Again the word of the LORD Almighty came to me. This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her.’

This is what the LORD says: ‘I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the LORD Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain.’ This is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there.’

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘It may seem marvellous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvellous to me?’ declares the Lord Almighty.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God.’

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Now hear these words, “Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built.” This is also what the prophets said who were present when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty. Before that time there were no wages for people or hire for animals. No one could go about their business safely because of their enemies, since I had turned everyone against their neighbour. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

‘The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. Just as you, Judah and Israel, have been a curse[a] among the nations, so I will save you, and you will be a blessing.[b] Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong.’

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Just as I had determined to bring disaster on you and showed no pity when your ancestors angered me,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against each other, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord.

The word of the Lord Almighty came to me.

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace.’

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, “Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.”  And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him.’

This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten people from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, “Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.”’
Zechariah 8:1-23

I want to say a couple of things by way of introduction.

i] Biblical preaching in general. My text is 23 verses long. That creates real dangers for the preacher. It can turn a sermon into a glorified Bible study. “What is wrong with that?” you ask. ‘Glorified Bible studies’ are centred on the intellect; they are cerebral. The teachers spend their time in explaining the meaning of the words and images. There is no time left for application. I support their conviction that preaching on a passage is directed to the mind; it must be; the words before us were spoken in Jerusalem about 2,500 years ago and my task is to explain their meaning and relevance for your life today. That is an intellectual exercise isn’t it? When you are reading your Bible you face the same challenge every day. So all preaching is taking a journey following the words the chosen text. The journey begins with the Scripture and then it comes to my mind and on to your minds as hearers. But the actual mind of the persons listening is not the final destination in itself. Through the mind the word marches on, and now it is going to the conscience and there that same word might convict us of some sin, or on the other hand it can assure our consciences that we are acting right and then it urges us, “Go on! Keep believing these truths! Keep trusting the Lord! Hang in there!” So now the word has reached the will, and the will is being motivated by the conscience to cease doing certain things or to go on obeying the Lord as he speaks in the Scripture we are considering.

Are you with me? I haven’t lost you in this introduction? I am saying that there has to be the basic explanation of the word of God – let’s call it ‘the Bible study.’ There must be ‘exegesis’, that is the buzz word, the interpretation of what a particular passage is teaching, but we dare not be satisfied with the mere correct explanation. By this the conscience has to be enlightened and confirmed, and then the will is motivated to take action. But still that is not the end of preaching. There is one more step. Finally, the religious affections have to be touched, in other words, in the familiar phrase, the heart has to be warmed. The men on the road to Emmaus found their hearts burning within them when Jesus made himself known to them in the word. So the final end of preaching is new love for the Saviour and new sorrow for sin. Affection blossoms by the word, and also new sweetness for one another, and new hostility to our sins. So by the word of God we are renewed. The whole purpose of our gathering is not that we go away with a new understanding of a passage of Scripture. That has to be inadequate; I guess the devils might have a good mental grasp of what the Bible teaches. Some of them are experts in exegesis; they are devils yet. Rather, we are to be lifted up, or humbled – generally both but our emotional response will depend on just where we are today. We are being motivated by the word to be better disciples and so fulfil the greatest of the commandments, to love God with all our hearts and love our neighbours as ourselves. That is the appointed end of God speaking to us through his word being preached. That is why today he has brought you and me here in the dynamics of spiritual encounter.

So I have this special challenge today of taking you through 23 verses of the Old Testament, not merely to explain this chapter to you but to create more love for God and more love for one another by it. And if I don’t achieve that then both you and I have failed, because your involvement and desire and prayers for that end are another key contribution to attaining it.

ii] This passage in particular. Let me say a word about Zechariah chapter 8. The people to whom he is preaching are the Jews who have returned from their 70-year long exile in Babylonian slavery. They are the most zealous people of God. The vast majority of Israel decided not to return, but to remain in Persia and they were eventually effectively absorbed into the Babylonian way of life, but the people who returned were the true spiritual sons and heirs of Daniel of Babylon who had had such a mighty influence in that empire and kept trusting in the Lord.

These are the earnest settlers who made the hazardous journey of 500 miles across wasteland and wilderness until they reached their ruined city. There they endured hostility from the surrounding tribes and from gathering food, planting and cultivating, surviving in dry cold winters. There they built houses for themselves and also they began to rebuild the Temple. God sent them two preachers. Haggai and Zechariah, who preached to them warnings and promises, encouraging them to look to Jehovah for help because they only way they could survive, as the only way any of us can survive is not by might, nor by power but God’s Spirit. These earnest Old Testament Christians had their questions, and one of them was about fast days which had started back in Babylon. Now that they were home in Jerusalem and the surrounding areas, growing and spreading out, was there any need for such fast days to continue? Zechariah has answered that question by first challenging the people’s introduction of special days. God had given them 52 days each year to rest and consider him and his cause and his truth.

But that was not the end of Zechariah’s counsels. He continued to pastor them. We have come to this eighth chapter where we find ten texts or the skeleton outlines of messages that the prophet preached to them, and today we are going to look at these ten (say three minutes examining each one), to see how these Jews were strengthened to go on serving the Lord, and how we can be strengthened too by this same word of God preached by Zechariah. So how can we look at this? Ten vitamin pills? Ten mini-exercises of mind and soul. You will see the repeated refrain throughout the chapter, “This is what the Lord, or the Lord Almighty, says . . .” It occurs ten times and after that phrase Zechariah gives the text and précis of each message.


That is the theme of the first sermon (verses 1 and 2). It was a wonderful message of comfort. They were few in number. They were given to doubts and disobedience. Their love for God was weak; they had built their own houses long before laying one stone on another in the erection of the new Temple. Yet God loved them warmly and earnestly, just as God loves us. He knows all about us. He is aware of our inconsistencies and failures, our great sins and our foolish mistakes, our selfishness and the way we hurt the people who love us the most. We don’t have to tick every box of obedience before he loves us.  We don’t have to trick him into making him love us by deceiving him. We can’t fool God. He knows us through and through and he loves us. There never was a time when he didn’t love us. In the beginning he loved us. Before the foundation of the world, before he said “Let there be light,” God the Father had chosen us, and loved us, and given us to his Son to save. Jesus Christ loved us with the same love as his Father loves us, and they love us still. The Holy Spirit loves us. He is prepared to come right down into our hearts and there in all the mess and dirt that’s in any heart, there he makes his home, living in us for evermore, loving us tenderly with a love that will never leave us. God’s love is the reason he saved us. His love is the reason he sticks with us. His love is the reason that he not only begins a good work in us but completes it. His love is the reason he changes us into the image of Jesus Christ.

The assurance of that divine love is what the devil attacks in us very often: “How can God love you when your love for him is so weak and faint?” So here God tells the people through Zechariah, “I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her” (v.2). You understand such jealousy reflects strong love. There is a man in the office where your wife works and it seems to you that he is really fancying her. She talks of him and she works with him, and they have to go away on a business trip together, and you are not indifferent to this, although you trust her. You are very jealous for her because you love her and while she is away from you then you are burning with jealousy for her.

So too when you as a lover of Jesus Christ start getting increasingly involved in your business, or in your career, or in travels, or in your church matters and you start to neglect Jesus Christ then the Lord gets jealous. It is possible to be neither hot nor cold in your love for God, but to be luke-warm, and then God burns with jealousy because he is sharing your love with something else, and that something has taken his place of priority in your life. The greatest privilege you can know in life is that God loves you. Jesus loves me; this I know for the Bible tells me so. Know that God loves you very, very deeply. 


So he loves us, and that in itself is wonderful, but here is something more wonderful, he lives in us and is with us all through our lives. They have returned, yes, but what is more important is that he is there too. “I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem” (v.3). God is not here referring to his omnipresence. God is everywhere. Can any hide himself in a secret place that I cannot see him, says the Lord. Do not I fill the heavens and the earth, says the Lord. If we flew to the uttermost parts of the heavens the first thing we would find when we stepped out onto  planet Zog would be God waiting for us, even as he had been with us on the long journey. But that omnipresence of God is not what he is speaking of here. He is telling us that he lives in the hearts of his people. “I will indwell you. I will sup with you and you with me. I will make my abode within you.” He is also saying something more, that when two or three gather together in his name then he is there. He is ministering to us; he is pastoring us; he is teaching us, reproving us, correcting us and instructing us in righteousness. He is healing us and maturing us. He is underlining his great love for us and making our cold hearts warm At the Lord’s Table he is at the head of the feast and he is bringing his cross work to our lives and making us thankful for our redemption. But he is saying more than that. When we work for him; when we do things in his name; when there is the need of a wise answer and a gracious saving word – then he is there: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel and behold I will be with you. I will help you to speak. When you go through severe trials, then I will be with you.” A Christian is someone to whom God comes again and again. He dwells in our lives, and the evidence that he is with us is twofold. First, that we believe the truth, and love the truth, and live by the truth, and what is said when we gather in Jesus’ name, what we sing, and what we affirm to one another is the truth. So Zechariah could say, “Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth” (v.3). Other cities in the Middle East were full of lies, deceit and falsehood, but Jerusalem, through the presence of God, was full of truth. And the second mark of the Lord is our midst is our holiness, that we live godly and holy lives. We overcome day by day those things that are mean and cold and compromising and worldly and sensual. We are a holy people because the Lord is with us and in us. “The mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain” (v.3).  So Jehovah loves us and is with us and in us and that makes us people of truth and holiness. 


It sometimes seemed so preposterous to the people of God in the total devastation of an uninhabited Jerusalem, rebuilding their homes and the Temple, to claim that they, of all the nations of the earth, possessed the truth, that the Maker of the Universe loved them and was with them, and that all the surrounding tribes with their gods and idols were all wrong. We can feel exactly like that. Is it true that there is only one name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved. One name? One way? One truth? One life? At times of blessing and growth and revival we are eager loudly to say “Amen” to such convictions. Jesus Christ said, “I am the truth. I am reality,” and we affirm it. Those words are still true when we are few in number, when the martyr is awaiting his journey to the scaffold, when the Christian is being tortured in the concentration camp. Christ alone is God the Son, the only begotten of the Father full of truth and grace.

At those times we cry to God for vindication of his Son, for blessings on the church, for many people to come to know and confess Jesus Christ as Lord, for families to trust in him. God knows our doubts, and so the promise is made to the people of what the Lord does returning to Jerusalem. The city will no longer by the habitation of snakes and jackals. “Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there” (vv.4&5). This is a picture of the city of God. It will have its oldsters, yes. They will have their place. They won’t feel that they are just waiting to die; they are people of “ripe old age” (v.4) but they are not people to be ignored. Their presence is recorded and welcomed. But the place where God is will have its youngsters too, the whole cross section of people will be there, and the children there won’t be brainwashed, cowering children, seen but not heard, frozen with fear because of the enemy. They will be confident, the boys and girls playing at their games in the streets, absolutely safe. So men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, many carrying walking sticks. In other words, not bed-ridden and housebound marginalised people, but active elderly, going out and making their contribution to the life of the holy city, while the streets will be filled with the shouts and laughter of boys and girls. May God continue to revive his work and build his church, making a holy people not comprised of freaks and weaklings, but happy families. Blessed are the people, happy are the people, whose God is the Lord. A real church built up by God has a cross section of personalities and abilities and ages.


This is one of the shortest summaries, and it is in the sixth verse. Immediately I speak of the growth and future blessing of the church of Jesus Christ then the devil will seek to discourage me. “These are not days when you can expect growth, not days supporting the old ways. You have to keep up with the times and with what people want, and what they like. If you emphasise the Bible, and the confessions of faith, and the climax of worship being the preaching of the word of God, and stress the demands of godly living that should mark the life of those who profess faith in Christ, then those emphases will only result in numerical decline. If you are a Calvinistic church then you can’t expect to grow.” Those are the sentiments of unbelief. We judge the spirit of the world and the future by the power of God and what God asks of us. So the people heard a sermon of Zechariah on the Lord coming to Jerusalem and so the city full of the grey-haired, godly old people and children playing tag and hopscotch, then was all that a dream to them, something they could marvel at, but not believe as a reality?

So God speaks through this fourth sermon of Zechariah about the prospering and growth of Zion and he says, “Will it seem marvellous to me?” (v.6). Will God himself say, “Ah, well, I have given you a sweet picture, and a wonderful vision, but even can’t I do something like that.” No. Nothing is impossible to God.  It would indeed be marvelous to the remnant who returned from Babylon what a mere ten years could achieve, but it would not be something that made the hairs on God’s neck stand on end in shock. When Saul of Tarsus became a Christian everyone was surprised except God. On the day of Pentecost, fifty days after the death and resurrection of the Christ, Jerusalem was filled with people, young and old. Three thousand of them were full of praise and thanks to God that their sins had been pardoned and that they knew the Lord was with them. A nation was born in a day. It was marvelous to the people of Jerusalem, but not to the resurrected Lord of glory. He had determined that this would happen and happen it did.


I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west” (v.7). How small were the numbers of those who returned from Babylon. About 3000 returned with Ezra, and after a number of waves of immigration during the next years, about 50,000 people had returned to their land. In the whole world, with its entire population, there was just this number who professed to worship Jehovah. What hope was there? Much hope, because God was saving them, and he would bring many more from the east and west. When Jesus left his disciples at the mount of ascension there were a mere 120 men and 500 people who loved him in all the world, but how rapidly did this number grow and people throughout Judea and Samaria, and then out and out to the ends of the world, as many as God had ordained to eternal life, believed. Churches were planted and the kingdom of God was spread. There was soon a congregation of Jesus-lovers in Rome. That is the vision of the future that we are to grip. God saving his people in every part of the world, the east and the west and their confidence that God was “being faithful and righteous to them as their God” (v.8). God will bring people to the heavenly Jerusalem, right into the household and city of God He is able! He is willing! Doubt no more!


This sixth sermon of Zechariah is the longest, stretching from verse 9 through verse 13, and its theme is that the people of God should not judge the future by the past. He reminds them of the great day of ground-breaking when the turf was cut for the laying of the first foundation stone of the Temple. What an unforgettable day. Ten years later the people could now see the roof being completed even as Zechariah spoke. It dwarfed the city. The prophet asks his hearers if they remembered the great sermon that was preached on that occasion of ground-breaking, when the message came from heaven not in word only but with power and with the Holy Spirit and with much assurance. What was the theme of that sermon? “Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built” (v.9). How were things going to progress? Only if they weren’t cowardly and weak or quickly gave up at the first stirrings of trouble. “Be of a good courage! Be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might.” This Christian life is not for weaklings, not for theological weaklings or moral weaklings. Let your hands be strong. The word was relevant then and it is relevant still.

Then the Lord contrasts the time they first came from Babylon and arrived penniless in the ruins of Jerusalem. Remember those days ten years ago? No wages. Where could they get fodder for their animals? The enemy was harassing them because there was a mean and cruel group of tribes surrounding them. No one, no neighbour was safe. That was then, but how different things were now. God was dealing with them quite differently. Their crops were flourishing, and there was regular rain. God was blessing them, and there were times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.  The cursing and hatred they had once experienced was no more. Their neighbours were now turning on one another (v.10) and the work of the growth of the kingdom of God was advancing.

God gives them great encouragement for the future. Things will not be as they were when he drove them into a 70 year exile; “O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong” (v.13). God will be their Saviour. Here is one of the great ‘I wills’ of the Bible – “I will save you.” Don’t doubt it for a moment, and then being saved by God our lives will be rich in blessing to God and man. Every day will we bless God, and every day we will be a blessing to man too. That is the fruit of God’s gift of salvation, and finally the message concludes by referring again to the powerful preaching at the laying of the foundation of the Temple, their need to be people of courage: “Let your hands be strong” and then they would have no need to be afraid. As we face the future let us remember that God always does new things. “Attempt great things for God; expect great things from God.”


This is always the biblical pattern. The first eleven chapters in Romans describes the goodness of God and it results in Paul telling the people of God what it meant for them. Then he spends the last five chapters of the epistle describing godly living, the people presenting their bodies as living sacrifices to God. And so it is here. The days of judgment and exile are all over. That was a time when they received no pity from heaven, for they’d been idolaters and law breaking rebels. Now things have changed and God has made up his mind “to do good to Jerusalem and Judah” (v.15). The exile is over and they have returned to Zion. Now how are they going to live? They have received mercy from God, and so what is the consequence of that for these people? He gives them a summary of how they should live as they have received mercy from God. Five things he tells them to do in verses 15 through 17:

i] Do not be afraid. God has not given us a spirit of cowardice.

ii] Speak the truth to one another. Let no falsehood or deceit mar your relationship with one another.

iii] In the courts let there be no bribery, or intimidation, or lies; “Render true and sound judgment” (v.16).

iv] No plotting evil against your neighbour but rather overcome his evil with your good.

v] Take no delight in making solemn oaths of what you are going to do to another person – great promises that you have no intention of keeping. Let not the children of God speak like that.

If you have received mercy from God, and if you can look back and see all the kindness and love of God to you, then that love so amazing, so divine, demands that you give your soul and life to living for God and loving your neighbour as yourself, doing the sort of thing that Zechariah lists here.


God can change our worship. He can enable us to rejoice in the Lord always. He tells them that the four fast days are going to be changed (v.18). Henceforth they will be joyful occasions, glad occasions and happy festivals for the people. They will be like Christmas Day and your Birthday. This change is like the effect that the resurrection had on the cross. When Cleopas and his companion on that first day of the week knew nothing about Jesus rising from the dead then on that black morning of despair all they could think of was the horror of Golgotha, the nails through the hands and feet of Christ holding him to the cross, and then his burial, so very officially dead. With the resurrection of Jesus nothing at all changed concerned the facts and the carnage of Good Friday. The events were just as horrible even when Jesus came and made himself known to them as the conqueror of death, but the impact of his returning to life was to change that black first day of another week from despair to doxology. The disciples were filled with joy; they had burning hearts. He was again alive who once had died. Death was not victorious. Death was not the irresistible victor. Christ was more powerful than death. He lived, and they would also live for ever. So the first day of the week was a good news day. The day we keep is still one day in a week, still a sabbatical day, but now changed from the seventh day to the triumph of the first day. Old Covenant worship was transformed into New Covenant rejoicing by the resurrection. So Zechariah announced that God had changed those old days of fasting into new glad occasions and happy festivals.

So what was the effect on the people of God? It was not that they felt really wonderful. That was not the purpose of the change in days to make them happy-clappy. What does God say? “Therefore love truth and peace” (v.19). God delivered them from Babylon and brought them home, and it was true! God enabled them to overcome the plots of their enemies and build the Temple, and it was true! Then love the truth and live at peace. And for us in the 21st century? On the third day Jesus rose again, and it is true. The Lord Christ now has all authority in heaven and on earth, and it is true. He is working all things together for our good, and it is true. One day soon we shall see him and be with him, and it is true.  So our message is “Love truth and love peace, the peace that come from trusting God and no longer believing lies but the truth.”


What was their future? It was as glorious as the power and the promises of God. They were not to be desert nomads for ever with a base in this little city with its temple, quiet spectators as the rest of the world – mighty, world empires centred in Babylon and Athens and Rome, and later in London and in New York and Moscow and China – they did all the important things in the world. No! That was not the future for Jehovah’s people. They were not going to live out on a limb, or in a cul de sac which all the nations didn’t notice, or in some cave in the middle of the Sinai peninsula. These people who knew the Lord, whose hands were strong, who spoke the truth to one another, who loved truth and peace, to whom God gave joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals, these blessed people became the light of the world! Millions in all the world for the next two and a half millennia longed to have what they had, and millions today long for it still. We are not some fringe, out of date religion, utterly out of touch and irrelevant in the 21st century. We are one of the most powerful, vital contemporary movements in the world. Gospel Christianity is growing and growing all over the world. And this is what God promises to the people: “Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the LORD and seek the LORD Almighty. I myself am going.’ And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the LORD Almighty and to entreat him” (vv.20-22). So it is in the USA today and in Korea and Kenya and in China and so on. There are significant signs that even in our land there are people entreating and seeking the Lord. The last centuries have seen mighty turnings to God, and we long that there will be yet more such times.


So this chapter containing synopses of ten sermons of Zechariah finally comes to an end. These people growing within the ruined city into new hope and expectation are led by the prophet to see a glorious future lying before the cause of the Lord and his Son our Messiah. Who amongst them would have dreamed that these prophecies of Zechariah would have become as enduring as they have, that in two and a half millennia there would a hundred people 5,000 miles away in Wales who would spend around 20 Sabbath mornings studying these sermons of Zechariah and being blessed by them. We are no ghetto. We are men and women from across Europe, and Jordan, and America, and Africa and the islands of the Pacific – we gather here and hear of the great promises God made to Zechariah. The word of the Lord endures for ever. This is what Jehovah promises: “In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you” (v.23).

How we advertise and invite and arrange our special meetings and cook food and pray for people to come, and on the night we find one stranger, or two visitors, and we rejoice to see them, and then we long that in them there should be some soul thirst for Jesus Christ. How rarely we do see it. We almost suggest that they would be doing God a favour if they turned from their unbelief and trusted in him. How different it will be when the Spirit of God begins to work in the lives of men and women as he did at Pentecost. Three thousand people pleading, “Let us go with you. Can we please go to hear of Jesus Christ and his wonderful love? We have heard that when you meet together that God is there too. He is with you. Can we go and meet with him in repentance for our lives of sinning, entrusting ourselves to his mercy? Please can we go with you,” and they take us by the jacket, or they hold our hands and are determined to accompany us to the place where God is. Then with a cheerful zeal we haste to Zion’s hill and there our vows and homage pay. May we see such blessed days! May we know that such days have come to some favoured parts of the world today. When we do then we cry, “While on others Thou art calling, do not pass us by.”

16th February 2014   GEOFF THOMAS