In a day of profound discouragement and misplaced priorities following the return of the Jews from Babylonian exile, the prophet Haggai sounded a clarion call of rebuke, exhortation, and encouragement to his contemporaries. They had begun to rebuild their own homes and businesses and to establish their statehood as a Jewish community but had been derelict in tending to the construction of the temple and making the Lord the central focus of all their hopes and dreams. The message of Haggai, so effective in shaking the Jews of 520 B.C. from their lethargy, has an abiding relevance for all who fail to seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Whereas Haggai's vision encompassed, for the most part, his immediate, temporal situation, the range of his contemporary and colleague was much more expansive; for Zechariah not only shared Haggai’s burden about the inertia of the postexilic community, but by vision and dream saw the unfolding of Divine purpose for all of God's people and for all the ages to come. Rich in apocalyptic imagery and packed with messianic prediction and allusion, Zechariah's writings became a favorite of the New Testament evangelists and apostles. The glorious hope expounded by the prophet was viewed by them as being fulfilled in the saving work and witness of Jesus Christ. No Minor Prophet excels Zechariah in the clarity and triumph by which he looks to the culmination of God's program of redemption.
The burden of this, the last of the Old Testament prophets, was the glaring inconcinnity between the identity of the Jewish community as the people of God and the living out of all that this required of them. Theirs was not the problem of rebuilding the Temple and holy city, for that had long been done by Malachi's day; rather, it was the issue of holy living and holy service in the aftermath of all the external accomplishments. Malachi, though dead, yet speaks to the modern world about the need to bring performance into line with profession. His message, therefore, is current, especially in light of the coming of the One of whom the prophet so eloquently spoke.
Eugene H. Merrill is Distinguished Professor of Old Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary where he has served on the faculty since 1975. The author of scores of books and articles, mainly of a historical and exegetical nature, Dr. Merrill holds the PhD in Old Testament studies from Bob Jones University, the MA in Jewish Studies from New York University, and the MPhil and PhD in Middle Eastern Studies from Columbia University. He is an active churchman and preaches and teaches abroad on a regular basis.