“It will occur—if you do not fail to listen to the voice of Jehovah your God.”—ZECH. 6:15.
1, 2. At the close of Zechariah’s seventh vision, what was the situation of the Jews in Jerusalem?
AS Zechariah’s seventh vision closes, the prophet has much to think about. Jehovah had guaranteed that he would hold dishonest people accountable for their wicked deeds. This promise surely strengthened Zechariah. Yet, nothing had really changed. Dishonesty and other wicked practices were still present, and the rebuilding of Jehovah’s temple in Jerusalem was far from complete. How could the Jews have abandoned their divinely appointed task so quickly? Had they returned to their homeland simply to further their own interests?
2 Zechariah knew that the Jews who moved to Jerusalem were men and women of faith. They were the ones “whose spirit the true God had stirred” to leave behind the security of their homes and businesses. (Ezra 1:2, 3, 5) They left a land that was familiar to them in order to move to a place most of them had never seen. If the rebuilding of Jehovah’s temple was not important, they would not have made the difficult journey of some 1,000 miles (1,600 km) through a harsh land.
3, 4. What obstacles did the returning Jews face?
3 What would that journey have been like? As the Jews traveled along, they no doubt spent many hours thinking about their new home. They had heard how beautiful the city of Jerusalem once was. The oldest ones among them had seen the former glory of the temple. (Ezra 3:12) If you had traveled with them, how would you have felt when you first caught sight of Jerusalem, your new home? Would you have been saddened when you saw the ruined buildings overgrown with weeds? Would you have compared the massive double walls of Babylon with Jerusalem’s broken-down walls, with large gaps where gates and watchtowers once stood? Yet, the people took heart. They had already seen Jehovah’s saving hand in their behalf throughout their long trip homeward. The first thing they did upon arriving was set up an altar on the site of the former temple, and they began to offer daily sacrifices to Jehovah. (Ezra 3:1, 2) In their initial excitement, it seemed that nothing could discourage them.
4 In addition to the temple work, the Israelites had to rebuild their cities. They had houses to restore, fields to plant, and mouths to feed. (Ezra 2:70) The work before them seemed overwhelming. Then the opposition came—hard and fast. Although they initially took a firm stand, 15 years of hostility took their toll. (Ezra 4:1-4) A crushing blow was dealt in 522 B.C.E. when the Persian king banned further building in Jerusalem. The future of that city seemed uncertain.—Ezra 4:21-24.
5. How did Jehovah respond to the inactivity of his people?
5 Jehovah knew what his people needed. God gave Zechariah a final vision to assure the Jews of His love and appreciation for all that they had done so far and to guarantee protection for them if they would return to His work. In connection with rebuilding the temple, Jehovah promised: “It will occur—if you do not fail to listen to the voice of Jehovah your God.”—Zech. 6:15.
A CAVALRY OF ANGELIC FORCES
6. (a) How does Zechariah’s eighth vision begin? (See opening image.) (b) Why are the horses of different colors?
6 The last of Zechariah’s eight visions may perhaps be the most faith-strengthening. (Read Zechariah 6:1-3.) Picture the scene: Charging forward “from between two mountains . . . of copper” come four chariots, likely fitted for battle. The horses pulling the chariots are of different colors. This would help to distinguish one rider from the next. “What are these?” asked Zechariah. (Zech. 6:4) We too want to know, as this vision directly affects us.
Jehovah still uses his angels to protect and strengthen his people
7, 8. (a) What do the two mountains represent? (b) Why are the mountains made of copper?
7 In the Bible, mountains can represent kingdoms, or governments. The mountains in Zechariah’s account are similar to two mountains described in Daniel’s prophecy. One mountain represents Jehovah’s universal and eternal rulership. The other mountain represents the Messianic Kingdom in the hands of Jesus. (Dan. 2:35, 45) Since Jesus’ enthronement in the autumn of 1914, both mountains have been present and have played a special role in the fulfillment of God’s will on earth.
8 Why are the mountains made of copper? Like gold, copper is a metal that is highly valued. Jehovah directed that this shiny metal be used in the construction of the tabernacle and later in the temple in Jerusalem. (Ex. 27:1-3; 1 Ki. 7:13-16) Appropriately, then, the copper of the two symbolic mountains reminds us of the excellent quality of Jehovah’s universal sovereignty and of the Messianic Kingdom, which will provide stability and blessings to all mankind.
9. Who are the riders of the chariots, and what is their assignment?
9 Now back to the chariots. What do they and their riders represent? The riders of the chariots are angels, likely groups or divisions of angels. (Read Zechariah 6:5-8.) They are going out from “before the Lord of the whole earth” with a special mission to fulfill. What assignment are they given? The chariots and their riders are sent out to care for specific territories. Their responsibility is to protect Jehovah’s people, particularly from “the land of the north,” Babylon. Jehovah would make sure that Babylon would not enslave his people again. What comfort this must have brought to the temple builders in Zechariah’s day! They did not have to worry about interference from their enemies.
10. What assurance can God’s people today draw from Zechariah’s prophecy about the chariots and their riders?
10 As in Zechariah’s day, Jehovah of armies still uses his angels to protect and strengthen his people. (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 1:7, 14) Ever since spiritual Israel was released from symbolic captivity to Babylon the Great in 1919, the expansion of true worship has been unstoppable despite relentless opposition. (Rev. 18:4) Because we have angelic protection, we need not fear that Jehovah’s organization might go through another time of spiritual oppression. (Ps. 34:7) Instead, we can be sure that God’s servants worldwide will continue to flourish spiritually. As we reflect on Zechariah’s vision, we do not doubt that we are safe in the shadow of the two mountains.
11. Why do we not need to fear the coming attack on God’s people?
11 Very soon the political powers of Satan’s world will form a coalition that is bent on the destruction of God’s people. (Ezek. 38:2, 10-12; Dan. 11:40, 44, 45; Rev. 19:19) Ezekiel’s prophecy describes these forces as covering the land like the clouds and coming up against us in a fury, riding on horses. (Ezek. 38:15, 16) * Do we have anything to fear? Not at all! We have a cavalry on our side. At that critical moment during the great tribulation, the angelic soldiers of Jehovah of armies will come together to protect God’s people and destroy those who oppose his sovereignty. (2 Thess. 1:7, 8) What a day that will be! But who takes the lead among Jehovah’s heavenly army?
JEHOVAH CROWNS HIS KING AND PRIEST
12, 13. (a) What action is Zechariah now told to take? (b) Explain how the man named Sprout is prophetic of Jesus Christ.
12 Zechariah has had eight visions that he alone observed. Now he participates in a prophetic act as an encouragement to those who are restoring God’s temple. (Read Zechariah 6:9-12.) Zechariah is told to collect silver and gold from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah—three new arrivals returning from Babylon—and to make “a grand crown” out of the contributions. (Zech. 6:11, ftn.) Is Zechariah told to place the crown on the head of Governor Zerubbabel of the tribe of Judah and a descendant of David? No. Observers must have been intrigued when he placed the crown on High Priest Joshua.
13 Did the crowning of High Priest Joshua make him a king? No, Joshua was not from the royal line of David and thus did not qualify to be king. His crowning was prophetic, pointing to a future and eternal king and priest. The high priest who is made king is named Sprout. The Scriptures clearly indicate that Sprout is Jesus Christ.—Isa. 11:1; Matt. 2:23, ftn.
14. What work does Jesus take on as King and High Priest?
14 Acting as both King and High Priest, Jesus is the leader of Jehovah’s heavenly army. As such, he works diligently so that God’s people as a whole may dwell in security despite living in the midst of this hostile world. (Jer. 23:5, 6) In the near future, Christ will take the lead in conquering the nations in support of God’s sovereignty and in defending Jehovah’s people. (Rev. 17:12-14; 19:11, 14, 15) Before executing judgment, however, Sprout has a great work to accomplish.
HE WILL BUILD THE TEMPLE
15, 16. (a) What restoration and refining work has been accomplished in modern times, and by whom? (b) What will result by the end of Christ’s Thousand Year Reign?
15 In addition to being commissioned King and High Priest, Jesus was assigned to “build the temple of Jehovah.” (Read Zechariah 6:13.) In modern times, Jesus’ building work involved liberating true worshippers from Babylon the Great and restoring the Christian congregation in 1919. He also appointed a “faithful and discreet slave” to take the lead in directing the work in the earthly courtyards of the great spiritual temple. (Matt. 24:45) Jesus has also been busy refining God’s people and helping them to render worship that is clean.—Mal. 3:1-3.
16 During the Thousand Year Reign, Jesus and his 144,000 associate kings and priests will bring faithful humans to perfection. When this is accomplished, only true worshippers of God will be left on the cleansed earth. Finally, true worship will be fully restored!
TAKE PART IN THE BUILDING WORK
17. What reassurance does Jehovah next give the Jews, and how does his message affect them?
17 How, though, did Zechariah’s message affect the Jews in his day? Jehovah had guaranteed stability and protection for their work. His assurance that the temple would be built must have brought hope to their tired hearts. But how would just a few accomplish so much work? Zechariah’s next words remove any remaining fear or doubt. In addition to the support of faithful ones like Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, God tells of many others who would “come and take part in building the temple of Jehovah.” (Read Zechariah 6:15.) Confident of divine backing, the Jews quickly swing into action, resuming their building work despite the ban. Soon Jehovah removes the mountainlike obstacle of the official ban, and the temple is completed in 515 B.C.E. (Ezra 6:22; Zech. 4:6, 7) The words of Jehovah, however, describe things far greater for our day.
18. How is Zechariah 6:15 being fulfilled in our day?
18 Today, millions join in true worship, and they are moved from the heart to contribute their “valuable things,” which include their time, energy, and resources in support of Jehovah’s great spiritual temple. (Prov. 3:9) How can we be certain that Jehovah values our loyal support? Remember that Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah brought the materials for the crown that Zechariah made. The crown then served “as a memorial,” or “reminder,” of their contribution toward true worship. (Zech. 6:14; ftn.) Likewise, the work and the love we show for Jehovah will never be forgotten. (Heb. 6:10) They will remain forever, cherished in Jehovah’s memory.
19. What effect should Zechariah’s visions have on us today?
19 All that has been accomplished for true worship in these last days is tangible evidence of Jehovah’s blessing and Christ’s leadership. We are part of a stable, secure, and everlasting organization. Jehovah’s purpose regarding pure worship “will occur.” Cherish your place among Jehovah’s people, and “do not fail to listen to the voice of Jehovah your God.” Then you can remain under the protection of our King and High Priest and of the heavenly riders of the chariots. Have as full a share as possible in supporting true worship. As you do so, you can be certain that Jehovah of armies will keep you safe and secure during the remainder of this system of things—and for eternity!
^ par. 11 For more information, see “Questions From Readers” in The Watchtower, May 15, 2015, pp. 29-30.
THE WATCHTOWER—STUDY EDITION