Three Truths for Teenagers from the Book of Zechariah

At the end of every summer break comes the inevitable first day of school. While some students might be filled with excitement to get back to the classroom, the first day can be brutal for others. Summer is over, taking with it lazy days, late nights, and no homework. When students arrive back at school, they might feel discouraged, unmotivated, or just generally “blah” about the work they have ahead of them. 

The original audience of the book of Zechariah experienced a similar feeling. After years in Babylonian captivity, God’s chosen people were finally allowed to return home to the promised land of Jerusalem. But what should have been a joyful homecoming turned out to be a painful reminder of all that Israel had lost—and all the hard work that lay before them. 

God sent the prophet Zechariah to encourage and exhort this group of downtrodden, newly-returned exiles. These Israelites were in great need of reminders about who God is, what he had done in the past, and how he would provide in the future. They needed a refreshing and convicting word from the Lord; one that would spur them to action to rebuild the temple and reorient their lives back to God. 

Like most prophetic books, Zechariah doesn’t read as cohesively as the narrative of the gospels or a Pauline epistle: the first 8 chapters include various visions and oracles intended to communicate God’s truth about judgment and redemption to Israel. Chapters 9-14 involve prophetic oracles about the coming Davidic king who will bring ultimate justice and peace to Israel. Though working through Zechariah might seem like a daunting task at first, it is well worth the challenge. 

Studying through the book of Zechariah with your your youth group will help students grow in their biblical literacy and their their knowledge of God. It shows them the powerful ways he works to bring about redemption to his people, and points them to the ultimate redemptive work of Jesus Christ.

A Loving Wake-Up Call 

Just like that alarm on the first day of school, Zechariah offers a necessary exhortation to the Israelites. God’s people needed a call to action to reprioritize their relationship with their God after returning from exile. 

When the Babylonians ransacked Israel in 597BC, they destroyed the temple in Jerusalem, the place where God was said to dwell. Decades later, the temple still remain in shambles. The abandoned temple symbolized a neglect of proper worship and devotion to the God who had so faithfully rescued them from Babylon. Zechariah reminds us that because God designed us, we experience abundant life when he is at the center. And this is the abundant life toward which Zechariah spurs us on as he reminds the reader to “return to [the Lord] and [he] will return to you” (1:3). 

Our students find so many things competing for their attention—school, sports, social media, family strife, and more. As we study through Zechariah with our students, we pray they hear God lovingly calling them back to himself. 

Through studying Zechariah, students will be encouraged and challenged to center their lives on Jesus and to prioritize their relationship with him. Zechariah’s oracles are a loving-wake up call to those whose relationship with God has grown stale. We cannot help but lean forward when we hear God’s commands to “render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another [and to] not devise evil against another in your heart” or to “return from your evil ways and from your evil deeds” (7:8-10; 1:4). Not only that, Zechariah’s’ words are a gracious reminder that since God promises to “dwell in the midst” of his people, he is the one who will ultimately bring about the work of rebuilding and restoration through the powerful presence of the Holy Spirt (2:10).

Judgment For Our Enemies 

Perhaps a harder—but essential—truth for students in Zechariah is that God will fight against our enemies on our behalf. Because God is perfectly holy, he will see to it that evil is judged and punished. Through his prophetic visions and oracles, Zechariah shows us that God cannot let wickedness go unpunished. Therefore, the nations that have attacked Israel, heaping evil upon evil, will be judged. Zechariah is a clear picture of the reality that God hates sin, especially when done against his beloved sons and daughters (see 5:5-11).

Our students often wrestle with why God allows bad things to happen to them. Zechariah offers an encouraging word that there is no enemy that can prosper against them if they belong to the living God (see 1:18-21 or chapter 9).  Our students don’t typically face foreign nations attacking them as Israel did, but they know what it’s like to come face-to-face with the reality of a broken world, be that internally or externally. 

When these “enemies” feel overwhelming, Zechariah shows students that their foes are no match for God. In Jesus, the humble warrior-king (whom Zechariah foretells in chapter 9), God has taken all the punishment for sin and evil upon himself. He has defeated our greatest enemies, sin and death, through his work on the cross. 

Yahweh Remembers 

Zechariah’s name means “Yahweh has remembered,” and this is no coincidence. These newly-returned exiles needed the reminder that God had not abandoned his promises to his people. Looking to their circumstances, it seemed as though God had not made good on his promises (like those he made in Jeremiah and Isaiah)—promises for prosperity, blessing, and fellowship with God. 

The temple lay in ruins, Jerusalem remained uninhabited, and Israel’s enemies were still on the prowl. Where was God in all this? Had he abandoned his people for good? 

Zechariah answers these questions with an emphatic “no!” Part of Zechariah’s task was to remind God’s people that his work of redemption was still in action. Through the words of Zechariah, God reminded his people that he “will save them from the east country and from the west country, and [he] will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be [his] people, and [he] will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness” (8:8). 

Our students are in just as much need of these truths as the Israelites were in 520 BC. As students face times of difficulty and discouragement—whether a spiritual dry season, a parent’s divorce, or an AP calculus class—it can be challenging to believe that God remembers them and that he will actually do what he says he will. 

Zechariah speaks directly to these lies and reminds students of the promise-keeping nature of God. No matter how bleak the situation, God is faithful and God has remembered. We see this reality most clearly displayed in Jesus, the one in whom all of God’s promises are yes and amen (2 Cor. 1:20).

Zechariah’s encouragement to not “despise the day of small things” (4:10) is a beautiful reminder that the redemptive of God is often slow, subtle, and behind the scenes. Just like Rome, Jerusalem would not be re-built in a day. The Israelites needed the encouragement that God was at work, despite what their circumstances suggested.

For discouraged students, Zechariah offers a hopeful word that God will complete the good work he has begun in and through them (see 6:15). The process might not look as they planned; it might even be painful at times, but they are still within God’s good and loving redemptive purposes.

Because God’s word is living and active, may you find this somewhat obscure post-exilic prophet speaking words of truth and life into your students today. As students encounter God’s Word through this prophet, we pray they cling to God’s loving wakeup call, his defeat of their enemies, and his faithfulness to all his promises.

Rooted is excited to announce the launch of the “Restoration” package on Rooted Reservoir, including the books: Zechariah, Nehemiah, Esther, and Ezra

Rebecca serves as the Ministry Development Coordinator/Assistant Editor for Rooted. Previously, she has worked in both youth and young adult ministries. She is a graduate of Furman University (B.A.) and  Beeson Divinity School (M.T.S). Rebecca is happiest on a porch swing, in a boat, or on the dance floor.

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