“So the angel who spoke with me said to me, ‘Proclaim, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped--but with evil intent.’ “Therefore thus says the Lord: ‘I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘And a surveyor's line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem’ " (Zechariah 1:14-16).
What motivates you to do the things you do in your service to God? Are you motivated by the guilt you feel over your own failures or by God’s incredible love for you as expressed at the cross of Jesus? Are you motivated by fear of what you feel will happen if you don’t obey God or are you motivated by your desire to want to please God because of what He has done for you?
Like the prophet Haggai, Zechariah ministers to God’s people following their return from Babylon. God’s people had come back following the decree of Cyrus, King of Persia, to rebuild the temple at Jerusalem which had been destroyed by the Babylonians (2 Kings 25:8-10; Ezra 1:1-4). However, 16 years following their return from Babylon, the temple had still not been completed. God’s people had been busy rebuilding their own houses while the temple of God lay in ruins (cf. Haggai 1:4).
Zechariah is tasked getting God’s people to finishing God’s Temple. To do this, Zechariah begins by telling the people to repent of their sin: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Return to Me,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets preached, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Turn now from your evil ways and your evil deeds.’ " ‘But they did not hear nor heed Me,’ says the Lord” (Zechariah 1:3-4).
As Zechariah encourages the people to repent and get back to the work of rebuilding the temple, Zechariah will not use the guilt of their failures to motivate them to action. Instead, as the opening verses above indicate, Zechariah will attempt to stimulate them to move by reminding them of God’s zeal for them (Zechariah 1:14). God had been angry with His people because of their sin against Him (cf. Zechariah 1:15), but that did not change the fact that God still had great love for His people and was zealous to return them back to Jerusalem, show mercy to them, and see their capital city restored once again to them (cf. Zechariah 1:16).
Zechariah will share with God’s people eight visions which God reveals to him all in the same night. His visions of the rider and the horses (Zechariah 1:7-17), of the four horns and the four craftsman (Zechariah 1:18-21), of the man and the measuring line (Zechariah 2:1-13), of Joshua the High Priest (Zechariah 3:1-10), of the gold lampstand and the two olive trees (Zechariah 4:1-14), of the flying scroll (Zechariah 5:1-4), of the woman in the basket (Zechariah 5:5-11), and of the four chariots (Zechariah 6:1-8), were all designed to show the zeal God has in restoring His people to their land. God still cherished His people even though He had chastened them because of their sins. God still viewed His people as the “apple of His eye” (cf. Zechariah 2:8).
God is still zealous for His people today. Although there are times when God’s people should feel guilty for having fallen in sin, guilt alone should not be our only motivation for everything we do for God. Like Zechariah, I will use the fact that God loves me and is zealous for me to motivate me in my service to Him. Today I rejoice that God views me as the “apple of His eye”.
“Thus says the Lord of hosts: 'I am zealous for Zion with great zeal; with great fervor I am zealous for her’ ” (Zechariah 8:2).