June 23, 2019 – Zechariah 3 – 4

Lesson Date: July 23, 2019

Focal Scripture Passage: Zechariah 3:1-9; 4:1-14

AIM: To lead students to discover and describe the ways God encouraged Joshua and Zerubbabel in the midst of their Temple rebuilding project, and to make specific plans to encourage their spiritual leaders and others this week.

 

Before class: Read the notes on Zechariah 3 – 4 found in the Sunday School Teacher Book. Write the following words and phrases on the marker board or chalkboard: “Discouragement,” “Weariness,” “No End in Sight,” and “A Seemingly Endless Task.”

 

INTRODUCTION (Create Learning Readiness): Direct the class’ attention to the words and phrases written on the board. Ask the students if they ever have any of these feelings (probably all of them have at some time). Ask: “What do thoughts such as these make you feel like doing?” (giving up, quit trying, and “throw in the towel”).

Tell the class we all experience discouragement from time to time. We are especially susceptible to discouragement in the midst of a big, long-duration project. Like long-distance runners, we usually begin a new task with enthusiasm and energy, and we often feel a renewed surge of strength as the finish line comes into view. Somewhere in the middle, however, the road can seem endless and unrewarding. That’s when we need a shot of encouragement.

Remind the class that in the early fall of 520 b.c. the Lord used the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to inspire the Jews to resume work on the Temple. The project had lain dormant for 16 years, but now they were working once again. The prophetic messages in today’s lesson came six months after the building project resumed. The “new” had worn off and it would take another three years to finish the Temple. The Lord knew it was time to encourage His leaders.

 

HEART OF THE LESSON (Bible Study):

  1. Review.
    • Remind the students that last week we began a 7-lesson study of the Old Testament book of Zechariah.
    • Ask: “What was last week’s lesson about?” (promises God made to and about Israel).
    • Ask if any volunteer would be willing to recite last week’s memory verse (Zech. 1:3).
  2. The Lord Rebuked Satan.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 3:1-2.
    • Tell the class the Lord showed Zechariah a vision.
    • Ask: “Who did he see standing before the angel of the Lord?” (Joshua, the high priest).
    • Remind the class that Joshua (written Jeshua in the book of Ezra) was the religious leader of the Jews, while Zerubbabel was the civil (governmental) leader.
    • Ask: “Who did Zechariah see standing beside Joshua?” (Satan).
    • Ask: “Why was Satan there?” (to resist Joshua, causing work on the Temple to stop).
    • Ask: “What did the Lord do for Joshua?” (He rebuked Satan).
    • Tell the students that Satan is powerful, but the Lord is far more powerful (His power is limitless). The Lord rebuked Satan on Joshua’s behalf, just as He limited Satan’s attacks on Job.
    • Note that God referred to Jerusalem as “a brand plucked out of the fire” (Amos 4:11). The city has been the object of and site of warfare countless times, but God plucked it out of the fire of utter destruction.
    • Summarize: The Lord rebuked Satan, who was trying to resist Joshua and thus hinder the work on the Temple.
  3. The Lord Brought Cleansing and Salvation.
    • Read Zechariah 3:3-5.
    • Ask: “How was Joshua clothed?” (in filthy garments).
    • Tell the class the filthy garments represent sin, and explain that the Hebrew word translated filthy here refers to the most vile and loathsome sort of filth (this is the only time this word appears in the entire Bible).
    • Ask: “What did the Lord do for Joshua?” (took away his sin and clothed him in clean garments).
    • Tell the class the Prophet Zechariah undoubtedly told Joshua about this vision.
    • Ask: “How do you think this vision affected Joshua?” (it encouraged him).
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 3:8-9.
    • The Lord had another message for Joshua.
    • Ask: “What did the Lord promise to bring forth?” (His servant, the BRANCH).
    • Explain that the BRANCH is a prophetic term for the Messiah (see Jer. 23:5; Isa. 11:1-2).
    • Tell the class in verse 9 the Messiah is referred to as a stone with seven eyes (signifying omniscience)
    • Ask: “What did He promise to remove?” (iniquity).
    • Tell the students this promise points to that great future day when the Lord Jesus Christ returns to this earth and “all Israel shall be saved” (Rom. 11:26).
    • Summarize: The Lord encouraged Joshua by cleansing his sin and promising salvation.
  4. Vision of the Lampstand and Olive Trees.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 4:1-5.
    • Tell the class that next Zechariah saw a vision of a golden lamp stand. The lamp stand had an oil reservoir at the top and seven branches coming from the oil reservoir with lamps at their ends.
    • He also saw two olive trees, standing to the right and left sides of the lamp stand.
    • Ask: “Did Zechariah understand the meaning of the vision?” (no).
    • Tell the students God would explain this vision to Zechariah later in the chapter.
    • Summarize: The Lord showed Zechariah a vision of a lamp stand and olive trees, but Zechariah did not understand the vision.
  5. Encouraging Words for Zerubbabel.
    • Tell the class that God had several encouraging messages for Zerubbabel.
    • Ask them to listen for those encouraging words as you read Zechariah 4:6-10.
    • Ask: “What was the encouraging word in verse 6?” (God’s Spirit, not Zerubbabel’s strength or leadership abilities, was going to enable them to complete the Temple).
    • Ask: “What were the encouraging words in verse 7?” (no obstacle could stand in the way of Zerubbabel finishing the Temple; in fact, he would put the very capstone in place, signifying completion of the project).
    • Ask: “What encouraging promise is in verse 9?” (Zerubbabel laid the foundation of the Temple, and God promised he would also finish it).
    • Ask: “What encouraging words are found in verse 10?” (God promised to watch over all of Zerubbabel’s work).
    • Ask: “How do you think these encouraging words affected Zerubbabel?” (they undoubtedly strengthened him and motivated him to press on with the building project).
    • Summarize: The Lord sent encouraging messages to Zerubbabel, promising to enable him to see the Temple rebuilding project through to its conclusion.
  6. The Vision of the Lamp Stand and Olive Trees Explained.
    • Ask a volunteer to read Zechariah 4:11-14.
    • Tell the class Zechariah didn’t understand the significance of the two olive trees.
    • Ask: “How did the angel answer?” (he said they were the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord).
    • Remind the class that prophecies often had both near and far fulfillments.
    • Explain that in the immediate context the two olive trees represented Joshua and Zerubbabel, God’s representatives to His people on earth. The blessing of God flowed through these two men and brought light to the entire nation.
    • Tell the students that verse 14 is quoted in Revelation 11:3-4 in reference to the two witnesses who will preach God’s Word and perform miraculous signs during the Tribulation.
    • While this vision was an encouraging word to Zerubbabel and Joshua, its ultimate fulfillment will come in the future.
    • Summarize: The Lord explained that the two olive trees Zechariah saw in his vision were the two anointed ones – representing Zerubbabel and Joshua right then, while also pointing toward the two witnesses of the Tribulation period.

 

PERSONAL APPLICATION: Ask: “Why did Joshua and Zerubbabel need encouragement?” (they were the chief leaders responsible for leading the Jews through a long and difficult building process; the “new” had worn off the project and there was a long road ahead). Ask: “How did God encourage them?” (He gave them encouraging visions and messages through Zechariah). Ask: “Do you think these visions and messages really encouraged Zerubbabel and Joshua?” (certainly – the Temple was in fact completed about three years after these visions).

Ask: “Do you think modern spiritual leaders ever need encouragement?” (yes). Tell the students we sometimes elevate our spiritual leaders to an almost super-human level, assuming that they never get discouraged. In fact, they are real human beings with real shortcomings and feelings of fear and insecurity. They need encouragement.

Ask the class to brainstorm ways they can encourage their pastor and other spiritual leaders (in a brainstorming session students suggest as quickly as possible any ideas that come to mind, these ideas are written on the board, and then they are evaluated). This brainstorming session should produce many ideas. They may also think of other people who need encouragement.

Ask the students to select one or more idea they (as individuals or as a class) can put into action this week. Encourage them to make specific plans to encourage their spiritual leaders and others. Lead a closing prayer, asking God to use their efforts to encourage their spiritual leaders.

 

CONCLUSION: Ask everyone to memorize Zechariah 4:6. Urge them to follow through on their plans to encourage their spiritual leaders and others this week.

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