Zechariah was a prophet of the LORD from a prominent family of the line of priests, who had returned from exile in Babylon with Zerubbabel, the king of Judah. What joy they must have experienced on their homecoming trip! “Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen, The LORD hath done great things for them.” Psalm 126:2 In 538* BC the Persian emperor Cyrus had allowed the Jewish people to return to their homeland, after he had conquered Babylon, and the people of God was in a state of limited freedom and inferiority, subject to the Persian Emperor. But by now, around 520 BC the Jewish people felt deeply disappointed that God’s promises had not fully come to pass. Before the exile, such prophets as Jeremiah and Isaiah had foretold of a glorious period of freedom and blessing after the exile. God would send His people away in bondage to Babylon to chasten them for their unfaithfulness and their worship of other gods. But when they returned seventy years later, the kingdom would be restored like never before, and a glorious period would usher in when Judah would be reunited with the northern tribes of Israel, and the nations would be subdued beneath the reign of one from the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham, flowing unto the Lord’s temple to worship there. And, although, Judah had been restored to his ancestral homeland, and Zerubabbel, of the line of David, had been crowned king, much was yet lacking. For Judea was a province within the Persian Empire, not a sovereign kingdom. His king was not much more than an appointed, vassal, governor serving the interest of Persia.
The Jewish people had built the foundation of the temple, but they had slacked off on the building project, focusing attention instead on their own private and family lives, and neglecting the Lord’s house. Where was the faithful obedience that had been promised? Where was the promised freedom, and victory over the nations? In response to the troublesome circumstances in which they found themselves, the Jewish people took the easy road by becoming self-centered instead of being God-centered. How easy it is for us to begin to look inward after a long period of affliction, when the wrongs don’t seem to be made right, and God is not answering our prayers as quickly as we would prefer? But God’s message to His people through Zechariah is to take heart, be patient, and finish rebuilding the temple, because the Lord has not forgotten His people. He will save and bless them once more, and fulfill everything that He has promised. Their part is to be faithful and obedient to the mission that He has set before them, to build His house.
Many of us have experienced affliction in our Christian lives by losing loved ones or suffering physical ailments. Many have been hurt or wounded emotionally by hurtful people or circumstances. Others have slid into dismay at the state of the godless contemporary culture that surrounds us. So many have begun to look inward, to focus on themselves, and their private and family lives, wealth, and possessions because there doesn’t seem to be much else you can count on. It’s easy for those who have suffered or been hurt or distressed to give up on prayer and on taking part in public worship among God’s people. When things seem to be going so wrong, what good has it done? Where is the blessing? What happened to the promises? But God’s message to us is the same as it was to His people long ago. “Return to me, and I will return to you.” Zechariah 1:3 Though you have suffered, yet be patient, and you will see showers of spiritual blessing as you’ve never known it before. God is not through with His people yet, so let us, brothers and sisters, double down on efforts to support, love, cherish, and build His house, the fellowship of the redeemed that meets in the local church, made up of the people whom God has called out of the world into her blessed fellowship. Let us be built together as stones in the temple walls. This is that glorious city which God has promised to make happy forever. Let Him be our God and we His people, and let this reality be expressed in effort and commitment toward our shared life together.
*The ESV Study Bible, Online Edition was used as a reference.