As can be seen by comparing dates mentioned in this chapter with references to dates given in the Book of Haggai, the messages in Zechariah first overlap and then follow on from those given to Haggai.
Zechariah’s first message (1:1-6) was given to the people a few days or a matter of weeks after Haggai had given his message of encouragement to the people to continue rebuilding the temple (Hag. 2:1-9). In his message, Zechariah exhorts the people not to imitate their forefathers who ignored the warnings sent to them by the Lord through his servants, the prophets. Indeed, the desolating situation that Zechariah’s hearers now faced was due to their forefathers not listening to God’s voice.
It is not difficult to see why Zechariah gave this message. The people who had returned to the land from exile were in danger of not giving to the Lord the first place in their lives. While there does not seem to have been any danger of them repeating the idolatrous behaviour of their forefathers, they were in danger of producing what was almost as bad – a nominal link with the things of God.
Therefore, Zechariah called on them to continue to repent of their current failings and to go on with the work of restoration. His emphasis suggests that penitence is always an appropriate attitude in the hearts of those who are working for the growth of God’s kingdom. One commentator summed it up like this: ‘If men expect God to return to them in prosperity, they must return to him in penitence.’
One striking aspect of the situation is the harmony between Zechariah and Haggai. It is always good when God’s servants work together. Yet the people should also have recalled that their forefathers also observed the prophets of their days working together. Ministerial harmony is a great blessing, but it is only of real value if their message is heard.