In our study, we will look at the calling of the prophet as well as looking at the meaning of his visions.
"In the eighth month of the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo:" NIV translation
The name Zechariah means "God remembers" and he was the son of Berekiah whose name means "God blesses" and the grandson of Iddo which means "appointed". It is significant to see that this book opens with these three names and to remember that the number three is associated with God's will being revealed. When you put the three names together you get something like: God remembers his people and blesses them at the appointed time. That is not only true for the Israelites but for us Gentiles as well since we are His adopted people.
"'The Lord was very angry with your forefathers. Therefore tell the people: This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Return to me," declares the Lord Almighty, "and I will return to you," says the Lord Almighty.'" NIV translation
The name El Shaddai (Almighty) is used three times in this verse and the name serves to remind us that God can do all things. Here God is calling the people to turn back to Him and be blessed.
"'Do not be like your forefathers, to whom the earlier prophets proclaimed: This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Turn from your evil ways and your evil practices." But they would not listen or pay attention to me, declares the Lord. Where are your forefathers now? And the prophets, do they live forever?'" NIV translation
Zechariah urges the people to remember what happened to their relatives who had been disobedient. He asks the question: Where are they now? They were actually buried in Babylon where they had been in exile. To the Jews, not being buried in your own land was a very big deal and so this was driving the point home.
"But did not my words and my decrees, which I commanded my servants the prophets, overtake your forefathers? 'Then they repented and said, "The Lord Almighty has done to us what our ways and practices deserve, just as he determined to do."'" NIV translation
God had Zechariah to point out that the warnings that were given to their forefathers had gone unheeded and so they paid the price. When the people were reminded of what had happened to their relatives they repented.
"On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo." NIV translation
What a day this is as we shall see. On this night, he has ten different visions or dreams from God. These visions will show him what God is getting ready to do in the lives of His people.
"During the night I had a vision - and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown, and white horses." NIV translation
His first vision is of a man on a red horse leading a group of red, brown, and white horses. We must remember that throughout the Bible horses were only used by soldiers for battle. Red is the color that symbolizes the removal of peace, brown is judgment, and white is Jesus Christ.
"I asked, 'What are these, my Lord?' The angel who was talking with me answered, 'I will show you what they are.' Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, 'They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth." NIV translation
Jesus has sent these horses out into the world to perform a sort of survey. This is a big contrast to the horses that we see in Revelation 6 which are horses from Satan.
"And they reported to the angel of the Lord, who was standing among the myrtle trees, 'We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.'" NIV translation
The riders on the horses have rode through the nations around Israel and give the results of their survey to the angel of the Lord. Israel has already been defeated and so the nations that surround them are content.
"Then the angel of the Lord said, 'Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?'" NIV translation
The angel called out to God and asked how long this would continue. The enemies of Israel were living the good life while Jerusalem was in ruins. It had been this way for seventy years which is a combination of spiritual completeness (the number seven) and earthly completeness (the number ten).
"So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me." NIV translation
God answers the cry of the angel with comforting words. That is the same God that we serve today in that He is our comfort and does not want us to be in distress. We, like the angel, can cry out to God and find comfort and peace in any situation.
"Then the angel who was speaking to me said, 'Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity."'" NIV translation
God gives Zechariah a message to share and part of it is the fact that God is not happy with the nations that surround His people. He says that they added to His anger by boasting about the defeat of Jerusalem and Zion.
"'Therefore, this is what the Lord says: "I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem," declares the Lord Almighty.'" NIV translation
God comforts the angel and His people by telling them that Jerusalem which is God's chosen city will be rebuilt. This happened with the return of Israel from exile but it is not complete. In Revelation 21, we see that there will be a new Jerusalem coming down out of heaven.
"'Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: "My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem."'" NIV translation
This first vision ends with Zechariah being told to proclaim to his people that the Lord will again cause them to prosper. Even when things are difficult and our enemies are celebrating, God is for us and He has the ability to provide for us and to make us prosper.
"Then I looked up - and there before me were four horns! I asked the angel who was speaking to me, 'What are these?' He answered me, 'These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem.'" NIV translation
Now, Zechariah has his second vision in the same night. In this vision, God shows him four horns (powers) that have scattered His people in the past. These four powers, in order, are Babylon, Media-Persian, Greek, and Roman.
"Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, 'What are these coming to do?' He answered, 'These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise his head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.'" NIV translation
In this third vision of the night, God shows Zechariah four craftsmen (builders, carpenters). God explains that they are sent to throw down the nations that oppressed His people. Each of the empires that we listed were thrown down by the next on the list except for the Roman empire. It fell apart but is going to come back in the final days. The craftsman (carpenter) that is going to throw down that final horn (nation) is the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why God chose to have Jesus be born in the family of a carpenter and therefore will fulfill this prophecy.