The Faith of Zechariah

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Sunday, June 3, 2018 2 comments

by Logan Ames

What kind of legacy are you leaving for those who will come after you? This question is one that haunts some people as they near the end of their lives and causes many others to make changes when they consider it early enough in their time on this earth. It’s why so many young couples show little or no interest in church until they have children and begin to think about how it would be good for their little ones, even if they still don’t follow Jesus themselves as adults. It’s also why those same adults have no problem with colorful language until their children begin to repeat after them, at which point they shudder at the thought of the example they are setting!

There’s a great Christian song in country music called Three Wooden Crosses. The song is about a terrible traffic accident in which 3 out of 4 people riding on a bus are killed. Three wooden crosses are eventually put up on the side of the highway and the singer says he doesn’t know why there isn’t four there. It turns out the four individuals were a farmer, a teacher, a preacher, and a prostitute. The song tells us that it’s not what we take with us when we leave this world that’s important, but what we leave behind us when we go. The farmer left a harvest, a home with 80 acres, and faith and love for growing things in his young son’s heart. The teacher left her wisdom in the minds of her students. The preacher laid a blood-stained Bible in the prostitute’s hand and asked her to look toward the promised land. It turns out the singer is saying that his preacher is the son of the prostitute, proving that the preacher who died in the accident left a legacy just like the farmer and teacher did, and his dying gift set the prostitute on the road to Jesus and resulted in kingdom benefits for generations to come.

Today, I want to briefly share the story of a faithful hero in the Bible who left a legacy with his dying words just like that preacher. In Hebrews 11:37, we’re told that some of the past martyrs “were put to death by stoning." The man I want to tell you about this week, who was one of the Old Testament heroes murdered by stoning, was actually mentioned by name by Jesus. If you look at Matthew 23:35, Jesus is in the midst of pronouncing his woes on the Pharisees and teachers of the law. Here, he specifically mentions that blood will come upon them from the righteous blood that has been shed by previous martyrs, beginning with Abel and going all the way to Zechariah. A commentary by David Guzik says this is because Abel was the first faithful martyr (that makes sense since he is the first one mentioned in Hebrews 11 and the first in this series) and Zechariah was the last one listed in the Hebrew Bible, which ended with 2 Chronicles.

Zechariah is the same man who was a prophet and wrote the Book of Zechariah, but the story of his martyrdom is found in 2 Chronicles 24. Zechariah, like many of the previous heroes we have discussed in this series, took center stage while so many others around him were wicked. After his father Berekiah (aka “Jehoiada”), a priest who was influential toward King Joash, passed away, Joash and the people of Judah turned away from the Lord and worshiped idols (v. 18). God tried to get their attention and get them back on track by sending prophets who proclaimed his word, but they refused to heed the warnings. One of those prophets was Zechariah and he once became bold in the Spirit, stood before everyone, and said, “This is what God says: ‘Why do you disobey the Lord’s commands? You will not prosper. Because you have forsaken the Lord, he has forsaken you’” (v. 20).

At that point, the people’s reaction wasn’t merely not listening to him in the sense of ignoring him. Rather than listen to the warning, repent, and plead with God to come back to them, they go the other direction. Their anger gets the best of them and they plot against Zechariah and even receive an order from King Joash to stone him to death in the courtyard of the temple (v. 21). It’s somewhat shocking how quickly Joash could be willing to kill a man whose father had meant so much to him, but that just goes to show us how quickly sin can destroy us if we don’t continue to repent and seek the Lord every day. But as Zechariah was dying, in his final moments he left a legacy statement: “May the Lord see this and call you to account” (v. 22).

Zechariah’s statement comes off a little bit like he wants revenge on them. It doesn’t exactly have the same ring to it that Stephen’s plea for the Lord to not hold their sin against him as he was being stoned in Acts 7:60 has. Yet, when Zechariah declares that he wants the Lord to call them to account, that doesn’t necessarily mean he is asking for God to destroy them. The truth is we all have to give an account for our careless words and sins. There are only two ways we can give that account - we either experience the natural end result of our wickedness and die, or we trust in Jesus whose blood was “poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28). Zechariah understood that a savior was coming, and with his final words he pointed the people who murdered him toward that time when they would either pay for their sins themselves or trust in that savior.

Many Old Testament books talk about the savior who would come, and they present prophecies that would only be fulfilled by Jesus of Nazareth. Some of the clearest of these prophecies about Jesus are found in the book of Zechariah. He seemed to visualize what was going to happen to Jesus and how it would impact his own people. Toward the end of his book, Zechariah writes the word of the Lord about the death of the savior: “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son” (Zechariah 12:10).

Zechariah’s legacy as he lived and preached among the wicked was that he didn’t hesitate to point them toward the One who is both Savior and righteous Judge. It ended up costing him his life, but that didn’t stop him from proclaiming what the Lord had him proclaim. The One about whom he prophesied mentioned him along with all the other faithful martyrs. That’s probably all we really need to know about Zechariah. Jesus himself considered his spilt blood to be “righteous." I’d say that means he did something right in leaving a legacy for those after him.

What is your legacy? What would others say is most important to you? If you are spending time, money, and energy on something other than pointing people to Jesus, it’s time to evaluate your priorities.

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Charlie said...

Good post, however one minor detail. I'm not convinced this Zechariah is the same one Jesus referenced. Isaiah is by tradition believed to have been sawed in half by Manasseh, son of Hezekiah. This was after Joash. I've always thought that the Zechariah Jesus referenced was the same who wrote the book Zechariah during the rebuilding of the Temple. The rest of the post is great stuff.

Logan Ames said...

Yes, Zechariah son of Berekiah is the one who both wrote the Book of Zechariah and also the one whom Jesus referenced. What I read from commentators is that Berekiah and Jehoida are names that mean roughly the same thing, so it could be a translation issue. The other possible explanation was that sometimes grandfathers, great-grandfathers, etc. are listed as "father" of such and such. Another example of this would be in the geneology of Jesus in Matthew. Those names are not all direct biological fathers and some are actually farther down the line. That being said, I would never go on just those speculations. To me, the strongest evidence that the two are the same is Jesus' reference of the event. His words matter more to me than anything else and to believe that he is talking about a different Zechariah than the one mentioned here would be to believe there were TWO Zechariahs who were killed in a similar manner and that BOTH would've been known to the Pharisees that Jesus was addressing. Thanks for your comment but I can say I'm confident :)