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Turn to God and He will Turn to You | Zechariah 1-14

As preached by Zach Thompson.

1) What does it mean to turn to God?

-Turning to God means hating our sin and pursuing holiness.

2) What does it mean that God will turn to us?

-When God turns to us, he promises purity, protection, prosperity, and peace.

3) How is this accomplished?

-Jesus is the good shepherd who secures these promises for His people.

4) What is the result?

-We have hope in adversity because Jesus will bring these promises to a final consummation.

Zechariah 1-14

Good morning Christ Fellowship. I’m excited to continue our series through the Minor Prophets this morning.

We’ll be in the book of Zechariah. Zechariah is what we call a post exilic prophet. Let me remind you what this means. Throughout our time in the minor prophets, God was warning his people through his prophets that if they didn’t repent and turn to him, then they would be disciplined. Yet, they continued to rebel. So the kingdom of Judah was exiled to Babylon. And about 70 years later, they returned to the Land, and that is when the post exilic prophets began their work–Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi.

Zechariah began his ministry during the last couple months of Haggai’s ministry. In the book of Ezra, we see that these two prophets actually worked together to encourage the people of Israel to finish building the temple. In our context in Utah, that’s an interesting tidbit, since these are two established prophets who operated at the same time. And they complemented each other.

In Haggai, the people were compelled to stop building up their own houses and to build the house of the Lord. They were compelled to delight in the Lord as they sought his presence in the temple.

Zechariah continues this theme, but he looks beyond just the temple, and he looks at all of Jerusalem. He looks to all of the people of God, and points to the promises of God.

If you are able to, please stand for the reading of God’s word. For our public reading, we’ll look at 1:1-6.

“In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of the LORD came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, 2 “The LORD was very angry with your fathers. 3 Therefore say to them, Thus declares the LORD of hosts: Return to me, says the LORD of hosts, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. 4 Do not be like your fathers, to whom the former prophets cried out, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, Return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds.’ But they did not hear or pay attention to me, declares the LORD. 5 Your fathers, where are they? And the prophets, do they live forever? 6 But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not overtake your fathers? So they repented and said, ‘As the LORD of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.’ ”

Let’s Pray.

The name Zechariah means, “The Lord Remembers.” And I think that if we had to give a summary for this book, that would work.

In Zechariah, we have a condensed summary of the promises of God to remember his people and restore his people. Zechariah talks about the Messiah more than any other minor prophet. And through his visions and oracles, he lifts the eyes of the people to look beyond the present moment and see the final, full, and future restoration of the people of God.

The Lord remembers.

In what we just read, God made a beautiful statement of grace.

He is speaking to people who are descended from those who have openly and adulterously rebelled against him for generations.

In 1:3, he says, “return to me . . . and I will return to you.”

It’s like in Hosea when he continues to pursue his faithless lover. He pursues her with love in his eyes even though she keeps running to other lovers.

Have you ever heard someone say something like, “ugh.. Women.” or “All men are the same.”

Sentiments like this come from assumptions that we’ve formed. We assume that because someone fits into a certain group, they will always act the same given the same circumstances, so instead of giving someone a chance, we often just cut them off at the pass and assume that they will do what people like them always do.

But God isn’t like us. This is the eternal God who saw Israel rebel against him over and over. Generation after generation, for more than a thousand years. And still, even after they seemed to reach the precipice of his anger, he says to them, “Return to me, and I will return to you.”

I wonder if you feel like you are too far gone this morning. You’ve been engaging in the same sin over and over, and you are addicted. You can’t imagine life without your sin. Or maybe you’ve hidden the same thing for so long, that you can’t imagine the people around you really knowing your heart. Or maybe you just know that you need to turn from your general way of life. Maybe there isn’t something specific that you can identify, but you know that something big needs to change.

The God of the Bible responds to repentance. Don’t think that he would spurn you. He says it right here. Don’t be like those who would ignore the call of God.

Turn to God and He will turn to you.

This is the foundation of the book of Zechariah. The rest of the book is just teasing out what this means.

And we are going to spend our time today answering four questions from the text of Zechariah.

  1. What does it mean to turn to God?

  2. What does it mean that God will turn to you?

  3. How is all of this accomplished?

  4. What is the result?

We are going to spend most of our time working through these questions. But let me give you a brief outline of how this book is structured.

The book of Zechariah has 4 major sections. It has the introduction that we read for our public reading (1:1-6). Then from 1:7-6:8, he records what are known as the night visions. These are a series of dreams that God gave Zechariah to show his heart for his people. The next section is in the latter part of chapter 6 to the end of chapter 8. These are a couple of sermons that act as a conclusion to the night visions. Then finally from chapters 9-14, Zechariah records two oracles that he has for the people of God.

We’ll be jumping between the visions, sermons, and oracles during our time today. They are all filled with figurative language and imagery, and we are going to try and wade straight to the heart of several of those today. Hopefully it’s helpful to understand these different categories and the general flow of the text.

This is always the case, but especially because we’ll be jumping around today, let me encourage you to test what I say. If what I’m saying doesn’t line up with what the word actually says, the word is the authority–not Zach. Let’s talk about it.

Okay, let’s jump in.

What does it mean to turn to God?

  1. Turning to God means hating our sin and pursuing godliness.

Turning to God means agreeing with God about our sin.

We see this in several places in Zechariah.

To start, we saw it in our public reading. Look in the second half of 1:6, “So they repented and said, “As the Lord of hosts purposed to deal with us for our ways and deeds, so has he dealt with us.”

They are looking at their years in exile, and saying, “Yeah, God was right to punish us.” And they seem to turn from their sin and turn toward godliness.

In chapter 5, there is a vision of a flying scroll that purifies the land of sin. It’s a picture of the people hearing and responding to the word of God. When we agree with God about our sin, we will hate it, and instead, we will pursue godliness.

Throughout the book, there is a clear awareness that we are in sin, and something has to change. In almost every section, there is some kind of call to holiness and godliness.

Like in 7:9-10, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, 10 do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

Why? Why is this the constant call in Zechariah? Turn away from your sin and turn to God.

Because sin leads to death. It’s all over the Bible.

Proverbs 7:27, “Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.”

Romans 6:23, “the wages of sin is death.”

1 Peter 2:11, “the passions of the flesh wage war against your soul.”

Galatians 5, the works of the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God.

When we see our sin as God sees it, we will hate it because it leads to death. In the exile, the people of Judah got a glimpse of this, and they began with repentance.

Have you grown soft on your sin? When you are angry with your spouse or with your boss or with a friend, do you think it’s not a big deal? Does it bother you that embracing your sin means that you are pushing away from God?

God doesn’t coexist with sin.

Anger. Greed. Deception. Lust. Pride.

All of them do damage to your soul. Are you acting like it doesn’t affect you?

When I was in high school, we had a friend who was the warehouse manager at a local grocery store, and around the holidays, he would donate vast troves of boiled custard and eggnog to our church. And my family was welcome to all of it that we wanted. We grew accustomed to each of us grabbing a half gallon of eggnog and drinking it without even pouring it into a cup.

Years later, after Andrew was eating a primarily vegan diet, we decided to splurge. We went down to Winco, and we got a significant amount of eggnog, and we drank as much as our hearts desired.

Now, before we even drank it, I remember Alix looking at Andrew and warning him. “Andrew, that’s going to make you sick.” And Andrew said, “Worth it.” But I don’t know if Andrews stomach agreed with the sentiment. After being largely void of dairy for several years, the flood of dairy to his system cause him several hours of intermittent “rest” from our family activities.

I’ll let you make the value judgment on the eggnog.

But listen, do you treat sin like this?

Do you see the consequences and do a calculation in your head? “Eh, that consequence isn’t too bad. I can put up with that.”

Don’t underestimate the wages of sin. Even if the only earthly consequence is someone being inconvenienced, God sees our sin, and he is just. No sin will go unaddressed.

Turning to God means hating our sin and pursuing godliness.

What will happen when God turns to us?

  1. When God turns to us, he promises purity, protection, prosperity, and peace.

This is the bulk of Zechariah’s message.

We don’t have time to walk through everything in Zechariah, but let’s survey the visions from chapters 1-6. If you have your Bible open, look in chapter 1. We are going to reference the text a lot and move fast so you might keep it open.

The first vision is in chapter 1. You might be able to just follow the headings as we walk through these. God sends out horsemen to all of the earth, and they represent his full knowledge of the world. And he is furious that the nations are at rest after Israel has been so harshly treated by them. Look in 1:15, “And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster.”

When Israel was exiled, the nations were more severe than they should have been, and God is angry. But for Israel he is gentle. Look in 1:17. “Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.

The Lord is speaking comfort to his people, but he is angry with the nations, and he is going to take vengeance on them. We see that in the next vision.

In 1:18-21, God uses the vision of the horns and the craftsmen to promise judgment against the nations who scattered Judah. He is raising up craftsman nations to judge the horns.

Then in the third vision (2:1-13), Zechariah sees a man with a measuring tape. And he is going to do a construction project in Jerusalem. In this vision, God warns all of his people who remain in Babylon to get out as soon as possible because Jerusalem will be blessed while Babylon is besieged.

Look in 2:10-12, “Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your didst, declares the Lord. 11 And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day and shall be my people, and I will dwell in your midst, and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. 12 And the Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem.”

God has good purposes for his people, and he is going to dwell with them. By His presence, his people find prosperity.

The fourth vision is in 3:1-10. And it’s an important one, so we are going to take a bit more time here. Joshua, the high priest who represents the people, is on trial in front of God, and Satan stands up to accuse him. But look in verse 2. “And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire? [when you pull a stick out of the fire it usually stops burning. He is saying that the people of Judah have been shown mercy. Keep going] 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.”

Look down in verse 6. “And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. [the right of access was the right to go into the holy of holies.]”

Joshua is a representative of the people. And Satan was right. Joshua wasn’t worthy to stand there. He had dirty clothes that represented his sin. God rebuked Satan. Because God had chosen Joshua. And God made Joshua worthy. He gave him new clothes. Pure vestments.

The fifth vision is about a golden lampstand that represents’ God’s anointing on Zerubbabel (the king figure) and Joshua (the high priest).

God is setting up the expectation for a priest-king who is the anointed one. God will protect and prosper the people through him.

The sixth vision is the flying scroll that we discussed earlier.

The seventh vision is one of a woman in a basket that represents God sending wickedness out of Jerusalem.

And the 8th vision is similar to the first. It shows God’s chariots going out into all of the earth to represent his sovereign power and activity driving world events and applying his sovereign will.

I know that’s a lot. But trust me when I say that it was more complicated for me to digest those visions than it was for me to talk through them here.

But do you see each of these characteristics from our point?

When God turns to us, he promises purity, protection, prosperity, and peace.

All of these are clear, just from the night visions. And we haven’t even really looked at the sermons and the oracles.

Look in Chapter 8.

And the word of the LORD of hosts came, saying, 2 “Thus says the LORD of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath. 3 Thus says the LORD: I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be called the faithful city, and the mountain of the LORD of hosts, the holy mountain. 4 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age [they won’t die young in war or famine]. 5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in its streets. 6 Thus says the LORD of hosts: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight, declares the LORD of hosts? 7 Thus says the LORD of hosts: Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, 8 and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness.”

Skip down to verse 14.

14 For thus says the LORD of hosts: “As I purposed to bring disaster to you when your fathers provoked me to wrath, and I did not relent, says the LORD of hosts, 15 so again have I purposed in these days to bring good to Jerusalem and to the house of Judah; fear not. 16 These are the things that you shall do: Speak the truth to one another; render in your gates judgments that are true and make for peace; 17 do not devise evil in your hearts against one another, and love no false oath, for all these things I hate, declares the LORD.”

Then he goes on to say how the times of fasting will be turned to times of feasting. He talks about how the people from nations around them will come and tug on their robes because they want to know the one true God.

When God turns to us, he promises purity, protection, prosperity, and peace.

But let’s be clear about something. When we say that God promises these things, it doesn’t mean that all of your troubles will just go away.

In fact, that’s one of the reasons that Zechariah is writing. He is encouraging them to continue to rebuild Jerusalem and the temple. Why did he have to encourage them?

Because it was hard! They had returned to the land and the Lord was with them, but it wasn’t a cake walk.

Even in those days, these promises had an already-not yet flavor. There was a sense in which they were immediately fulfilled, but their greater fulfillment was in the future.

So let’s consider this for a moment.

Think of Romans 8:28, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

Maybe you have wondered what “good” really means here. We can take the word “good” and flavor it with these other words– purity, protection, prosperity, and peace.

Think about it. This it the kind of verse we can say to ourselves in the worst of times.

Some of you know about a family friend of ours named David. He and his wife Janet were in the car with their 13 year old grandson a couple of weeks ago. Without any fault of David’s, someone veered to their side of the road and hit their car head on. Within a few days, David’s life had ended. Janet and their grandson will probably have complicating factors for the rest of their lives.

David was a man who loved the Lord. Janet played the piano at our church growing up. She is the one who gave me my first sheets with piano scales. Their grandson has so much of his life ahead of him.

And yet, “we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

For those who love God all things work together for your purity–for your protection–for your prosperity–for your peace.

The Lord is sanctifying his people through loss and adversity. David is protected in the eternal arms of his God. David has entered into an eternal prosperity in the presence of God. David is finally at peace. For the rest of eternity, he won’t have joint pain when he gets out of his truck. Janet is secure, even with the loss of her husband. She can rest in the sovereign goodness of God, even as she mourns her beloved.

And these promises don’t only apply to death. For all of us who are in Christ, God has our good in mind through every kind of adversity. He isn’t sadistic. He doesn’t put us through hardship for the sake of pain. He is shaping us into the image of Christ. He is making us pure. He is protecting us from the sin that would wage war against our souls. He is drawing us closer to himself, and in his presence we will find our greatest flourishing and peace.

There are so many sweet promises here for us. But maybe you see the hole here. Maybe you see the giant leap we’ve taken in our time so far.

Turn to God and he will turn to you.

This is the problem.

If we are operating according to our own inclinations and power, we will never turn to God.

And if we never turn to God, then he won’t turn to us. We’ll just continue in our rebellion and walk straight into the just condemnation of God.

But this is the gospel. When we would not turn to God, God turned to us. While we were still enemies, Christ died for us.

So our third question.

How is this accomplished?

  1. Jesus is the good shepherd who secured these promises.

We don’t earn this. We don’t accomplish our own worthiness.

Jesus is the good shepherd who lived the perfect life and died for the sheep, and he was raised in victory over death. And he reigns now at the right hand of the Father.

Jesus is everywhere in Zechariah.

Go back to chapter three. I want to survey a few high points here because Zechariah talks about Jesus more than anyone else in the minor prophets.

Look in 3:8-10, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. 9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes [this stone is a person with perfect vision. He is all-seeing], I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10 In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”

The one who is the branch and the stone will work the removal of iniquity (Isaiah 4, 11; Jer 33; 1 Pt.2), and being made pure they will dwell with God and find flourishing. Zerubbabel is the immediate fulfilment, but Christ is the true fulfillment.

Look in 6:12, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD. 13 It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’

This is the royal priest–the branch who would build the temple with royal honor. Remember what Jesus said, “destroy this temple, and I will rebuild it in 3 days.” Remember what Peter said in 1 Peter 2:5. “you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.”

Jesus is still building his temple today.

Look in 9:9, “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; righteous and having salvation is he, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.” Does that sound familiar?

Think of the triumphal entry where Jesus insisted on riding a donkey as he entered Jerusalem (Mt 21:1-11).

There are so many more references here. In 11:12-17, they reject the good shepherd and value him at 30 pieces of silver (Mt 27:10). Like when Judas betrayed Jesus

In 13:1, it says that “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” There is a fountain filled with blood.

I want to slow down for a moment and look at 12:10.

Read that. “10 “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.”

What an incredible verse.

There are two big ideas here that we just can’t miss.

First, the eternal God who is a spirit and can’t be seen. This God identifies with the one who has been pierced. Look there. Half way through the verse, he says, “when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced,” What in the world? This is a monotheistic Jew writing hundreds of years before Jesus. And he just said God would be pierced. He’s looking ahead to the incarnation–when God took on flesh for our sakes.

But there is something else to see here. God pours a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy. And what is the effect? They mourn for the one they pierced. They bitterly mourn for him in the way one would weep over a child who has died.

What’s the implication? What would happen if God didn’t pour out his spirit?

They wouldn’t mourn! They wouldn’t repent!

Turn to God and He will turn to you.

But we will never turn to God of our own volition.

Enter the gospel

Do you see it? Just soak in the grace here. Not only does God forgive you when you come to him–he initiates you coming. He stirs in your heart by His Spirit so that you would mourn for your sin.

God is the one who causes us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

So if you feel the Spirit stirring you today, don’t delay! Turn to him, and he will turn to you.

And what will be the result?

What is the result? Not only do we get the promises that we already mentioned. We also,

  1. We have hope in adversity because Jesus will bring these promises to a final consummation.

There are two oracles at the end of Zechariah.

They both follow a similar pattern.

Both start with God proclaiming judgment against the enemies of his people. And then the messiah comes on the scene. In the first oracle, he is a king and a lord and a shepherd. And in the second oracle, he is identified as a shepherd and the one whom they have pierced.

In the first oracle, the divine shepherd king is rejected and he leaves them. And that’s it. There’s no resolution. And we are left to wonder, will the good shepherd abandon them forever? Then in the second oracle, he is rejected in a much worse way, but the final chapter of Zechariah is largely a mediation on the Day of the Lord and New heavens and the New Earth.

On that day, God’s final judgment will be enacted, and we will be ushered into the purity and protection and prosperity and peace that God has promised.

Will he abandon them forever? No. He will return to his people.

Look in 14:6, “On that day there shall be no light, cold, or frost. 7 And there shall be a unique day, which is known to the LORD, neither day nor night, but at evening time there shall be light.

8 On that day living waters shall flow out from Jerusalem, half of them to the eastern sea and half of them to the western sea. It shall continue in summer as in winter.

9 And the LORD will be king over all the earth. On that day the LORD will be one and his name one.

Skip down to verse 11.

“And it shall be inhabited, for there shall never again be a decree of utter destruction. Jerusalem shall dwell in security.”

Those who formerly rebelled will be put to justice or brought into the fold of God’s people, and they will be His people and he will be their God.

We have hope.

I remember walking on our college campus with my sister. On campus, there were frequently art projects that you would randomly run into. As we walked that day, I had no idea this happened, but my sister saw my eyes get drawn up a dry creek bed where a student had painted a series of rocks a bright red color. She said, “Did you just look up the creek bed? Because that’s what they wanted you to do.” And when she asked I snapped out of it, and I realized that my eyes had been pulled up without even realizing it. Where I had been looking down, my head was pulled up to look into the trees because those bright red rocks caught my eye.

Zechariah is meant to be like those bright red rocks. This is a book that compiles the promises of God so that as you are walking through adversity, your eyes would be drawn up to look above the busy-ness and the pain that is so common in this world.

May we be a people who are constantly turning to God. Maybe we be a people who remind each other of God’s promises, because as we remind each other, we take the drooping hands and downtrodden eyes of our brother and we say look beyond this. Look to our hope.

Let’s pray.


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