The book of Zechariah can be summed up in one word: Restoration. It’s about the restoration of Israel’s land, temple, city, priesthood, prophetic office, and even the people. Just as every aspect of Israel had been corrupted by sin and lead to exile, so also, every part of Israel will be renewed, restored.
A Brief History: Slavery, Freedom, Exile
Israel’s history roughly covers three “periods.” Israel was first enslaved in Egypt. God then sent Moses to lead Israel out of Egypt through the great event known as the Exodus. God redeemed His people, and gave them freedom. God brought Israel out from the land of slavery into the Promised Land of Palestine. On the way to her inheritance, Israel received God’s Law at Sinai. If Israel would obey the Law, then she would have long life in the land. Disobedience, however, would lead to exile, being kicked out of the Promised Land.
Unfortunately, Israel did not obey the Law of the Lord, and was sent away into exile. Due to God’s mercy, exile is not the end for Israel. God sends His prophets to Israel and they promise that a day is coming when Israel will return from exile. The return from exile will be characterized by the resurrection from the dead, the restoration of the temple, and the ushering in of the new creation.
After seventy years in Babylon, Israel did return, but not in the glorious way expected by the prophets. The question persisted: You can get the people out of Babylon, but how do you get Babylon out of the people? The answer unfolded in the Hebrew Bible is that the exile has two dimensions: a physical return, and an even greater spiritual return.
The Message of Zechariah
It is at this moment when Zechariah the prophet steps on the scene. Zechariah is prophesying in Israel when the people have physically returned from exile. Israel is back in the land. But the people have not experienced the greater return from exile. The people are waiting for the return, or to use exodus language, the Second Exodus.
The reason why the people have not experienced the greater return—and restoration—is because sin had not been dealt a definitive blow. The returned exiles are just as sinful as the generations which lead up to the exile (as demonstrated in both Zechariah and Malachi). When the new day dawns, however, sin will be wiped away and restoration will commence. God’s restoration will cover all aspects of Israel life:
“I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (3:9).
“‘It will come about in that day,’ declares the Lord, ‘that I will cut off the names of the idols in the land, and they will no longer be remembered’” (13:2)
“Look, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out where He is; and He will build the temple of the Lord” (6:12)
“I will also remove the prophets and the unclean spirits from the land” (13:2).
“Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices” (6:13)
“I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain” (8:3)
Why Does This Matter?
Zechariah matters because it points to Jesus. Jesus is the One whose sacrificial death on the cross puts away sin and makes restoration possible. It is Jesus’ resurrection which ushers in the new creation into this broken, fallen world. What God will do for Israel, He will do for the whole world. Amazingly, the prophet Jeremiah talks about a return from exile for Gentile (non-Jewish) nations (Jeremiah 12:14-17). Zechariah also talks about Gentiles being made family with the Jews:
“Many nations will join themselves to the Lord in that day and will become My people.”
All people can be made family together through faith in the One man, Jesus Christ. So, Zechariah is all about restoration. And restoration comes through Jesus.