took up the work of the Temple (Haggai Ch. 1) and the conditions of life since they hearkened to the voice of God through His prophets. [See Haggai and David Baron. The Visions & Prophecies of Zechariah. Kregel. 1918, p. 242 for historical background]. They were to continue in their obedience and bring this good work to conclusion.
These encouraging words are for us today also. For we too have had a foundation to the eternal Temple of God previously laid for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ our Lord. We who heard, believed, and acted on God’s Word are also building a Temple of God, not of bricks and mortar but of the living stones, of God’s precious people. So let your hands be strong, O people of the Living God! "Do not grow weary in well doing for you shall reap if you do not faint" (Gal. 6:10). Continue in your obedience and bring this - the greatest of all labors - to conclusion also!
Verse10 recalls to memory the condition society was in before they returned to the work of the Lord. "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."
God would have them realize the contrast of the present where they are obeying the Word of God to the past when they did not. ‘Before those days’ refers to the time when decisive action was taken to restart the Temple building project. "For those day" in the past, were the days of selfishness and scarcity. Prior to 520BC they had selfishly neglected the Lord’s House for seventeen long years (Haggai 1:2-6) and those were days of severe economic and spiritual depression. They should be thankful they are behind them.