The ministry of Zechariah accompanied that of Haggai. He, too, was called to speak to the returned exiles in Jerusalem, encouraging them to continue their building of the temple of the Lord despite rising opposition. But Zechariah's ministry went even further than that, his book being the most Messianic of all of the prophetic books. Through a series of eight visions, God speaks to His people through Zechariah, affirming His characteristics and re-establishing His promises to them.
The book begins with Zechariah's call to repentance, reminding the people that the disobedience and rebellion of their forefathers were what caused the exile. Through clear instructions, God was commanding His people to not be like their fathers, who did not heed His words. He was calling them to return to Him, to pick up their tools and continue the task of rebuilding the temple. It was upon the completion of His House that God would visit them with His mercy. Throughout the rest of the book of Zechariah there are visions that God gave to him. While they may be difficult to follow for some readers, they were significant in the lives to whom they were spoken. There are a few key visions that really drove home the message that God wanted His people to hear: "I am with you."
The prophet Haggai spoke this promise, and Zechariah confirmed it through his first vision of four horses and their riders. These four horses symbolized God's watchful eye that saw throughout the four corners of the earth. Indeed, He was with them, just as He promised. The message from God, as spoken by the horsemen, was that all the earth was sitting and quiet. God wanted the exiles to know that they were dwelling in a time of peace, and that they were free to continue their work on the temple.
Zechariah's second vision was that of four horns. These symbolized judgment. Judah had fallen under the wrath of God for their rebellion, and were taken from Judah to a foreign land as punishment. Because of God's mercy, He did not remain angry with them forever, and ultimately brought them back to Judah, as He had promised. But now, the arrival of these four horns of judgment meant that judgment was to fall on the other nations of the world who had risen up against God's people and scatter them. The surrounding nations had been a tool in the hand of God, but they were driven by evil, causing destruction beyond what God had intended. God was communicating that He was exceedingly angry with those nations, and because He was zealous for Jerusalem, He intended to avenge His people.
One of the most memorable sections in the book of Zechariah is one that contains a clear picture of the coming Messiah. Above all else, God had not forgotten His promise to His people. This was symbolized by the vision of the crowning of the priest Joshua. In the coming Messiah, both kingship and priesthood would be united. The Branch was to rule from His throne as Lord as king, and was to become the Mediator between God and man as priest. By the mouth of the prophet Zechariah, God said: "Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both." (6:12-13)
The next book of the prophets is the last book of the Old Testament. In it are harsh rebukes against Jerusalem who had begun to slip back into their pre-exile rebellious ways. Through His prophet, Malachi, God outlined clear boundaries that He expected of the people that He brought back from exile.