Page 1

Zechariah

When Life Has You Down

God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement

Christy Bower


“Those who are taught the word of God should help their teachers by paying them” (Galatians 6:6). Thank you for purchasing this Bible Explorer workbook. You just put a meal on my table. And your support enables me to continue to produce other resources to help people grow in their faith.

Look for other Bible Explorer titles at www.ChristyBower.com. Contact me on Twitter @christybower

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement (Zechariah) © 2012 Christy Bower All rights reserved. This workbook is for individual use only and may not be distributed in electronic or print form unless an extended license is purchased at www.ChristyBower.com. The extended licenses offer quantity discounts for those who wish to use the workbooks for groups. Cover image purchased to support artists. © iStockphoto.com / Aldo Murillo All other images are in the public domain. Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton, Illinois 60189. All rights reserved. When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com


Welcome! The Bible Explorer Guides provide a hands-on approach to studying individual books of the Bible. The studies are intended to help you discover the answers for yourself, while guiding you through the difficult terrain of context and setting. May God bless you as you study His Word. Christy

About Christy I have a Master of Arts in Biblical Studies from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (2004). I am the author of three books: Best Friends with God (2010), Devotion Explosion (2007), and Abundant Life (2002). I have written numerous articles for Christian publications, as well as writing web content for clients. And, in January 2011, God set me on the path of full-time writing ministry, which has enabled me to focus on producing Bible resources to help others grow in their faith.

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement Š 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com


Introduction Does life have you down? C’mon, it’s okay to admit it. We’ve all been there before. Life can feel difficult and discouraging. Sometimes it can even be overwhelming. Too much to do. Not enough time. Not enough resources. The task is too big. Our efforts seem insignificant. What will it matter? Why try? The people of Zechariah’s day knew about discouragement. They returned from Babylonian exile to find Judah and Jerusalem in shambles after the war. God commissioned them to rebuild the Temple, but it seemed like an overwhelming task. And what would it matter, anyway? The glory days of David and Solomon were as much a pile of rubble as the massive Temple. The people weren’t sure they wanted to put out the enormous effort to rebuild the Temple if God had already abandoned them. After the exile, the remnant of Judah struggled to understand what it meant to be God’s people. They were discouraged. But God had a message for them. And God’s wisdom for overcoming discouragement is the same today as it was then.

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: All this may seem impossible to you now, a small and discouraged remnant of God’s people. But do you think this impossible for me, the LORD Almighty?” (Zechariah 8:6, NLT).


Methods of Biblical Interpretation In the pages of Zechariah, Christians find many predictions concerning Christ. And while there is nothing wrong with identifying these fulfillments of prophecy, it is wrong to make that the basis of one’s interpretation of the entire book. Rather than interpreting Zechariah from our perspective and looking back over history, we must consider Zechariah from the perspective of those who originally heard his message. When we understand their struggles and enter into their mindset, we discover God’s message for them is also relevant for us today. The people of Zechariah’s day could not possibly have known which statements would have a later fulfillment. But the words brought encouragement to their lives in the midst of difficulty and despair. The fulfillment of prophecy is another layer of meaning, but it is not the only meaning. Nor is it the primary meaning. So let’s take off our 21st century perspective and enter into the story of Zechariah.

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“Then I will pour out a spirit of grace and prayer on the family of David and on all the people of Jerusalem. They will look on me whom they have pierced and mourn for him as for an only son. They will grieve bitterly for him as for a firstborn son who has died” (Zechariah 12:10, NLT).


Zechariah: Encouraging Words for a Discouraged People people who returned. We are faced with the overwhelming challenges of rebuilding the Temple, the city, and our lives.

nations, and the treasures of all the nations will come to this Temple. I will fill this place with glory, says the Lord Almighty.”

God didn’t really call me to be a prophet, it just sort of happened. It all began a few years ago, in October, when I was at the Temple site.

But there was more. I could feel the words burning within me. I knew the Lord wanted me to speak those words, but I resisted. It wasn’t my place. It wasn’t the right time, I thought. But the more I held back, the greater the fire within me grew. I must speak or I will explode!

My hands were sweaty. My heart was pounding out of my chest. Beads of perspiration formed on my forehead. You would think I had just run a foot race, but, no. I was standing among the people gathered to hear the word of the Lord given through Haggai:

Dear Friends, It has been years since I left Babylon and returned to Judah. I hope this letter finds its way to you in Babylon because I want to tell you how the Lord has been using me as a prophet to speak words of encouragement to the discouraged remnant of

“But now take courage, Zerubbabel, says the Lord. Take courage, Jeshua son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Take courage, all you people still left in the land, says the Lord. Take courage and work, for I am with you, says the Lord Almighty. My Spirit remains among you, just as I promised when you came out of Egypt. So do not be afraid. . . . I will shake all the

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

I stepped forward, pushing my way through the crowd until I stood below the platform. Haggai’s eyes met mine and he must have seen the flame. His words calmed me: “You may speak.”


I gestured to the platform and he nodded. As I ascended the stairs, I drew a long, slow breath. Then, turning to look at the crowd, which looked much larger from this vantage, I began to speak. “The Lord Almighty says: Return to me and I will return to you. Your ancestors would not listen when I warned them to turn from their evil ways. I have done what I said I would do to them. But I will renew my relationship with you.” That was it. It didn’t seem like much after I said it. A gentle breeze caressed the gathering of people and a low murmur of whispering rippled through the crowd as though I had tossed a stone in a pool of water.

A few months later, on February 15, I had a night filled with strange visions from the Lord. At first I saw four horsemen who had returned from patrolling the earth. “The world is at peace,” they said. How can this be? I wondered. Has God forgotten the word He spoke through Haggai promising to shake the nations for our provision? But the angel said, “The Lord Almighty says: My love for Jerusalem is strong. My Temple will be rebuilt and plans will be made for the reconstruction of Jerusalem.” Then I saw four animal horns and four blacksmiths came to destroy them. The angel assured me that God will bring retribution on the nations and they will be overthrown and destroyed. After that I saw a surveyor measuring the city. Jerusalem would be rebuilt! Then I heard the Lord calling the exiles to come home. Jerusalem would have cause to celebrate because the Lord would live among them once again!

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

Then I saw Jeshua the high priest. Satan was there, accusing him of many things, making him feel inadequate, but the Lord rebuked Satan. Jeshua stood there in dirty clothes, so the angel gave him high priestly garments, appropriate for his calling. The next thing I knew, the angel was waking me, as if I had fallen asleep. That was when I saw the gold lampstand with seven lamps. I didn’t know what it meant, but the Lord spoke again: “Zerubbabel started the foundation and he will set the final stone of the Temple in place. Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the


work begin. Remember: it is not by human effort, but by my Spirit that this will happen. I will remove obstacles the size of mountains to clear a level path before him.”

they should continue the fasts to commemorate the destruction of the Temple.

Next, I saw a flying scroll containing a curse against those who steal and lie. The Lord said He would deal with the sins of individuals so the rest of His people could enjoy His blessings.

First, God said, “Who are you really fasting for, anyway? Are you fasting for Me? Or are you fasting out of selfpity?”

As if the flying scroll wasn’t strange enough, then I saw a basket floating across the sky. The basket was for measuring the sins of everyone in the land. The angel opened the lid to reveal a woman named Wickedness. He pushed her back in the basket and sent it to Babylon. Again I saw the four horsemen, but this time they were on chariots. They were sent out to patrol the earth and the one headed north was instructed to vent the Lord’s anger on the northern people of Babylon so that God’s Spirit could rest knowing that justice had been done.

I sought the Lord on this matter and He answered me in four separate messages.

When I awoke, I received some additional instruction from the Lord. He said the Jews in exile would send a gift. When it arrived, I was to use the silver and gold to make a crown for Jeshua the high priest, for the one who builds the Temple is worthy of royal honor, serving as priest and king to the people. The Lord reassured me that people would come from distant lands to rebuild the Temple and this would be a sign that these messages came to me from the Lord. A couple years later, as the Temple work was about halfway done, a group of elders came from the town of Bethel to ask whether

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

Second, God said, “Judge fairly and honestly. Show mercy and kindness. Do not oppress those less fortunate and do not harm each other. Do good things to help others. This is what I desire from you.” Third, God said, “I love Jerusalem! All this may seem impossible to you, a small and discouraged remnant of God’s people, but do you think this is impossible for me? Take heart and finish the task! Before the work on the Temple began, there were no jobs and no wages, but now grapevines will be heavy with fruit. Now I will make you a source of blessing! So don’t be discouraged, but get on with rebuilding the Temple.”


Fourth, God said, “Stop fasting and start celebrating! Turn your fasts into festivals of joy and celebration. Be glad that you’re not where you were before.” The men from Bethel found this answer agreeable. I began to spread the word of the Lord to those in Jerusalem and the rest of Judah, as well.

Babylon came as conquerors but the Persian king came in peace, as if riding on a donkey. King Cyrus allowed our people to return, financed the trip, and provided generous offerings toward the rebuilding of the Temple. King Darius, too, supported the Temple reconstruction when local opposition wanted him to stop it. The Persians had been benevolent and had provided military protection to maintain peace in the land. The Lord promised that Judah would be restored and redeemed but the message was clearly to look forward and not back. The Lord pointed out that the kings of Israel and Judah had been a perpetual failure. He urged the people to accept their current situation because there was no going back to the failures of the past.

Later, the Lord gave me two messages for the people. In the first message, God provided assurance that He controls the circumstances of His people. He pointed out the benefits of being under a Persian king. After all,

In the second message, the Lord reassured the people that He controls their role in the world. True, they may not go back to the glory days of the Davidic kingdom, but that doesn’t mean God no longer has a role for them in the world! The Lord assured

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

them that He will defend Jerusalem against the nations and He offered hope of renewal because the remnant of Judah will be more responsive to God than the nation of Judah had been. Moreover, the Lord clarified our new role! He said that Jerusalem is no longer a center for government, but a place to meet God. That’s a powerful motivation to complete the Temple! You can read the full details in my official record, which scribes are copying and circulating to spread the news. I am enclosing a copy of the full text in this parcel. Read it among the people and rejoice. Urge others to return to Jerusalem to share in this work of God. Blessings to you, Zechariah


The Landscape of History The Jews who returned from Babylon were faced with the enormous task of rebuilding their lives, their homes, and their Temple. Everything had been destroyed when the Babylonians attacked and took them into exile for 70 years. Now, the Persians had defeated Babylon and allowed the captives to return home. Many of the Jews, especially those born in Babylon, had built their lives and homes there and lost any desire to return to Judah. Most of those who chose to return were probably the aged, who remembered their former lives. Now, this ragged band of approximately 50,000 Jews started rebuilding the Temple, but local opposition tried to thwart their efforts at every turn. Eventually, the discouraged remnant stopped trying. Almost two decades later, the prophets Haggai and Zechariah emerged with a message from God: rebuild the Temple! But the people had grown increasingly discouraged. Times were tough. Years of drought and famine had destroyed all that made life livable. They were once a proud nation under David and Solomon, but God had destroyed their nation. They were no longer captives, but they didn’t yet have autonomy because they were under Persian control. They undoubtedly wondered why they should rebuild the Temple when God had probably written them off for good. It is to this mindset that Zechariah speaks. The Lord gave him visual metaphors and speeches to convey hope and encouragement to a discouraged people.

Survey of History 538 B.C.E. Cyrus allows Jews to return (Ezra 1:2-4) 537 B.C.E. Construction of the new Temple begins (Ezra 3:8) 536 B.C.E. Construction of the Temple stops 530-522 Cambyses of Persia builds a naval fleet 522-486 B.C.E. Darius I rules Persian Empire 521 B.C.E. Darius I suppresses rebellion in Babylonia 520 B.C.E. Zechariah and Haggai urge the people to resume Temple work 518 B.C.E. Darius I gains control in Egypt 515 B.C.E. Dedication of the second Temple 513 B.C.E. Darius I expands Persian Empire into Scythia 490 B.C.E. Battle of Marathon, Darius defeated by Athenians

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com


The Persian Empire This map shows the Persian Empire at its greatest extent (525 B.C.E.).

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com


Outline I.

Be Encouraged (Zechariah 1-6) Introductory Message: A call to return to the Lord (1:16) A. Four spirits report world peace (1:7-17) B. The world powers that scattered Judah and Israel will be overthrown (1:18-21) C. Jerusalem will be rebuilt (2:1-13) D. Satan accused the high priest (3:1-10) E. Reassuring the governor that nothing will stand in the way (4:1-14) F. The people, as individuals, will be judged for wrongdoing (5:1-4) G. Wickedness will be pushed back to Babylon (5:511) H. Four spirits sent to patrol the earth and vent God’s anger on the north (6:1-8) Closing Message: Proof that these messages came from the Lord will be that people from distant lands will come to rebuild the Temple (6:9-15)

II.

Stop Dwelling on the Past (Zechariah 7-8) A Question Asked: Should we continue fasting on the anniversary of the destruction of the Temple? (7:1-3) A. Motives questioned: was it really for Me you were fasting? (7:4-7) B. A call to justice and mercy (7:8-14) C. What seems impossible to you is not impossible for God. Finish the Temple! (8:1-17) D. Turn your fasts into festivals (8:12-23)

III.

Accept the Present and Anticipate the Future (Zechariah 9-14) A. God controls the circumstances of His people (Zechariah 9-11)

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

Key Events for Haggai and Zechariah Aug 29, 520 B.C.E. Haggai’s first message (Haggai 1:1-11) Sept 21, 520 B.C.E. Temple building resumed (Haggai 1:12-15) Oct 17, 520 B.C.E. Haggai’s second message (Haggai 2:1-9) Oct 520 B.C.E. Zechariah’s first message (Zechariah 1:1-6) Dec 18, 520 B.C.E. Haggai’s third and fourth messages (Haggai 2:1023) Feb 15, 519 B.C.E. Zechariah’s eight visions (Zechariah 1:7-6:8)

Dec 7, 518 B.C.E. Questions concerning fasting (Zechariah 7-8) March 12, 515 B.C.E. Temple dedicated (Ezra 6:15-18)


1. The benefits of being under the Persian king (ch 9) 2. Judah will be restored and redeemed (ch 10) 3. Israel’s kings were a perpetual failure (ch 11) B. God controls the role of His people in the world (Zechariah 12-14) 1. The Lord will defend Jerusalem against the nations (ch 12) 2. The remnant of Judah will be responsive to God (ch 13) 3. Jerusalem is no longer a center for government, but a place to meet God (ch 14)

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“I will strengthen Judah and save Israel; I will reestablish them because I love them. It will be as though I had never rejected them, for I am the LORD their God, who will hear their cries” (Zechariah 10:6, NLT).


Faith Lessons The Lord gave Zechariah elaborate visions and messages designed to encourage a discouraged people. And yet how many of us think to turn to Zechariah when we feel discouraged? In the pages of Zechariah, we find God’s wisdom for overcoming discouragement:           

  

Be encouraged. God has not forgotten you (1:7-17). Be encouraged. God will avenge the wrongs against you in your past (1:18-21). Be encouraged. God invites you to return and rejoice in relationship with Him (2:1-13). Be encouraged. When you feel inadequate, let God rebuke Satan and restore your dignity (3:1-10). Be encouraged. God rejoices in small beginnings so rely on His Spirit and not your own effort (4:1-14). Be encouraged. God will destroy wrongdoers—they will not get away with it forever (5:1-4). Be encouraged. God is measuring the sins of all people, even where wickedness is worshiped (5:5-11). Be encouraged. God will avenge sin and reward righteousness (6:1-8). Stop dwelling on the past. Let go of self-pity (7:4-7). Stop dwelling on the past. Do good things to help others (7:8-14). Stop dwelling on the past. Accept God’s grace and power for a fresh start in the face of impossible situations (8:117). Stop dwelling on the past. Start celebrating that you’re not where you were (8:18-23). Accept the present and anticipate the future. God controls the circumstances of His people (9:1-11:17). Accept the present and anticipate the future. God controls the role of His people in the world (12:1-14:21).

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

Then he said to me, “This is what the LORD says to Zerubbabel: It is not by force nor by strength, but by my Spirit, says the LORD Almighty. Nothing, not even a mighty mountain, will stand in Zerubbabel’s way; it will flatten out before him!” (Zechariah 4:67, NLT).


Be encouraged. God has not forgotten you (1:717). What did the Lord promise in Haggai 2:7 and what did the four horsemen report in Zechariah 1:10-11?

World peace came as bad news to the Jews who were waiting for God to shake things up so they could be freed from Persian control. The long silence of peace made it seem as if God had forgotten them. Do you ever feel as if God has forgotten you? How do you remain faithful during long periods when God feels far away?

The people of Judah wondered if it was really worth the effort to rebuild the Temple when it seemed as if God had abandoned them. In this vision of the four horsemen, God provides four important reassurances that He had not forgotten. List them below. 1:14 1:15 1:16 1:17 What reassurances do you need from the Lord?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“Therefore, this is what the LORD says: I have returned to show mercy to Jerusalem. My Temple will be rebuilt, says the LORD Almighty, and plans will be made for the reconstruction of Jerusalem” (Zechariah 1:16, NLT).


Be encouraged. God will avenge the wrongs against you in your past (1:18-21). The remnant of Judah had not forgotten their history. The Assyrians had destroyed Israel and the Babylonians had destroyed Judah. Now the remnant who had returned from Babylonian captivity faced the overwhelming task of rebuilding the civilization. With every stone moved, there must have been a twinge of bitterness. Have you ever felt bitterness about something that happened in your past? What happened? Are you still bitter or have you moved past it?

Our natural inclination is to want revenge when someone wrongs us. What does the Bible teach about revenge? Deuteronomy 32:35 Romans 12:19

What is the vision described in Zechariah 1:18-20? What is the message (hint: what are the blacksmiths going to do)? How would this have encouraged the people of Zechariah’s day? How might this message encourage you?

Take a moment to pray about any bitterness or desire for revenge that you might be harboring. What do you think will happen if you give it to God and let Him be responsible for it?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“What are these?” I asked the angel who was talking with me. He replied, “These horns represent the world powers that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (Zechariah 1:19, NLT).


Be encouraged. God invites you to return and rejoice in relationship with Him (2:1-13). In this third vision, a man is surveying Jerusalem for the reconstruction, but the angel is concerned that he won’t make it big enough for all the people who will return to Jerusalem. This vision would have reassured the people that God would, indeed, restore their civilization and their prosperity. What overwhelming tasks has God given you? Do you feel discouraged by the amount of work it will require? How has God encouraged you to persevere in overwhelming situations?

Then the Lord called the exiles to come home. He encouraged the people to celebrate because He was coming to live among them! This message would have encouraged the people to finish rebuilding the Temple because God promised to return! He had not abandoned His people forever! How does an awareness of God’s presence encourage you to stick with overwhelming or discouraging tasks? Do you feel like God is far away? Check out what the Bible says about God’s presence and His desire to help us. Matthew 28:20 Hebrews 4:16 Hebrews 13:5 1 John 3:21-22

Compare 2:10 with 2:13. What does this say about the ways worship can be expressed? Do you lean toward one or the other? Or do you worship in a variety of ways?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

The LORD says, “Shout and rejoice, O Jerusalem, for I am coming to live among you” (Zechariah 2:10, NLT).


Be encouraged. When you feel inadequate, let God rebuke Satan and restore your dignity (3:1-10). In this fourth vision, Zechariah sees a courtroom trial, with Satan accusing Jeshua the high priest. Satan’s accusations often have a grain of truth to them. Returning from exile, Jeshua probably didn’t have priestly garments (Exodus 28). Satan’s accusations made Him feel inadequate to serve as God’s high priest. Do you ever hear the voice of condemnation trying to make you feel inadequate for the tasks God has given you? Does that discourage you or how do you handle it so it doesn’t discourage you?

In the following passages, what is Satan called? What is his role? Revelation 12:10 Job 1:6-12 How should we respond? Jude 9 1 Peter 5:8-9

God took away Jeshua’s sins (the true source of inadequacy) and gave him a new set of priestly clothes. Then the Lord affirmed his adequacy to serve the Lord. How does God affirm our adequacy? 1 John 1:8-9 Romans 8:33-34 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

And the LORD said to Satan, “I, the LORD, reject your accusations, Satan. Yes, the LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebukes you. This man is like a burning stick that has been snatched from a fire” (Zechariah 3:2, NLT).


Be encouraged. God rejoices in small beginnings so rely on His Spirit and not your own effort (4:1-14). After the vision of the lampstand, which represented God’s eyes watching all around the world, the Lord offered encouragement to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah. As a descendant of David, he was eligible to become king, but he was stuck in an administrative role under the Persian government. Have you ever waited a long time for something to happen? How did you deal with the discouragement of waiting?

The Lord told the people of Judah, “Do not despise these small beginnings” (4:10) because He was pleased to see work on the Temple begin. Do you ever feel discouraged because your work seems insignificant? Do you feel like your work doesn’t matter? How do you think God feels about your work? What do these Bible verses say that might help? 1 Corinthians 15:58 Colossians 3:23 Philippians 2:14

Zerubbabel had laid the foundation of the Temple, and God promised that he would also place the final stone to complete it. But this would not happen by human effort. It would be God’s Spirit who would enable it to happen and remove all obstacles from Zerubbabel’s way. How does Zechariah 4:6 encourage you today?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin, to see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand. For these seven lamps represent the eyes of the Lord that search all around the world” (Zechariah 4:10, NLT).


Be encouraged. God will destroy wrongdoers— they will not get away with it forever (5:1-4). Describe the sixth vision that appears in this section. What two sins are named and what will be done to those who commit them?

The remarkable promise in this passage is that, rather than God sending judgment on the people as a whole as He had done since the days of Moses, now He vowed to punish the wrongdoers as individuals. This would have come as a great relief to the people who had suffered exile, drought, and famine because of the Lord’s judgment on the people as a whole. How does personal responsibility and personal accountability bring a sense of relief and encouragement?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

Then he said to me, “This scroll contains the curse that is going out over the entire land. One side says that those who steal will be banished from the land; the other side says that those who swear falsely will be banished from the land” (Zechariah 5:3, NLT).


Be encouraged. God is measuring the sins of all people, even where wickedness is worshiped (5:5-11). In the seventh vision, Zechariah sees a flying basket used for measuring grain, but this one was used to measure the sins of the people of Judah. When the angel lifted off the cover, there was a woman, named Wickedness, sitting inside. The angel pushed her back in the basket and returned it to Babylon, where they would build a temple to worship the basket. The general idea is that the sins of Judah would be removed. How does this compare with the curses of Zechariah 5:3?

What else does God’s Word say about removing our sins? Micah 7:19 Isaiah 44:22 Jeremiah 31:34 Hebrews 1:3 1 John 1:7, 9

Where is wickedness worshiped today? What does modern idolatry look like? 1 John 2:15-16 Ephesians 5:5 Colossians 3:5-6 1 John 5:21

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“What is it?” I asked. He replied, “It is a basket for measuring grain, and it is filled with the sins of everyone throughout the land” (Zechariah 5:6, NLT).


Be encouraged. God will avenge sin and reward righteousness (6:1-8). The four spirits that appeared in the first vision now reappear, this time on chariots instead of horses. The Lord sent them to patrol the earth and to vent His anger on the north, the land of Babylon, where wickedness has just been transplanted (5:10-11). Having appeased God’s wrath in the north, God’s Spirit found rest. The message of this vision is one of political stability in the region. In the first vision, the world was at peace, but God was angry with the other nations (Zechariah 1:11, 15). Now, in the final vision, God is satisfied that justice has been done on the earth. How do you think that made the people of Zechariah’s day feel? How do you feel when you know that justice has been done on earth?

The last part of the chapter contains some instruction to Zechariah. The Lord foretold of a group of emissaries arriving from the Jews in exile. Zechariah was to take their gifts of gold and silver and fashion them into a crown. What was the purpose of this crown (6:14)?

What is the sign the Lord gave Zechariah as proof that these messages have been from the Lord (6:15)?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

He replied, “These are the four spirits of heaven who stand before the Lord of all the earth. They are going out to do his work” (Zechariah 6:5, NLT).


Stop dwelling on the past. Let go of self-pity (7:4-7). The night visions had occurred on February 15, 519 B.C.E. and now, almost two years later, Zechariah receives four messages from the Lord (December 7, 518 B.C.E.). These messages were in response to a question raised by some people from Bethel. What was their question (7:3)?

According to the Law, only one fast was required: the Day of Atonement (Leviticus 23:26-32). But while they were in Babylon, they began fasting to commemorate (and commiserate!) four key events in the disasters that befell them. Describe the four events below: 2 Kings 25:1-2 (January 15) 2 Kings 25:3-4 (July 18) 2 Kings 25:8-10 (August 14) 2 Kings 25:25-26 (October)

This last one occurred in the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, the same month as the Day of Atonement. For this reason, the Lord said they were not fasting for Him (the Day of Atonement) but for themselves (to grieve their past losses). Their fasts were nothing more than pity parties that had been going on for more than 70 years! What life experience have you had that caused you to wallow in self-pity? How long did it last?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“Say to all your people and your priests, ‘During those seventy years of exile, when you fasted and mourned in the summer and at the festival in early autumn, was it really for me that you were fasting?’” (Zechariah 7:5, NLT).


Stop dwelling on the past. Do good things to help others (7:8-14). The Lord delivered a second speech through Zechariah in response to the question of fasting for the past losses of the Jewish people. This one is a call to justice and mercy. List the things the Lord encourages them to do (7:9-10).

The prophets of old gave similar warnings about fasting. Compare Isaiah 58:6-12. What are some of the promises given in the Isaiah passage? Note, especially, Isaiah 58:12 and how that applies to the people of Zechariah’s day.

How can doing good things to help others cause people to stop dwelling on the past?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“Your ancestors would not listen to this message. They turned stubbornly away and put their fingers in their ears to keep from hearing” (Zechariah 7:11, NLT).


Stop dwelling on the past. Accept God’s grace and power for a fresh start in the face of impossible situations (8:1-17). The Temple reconstruction spanned more than four years (520-515 B.C.E.) and these messages of Zechariah 7-8 occurred on December 7, 518 B.C.E., halfway through the reconstruction. In this third speech, the Lord addresses the discouragement that may have been setting in again among the workers. What did He say to encourage them in 8:6? Compare Matthew 19:26. How does this encourage you in whatever difficult circumstances you face?

The Lord reminded them that before the work on the Temple began there were no jobs and no food, but now that the Temple work was underway, things had turned around (8:10-12; see also Haggai 2:18-19). They didn’t need to fast and mourn because things were looking up now! What kind of symbol did Judah used to be and what kind of symbol would it be now (8:13)? In light of this promise, what did the Lord urge them to do (8:13)?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: Take heart and finish the task! You have heard what the prophets have been saying about building the Temple of the LORD Almighty ever since the foundation was laid” (Zechariah 8:9, NLT).


Stop dwelling on the past. Start celebrating that you’re not where you were (8:18-23). In this fourth and final message, God finally gets around to giving them a specific answer to the question of whether or not they should continue the fasts to mourn the destruction of Jerusalem. What is God’s answer (8:19)? What are they to do instead?

It’s easy to get stuck in the past and let our past misfortunes define our lives. But when we consider where we are now, compared to where we were when things didn’t go right, we often find we have much to be thankful for! Take a moment to read what the Apostle Paul wrote about his past experiences (2 Corinthians 11:23-27) and then compare his attitude (Philippians 3:13-14) and his advice (Philippians 4:4-7). What can you learn from Paul’s example? 2 Corinthians 11:23-27

Philippians 3:13-14

Philippians 4:4-7

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

“This is what the LORD Almighty says: The traditional fasts and times of mourning you have kept in early summer, midsummer, autumn, and winter are now ended. They will become festivals of joy and celebration for the people of Judah. So love truth and peace” (Zechariah 8:19, NLT).


Accept the present and anticipate the future. God controls the circumstances of His people (9:1-11:17). Chapter 9.The people wanted to regain their national autonomy, but the Lord urged them to be thankful for their Persian overlords. Whereas the Babylonians came as conquerors, the Persian king came “righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey” (9:9). The Persians did not conquer Judah, they helped to restore it! They had released the captives, funded the rebuilding of the Temple, and provided safety and security for the otherwise unprotected people of Judah. How might your uncomfortable circumstances be seen as the work of God in your life?

Chapter 10. The Lord promised that Judah would be restored (10:6) and redeemed (10:9). He urged them to accept their current situation because it wasn’t as bad as they thought. Despite their Persian overlords, they were free to come and go as they pleased because they were no longer captives (10:12). Can you think of any ways that you still feel “captive” to your past even though it is no longer your present reality? What do you think God would say about that?

Chapter 11. God put an end to their hopes of regaining their autonomy as a sovereign nation. He pointed out that the kings of Israel and Judah had been a perpetual failure, like worthless shepherds, so there was no going back! Do you ever long to go back to the way things once were? What helpful insights about contentment can you gain from Philippians 4:11-13?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

Rejoice greatly, O people of Zion! Shout in triumph, O people of Jerusalem! Look, your king is coming to you. He is righteous and victorious, yet he is humble, riding on a donkey—even on a donkey’s colt (Zechariah 9:9, NLT).


Accept the present and anticipate the future. God controls the role of His people in the world (12:1-14:21). Chapter 12. The remnant of Judah did not have an army, so the Lord promised to defend Jerusalem against the nations (12:8-9). During this time of peace under Persian protection, God would “pour out a spirit of grace and prayer” on them through renewed worship at the Temple. Do you pray more when things are going well or when things are not going well? If you are going through a time of peace in your life, how could you seize the opportunity to spend more time with God?

Chapter 13. Israel and Judah had been world powers in their glory days, but now they were few in number. However, the one-third of the people left as a remnant would be more responsive to God than the larger population had been in years gone by. How can you respond positively to God’s purifying and pruning work in your life? Hebrews 12:8-9 1 Peter 1:6-7 John 15:1-2

Chapter 14. The Lord explained that Jerusalem would no longer be a center for government but a place for people to meet God. Their role in the world was changing, but the changes made it that much more important for them to fulfill their God-given task of completing the Temple! How has your role in life changed over time? What new roles do you feel God might be leading you into?

When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

In the end, the enemies of Jerusalem who survive the plague will go up to Jerusalem each year to worship the King, the LORD Almighty, and to celebrate the Festival of Shelters (Zechariah 14:16, NLT).


Bible Explorers If you would like to explore Zechariah more on your own, here are some suggestions for where you might begin. Then, follow your curiosity like a good explorer and see where your studies lead you! In a Bible dictionary, look up: Zechariah, Haggai, Ezra Persians Jeshua the high priest Zerubbabel Check a Bible atlas to read about the Persian Empire. There is a wealth of history documented from this era, and it’s not dry, boring stuff. It’s chock full of naval battles and fight-to-the-last manstanding hand-to-hand combat (like the Battle of Marathon). And you might become so interested that you decide to get a book about the Greco-Persian Wars.

Contact Christy The best way to get to know me is to meet me on Twitter @christybower. You can also read more of my writings on my blog at www.christybower.com. And I have a contact form on my website if you need to contact me personally. You can even write to me: Christy Bower PO Box 983 Whitefish MT 59937

I love to hear from readers! Go ahead, make my day! When Life Has You Down: God’s Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement © 2012 Christy Bower

www.ChristyBower.com

How has the study of Zechariah helped you overcome discouragement? Has this study helped you gain a new appreciation for Zechariah and the Minor Prophets?

Zechariah - When Life Has You Down: God's Wisdom for Overcoming Discouragement  

Zechariah delivered messages of encouragement from the Lord. These divine pep-talks were intended to reshape the thinking of a discouraged p...

Read more
Read more
Similar to
Popular now
Just for you