When we are convicted of sin, called to repentance, and longing for righteousness and peace, prophets such as Zechariah point us to the Messiah whose servant leadership as Priest and King realizes these righteous aspirations and longings. “They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. They will call upon my name and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’” (13:9) This is the one for whom are hearts and consciences cry out.
There is a certain mode of preaching that tells you to shape up first so God can come into your life. It is absolutely correct that moral transformation is a necessary entailment of the good news of Jesus Christ. (Eph. 2:10; Heb. 12:14) And yet God’s saving grace always comes before and runs ahead of our moral transformation. It does not trail reluctantly behind. The reality is that we first welcome Christ in our sinfulness before we make any real progress in holiness. Hence the call to confess our sins and be forgiven (1 Jn. 1:9). A series of frightening dream-visions and dire rebukes in the book of Zechariah paired with beautiful pictures and promises of the coming Messiah lead to this conclusion.
Zechariah, along with his counterpart Haggai, speaks from this period of return from exile in Babylon and rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. (Ezra 5:1-2) He does so with a broad scope and a heavily symbolic style. Whereas Haggai’s burden is laser-focused on the specific priority of rebuilding God’s temple, Zechariah’s burden is more generally for the people to be spiritually and morally disposed for God’s renewal and fulfillment of his covenant relationship with them. Indeed, God’s grace trains us “to renounce ungodliness”. (Titus 2:11-14) The book of Zechariah leads us to the conclusion that only Christ’s coming itself will make God’s people into a fitting community for the LORD’s dwelling.
In the first half of the book of Zechariah we have a series of visions that remind us of our failure to live out God’s design for his people and their consequent exile, but also of the ongoing hope of righteous leadership to bring about the fulfillment of God’s purposes for them. His purposes will be accomplished through a coming High Priest.