Summary: Message introduces study of book of Zechariah focusing on THEME and HISTORICAL CONTEXT. Zechariah's message is highly relevant today. As theme suggests, it is a message of hope for God's people!

Today I want to begin opening the book of Zechariah to you. For all practical purposes, this book and other minor prophets are closed books for most Christians. During our annual reading of the Bible, we read the words, but there is a vast difference between reading words and comprehending the message being communicated by those words. Philip addressed this issue with the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30 when he asked the question: “Do you understand what you are reading?”i The spiritual benefit residing in that Isaiah 53 passage was not experienced by the eunuch until Philip helped him understand the meaning of those verses. My goal is to help you get the benefit of what God is saying in this marvelous book Zechariah.

I don’t know how deep we will go with this study. But I want to give you enough that when you read Zechariah you can enjoy the encouragement God is giving his people in this revelation. To get the most out of this study, read from this book during the week. Read it from various translation. Meditate on the gems that we will discover in the text.

The THEME of this book is communicated in the first verse. Zechariah 1:1: “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet. . . .” Do you see the theme? I did not see it until I dug into the rich soil of this revelation. The theme is this: God Remembers! Where is that in verse 1? It is found in the meaning of the prophet’s name. Zechariah means: Yahweh remembers, or God remembers.ii God is saying through Zechariah, “Israel, you may have forgotten what I promised you, but I have not forgotten it. You may have lost sight of what I ultimately have in mind for you, but I see it clearly and I want to remind you of what I will do for you.” Israel was prone to forget and violate their covenant with God. But God does not forget.

The name Zechariah is built on the covenant name of God: Yahweh. God remembers! Years earlier Jeremiah spoke a similar message to the captives in Babylon: “For thus says the Lord: After seventy years are completed at Babylon, I will visit you and perform My good word toward you, and cause you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. 12 Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. 13 And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart. 14 I will be found by you, says the Lord, and I will bring you back from your captivity; I will gather you from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, says the Lord, and I will bring you to the place from which I cause you to be carried away captive” (Jer. 29:10-14.

A partial fulfillment of this happens in Zechariah’s day, and Zechariah prophesies a complete fulfillment that will occur at the end of the age.

To appreciate the impact of Zechariah’s prophecy during his day and apply it to our current situation, we need the HISTORICAL CONTEXT in which this book was written.

Verse 1 tells us exactly when Zechariah began to preach his message: “In the eighth month of the second year of Darius.” The eighth month on the Jewish calendar is in October or November of our calendar. Darius ruled the Persian Empire from 522 to 485 B.C. This is Darius I who was also known as Darius the Great and Darius Hystaspis.iii His second year would place the date as 520 B.C.

There are a few key dates in Israel’s history that are extremely important in understanding the prophets of the Old Testament.

? 722 B.C. fall of Northern kingdom (capital Samaria)iv

? 605 B.C. Nebuchadnezzar carries Daniel and others into captivity. This begins the 70 years of captivity prophesied by Jeremiah 25:11: “And this whole land shall be a desolation and an astonishment, and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years.”v

? 586 B.C. fall of Southern kingdom and destruction of Jerusalem (and the temple).vi

? 538 B.C. decree by Cyrus to allow Israel to return home.vii This concludes the 70 years of Babylonian captivity prophesied by Jeremiah.viii Ezra leads first group captive Jews back to Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1). Zechariah is in this group as a young child.ix

? 520 B.C. Zechariah begins his public ministry (Zech. 1:1).

So, Zechariah had been born in Babylon during the 70-year captivity. As a young child, he goes with his family to Jerusalem in the first group who returned after Cyrus’s decree. Although Cyrus authorized all the Jews to return. Only a small group returned, especially in this first caravan. During the 70 years, the Jews had settled in and prospered. Most did not want to leave the comfort and prosperity they earned in Babylon by then. Only the most dedicated Jews returned. That tells us something about Zechariah’s family.

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