Jehovah’s Word Is Alive
Highlights From the Books of Haggai and Zechariah
THE year is 520 B.C.E. Sixteen years have passed since the Jewish returnees from Babylonian exile laid the foundation of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem. Yet, the temple is not completed, and the building work is under ban. Jehovah raises up the prophet Haggai and two months later the prophet Zechariah to speak His word.
Haggai and Zechariah have one objective: Stir up the people to resume the work of rebuilding the temple. The efforts of these prophets succeed, and the temple is completed five years later. What Haggai and Zechariah proclaimed is recorded in the Bible books bearing their names. The books of Haggai and Zechariah were completed in 520 B.C.E. and 518 B.C.E. respectively. Like those prophets, we too have a God-given work, which must be brought to completion before the end of the present system of things. It is the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work. Let us see what encouragement we can draw from the books of Haggai and Zechariah.
“SET YOUR HEART UPON YOUR WAYS”
Within 112 days, Haggai delivers four motivating messages. The first is: “‘Set your heart upon your ways. Go up to the mountain, and you must bring in lumber. And build the house, that I may take pleasure in it and I may be glorified,’ Jehovah has said.” (Haggai 1:7, 8) The people respond favorably. The second message contains the promise: “I [Jehovah] will fill this house with glory.”—Haggai 2:7.
According to the third message, their neglect in the temple rebuilding has made ‘the people and all the work of their hands’ unclean before Jehovah. From the day the repair work begins, however, Jehovah “shall bestow blessing” upon them. As stated in the fourth message, Jehovah shall “annihilate the strength of the kingdoms of the nations” and set Governor Zerubbabel as “a seal ring.”—Haggai 2:14, 19, 22, 23.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
1:6—What is the meaning of the expression “there is a drinking, but not to the point of getting intoxicated”? This expression simply indicates the scarcity of wine. Because of the lack of Jehovah’s blessing, the supply of wine would be limited—definitely not sufficient to cause intoxication.
2:6, 7, 21, 22—Who or what is causing the rocking, and with what effect? Jehovah is ‘rocking all the nations’ by means of the worldwide preaching of the Kingdom message. The preaching work also has the effect of bringing “the desirable things of all the nations” into Jehovah’s house, thus filling it with glory. In time, “Jehovah of armies” is to rock “the heavens and the earth and the sea and the dry ground,” causing the entire present wicked system of things to be shaken out of existence.—Hebrews 12:26, 27.
2:9—In what ways could ‘the glory of the later house become greater than that of the former’? This was to be in at least three ways: the number of years the temple was in existence, who taught there, and who flocked there to worship Jehovah. Although Solomon’s glorious temple stood for 420 years, from 1027 B.C.E. to 607 B.C.E., the “later house” was in use for over 580 years, from its completion in 515 B.C.E. to its destruction in 70 C.E. Moreover, the Messiah—Jesus Christ—taught in the “later house,” and more people came to it than to “the former” in order to worship God.—Acts 2:1-11.
Lessons for Us:
1:6, 9-11; 2:14-17. The Jews in Haggai’s day were working hard in personal pursuits but not enjoying the fruits of their labor. They were neglecting the temple, so they did not have God’s blessing. We should give priority to spiritual pursuits and render God whole-souled service, remembering that whether we have little or much in a material way, ‘the blessing of Jehovah is what makes rich.’—Proverbs 10:22.
2:15, 18. Jehovah urged the Jews to set their hearts from that day forward, not on their past negligence, but on the rebuilding work. We should likewise strive to be forward-looking as we worship our God.
‘NOT BY POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRIT’
Zechariah begins his prophetic activity with a call to the Jews to ‘return to Jehovah.’ (Zechariah 1:3) The eight visions that follow ensure divine backing on the work of rebuilding the temple. (See the box “Zechariah’s Eight Allegorical Visions.”) The building work will come to completion, “not by a military force, nor by power, but by [Jehovah’s] spirit.” (Zechariah 4:6) The man named Sprout “will certainly build the temple of Jehovah” and “must become a priest upon his throne.”—Zechariah 6:12, 13.
Bethel sends a delegation to ask the priests about the observance of fasts commemorating Jerusalem’s destruction. Jehovah tells Zechariah that the mourning during the four fasts held in remembrance of the calamity that befell Jerusalem will be changed into “an exultation and a rejoicing and good festal seasons.” (Zechariah 7:2; 8:19) The two pronouncements that follow include judgments against nations and false prophets, Messianic prophecies, and a message of the restoration of God’s people.—Zechariah 9:1; 12:1.
Scriptural Questions Answered:
2:1—Why was a man measuring Jerusalem with a rope? Evidently, this action suggested the building of a protective wall around the city. The angel informs the man that Jerusalem is to expand and have Jehovah’s protection.—Zechariah 2:3-5.
6:11-13—Did the crowning of High Priest Joshua make him a king-priest? No, Joshua was not from the royal line of David. His crowning, though, made him a prophetic type of the Messiah. (Hebrews 6:20) The prophecy concerning “Sprout” has its fulfillment in the heavenly King-Priest Jesus Christ. (Jeremiah 23:5) As Joshua served the returned Jews as high priest at the rebuilt temple, so Jesus is the High Priest for true worship at Jehovah’s spiritual temple.
8:1-23—When are the ten pronouncements mentioned in these verses fulfilled? Each pronouncement follows the expression “this is what Jehovah of armies has said” and is God’s promise of peace for his people. Some of these pronouncements were fulfilled in the sixth century B.C.E., but all of them have either been fulfilled since 1919 C.E. or are now in the course of fulfillment.a
8:3—Why is Jerusalem called “the city of trueness”? Before its destruction in 607 B.C.E., Jerusalem was “the oppressive city,” populated by corrupt prophets and priests and unfaithful people. (Zephaniah 3:1; Jeremiah 6:13; 7:29-34) With the temple rebuilt and the people committed to worshipping Jehovah, however, the truths of pure worship were to be spoken there, and Jerusalem was to be called “the city of trueness.”
11:7-14—What is signified by Zechariah’s cutting up a staff called “Pleasantness” and another called “Union”? Zechariah is portrayed as one sent to “shepherd the flock meant for the killing”—sheeplike people exploited by their leaders. In his role as a shepherd, Zechariah foreshadowed Jesus Christ, who was sent to God’s covenant people but was rejected by them. The cutting up of “Pleasantness” symbolized that God would end the Law covenant with the Jews and stop dealing pleasantly with them. The cutting up of “Union” meant breaking up the theocratic bond of brotherhood between Judah and Israel.
12:11—What is “the wailing of Hadadrimmon in the valley plain of Megiddo”? King Josiah of Judah was killed in a battle with Pharaoh Necho of Egypt in “the valley plain of Megiddo,” and his death was bemoaned ‘in dirges’ over the years. (2 Chronicles 35:25) Therefore, “the wailing of Hadadrimmon” may refer to the mourning over Josiah’s death.
Lessons for Us:
1:2-6; 7:11-14. Jehovah is pleased with and returns to those who repentantly accept reproof and return to him by rendering him whole-souled worship. On the other hand, he does not respond to a call for help from those who ‘keep refusing to pay attention, keep giving a stubborn shoulder, and make their ears unresponsive’ to his message.
4:6, 7. No obstacles proved too great for Jehovah’s spirit to overcome in bringing the work of rebuilding the temple to a successful finish. Whatever problems we may encounter in our service to God can be overcome by exercising faith in Jehovah.—Matthew 17:20.
4:10. Under Jehovah’s scrutiny, Zerubbabel and his people completed the temple according to God’s high standards. Living up to Jehovah’s expectations is not too difficult for imperfect humans.
8:9-13. Jehovah blesses us when ‘our hands are strong’ in doing the work he has assigned us to do. These blessings include peace, security, and spiritual advancement.
12:6. Those in positions of oversight among Jehovah’s people should be “like a fiery torch”—outstandingly zealous.
13:3. Our loyalty to the true God and his organization should surpass loyalty to any human, no matter how close.
13:8, 9. Those apostates whom Jehovah rejected were a large number, two parts of the land. Only a third part underwent refinement as through fire. In our day Christendom, constituting the majority of those who claim to be Christian, has been rejected by Jehovah. Only a small number, the anointed Christians, ‘have called upon Jehovah’s name’ and submitted themselves to the refining process. They and their fellow believers prove to be much more than Witnesses of Jehovah in name only.
Moved to Zealous Action
How does what Haggai and Zechariah proclaimed affect us today? When we reflect on how their message stirred the Jews to give attention to the work of temple reconstruction, are we not moved to have a zealous share in the Kingdom-preaching and disciple-making work?
Zechariah foretold that the Messiah would come “riding upon an ass,” that he would be betrayed for “thirty pieces of silver,” that he would be struck, and that “those of the flock [would] be scattered.” (Zechariah 9:9; 11:12; 13:7) What an impact meditation on the fulfillment of such Messianic prophecies of Zechariah has on our faith! (Matthew 21:1-9; 26:31, 56; 27:3-10) Our confidence in the Word of Jehovah and in his provisions for our salvation is strengthened.—Hebrews 4:12.
[Box on page 11]
ZECHARIAH’S EIGHT ALLEGORICAL VISIONS
1:8-17: Guarantees the completion of the temple and shows that Jerusalem and other cities in Judah will be blessed.
1:18-21: Promises the end of ‘four horns that dispersed Judah,’ that is, all governments that opposed Jehovah’s worship.
2:1-13: Indicates that Jerusalem will expand and that Jehovah will become to her “a wall of fire all around”—a protection.
3:1-10: Shows that Satan was involved in opposing the work on the temple and that High Priest Joshua is delivered and cleansed.
4:1-14: Gives assurance that mountainlike obstacles will be leveled and that Governor Zerubbabel will complete the construction of the temple.
5:1-4: Pronounces a curse on evildoers who have gone unpunished.
5:5-11: Foretells the end of wickedness.
6:1-8: Promises angelic oversight and protection.
[Picture on page 8]
What was the objective of Haggai’s and Zechariah’s messages?
[Picture on page 10]
How are those in positions of oversight “like a fiery torch”?