In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:
“The Lord was very angry with your ancestors. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Return to me,’ declares the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will return to you,’ says the Lord Almighty. Do not be like your ancestors, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices.’ But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. Where are your ancestors now? And the prophets, do they live forever? But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your ancestors?
“Then they repented and said, ‘The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do.’”
On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo.
During the night I had a vision, and there before me was a man mounted on a red horse. He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses.
I asked, “What are these, my lord?”
The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.”
Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.”
And they reported to the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.”
Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me.
Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, and I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they went too far with the punishment.’
“Therefore this is what the Lord says: ‘I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,’ declares the Lord Almighty.
“Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.’” (New International Version)
God hulking-out isn’t something you want to see repeated, insisted the prophet.
Zechariah directed his message to the Jews returning from their exile in Babylon. He reminded them that their parents and forebears had been called to repent and return to the Lord. They didn’t. Hence, the Babylonian exile. Big hint from the prophet to the people: Don’t ever do that again. Things will get angry, large, and green if you do.
Zechariah’s generation was being given a chance: To live into God’s covenant and law; to hold fast onto their identity as God’s people.
The people listened to the prophet. They expressed their repentance and a desire to turn from past evil ways and embrace the ways of the Lord. And the returning exiles also acknowledged and accepted God’s judgment. The returning exiles understood that, as a people, they deserve the consequences to centuries of neglecting justice, mercy, and humility.
Every generation of believers must learn from the past. Not only do they need to receive the teachings and traditions of those who went before them, but each generation must also struggle with how to put that teaching and tradition into practice.
The past needs to be squarely faced and deliberately pulled into the present. That is the way a genuine hope is born, giving direction for the future. In other words, old words and ways from the past need new experiences in the present; only by doing this will there be guidance.
Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven. (Matthew 6:10, CEB)
Today’s Old Testament lesson includes the first of eight night visions from the prophet Zechariah. The gist of the first prophetic oracle is a message of assurance and comfort: God will restore. The Lord will renew.
Divine intervention is about to happen in the rebuilding of the temple – a physical example of the spiritual reality that is happening. Just as the ancient temple was being restored for new generations of worshipers, so the people were being renewed to be an example of piety and fidelity to God for millennia to come.
Peace and prosperity will again be realized.
Throughout Scripture, trees are a symbol of a thriving and flourishing life. The myrtle tree is a sign of God’s promise to bring new life, branching out to spread into the next generations. Like all trees, the myrtle needs plenty of moisture when young. Yet, it is distinctive in that the myrtle tree can tolerate drought, grow despite limited soil, and remain hardy when it becomes mature.
Your anger lasts a little while,
but your kindness lasts
for a lifetime.
At night we may cry,
but when morning comes
we will celebrate. (Psalm 30:5, CEV)
“Tolerate,” “grow,” and “remain” are anything but passive words. People are more than mere observers. “Repent” and “return” and “renew” are verbs. There is a great deal of activity to do. A divine/human cooperation needs to occur. On God’s end, even the angels get involved in the action. What’s happening here is both heavenly and earthly business.
Relational dynamics between God and God’s people are to be a dialogue and not a one-sided monologue. The Lord and the present generation are to demonstrate for future peoples how peace is actually realized and enjoyed.
Like all biblical visions, Zechariah’s is not readily understandable. Nobody is sure about what the symbolism is behind the vision’s horses. Yet, I’ll venture to say that it’s the colors which are significant: red is the color of action; brown is a color of stability and fertility; and white represents purity and holiness. Red, brown, and white mixed together creates a beige color.
Beige is an earthy and dependable color. It’s an inherently welcoming and calming color, offering warmth and symbolizing harmony and comfort. Together, with the horses we have a representation of strength, stability, and structure. They are signs of peace and rest, of God’s shalom.
Spiritual wholeness, moral integrity, relational harmony, and settled peace don’t just magically happen.
For the Christian, peace was bought at a price – the blood of Jesus. (Colossians 1:20)
Peace must be both passively received and actively pursued. (Ephesians 4:3)
Practices of peace need to be engrafted into our lives so that we might daily experience it. (Romans 14:13-15:7)
The name “Zechariah” is a Hebrew word meaning, “God remembered.” God has not forgotten divine promises.
The time has come to take hold of the vision God had from the very beginning to walk with humanity in continual fellowship and happiness in the garden, a place of abundant growth, beauty, and health – a place of peace and rest.
The happiest, fully rested, and most peaceful people and nations on earth continually find a steady stream of joy in their families, their rituals/traditions, and their religion.
To find joy and happiness in life is to find peace and rest. And peace is something to be shared, to be passed onto others.
“The peace of Christ be with you.”
“And also with you.”
Such ritual words and practices are reminders of continually returning to the Lord and finding simplicity and satisfaction in Jesus.
In observing and celebrating the Lord’s Table, we find our penultimate remembrance of how peace was achieved, as well as our supreme participation in the triune God.
Perhaps, then, peace and prosperity will extend their tree-like branches over the earth and into the next generations.
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
Peace before us,
Peace behind us,
Peace under our feet.
Peace within us,
Peace over us,
Let all around us be peace.
Christ before us,
Christ behind us,
Christ under our feet.
Christ within us,
Christ over us,
Let all around us be Christ. – a Navajo Prayer