FAITH is fed by what God reveals to the soul. When faith rises to an understanding of the work which God in grace is doing amongst men by the truth, and goes forward with Him in the work, He always responds by giving more truth. God is known in His work of grace, for this is the way He renders a testimony to His name according to the revelation He is pleased to make of Himself. But the faith of His people needs much encouragement, and He graciously meets the need. God does not hesitate to disclose the evils which militate against the true welfare of His people, so that what is wrong may be known and judged in the light of His word. He strengthens their faith by the revelation of His purposes of blessing, which shall be fully accomplished by Him who works all things according to the counsel of His ow7n will. He encourages faith to persevere in His work by the knowledge of His counsels of grace, that hope may abound in the heart amid the circumstances of the moment, and God be trusted for the present need. The work is then carried on in faith, and the soul rests on the word of God with the patience of hope.
Zechariah was one of three recorded prophets raised up in Jerusalem after the return from the seventy years of captivity. He was sent to unfold the resources of the grace of God to meet the need of the returned remnant of Jews, when they had lost their first enthusiasm for work on the house of the LORD at Jerusalem. The prophet Haggai had spoken only two months before, and his words roused the leaders of the people (Ezra 5:1, 2) to put their hands once more to the task. But they needed the strengthening word of assurance from the LORD that. He so readily gives to those whose hearts are ready to obey Him. Zechariah was sent to fan the first sparks of revival, and to encourage the labourers with the bright prospects of a future day when Jehovah would gloriously intervene on their behalf, free them from all their oppressors, and reign with glory amongst them.
A remnant of the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin accompanied by a few Levites had returned from captivity to rebuild the temple according to the proclamation of Cyrus, the Persian emperor (Ezra 1), but they had neglected the work and were much discouraged by the opposition of their enemies. They began to lay the foundations in the record year of their return, but certain people dwelling in the land were strongly antagonistic and appealed to Persia to stop the work. These enemies obtained authority from the successor of Cyrus to hold up all operations until a further commandment should be given from the throne. To all outward appearances there was nothing to do but to wait until circumstances changed and word came from the king. This appeared to be right behaviour and a sign of submissive obedience. In the time of waiting the remnant applied themselves to their own affairs and sought their own comfort amid the ruins of their former greatness.
Under the overruling hand of God these Jews had been brought back to rebuild the temple, and to re-establish the worship of Cod at Jerusalem according to the Law of Moses, while they waited for the coming of the Messiah. The interruption caused by the opposition of their enemies served to disclose the weakness of the faith of the returned people and the instability of human enthusiasm. God used the occasion to show, as can be seen in the words of the prophet Haggai, the false motives which governed the people, who were making the violence of those opposed to God’s work, an excuse for them to turn their efforts into channels for personal gain. God let them know by the mouth of Haggai, the reason for His chastening, but He assured them of His presence and support if they to His work.
The blessing of the remnant depended on their devotedness to the work of God and on the integrity of their worship. But when they neglected the house of God and bought to settle themselves comfortably on the land, regardless of His testimony, He “blew” upon their efforts, and chastened them by the secret ways of His providence.
The prophet Haggai unveiled to the consciences of the people the hindrances that stood in the way of their prosperity, and prevailed on them to begin again on the foundations of the temple. At the same time as they put their hands to the work, Darius the king reversed the decree, confirming the commandment of Cyrus given twenty-one years before. In this way providence was operating behind the scenes in earthly government, responding to the faith, which, acting on the word of the LORD and going on with His work, reckoned on His presence and protection.
When the work of God is hindered, not only does He uncover the things which hinder its progress that they may be known and judged, for hidden unjudged evil always weakens the hands, but He speaks a word of encouragement to the faithful who look to Him and rise in the strength of His word above the difficulties of the ay. God makes His presence known, and this is the security and protection of those who devote themselves to His work; He takes then into His confidence and unfolds His purposes of blessing for His people.
God does more than promise His presence to strengthen those who wait on Him. Faith at all times looks to God and to Him alone; it does not rest on the things which are seen, but it hopes for the unseen things of God. The faithful in Israel of old were encouraged by God’s promises of future blessing in the testimony of the prophets. In that day He will pardon the sins of His people and put away all their iniquity, and set up His throne in their midst. These promises, accompanied at the moment by tangible expressions of the favour of God in providential blessing, strengthened faith in the waiting time, and God was honoured.
In the Old Testament man was under trial, to see if there could be any fruit for God, by any means, from man in the flesh. Man is always tried by the things which God reveals to him. In olden times, before the fulness of grace n7as made known, the prosperity of the people of God depended on their obedience to His commandments. When He delighted in their ways and took pleasure in their worship, they experienced great outward blessing. This, in principle, is true today; those who are called in grace, during the Christian day of grace, enjoy spiritual blessing in anticipation of the eternal day, as they walk with God in obedience to His word and t-he revelation that He in grace has given.
While Haggai exposed the hindrances that were preventing the blessing of the remnant, he encouraged those hearts that were made willing through the word of grace to go on with the work, with promises of the LORD’S presence by the Spirit, He would be their strength and glory (Haggai 2). But to complete the testimony to the ways of God for the blessing of Israel, and of Jerusalem in particular, another witness was raised up in the prophet Zechariah.
God answers faith by giving the heart a deeper sense of having direct dealings with Himself. He also strengthens faith by unfolding to the touched heart His own purposes of grace, so that the soul may grow in the knowledge of His ways and find in Him all its confidence. All this has an earthly setting in the Old Testament, and the messengers of God, the prophets, foretell the coming blessing of Israel when Jehovah once again claims Israel as His own. The nation will be acknowledged in the faithful remnant of the day to come; their ears will be opened through great trial to hear the word of God, and they will look to Him for deliverance while they hope in the promise made to Abraham. This promise is to be fully accomplished in his Seed, that is, in Christ. The end of the promises and the fulness of glory find their complete expression and fulfilment in Christ, the Anointed of God, the Head and Centre of both earthly and heavenly glory. God is known in Christ to faith.
The same principle of the ways of God by which He strengthens and encourages His afflicted people is found in the New Testament. When evil has outwardly overcome the Church, so that its testimony as the witness to the glory of Christ is at low-ebb, only through the revelation of grace in its undimmed glory as the outgoing of the heart of God the Father, will the faithful find strength to1 overcome the world.
Zechariah, the last of the prophets before the coming of Christ to speak in detail of Israel’s future, is the prophet who most fully reveals the setting up of the glorious system that accompanies the presence of Christ. He also shows the state of misery in which the returned remnant would be found through their rejection of the Messiah at His first coming, when He came in lowliness and humility. The effect of this unbelief of heart is fully portrayed. Zechariah passes over the history of the great empires, merely mentioning their providential existence, and then passes on to speak of the awful state in Palestine, when the enemies of the Jews gather around Jerusalem for the last attack on the city, at the time of the end. These enemies will be destroyed by the ‘judgment of God, and after the deliverance of Jerusalem, glory and holiness will fill the city from which Jehovah of hosts will reign and be glorified in all the earth.
The first date mentioned is only two months after Haggai’s first prophecy, and a month before his last two prophecies which were delivered on the same day.
The prophecy opens in the usual way by which a prophet reaches the ears of his hearers. The reason for the prophecy is found in the rebuke and warning given in the prophet’s introduction. In this ease Zechariah reminds them that the sins of their fathers had brought the displeasure of Jehovah on the sons (verse 1). When God places a people under responsibility to bear witness to the revelation which He has made of Himself among them, they are responsible to remain in the place and state into which He calls them. When they fail, the cumulative effect of their sins, springing from their first sin, is the cause of their final judgment, and the reason for the removal of the testimony from their midst. The first sin reaps its reward, it may be long after, in the government of God, for it is never fully judged by those who grow up familiar with it, and it eventually has to be seen and judged in the light of the presence of God.
Now that we are responsible to judge between good and evil, blessing is enjoyed in proportion as our walk is consistent with the truth as it has been revealed. Our eyes see further than our feet travel, but God cannot hold communion with evil, and the ever-abiding principle for the present enjoyment of the light of God’s presence is, cease to do evil, and learn to do well. When the soul is separate to God and the word is its light, the heart finds delight in obeying the word, it becomes the life and health of the soul.
The seed of truth produces fruit after its own kind. Truth builds up the soul and brings forth fruit for God. But if truth is not possessed in the heart in communion with God, it is soon given up, and the power of life for God is quenched. The natural mind may recognize the truth so as not to be able to deny it, but it may not know the truth for light and power in communion with God. The conscience is often well aware of the governmental ways of God and the reason for His discipline (verse 6). Here the prophet shows that their fathers knew that God had chastened them, and he makes the people understand that the word spoken in the past had been accomplished, and so it would be again. The sin of the people was not now a stupefying formalism, but a cold neglect of the things of God.
The principles running through these opening verses are true for all times. God has purposed to bless His people, and He will perform all His promises to the letter, but He does not give the joy of the knowledge of His presence to the independent in spirit and disobedient in will. The LORD will never leave nor forsake His people, but the secret of the present enjoyment of His company and the understanding of His heart, is strictly in keeping with obedience to His word and submission to His revealed will. This is the path of true liberty; when walking in obedience to the truth the heart is set free from the slavery of self-will.
How soon the work of God stops when His servants turn from simple trust in God and come to rest on human expedients. The spiritual progress of the Reformation, four hundred years ago, stopped when the work assumed such importance in the eyes of the worldly-minded men that they harnessed it to politics, and state protection was welcomed and even sought after. While the conflict with the powers of darkness was carried on by means of the word of God in the power of the Spirit, souls were increasingly freed from spiritual darkness. The moment Church and state were united in a common cause for worldly liberty and ease, the heavenly character of the warfare was denied and brought down to earthly circumstances, then God ceased to advance the work with further spiritual enlightenment.
The prophecy of Zechariah is divided into two parts. Chapters 1-6 are apocalyptic, they contain a series of prophetic visions. Chapters 7 to the end are of the usual prophetic character, and this section is filled with statements of God’s moral judgment of the people, and words of instruction to brighten faith in the days to come, when the prophecies will arrive at the time for their complete fulfilment.
After the first sis introductory verses the prophet begins to describe his visions.
A complete picture of the providential government of the world through Gentile imperial power while Israel is set aside, is given in symbolical language in these six chapters. It begins with Persia, the power then ruling by God’s providential ordering, and closes with the symbolical crowning of Joshua the high priest as a type of Christ, the true Kingly-Priest, who shall reign upon His throne, King of Righteousness and King of Peace; He will build the temple and bear the glory.
This prophecy has a special character of its own; the symbols used are in perfect accord with the time when the prophecy was given. In the days of Zechariah the Babylonian empire had fallen. It was the only empire directly set up by God, and with its fall the whole imperial system is viewed as a judged thing. The government of the world goes on, still in the hands of the Gentiles, but this only by the providential ruling of God, not as by a direct decree from heaven. The symbols of Zechariah are in consistency with the scriptural way of illustrating this kind of rule.
Daniel sees the empires in the form of a composite image, or as beasts, in this way showing the government of the world in its moral character. Zechariah uses “the symbol of divine energy of government in the earth”, the “horse”. It is not a prophecy such as Daniel’s in which the whole period of “the times of the Gentiles” is unfolded during that time the Gentiles are held directly responsible to God as carrying on the government on earth for Him. In the prophecy of Zechariah a remnant of Israel is recognized and a testimony for God is known in the earth. God governs the world in secret while the testimony to His name still entrusted to men, and attached to an earthly centre, where blessing is enjoyed by those obedient to His word. Zechariah in his prophecy covers the whole period from the time of the return from captivity until the Messiah comes and Jerusalem is delivered from her enemies, including the first coming of Christ and His rejection with the consequent trials which come upon His rejectors.
In verse 8 the government of the earth is seen under the control of the angel of the LORD, in the man riding upon a red horse (see verse 11). He is followed by three sets of horses. The red-coloured horses, resembling in colour the horse ridden by the angel of the LORD, represent the world-power then ruling, Persia, which was favourable to the Jews. Greece followed in the bay horses, and Rome came after represented in the white horses, as will be seen in chapter 6. The prophet asks the angel the meaning of these figures, and learns that the horses signify divine providential over the affairs of men. “These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.” Until the universal government of the world is put into the bands of the Messiah, the power of government is placed in the hands of world-ruling bodies, but they are overruled by the God of heaven and have to give account to Him at any time.
At the moment the world was quiet and at ease (verse 11). But God was concerned about the state of Jerusalem and Judea. Jerusalem was in ruins, and her people in captivity; the ruling power was totally indifferent to the state of Israel as a nation. God was dealing, in the secret of His ways, both with the people remaining in captivity throughout Persia (see Esther), and with the few who were brought back to rebuild the temple (see Haggai). The LORD was jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy, and He was sore displeased with those who were responsible for His government and yet could take their ease, while His house and His land were neglected.
Jeremiah had foretold the seventy years of captivity which Judah was to suffer, and men of God such as Daniel and Zechariah who studied the prophecies (Daniel 9:2; Zechariah 1:12) were touched by the grace of God, and they raised the well-known blessed cry of intercession and appeal, “0 LORD of hosts, how long?” (Isaiah 6:11; Daniel 12:6; etc.). When there are none to ask, “How long?” the LORD Himself has to supply the answer to the un-asked question (see Luke 13:34, 35).
God had used the heathen to chasten His people, but these fierce people thought only of their own self-aggrandizement; they knew not the LORD who lent them power. They despised the insignificant testimony rendered to His name by a feeble few in a desolate city-Jerusalem. They did not understand His purpose, nor did they respond in faith to His warnings; the world was in their hearts, it was not God who was there filling their souls.
Though God chastens His people for their good, yet He is very merciful, and the thoughtlessness of their Persian masters, which added to their affliction, only made the LORD look with more pity on His people in their distress.
The prophet does not confine his words to the immediate future, but looks on to the day when the government of God will be again centred in Jerusalem, and Zion will be the joy of the whole earth. The LORD will comfort Zion and shall yet choose Jerusalem (verse 16, 17). Jehovah says, “I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it” (verse 16). He had not yet made it His dwelling-place, but He comforts the hearts of a despised few, while His present mercies covered them, with the promise of His presence and glory and of future prosperity.
It does not matter to faith that circumstances seem contrary to all hopes, for God is the object of faith, not the visible things of time and sense. His word is the food of the soul, and His promises the comfort and cheer for faith when everything appears impossible.
Judah, Israel and Jerusalem had been scattered, verses 18-21 speak in symbolical language of the providential means God had used for the work of scattering. The four horns represent the four kingdoms holding sway on the earth while Israel and Judah are reckoned Lo-ammi (not my people) (Hosea 1:9). The four carpenters are the providential means used to disperse, in turn, the four kingdoms, as these kingdoms show their indifference to the testimony of God, and prove their contempt for His people and His earthly centre. We are not told who these carpenters are; but faith is strengthened by the knowledge that God holds the reins of government, and He will not allow earthly authorities to remain for ever indifferent to His testimony on the earth. God finds His own means to protect His servants while they serve Him in a world not yet completely given up to the will of man. His servants, though they remain subject and respectful to those who rule by His ordination, look to God and not to the powers that are ordained by Him and do His will. God is their strength and shield at all times, all other support will be found weak and unreliable.
The attention of the LORD is focused on Jerusalem, and as the prophet lifts up his eyes he sees a man with a measuring line in his hand coming to measure the city. The LORD had not forgotten His people, He looks again on Jerusalem, and a faithful prophet is once again there to witness in His name. The angel of the LORD sends the man to announce the future blessing and prosperity of Jerusalem. The angel tells the man to run, for God delights to give faith an immediate answer.
The heavenly messengers of God speak of the deliverance of Jerusalem, and they look on to a future day when the city will be enlarged and inhabited “as towns without walls” that is, it will spread out without limits, and the city is measured with that day in view.
Nothing can harm Jerusalem, the chosen and beloved city, in the day when Jehovah is unto her “a wall of fire round about,” and He is “the glory in the midst of her”. In this way the LORD comforts the faithful. He gives n most blessed promise of security to a downcast people, who, weary with the opposition of their enemies, and disheartened with the failure of their efforts to improve their own conditions, needed to be reminded that Jehovah was their Protector and always He had them on His heart. He assures them abundantly.
Not only will the LORD gather His people from the North Country (verse 6) but Zion is called to deliver herself from the daughter of Babylon. Zion, the city of God’s mercies on earth, the symbol of God’s intervention in sovereign grace amidst His people when He delivers them in power from their helpless state, was captive to Babylon, that city which is symbolical of all religious corruption. When Jehovah up to help His people, it is time for them to go forth in the strength of His call, for there must be a complete separation from evil, and Jehovah is strong on behalf of those who go out to Him.
The Jews were still under their imperial masters, but Zion was to separate herself in heart from all that was Babylonish in character. Those who had the faith of God’s mercy in their hearts were to act as though the day of deliverance had come. The day will come when Jerusalem will no longer be trodden down by the Gentiles (compare with Revelation 11), whose authority the Jews still have to own. Then all that is Babylonish will be judged with a terrible and final judgment. The words of the prophet anticipate the great and blessed deliverance of Jerusalem. In that day it will be most blessed city and the centre of God’s beneficent government on earth. Faith receives the word of prophecy for hope and instruction, and being warned beforehand keeps itself separate in heart from all that is an abomination to the LORD.
Zion is not the Church, but the Church understands the spirit of such a call. The Church now, even while she journeys here on earth, lives under the reign of grace, and the call to separate from all that is Babylonish should be perfectly intelligible to her. If the earthly Zion is to come out of all that is defiling in idolatrous Babylon, how much more must the citizens of the heavenly Zion separate themselves from all that savours of corrupt earthly religiousness? They are responsible to do so.
“After the glory” of the LORD has been made manifest, He will send out to all nations His messengers, the godly among the Jews, who understand the word of God and know the way in which He will bless all peoples. The message will be a command to bring back the people for whom the LORD cares as “the apple of his eye” (Deuteronomy 32:10).
Faith anticipates the day of coming glory; it overleaps time, and rejoices in the heart of Jehovah. The joy of the LORD in His own counsels of grace is reflected in the hearts of the faithful who take comfort from His word and hope in His promises. Faith sings in triumph. That the LORD will dwell in the midst of Zion, is the joyful refrain. The hearts of His people are assured and faith has a double security in the repeated assurance of His presence (verse 10, 11).
Many nations shall be joined to the LORD, they will know Him, and come to worship in Jerusalem where He has chosen to dwell and whence He will govern the whole earth. Full proof of the Divine origin of the prophet’s mission will be manifested in that day. Israel will then see and believe, “blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed”.
The prophet sees Jehovah as risen up, or awakened, He is about to come forth in His glory from His holy habitation. The earth is called on to be silent; and who will be able to stand before Him when He rises up in judgment? Who may abide the day of His wrath?
Faith finds comfort in the fact, that it is God who speaks, and faith reckons the thing accomplished the moment He gives the word of assurance. Faith lives by the revelation of God, not in the world of circumstances. God is known alone to faith, and when He speaks time is not counted, for the son in communion with Him rests in the peace of His presence and the timelessness of His being.
Joshua the high priest stands before the LORD representing the people, and he is resisted by Satan who knew that the people had failed to keep the law. But God Himself takes up the defence of Jerusalem, the chosen city of His mercies, and He speaks a language unknown to Satan. He had in grace plucked a brand from the fire. Jerusalem had merited her judgment, but God had chosen her for blessing. But how could He righteously bless her? Joshua in his filthy rags represented the nation as having failed in its responsibility under the law. The righteousness of the law was merely human righteousness, even if it were possible for fallen man to produce it, and in God’s sight human righteousness is as filthy rags. The LORD rebukes Satan, and commands that Joshua’s filthy rags be taken away; and to Joshua He says, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment”. The righteous grounds on which God is able to do this is not yet brought out in these verses’; redemption through the death of the Messiah comes in later on.
The prophet enters into the spirit of Jehovah’ words, and in verse 5 we hear what he says, “And I said, let them set a fair mitre on his head”. Upon these words of intercession the filthy rags were taken away, Joshua was clothed with fresh garments and the pure mitre placed on his head. Every converted soul will appreciate the grace of these mercies. God not only puts away sin from those who come to Him through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, but He clothes them in the best robe of heaven, and lets them know infallibly that He has done so.
The prophet’s message heartened the remnant in their work and God gave them a measure of blessing. But as the day of glory had not yet come, they were left under responsibility, and they tasted blessing as they walked faithfully in the way of the law of Jehovah and hearkened to the voice of His prophets. The coming of Christ in power to set up His kingdom according to the counsels of God will bring in all that for which faith has waited.
Joshua, if faithful, would have places in which to walk among those who stand by (verse 7; see also Zechariah 4:14). Nearness to God is only enjoyed by those who walk faithfully in His ways and earnestly watch over the interests of the Lord. Christians learn that they need much grace from on high for such devotedness to the work of the Lord. The prophet, on behalf of the LORD, addresses Joshua and his companions, the fellow-priests. In the day when the despised and feeble remnant of Jews is exalted to the place of power and earthly glory, which all the prophets foretell, Joshua and his fellow-priests will be men to be “wondered at”.
Christians see in Joshua and those who share his glory, a type of One who wears a more excellent glory and who will share that glory with His holy ones. “He shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be wondered at in all them that believe” (2 Thessalonians 1:10).
The “Branch”, Jehovah’s servant, will come. It is Christ, the Messiah, who fills the vision of the prophet. He is “the root and the off-spring of David” (Revelation 12:16); “a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). The foundation-stone of the temple laid before Joshua (verse 9) is another symbol used to represent Christ. He was the stone which the builders rejected when He came in loveliness and meekness, they saw no beauty in Him to desire Him. Isaiah speaks of this stone as “a tried stone, a precious stone, a sure foundation” (Isaiah 28:16), and He is the foundation of Zion. The complete all-seeing and perfect intelligence of God is in the stone, “upon one stone shall be seven eyes”. The eyes of the LORD run to and fro through the whole earth taking account of all that is going on, and He governs in providence accordingly. Only when Zion is built on the true foundation—Christ and God makes Zion the seat of His government, will the perfect righteous government of God be seen, and all iniquity be removed in one day, as it is said here (verse 9). It will be in the day of Israel’s repentance, they will have learned their state and their need. In the reign of the Prince of peace men will truly enjoy the fruit of their labour and not envy one another.
We see in Joshua the high priest, a type of every man in his natural state as God sees him, and Christianity unfolds the wondrous story of the grace of God in removing the filthy garments of the flesh from one plucked from the verge of destruction. Like the prodigal son, when the goodness of the Father found a place in his heart, he turned from the swine-troughs to find in the love of the Father perfect peace for his soul, and in the gift of the Father a suited dress for the Father’s house and dignity.
The prophet had previously lifted np his eyes to see the visions which revealed the outward future history of Israel and Jerusalem; in this chapter he is wakened out of his sleep. His mind had been closed to impressions while he slept, now God writes, as it were, the more intimate and inward history of the Jews on a mind more at His command, one just waking out of sleep and not yet influenced by the passing world-events.
Bible students will recognize the symbols used here. Gold is Divine righteousness. The candlestick is the well-known seven-branched light of the tabernacle, and is the symbol of the perfect testimony of God as light in the power of the Holy Spirit on earth. The light of the testimony was once in Israel, now it is in the Church (Revelation 1).
There is a difference between the candlestick of Zechariah and the candlestick which Moses made. When all was in order under Moses, the golden candlestick stood in its divinely-appointed place, over against the shewbread. Here the candlestick is the light of all the earth. Olive trees and olive branches are introduced in the vision, and these do not appear in the tabernacle. After the failure of Israel other features had to be introduced. The light of the testimony of God in the power of the Spirit of which the oil is a type, was now supplied to the bowl through branches from two olive trees. The oil was not poured into the bowl by the hand of the priests as it was in the days of old. The old order had failed. The Aaronic order of priesthood had not maintained the testimony of God in Israel. One bowl of the candlestick in the vision fed oil to the seven lamps, and the two olive trees supplied the bowl with oil. The candlestick in the tabernacle had a bowl to each branch, each lamp held its own oil. The testimony of God was in Israel of old, maintained by priestly grace, but all had failed and the priesthood broke down (1 Samuel 1-4).
In the book of Revelation the Church takes the place of Israel as the light-bearer and witness of the Lord on earth. Each branch of the candlestick bears its own responsibility, it bears the light for its day. The picture in Revelation is one of responsibility and judgment, and the end of the Church’s day of responsibility closes in judgment on that which claims all the light and privileges of the Church, but which denies in practice the power of the Holy Spirit in which alone the true relationship may be known and power for walk may be found. This judgment will not take place until Christ comes for His waiting bride to take her home to His Father’s house above (Revelation 3:10, John 14:2, 2 Thessalonians 2:1, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18).
The two candlesticks and two olive trees of Revelation chapter 11 indicate that there will be an adequate testimony to the coming priestly kingdom of Christ in the two witnesses, who withstand the opposition of the beast and the antichrist in the days of tribulation after the present Church period. Their testimony precedes the coming in of the reign of Christ, and they are witnesses of the enmity to His kingdom of apostate Jewry and apostate Christendom.
The prophet receives a revelation of the perfect government of God. Man cannot by his own might order the course of the world against the powers of darkness; he has not the ability to withstand evil, he has put himself under its power; neither call he govern his own spirit. It is by the Spirit of God alone that the perfect wags of God are established.
What though a great mountain of difficulty stands in the way to oppose God’s governor, he is appointed by God and need not think of his own weakness. When the servant of God goes on his way in faith and in obedience to the word of God, counting on His faithfulness and power, the mountain is reduced to a plain by the power of the Spirit of God. By the same power the Headstone of God’s building is set up in the strength of grace. Here Zerubbabel, the governor, before whom the mountain disappears, is a type of the Messiah who will come to fulfil all the counsels of God in grace and power.
God does not for a moment forget His ultimate purpose. It was not the time to display the power of Jehovah in Zechariah’s day, the remnant were blessed according to their faithfulness to Jehovah, and the Spirit of the LORD was working to bring to pass the purpose of God, even though there appeared only weakness and brokenness all around.
When every kind of discouragement tends to break the heart, only a deep sense of grace, joined with an unswerving faith which has learned through many trials to wait on God for everything, will persevere in His work.
The walls of difficulty may reach up to heaven as they seemed to do around Jericho; but they fell flat before the children of Israel, at the shout of triumph raised in the power of the victory won over death at Jordan. The ark went before the host of Israel, down into the depths of the river and drove back its waters, and Israel entered the land through the way the ark opened for them. The ark, their strength for battle, came behind them as they marched to meet the mighty power of the enemy, which stood in their path to contest their first advance into the land to claim the inheritance God had given them. It was God who threw down the walls of Jericho, and Israel had only to trust in God and obey His word with full confidence in the result. For the Christian the ark is Christ, and it is as passing through death with Him, dead and risen in Christ, that he can go on in confidence to possess his heavenly portion, in spite of unscaleable walls. Death is not before him as a fear, but it is behind him, a conquered foe, and has become life for the believer, through the mighty deliverance he knows in Christ. “Who art thou, 0 great mountain?” are the triumphant words of faith advancing in the power of the Spirit of God.
The Headstone which will be brought forth will complete the building. The foundation-stone of the temple they were then building had been laid long before (see the Book of Ezra). The prophet looks on to the future and says that grace will set up the headstone in Israel in a day to come. He is thinking of the Messiah. Christ is the first and the last; He is the Foundation-stone and He is the Headstone. The stone which the builders rejected the same is become the head (stone) of the corner; “Jesus Christ Himself being the chief corner-stone” (Ephesians 2:20). He is the Foundation and the Crown.
God gave further assurances to those engaged on His work in another word of hope, and by preventing anything from hindering the work of Zerubbabel. Often God sets His people what appears to an unbeliever, an impossible task, but, He gives perfect assurance to the faith of those who labour in dependence on Him by words of encouragement. God’s work must be accomplished, but God does not only promise that He will carry it out to the end, He also comforts hope with the promise that the One who began the work will complete it. It will not be another work done by another hand. With this word to comfort and strengthen the hands of the labourers, they may go on knowing that He who began the good work will finish it unto the day of the true Zerubbabel, the One in whom all royal power will be manifested.
Types serve to illustrate some aspect of the truth, but they lose their force if pressed beyond their proper use, rightly used they give real ground on which faith may rest. The figures of the Old Testament do not give the whole truth, but when Christ came types and figures gave way to Him who was the truth. Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. While Israel waits to see the types fulfilled in the Messiah, believers now through the grace of God know Christ as the One who answered to all the types. They ha.ve the certainty of their knowledge by the indwelling of the Holy Ghost, who reveals Christ to them by the word, and gives them the consciousness that they are one with Christ and possess all things in Him. They know Him now exalted on high clothed with glory and majesty, and ready to come to fulfil all the types for Israel in the day appointed by God.
The day of small things is not to be despised, God never forgets His people, neither has He grown “slack concerning His promises as men count slackness”. In the day of little outward power, evil has not triumphed over His Spirit. In the wisdom of God, days of depression and apparent outward failure are allowed to overtake God’s people, but God continues to work in ways that are scarcely noticed, and evidences of His power are most marked when the weak and foolish are enabled to resist the strong and the proud of the world, and the many distracting influences pressing in upon them. The despised remnant will yet see the power and the energy in the hand of the true Governor, and see it put forth with the perfection of Divine intelligence, as symbolized in the seven eyes running to and fro through the whole earth. Nothing escapes the eyes of Him who governs in truth and in grace. Haggai encourages those who were tempted to despise the feeble efforts of the day by telling them that the Spirit of the LORD dwelt with them even when the glory had gone (Haggai 2). Discouragement rises from the disappointment of hopes, something not realized upon which the heart has rested, but which has intruded between the soul and God. Communion with God sets the mind at peace, for then the heart is right with God and sees with His eyes and rests in His wisdom and love.
The prophet again speaks of the two olive trees, but he asks particularly about the two olive branches through which the oil flowed from the trees to the candlesticks. The answer is that the two trees with the two branches are the “two sons of oil” who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
The seat of Jehovah’s glory was at one time in Jerusalem, but He could not permit His name to be associated with idolatry into which Israel and Judah had fallen, and He had removed His throne from Jerusalem. The Gentiles were now God’s appointed rulers on earth; His throne was not in Babylon, but the Gentile monarchy was directly answerable to Him for its government. But the prophet learns that the Lord of the whole earth will establish a perfect order in Jerusalem and blessing will flow through two aspects of His reign. The two olive trees and the two branches are evidently figures of the same things, they are called the “two sons of oil” (margin). By this double means Divine light will be maintained on earth. Royalty and priesthood will compose the means of maintaining the perfect rule of God on earth. Christ as Lord of the whole earth will be its light. He is God’s golden candlestick, the seven branches in the type of old show the perfection of spiritual unity which could only be found in Christ. Israel as God’s vessel of testimony on earth could not, in the days of its responsibility, perfectly render this Divine testimony. Neither has the Church at any time, in the seven periods of its history borne faithfully the testimony of God in the full truth of His thoughts. At the close of this Christian day, Christ is presented as the faithful and true witness when the Church has ceased to bear a true and faithful testimony to Him in His heavenly character.
Christ is not a priest after the order of Aaron, His priesthood is of another order, it is that of Melchisedek, who was a king and a priest. In the day of glory He will dispense blessing on earth as the representative of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth. The earthly blessings He will dispense are righteousness and peace, “for the work of righteousness is peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance for ever”.
Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor serve as the double type of priesthood and royalty of Christ in His Melchisedek character, a Priestly-King on His throne (Psalm 110:4). The perfect light of Divine order will be found in that day at Jerusalem.
In the vision all is of gold, for all is Divine; even the oil is called “golden oil”, as it is symbolical of the Holy Spirit who is the power of all testimony for God. It was gracious of Jehovah to give the poor discouraged remnant a of comfort to strengthen their hands in His work; for Zerubbabel to be told that the building would not only be started but also be finished by his hands added zeal to his labour. But the vision and the prophecy were of greater import than merely a means to encourage the completion of the work then in hand. God speaks from the depths of His wisdom and by His foreknowledge, as knowing the end from the beginning, He directs all things to the accomplishment of His purpose in the days of the kingdom of Christ. All prophecy looks on to the time when Christ, the Royal Priest, will reign in righteousness and peace. Zerubbabel was but a type of the true Governor who will finish the work He begins, in God’s good time, then it will be known, not only that Zechariah was a prophet sent by Jehovah, but that the word and work mere God’s.
Another vision passes before the eyes of the prophet as he looks up and around. He sees a flying roll, twenty cubits by ten cubits in measurement, bearing a curse on all who steal and on all who swear falsely. Evil was amongst the people of God, and He who reads all hearts searches the behaviour of those who profess to be called be His name. God first of all requires righteousness from every man; then in the second vision, from verse 5, He views the people as a whole in their public character.
The roll has the same dimensions as the holy place in the tabernacle of Moses. God measures the ground on which He meets man. His ways are perfect, and man is responsible to God in the place where God has set him, and in the relationships in which he stands with God and man; the relationship is the measure of the responsibility. When a number is used in speaking of the responsibility of man to God the numeral is always ten, for instance, the Ten Commandments. When man’s responsibility to man is expressed by a number the figure five, which denotes weakness, is used. Here it is the people’s responsibility to God, and He weighs the conduct of Israel according to the measure of the holiness of His presence. Righteousness and truth are the demands of His presence, when man serves before God in the place where a testimony is rendered to His name.
The curse went over the face of the earth or land. From the context it is evident that it flew over the land of God’s responsible people, for God takes particular account of the ways of those who bear a testimony to His name and He weighs their actions. The day will come when evil-doers will be cut off from the land, God will search their houses and every secret place to root them out. These are the ways of God in government to remove iniquity from His inheritance, and to prepare the land for the reign of His Anointed.
A vision passes before the prophet (verse 5-11) showing him wickedness in a measured vessel, spreading its influence over the whole land. Judea was, in the ways of God, the measured land. A woman sat in the ephah; she was in figure the city of Jerusalem.
In scripture a woman is the symbol of a system. Jerusalem is likened to a fair and delicate woman; Babylon is called “The lady of kingdoms” (Isaiah 47:5). It is a symbol both of a good and of a bad system. The Church is a bride, and the false corrupt religious system when revealed in her true character at the end of her history is called a harlot, she claims the privileges of a wife which she never was.
The angel casts the woman into the ephah. She is the symbol of “wickedness” and her influence is restrained (verse 8). Organized evil is held in check by a weight of lead; the field of its activity is confined within a limited sphere. There she sat, and by some powerful means God kept her within the boundaries of Jewish practices. Judaism, which now had mingled heathen idolatry with the worship of Jehovah, was not allowed to fill the earth, a great weight held it in check; God held back its corrupting influence. If He had not done so, the evil would have spread and ripened before the time had come for Him to judge it. God will indeed judge corrupt religiousness in the day in which He will try all the ways of men.
Two women come out of the ephah (verse 9). One had been cast in, two now appear in full vigour and energy bearing the ephah between them. The minds of Satan’s unseen baneful influence carry them away to the land of Shinar to be set there upon “her own base”, and there to become the home of wickedness in full development. While the winds do the work of Satan as he has often used them in the influences of the world (Job), yet the mighty hand of God ill providence is governing everything.
Two false and extremely wicked systems develop out of the Jewish measure. The prophet knew nothing of Christianity, and Christendom’s union with Judaism. He did not know what would happen when Judaism, which was a right thing when God was working in this world, united itself with a Christianity which had fallen away from its heavenly calling, and the false thing developed out of the union came forth in undisguised opposition to the truth. Christianity was not a development of Judaism, and a Christian Gentile introducing Jewish practices into Christianity was simply giving up Christianity, and returning to his old state out of which he had been taken by the heavenly call of Christianity. The Spirit of God had in mind this false association. In the prophecy He speaks in a way the Christian of today may well understand, and in which the wise-hearted Jew of the day to come, will find warning. Godly Jews will then be persecuted by this twin form of evil religious formalism and infidelity strangely mingled. Apostate Jewry under the antichrist, and apostate Christendom following the beast, will be joined in united evil with one avowed purpose, to oppose the setting up of the kingdom of the Son of man, and they will lead the kingdoms of the world to their doom.
The place where the evil finds a home tells the character of the evil of that day, it will be entirely Babylonish, in full development. Rejected Laodicea, the last state of Protestantism, whose light will be put out because of its presumption and yet total indifference to the true testimony of Christ, will be left as a prey to the frightful influences of superstition and infidelity, which find their resting place in the spiritual Babylon of the New Testament. It is awful to contemplate this end of Judaised-Christianity which has put forms in the place of Christ; having the form of godliness but denying the power thereof.
The “impregnable rock” of scripture is the firm foundation upon which believers may take their stand until Christ comes to vindicate every word the prophets have spoken. He will take His own to Himself and then manifest His glory with great power. When the time for judging all wickedness has come, there is only One who has the right to open the seals of judgment and to put down every opposing force of evil, and He will take the book of judgement as the Lamb who was once slain (Revelation 5).
Once more and for the last time in Old Testament prophecy, we see the world empires, and God’s government of the world connected with them; God was governing through them. Four chariots drawn by four horses appear from between two maintains of brass. Daniel shows the empires as powers ordained by God to rule over the earth, and as human authority in the world. In this chapter they are seen as governments providentially controlled by bit and bridle. The four chariots represent four separate seats of government. Brass is a symbol of Divine righteousness with respect to the earth, and the mountains of brass are symbols of the exalted seats of judgment which try man in responsibility. Horses when used in connection with government are ever the symbol in scripture of providential control. The four coloured horses symbolize the four empires known in the world, Babylonian, Persian, Grecian, and Roman. When imperial power failed in the hands of Nebuchadnezzar, the first absolute monarch, God did not immediately set aside the empire and begin openly to govern on earth. Nor even when He brought the remnant of Jews back in the days of the second empire did He publicly declare the nation of Israel “My people”. He still recognized the authority of the empire of Persia which followed providentially after the Babylonian empire. God controls governments and they govern for Him, but He does not now act directly by them to maintain a testimony to His character and ways.
While men are responsible to govern, their wills are at work, therefore we see revolutions and wars as the result of uncontrolled and conflicting passions. But God restrains these wilful activities, and the course of history develops under these restraints along apparently planned lines. God never entirely lets the control of the government of the earth out of His hands in spite of appearances, and all must eventually submit to His will and fulfil His counsels. The blessing of all nations will come through Israel, when they are repentant and restored to the land.
The horses of the vision are likened to the four winds of heaven, the symbol of unseen Divine agency which brings about a purposed end. The red horses, representing the providential government of God while the Babylonian empire was in power, had already quietened the North Country; the Spirits employed by God have accomplished the will of God there” (verse 8).
The black horses of Persia from the North Country were ruling, and following after them would come the white horses of Greece, or “that which God has done by means of the Grecian empire”.
Western civilization is introduced in the Grecian empire, and the fourth chariot drawn by grisled [dappled] and bay horses followed Greece into the south country, which is Egypt. The grisled and bay seem to indicate a mixture of Grecian and Roman power. First the Roman power rose absorbing the broken fragments of the Greek empire in the east and in the south. Then the Roman Empire quickly assumed a distinct character of its own; here the Roman power is represented by the bay horses which go forth “that they might walk to and fro through the earth”, and the angel sends them on their way to universal conquest. The remnants of Persia and of Greece will be found in their places in the day of reckoning when God will finally execute judgement on these instruments of government. Persia will be subject to Russia (Ezekiel 38). Greece is mentioned as being in the last judgments, probably when she is trying to re-establish herself in some of the territory in the Middle East which was once under her sway, or as the mere tool of the great protagonists of the final conflict. (See Zechariah 9:13) Rome will for a moment again hold supreme power over all Western Europe until the judgment of God falls on the beast, its leader. God will then openly assert His rights as God of the whole earth.
It appears as though the judgment of Babylon has taken place and that it will never rise again geographically (verse 8). There is a judgment to fall on the spiritual Babylon of the New Testament (Rev.), and the destruction will be complete. Even in the type, when the great Babylon was destroyed another order of things was introduced, and it does not rise again to dominate anything. Babylon is the symbol of corrupt religiousness and world domination, after this is judged it cannot rise again. Babylon is used as a figure, in the book of Revelation, of evil spiritual domination over the world, and as such it will be totally destroyed. To look for a literal and material return of the actual city to temporal power, spoils its spiritual significance, and weakens the force of the literal judgment of Babylon and all that it stood for as a system in the past.
The prophet is instructed to take with him certain men who had come from Babylon to visit their brethren, and to go to the house of Josiah. Although these men had not the faith to give them a place among the remnant which had returned with Zerubbabel, they were thoroughly sympathetic with those who had returned to rebuild the house of God; now God would give them an answer to their faith. Never does faith move towards God in the smallest way without finding a response from Him, God immediately gives more to faith upon which it may build.
Joshua the high priest is crowned with many crowns in the presence of these visiting men. The symbolical crowing of Joshua prefigures the coming of One whose name is “The Branch” (verse 12). The true crowned Priest of prophecy is Christ, and He has been made a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedek, the king and priest to whom Abraham paid tithes (Genesis 14:20). If the word “crowns” is rightly in the plural as it is in the Authorized Version, then it indicates that “The Branch” has even a wider title than that of Melchisedek, He is the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
Isaiah and Jeremiah both speak of “The Branch”. Isaiah says, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). Jeremiah says, “I will raise unto David a righteous Branch and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely . . . .” (Jeremiah 23. 5). “In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up into David; and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land” (Jeremiah 23:15). The Man who is “The Branch” will be accounted as born in Zion (Psalm 87:5, 6), in the day when the LORD registers [writes up] the people and places them in the cities to which He appoints them. Zion is the city from which Jehovah’s grace will flow, and the Messiah is said to belong there.
The building of the temple in that day will prosper under the hand of the Messiah; no one will be allowed to hinder the work. The work in which Joshua was so interested, and which looked so poor in a day of small things, was only a pledge of a greater work and a fuller glory. Having the pledge, the remnant could rejoice in the prospect of the glory of the future. If they had received nothing for the present circumstances it would have appeared as though they had been forgotten, but God gives His people every encouragement by word and gift even when their faith is very feeble.
The Messiah shall bear the rule, sitting upon His throne as the true Melchisedek, a Kingly-Priest.
Every word of this prophecy will be fulfilled, and all the glory will rest on Christ who alone is able to wear it all. He has proved His worthiness by His obedience unto death in the offering up of Himself on Calvary’s cross. God has given Him an answer in raising Him from among the dead, and has declared His perfect satisfaction in the work of Christ, and His delight in the One who glorified Him in the place of death. For the moment Christ is hidden in the glory of the Father, He will soon be seen coming forth in His own glory as Son, and as Ring over all the earth. “And the counsels of peace shall be between them both” (verse 13). This peace shall be maintained between Jehovah and the Man whose name is “The Branch”. All the glory shall be His and He will govern perfectly for Jehovah, dispensing blessing for Jehovah as the Kingly-Priest making known His perfect ways of righteousness in peace. The crowns were to be laid up in the temple “for a memorial’’ to the visitors from Babylon. Though their homes were in Babylon yet their hearts were in the work, and God gave them a connecting link with that which He was doing, but about which their faith fell short in practice.
God treasures faith, it is His own work of grace in the heart, and it is more precious to Him than the offering of many gifts. Grace would work in the hearts of those who were afar off and they would come and help build the temple under the hand of the Messiah. In that day the words of this prophecy will be fully confirmed. How much more blessed it is to receive the word in faith now, and by so doing reap the full reward of faith at His coming.
These four men whose hearts were so touched that they had come a long journey to show their interest in the work of God would themselves be a sign to others. They would be a sign of the day of the Messiah, when the godly remnant will come from far and help in the work of the LORD to build the temple of the future. All Israel is yet to be blessed according to the unchangeable purpose of God, but present obedience to His word brings its own peculiar and blessed reward. Christians know it now; the sure path of present enjoyment in spirit of the things of God is in unswerving obedience to His word. Those of Zechariah’s day were to know blessing if they set their hearts to obey the voice of the LORD, and the remnant in the day to come will know blessing when their hearts are made willing, through suffering, to hear the words of the LORD by the mouth of the prophet, and to obey Him at all costs.
This chapter begins the second division of the book an, the first three verses give the occasion for the prophet’s words.
While the Spirit of God has been setting o11t the history of the nations in connection, with Israel and world-government right on to the reign of Christ, He has been speaking in a language of figures. The interpretation can only be understood by those who know the mind of God by a belief in the scriptures, and who have learned the language of scriptural symbols. When the Disciples of Christ asked Him why it was He always spoke in parables to the people, His answer was that the disciples would know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, they would have a God-given understanding. More would be given to those who understood the word, but the willingly ignorant would not be able to perceive the parable. Faith would be comforted by the interpretation, but unbelief would be left in its ignorance. The disciples were with Christ and attached to His Person, the Man in their midst, the sent One of God who had the words of eternal life; because they had faith in Him they would be given the understanding of the mystery of His Kingdom.
From the seventh chapter to the end we find more of the usual moral rebuke and instruction a prophet addresses to the people of God. The words are not incomprehensible to the mind of any moral creature, and they are perfectly in keeping with the kind of exhortation given at all times to those who have a connecting link with God and His testimony.
The translation of verse 2 would be better rendered, “When Bethel had sent Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their men, to pray before the LORD.” Certain men had been sent to pray before the LORD, and to inquire of the priests and prophets at Jerusalem concerning a solemn fast, celebrated in memory of the day when the house of the LORD was burnt to the ground and the walls of Jerusalem mere broken down (2 Kings 25:8-10). The fast of the seventh month was probably in memory of the assassination of Gedaliah, the governor. The people dwelling in Bethel wanted to know if it were still necessary to keep the memory of these past events fresh and with humility. There is always a danger of forgetting the reason why God had to intervene in government when we are enjoying the blessings into which He afterwards brings us. When we are chastened we are humbled, but we are all too ready to lose sight of the fact that the chastening was necessary. We cannot settle down to enjoy our mercies without being in danger, we need to be always on the watch. Until Christ comes to bring full blessing in power, there is a continual need for reminders (2 Peter 1:12, 13). The flesh is still in us and any occasion of joy may, if there is not watchfulness, quickly descend into licence and carelessness, and the heart of the Christian needs the constant reminder of that from which it has been saved. If the returned men had entered into the significance of the seventy years of captivity they would have seen even more reason, now that they were back from whence they had been driven, to enter into the spirit of the fasts of morning. Their tears were not now embittered with the sorrow of their captivity, and they were free to think back on the past with unfeigned repentance. If their hearts had been right with God they would have welcomed the day of the fast that they might remember it in all humility with God.
The temple was not yet complete, but these Jews had grown weary of the annual fast. Surely, they thought, it is a time to rejoice rather than to mourn. But it was most profitable for them to contrast their present grace with the time of judgment when the temple was destroyed. The Spirit of God searches the hearts and examines the motives of the inquirers instead of giving at once a direct answer to the question.
During the seventy long years of captivity, was Jehovah ever in their minds while they fasted? Did they keep a fast of repentance, or mere they like Esau, weeping for a lost blessing without repenting of the evil of their ways? Had these men of Bethel really entered into the spirit of the fasts they would not have needed to send a deputation to Jerusalem with their questions. They had come piously to pray before the LORD, but He who reads the heart, discerned the weariness that had come over their spirits in keeping up the memory of that which made them small in their own eyes. Their fasts pleased themselves while they drew attention to the fact of their captivity. The natural mind can endure the thought of extreme discomfort as long as it is self-inflicted; the moment the hand of God is recognized in the affliction, the spirit of man rebels. Until the will is broken, man puts the blame for his suffering on God. Outward forms are not enough for God, they give no indication of the state of the heart, and God requires reality in whatever approach man makes to Him.
The people of Judea had not listened to the voices of the former prophets before the chastening of Jehovah came upon the land: Who now remembered their words?
The searching eye of God was trying their hearts and consciences. Were those who came to inquire of Him in the pious attitude of prayer, proving their own hearts in the light of grace toward them? The words of God would try them; would they now listen to His words and be saved from a repetition of their history? We are ever prone to repeat oar history, and that which first set our feet in the path of wrong-doing will prove to be our weakness and danger. Many have discovered this through neglecting to judge the evil, and branch in root the light of God’s word brought home to the conscience. The way of blessing lies in implicit obedience to the word of truth, and the use of our trying experiences is to make ns willing to bow to the hand of Cod in meekness of spirit. Christ was the submissive and obedient One in all perfection. We have to be taught the way of submission and dependence, we learn the blessedness of that path through grace under the hand of God Himself, when He takes up our training. To speak disparagingly of ourselves is humbling but it is not humility. Ture humility is in judging ourselves and the causes of our failure by the word of truth, and then without a thought of self, receiving from God, thankfully and without question, all that He gives in the richness of grace out of the fulness of His own heart.
Zechariah speaks the word of the LORD to his hearers and it is in the same moral tone as that of the former prophets; God has not two minds about evil. The harshness and deception which characterized their behaviour one with another were but the result of their departure from Jehovah. They felt no restraint when they knew not His eye upon them. The weak and helpless were oppressed, and the nearer the relationship to another the more they took advantage of it for selfish ends. The people had shut their ears to the word of the LORD, and the word of rebuke: like a restraining hand on the shoulder, roused resentment. Pulling away the shoulder (verse 11) is not mere stubbornness, but a definite refusal of the hand which would in kindness check a wilful course; it is an act of wilful rebellion. If the truth is not received in the conscience it only leaves the conscience dull and the heart hardened. Chastening may lead the erring to repentance when the rill is not in the sin, but when the words of grace given in warning are despised the end can only be wrath and judgment. So it came about in Israel.
In the government of God the cry of true repentance is distinguished from the cry of hurt pride. Jehovah would not answer the cry that feigns humility, and He is well able to make the distinction. The word of God has real power in the heart of the truly repentant and humble.
Israel failed to keep the law and refused to hear the prophets, and God scattered them. Though God had brought back a remnant to prepare the way for the Messiah to come according to the words of the prophets, yet they were in every danger of repeating the sins of their fathers. They did not return to idolatry, yet the cold indifference to the claims of Jehovah in true worship which self-interest caused to settle on their hearts, blinded their eyes and they could not recognize the Messiah when He came to them. They imagined that God was pleased when they attended to religious forms.
Christianity is not a national religion, nor is it merely international, but the western world, what is known as Christendom, has embraced its tenets and forms. Through the love of the natural heart for forms and ceremonies, Jewish ritual has been added to the order the Spirit of God gave the Church at the beginning. Ritual and forms will not preserve the heart from evil, neither can God be found through them. When the mind is given up to the ritualism and formalism of nominal Christianity, it is an easy step to entertain the superstition of Paganism. The old Pagan names may be forgotten, but the ideas behind them remain in the modern dress science and philosophy give them, and they still hold the hearts of men in bondage.
The building of the temple was advanced far enough to serve as a place of worship, and now other questions arise. The question of fasting gave the prophet an opportunity to show the people how little they had taken to heart the chastening they had undergone during the seventy years of captivity. The natural heart cannot long endure sorrow, it seeks to escape its burden. There was only One who never sought to avoid the suffering which came upon Him here; His pathway was characterized by sorrow, He was a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. He learned obedience by the things which He suffered, and He entered perfectly into the sorrows of others,
In this chapter there is a further promise of blessing, but the prophecy is connected with the former chapter, and the fasts are again mentioned in the latter part of the chapter. Verse 2 should read, “I am” jealous, not “I was” jealous for Zion. The heart of the LORD cannot change. He will not give up His love for the beloved object of His desire. He may be compelled to chasten His people for His holy name’s sake, yet He loves them with an everlasting love, and the condition of Zion called out the jealousy of His heart for the city of His choice. Let the worst that can come overtake Jerusalem, He would deliver it and make it His dwelling-place. Such is Jehovah’s way in grace to melt a heart turned to “adamant stone” (Zechariah 7:12). A city of truth, a holy mountain, will be the characteristics of Jerusalem the blessed, in the day when Jehovah returns to Zion bringing the power of endless life and joy to its inhabitants. This was more than saying His Spirit remained with them. The time will come when Jehovah God will dwell in Jerusalem, His glory will come and fill the temple in the early days of the kingdom of peace, and Israel will enjoy all the benefits of His presence in power securing for them perfect happiness without fear.
Obedience in the past would have lengthened the days of Israel in the land (Ezekiel 20:12), but through their disobedience to the law of Jehovah they broke their part in the covenant made at Sinai and so forfeited the right to remain in the land. But Jehovah’s presence will secure their enjoyment of the gifts of God; happiness will be the common lot of all, and they will prosper in peace which no one shall disturb.
If this appear marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of “those” days, referring to the people enjoying the reign of the Messiah, should it be marvellous in the eyes of Jehovah!
How peaceful the heart is that rests in the love of God and leans on His power! We are slow to trust in the goodness of God, and it is unpardonable to limit the grace and strength of God to lour poor thoughts of what He ought to do. Israel, in the wilderness, “turned back and tempted God, and limited the Holy One of Israel. They remembered not His power, nor the day when He delivered them from affliction” (Psalm 78: 41, 42). But they will yet know the LORD when they are brought again to Jerusalem and God dwells in their midst in truth and in righteousness. In that day mercy and truth will meet, and righteousness and peace will embrace.
Zechariah addressed his words to the remnant who were rebuilding the house of the L0RD and they were to take comfort and find strength and cheer in the promises. These few and feeble people stood before the whole nation as a picture and a pledge of God’s purpose to bless Israel in the appointed time. Jehovah had given them this honoured place. His promises could not fail, the gifts and calling of God are without repentance, and the present restoration bore the stamp of a true pledge.
God had disciplined the remnant through providential means, they had failed to rise to God’s purpose in bringing them back to the ruins of Jerusalem, and they did not enter into the power of His grace. Jehovah would bless them with prosperity in proportion as they gave Him true worship. They were still on trial according to the terms of the law, but were favoured with much grace in spite of their lassitude, so it is we see everything depending on their conduct; this is the way of God in government in the days of responsibility. These people had been brought back to God’s earthly centre although it lay in ruins, to give Him holy worship, and to await the Messiah. Too easily discouraged in their work they had turned their efforts to make their own way easy and comfortable. But God would not allow His purpose to be forgotten, and after disciplining them to prepare their hearts for His words He gave them many words of encouragement. Grace alone gives strength.
There had been no prosperity nor peace in the land; the fault lay in their neglect of God and in their indifference to His interests. Now He encourages them to begin again, Jehovah of hosts would be their protector and benefactor, and they would know it from the day they began to work. They would experience all the favour of former days in a way suited to their circumstances. The remnant would possess all these things (verse 12). Again the larger thought is brought in; Judah and Israel would be a blessing to all peoples instead of being a terror to all who have to do with them. By such a promise, filling their hearts with hope, their hands were strengthened for the work. That the remnant would possess all things was not a prophecy to be fulfilled immediately, it looked on to the day of future restoration, a godly remnant in that day would be marked out for blessing.
The promise of temporal blessing was a sign to the Jew of Jehovah’s favour; a Christian cannot look on worldly advancement in the same way. The Lord Jesus told His disciples that in the world “you shall have tribulation”. The believer now counts his riches in the discovery he makes of God’s unspeakable gift of Christ and all that the Father has given in Him. The unsearchable riches of Christ, made ours through redemption and in all grace by the gift of God, will redound to the praise of the glory of His grace through the eternal ages.
Jehovah had chastened His people, they had brought down the rod of correction upon themselves because of various idolatries (Ezekiel 8). He could “not again pass by them any more” (Amos 7:8), and the judgment came. Now through the favour of God, a few away in Babylon had volunteered to go back to do His work at desolate Jerusalem. Though at first greatly depressed, they once again put their hands to the task, their hearts being stirred by the words of God’s two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. They recognized the voice of Jehovah and applied themselves to the work, He assured them that He would bless them, and that they had nothing to fear (verse 13-15).
Again the moral injunction is given them that truth and uprightness mere to mark all their ways, and peace to be the end of their judgments. Two things which God hates are mentioned, hatred of brothers and false swearing; both indicate that the heart has departed far from God. Blessing for Israel will surely come. But for the present enjoyment of God’s promises in spirit at any time, the heart must be separated to God away from all evil. Christians need to be reminded that the breastplate of practical righteousness, which covers the heart, the seat of the affections, is a most necessary part of the armour of God for their conflict against the enemy.
A distinct word is now given about the fasts, and another day is added which was not mentioned before. The fast of the fourth month was kept up, possibly in memory of the day when the gates of Jerusalem were opened to the armies of Nebuchadnezzar. God had given His solemn word that He would bless Jerusalem, but He keeps reminding the people that their conduct was to be consistent with the character of the fasts, if they were to be recognized as fasts kept before the LORD.
The fasts will someday be turned into feasts of gladness for the house of Judah. The presence of Jehovah Himself will bring that happy day. Then the house will be built and be overshadowed with the glory of the millennia1 day (Haggai 2:9), and men will come from other cities of the land to the house of the LORD to pray there. In that day they will not need to ask if they may forget the sorrows of the days of which the fast kept them reminded.
Many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD in Jerusalem and to pray before the LORD. Ten men, which number possibly suggests the confederate Gentiles of the west (Daniel and Revelation) that oppressed the Jews in the days of their affliction, shall take hold of the skirt of a Jew desiring to go with him to find the LORD, and seeking to share the blessing associated with the known presence of the LORD. The Jew, so long hated, will be courted, and others will submit to him in a way they would not think of doing so today. But this state of things will not come about until God is with the Jew, and not until he loves truth, and peace founded on God’s righteousness.
Surely the proper attitude for the remnant was to bow to the government of God, and express true contrition of heart by the solemn fasts of remembrance, until the days of fasting are turned into feasts of gladness. When the Bridegroom comes they will eat and drink abundantly (Song of Song 5:1). How could they express in the sight of the world the joy they found in Jehovah’s pledge, before the day of glory places them in power beyond their sorrows? They were still under trial and not free from failure. These were the moral considerations which were to govern their hearts and guide them in the way of truth and peace. The wisdom from above is first pure then peaceable.
God’s purposes of blessing depend upon Himself and He will establish them in grace and by His power; they are sure and certain and once established by Him they will never break down, for they will not depend on man’s responsibility to maintain them.
Christians have a solemn and precious feast of remembrance in the Lord’s Supper. Although they have been redeemed by the death of Christ and live in Him in the power of life in resurrection, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God, yet while here, they are never to forget the way by which they have been delivered; even by Christ in death. The ransom-price paid for their redemption was of infinite worth, and the perfect work of redemption has been fully accomplished by Christ. God has been glorified by that work, and the Holy Spirit has been given to the believer as the seal of his faith in the work of Christ. The presence of the Holy Spirit gives to the believer the consciousness of present deliverance from sin, the flesh, and the world life by introducing him in the power of a new life into the place in which Christ now is. The Spirit forms new relationships for the believer with God and with Christ, which bring new joys into his heart, and make him understand that he does not belong to the world but to heaven. The believer is said to be sitting down in the heavenlies in Christ even now, and the Spirit brings into his heart the joy of wondrous blessings, and makes him realize that he has a most blessed portion in and with Christ where He is. While the Christian walks this earthly pathway, a pilgrim and a stranger in it, his heart needs to be kept in the power of grace, and there is nothing which will do this, and draw out his affections so much, as the constant reminder that the Christ to whom he is united, was once lying in death for Him. He remembers a Christ who lived on earth, but that life closed in death on the cross of Calvary, and Gentiles had no relation with a living Christ down here. In eating of a dead Christ the believer is identified with Him in death, and death is his deliverance out of the world to live with a living Christ in heaven. Death is the means of absolute cleansing for the believer which makes him fit for part with Christ where He know is. There is nothing more precious to him now while he walks in communion with a living Christ than to eat of Him as dead, it binds him in his affections to Christ as nothing else can. Christ is no longer dead, but it is most blessed beyond words to eat of a dead Saviour and to do it with spirituality and Divine intelligence. Christ lives beyond the power of death, but He desired that His own should remember Him as the emblems set Him forth, that their souls may be nourished by Him. Their hearts enter into what He was for them in death. Christ is in the believer that he may enjoy Him as He was in perfect love for those whom He loves in their need.
There was another consideration connected with the fasts, they were a matter of national interest, and not a mere question of personal feeling. The Lord’s Supper is for the Christian more than an individual act of faith and a means of personal blessing. Though each eats for himself, yet as doing it together the unity of the Assembly is expressed.
We find in prophecy that when Jerusalem and Judah come under the hand of the LORD for judgment, the people dwelling on the borders of the land, who have seen all that has taken place in Israel, also come into review for judgment. Some of these neighbours of Israel were used as chastening rods, but they took advantage of Jacob’s troubles to increase their own gains, and this brings them under the eye of God for punishment.
The previous chapter spoke of Israel’s future blessing, and verse one of this chapter continues with this subject, but looks on to the time when the eyes of men as well as Israel’s will look toward the LORD.
The burden “upon” Hadrach [a country] and Damascus foretells the judgment that will fall upon Syria. The cities, Hamath [capital of a kingdom of Upper Syria], Tyre, and Sidon (or Zidon) are involved, also the cities along the coast of Palestine, Gaza, and others. No doubt the prophecy found a partial fulfilment in the conquests of Alexander the Great, in 300 B.C., but prophecy has a wider object in view than the removal of the enemies of Israel from the immediate field of vision. The contest helps us to fix the time of the completion of the prophecy. In the main Zechariah’s visions concern the future, and verse one says that this prophecy shall be fulfilled “when the eyes of man shall be toward the LORD.” Verse eight adds that it will be when the LORD encamps about His house and the oppressors of His people shall be prevented from passing through them anymore. The time has not yet come in which all the terms of this prophecy could be fulfilled. Judgment shall rest on Syria, and on the coast of Palestine where the Philistines once lived. Along this route the northern hosts will march into Egypt. At that time these lands and the people who have been as thorns in the side of Israel will be finally judged; the closing judgments will end for ever the oppression of Israel by these people, and silence their opposition to the worship of Jehovah God.
Terrible punishments have overtaken these cities in the past. Tyre is no longer in existence, the prophecy of its destruction by fire has been literally fulfilled. The Philistines have vanished; but the last judgments that fall on Palestine come upon these areas, for the people who will be inhabiting the cities will contend with the Jews. Probably a partition of Palestine will make the literal fulfilment of Zechariah’s prophecy possible [1948 view point]. A remnant of the Philistines will be spared that shall be “for (or to) our God”, and they will find mercy and blessing inside Israel’s borders, but subject to Israel. Verse eight definitely is in the future. The king of the north, the Assyrian of the last days, the king who stands in the power of Russia, will invade the land, and at that time the temple will be owned as God’s house. But the Assyrian will find the LORD encamping round about His house and His people, none shall be able to touch them. Jehovah looks upon them with His eyes, He comes down to behold His people and undertakes their deliverance, for He loves them.
Jehovah defends and liberates Zion, there His mercy is known. The spirit of the prophet enters into the joy of that day and he calls upon the “daughter of Zion” to rejoice, not only in the deliverance that is promised, but in the hope of the Messiah in whom is bound up all the future peace and joy of Jerusalem.
This “Man” shall be the peace when the Assyrian comes into the land (Micah 5:5). He was not there when the Assyrian first came, but He will be there when the Assyrian makes his last attack on Jerusalem. Israel’s deliverance will depend on the presence and might of Jehovah. The prophet sees the coming King, Zion’s long-expected King, whom God will set upon His holy hill of Zion as King Messiah, but he sees Him in lowly guise. Verse nine presents Him in a two-fold character. Jerusalem needs a Deliverer and a Saviour, and the Messiah will come as such in great power to set His people free, and then He will establish His kingdom in righteousness and peace. In this verse we have the Messiah in His personal character as well as the King bringing salvation, He is ever the meek and lowly Man.
When Jehovah comes to overthrow His enemies and the enemies of His people, He will appear as a Saviour in power, as predicted in many prophecies. He came to Jerusalem according to the words of this prophecy (verse 9). He came as the lowly One, riding upon an ass, a colt the foal of an ass; but the Jews did not recognize Him in this manner of coming, they saw no glory or beauty in Him to desire Him as their King. Yet the unbroken colt submitted quietly to the will of the Maker of the universe, while the Jews blinded by unbelief and self-will, could not see in the event the accomplishment of this prophecy. The simpleminded people cried their Hosannas as He rode into Jerusalem; if they had held their peace the very stones would have cried out in answer to the call of the prophet to rejoice and shout their praises to the King, who was there in His true character as God’s true Man. In His meekness of character He was perfect Man; but the world only measures greatness in terms of pomp and pride. “What millions died that Caesar might be great!”
The same crowd, led by their leaders, soon lost their enthusiasm and a few days later cried, “Away with him, crucify him”. Jerusalem was not ready to receive him. Leaders characterize a people and they were opposed to One whose presence as the light of the world revealed their own dark shadows. They chose Caesar. The city had not been prepared by trial and through the understanding of grace to receive the lowly Jesus as its King. The Jews will mourn when they discover whom they rejected, they needed a Messiah who was meek enough to enter into all their sorrows so that He might sympathize with them in all their affliction. But when He came so that the lowliest might touch Him, the rulers had not the faith to pierce His guise. He stooped so low that He might save a thief who reviled Him before the grace of God reached his heart.
All that flesh trusts in, weapons of war, “chariots and bows”, will be taken away from the Jews in the day of Jerusalem’s deliverance, and the remnant of Jews will be saved by the mighty arm of Jehovah alone. “I will have mercy on the house of Judah, and will save them by the LORD their God, and will not save them by bow, nor by sword, nor by battle, by horses, nor by horsemen” (Hosea 1:7). Both horses and chariots will be destroyed (Micah 10:10). Jehovah God will save His people, but they must be brought to the end of their resources, and learn that their deliverance is by His arm of strength and not by their prowess. Though totally disarmed and appearing as if they were left to the savagery of their enemies, yet the LORD will intervene and overthrow all their foes and oppressors, and Israel’s deliverance will be complete. Judah will be saved, and Ephraim, whose name stands for the northern kingdom of Israel, will at the same time be restored to the land in mercy and by the power of the LORD. Judah and Israel will be joined as a united kingdom in that day.
The Jews wonder why they are not allowed to possess arms of their own and build up an army. Jewry perhaps would use their weapons all too well, but God is providentially over all and He could not be with an unrepentant people. Their own strength will not save them, they will not be allowed to prosper in fighting merely for their own political ends. They never have prospered without the hand of God intervening on their behalf, and how could His name be glorified in political treaties? Let IsraeI consider well what it means to be a “Chosen people”.
Every word of God’s promises will be fulfilled, but in His own time and by the power of His arm, so that Israel will be made aware, beyond doubt, that God is for His people and strong on their behalf. The years of trial yet to come will teach Judah that Jehovah alone is his strength and shield, and that trusting in Him is, as it were, to take up a strategic position in a strong tower.
These figures of old may sound out of place and not suit modern conditions of warfare, but they lend the idea of security. Atomic energy, now used in war, if let loose on a world of aggravated passion would work havoc terrible to contemplate. A word from the mouth of the LORD will consume all His enemies. The world-powers may not believe it, but it is true and they will experience it. Their weapons of attack will be useless against Him. He who fortified the atom will be there to control its energy, and in a miraculous way if necessary; all power belongs to Him and He will display His power in asserting His right to reign amidst those who wait for Him.
The heathen will turn to the King in the day of His power; He will have the heathen for His inheritance, and the uttermost part of the earth for His possession (verse 10). There is little wonder if the proud Pharisees failed to discern the King of Jerusalem in such a Man as the prophet portrays; they said with the eyes of men and had no regard for the words of the prophets of God. But here was the Man whom God made strong for Himself, “the son of man whom thou madest strong for thyself” (Psalm 80:17), but they were not of His nature, and knew not the nature of the perfect Man, and would not have Him. All the world will be made to own the lowly king when they see Him coming in His power with great glory; blessed are those who recognize Him now and receive Him while He is rejected and unknowing by the world. Those who suffer with Him here below, shall reign with Him above.
In that day the Jews, the despised prisoners who have been in the waterless pit where they could scarcely find the necessities of life, will be brought into freedom and plenty (verse 11).
These remarkable verses ought to open the eyes of any inquiring Jew. God will liberate the “sons of Zion” from their long imprisonment. The foundation of their future blessing is established upon n covenant of blood (verse 11), the blood of the new testament, a testament which has been made valid for them by the death of the Testator. The terms of a will are fixed by death, they cannot be altered.
At Mount Sinai Jehovah made a solemn covenant with Israel. Their enjoyment of the blessings of the covenant was made consequent on their obedience to the word of the LORD, and the covenant was sealed with the blood of burnt-offerings and peace-offerings (Exodus 24:4-8). Israel broke the law and thereupon suffered the consequences of breaking the covenant they had entered into; eventually they lost all. The covenant of law by the sprinkling of blood was death unto them. When they learn the need of grace, because of their state of death by the law, they will find the blood, which speaks of death, a means of salvation. God will make a new covenant with Israel and Judah (Jeremiah 32:37-41). He has already said what He will do for them, and has been pleased to bind all for their lasting blessing by the power of death. Blood is necessary when making a covenant with men, because God is dealing with men who have sinned and the question of responsibility is raised. Men require to be redeemed from their old state, and they need assurance; stable and unchangeable. Christ in His death has given the answer to the responsibility of man to God’s perfect satisfaction, and He has done the work upon which the fulfilment of the promises map be infallibly founded. God has the blood of the new covenant before Him in the blood of His own Son; upon its value rests the blessing of Israel and the world to come. All future blessing rests on the word of God who has pledged Himself, and on the death of the Mediator who has paid the ransom price required to bring all who will have part in the blessings into a new position away from sin. The blood of bulls and goats could never make a conscience perfect, and the blessings of the new covenant cannot be enjoyed apart from a purged conscience. But the blood of Christ cleanses from all sin.
When Israel is brought into the blessings of the new covenant they will know Jehovah, and they will know the forgiveness of their sins. The new covenant is not made with any one yet, but God has done His part in laying the foundation in the blood of Christ. Israel has refused to enter into the covenant with God. The ministry of the new covenant is carried on amongst Gentiles, who now receive, not the letter of the covenant, but the blessings of it by the Spirit, before the terms of the new covenant as they will apply to Israel are realized by the restored nation. The apostle Paul was separated out from his people, not to become a Gentile, but to be the heavenly messenger and able minister to the Gentiles of the new covenant, and to set forth the blessings to be known as the result of the accomplished work of atonement and the revelation of God in Christ.
Scripture speaks of the new covenant as an everlasting covenant for it is settled in the counsels of God. It stands in contrast with the old covenant made at Sinai which became unworkable through the weakness of Israel to fulfil, on their part, its conditions. The new covenant does not depend on any conditions connected with man’s responsibility. It depends on the sovereignty of God and is wholly of grace. Upon what blood could the covenant of ever-lasting blessing rest so that it could give eternal assurance to man? A covenant of irrevocable blessing could not be founded for eternal security on the blood of animals, nor could it be made binding for man on the blood which served as a type under the old conditions. The new covenant is grounded on nothing less than the blood of the perfect sacrifice of Christ. The precious blood of Christ poured out in death could alone be the foundation of the ever-lasting covenant. Nothing less could answer to God’s immutable, determined purposes of blessing, and the blood of Christ alone could give eternal assurance to men.
God brought Christ up from the grave, and surely nothing could be more convincing that the word of promise to Israel will be fulfilled than the resurrection and glory of the Messiah. All Israel’s hopes are to be found in Him, and in the power of His resurrection they will be raised up from their place of death among the nations. Israel has yet to learn that their hopes rest in the accomplished work of redemption completed on the cross of Christ and on the power of His resurrection; they have nothing apart from a risen Saviour. The Spirit of God, by the mouth of the prophet, presented this hope to the remnant for their strength and encouragement. Only the faith of those who trusted in Jehovah for their salvation, could pierce the gloom of indifference settling down on hearts growing insensible to the hopes of Israel. The remnant of the future day will search these words to find an anchor for their faith. A present word of comfort is given in verse 12 to those who laboured in hope as they built the house of the LORD. They were not then to see the glory, but the Spirit of God remained with them, and the word of the prophet brought joy to the hearts of the faithful for they hoped in the promises, God’s promises, and were assured that their blessings would outweigh their sorrows twice-told.
The Jews will be brought back, and Ephraim, representing the ten tribes, will be there in the day Jehovah musters His army, that He may contend with the self-willed Gentile powers striving for the possession of the Holy Land. Greece is named in verse 13 as being among the vanquished of the day. Alexander the Great invaded Palestine about one hundred and fifty years later, but these historical events, now past, serve as a picture of the more significant happenings of the future when the filial conflicts take place in Palestine. It was there that Christ was rejected by His people and refused as their king; the imperial power of the day also gave its help to drive Him from the world (Acts 4:26). It is there, in that land, He will establish by His power His right to reign. Though Greece was the kingdom to arise in the near future of the prophet’s vision, yet the end of her aggressive ambitions has not been seen, today she hopes for new national life. Scripture says Greece will be in the last conflicts in Palestine for her own judgment, and many other will be broken to pieces with many other nations.
The LORD Himself will be seen over Israel. The irresistible might of His arm will gain the victory in battle. There will be signs in the heavens, and supernatural terrors to strike fear into the hearts of the enemies of His people.
The Lord Jehovah will blow with the trumpet (verse 14), He will publicly declare His rights in His people and in Israel’s land, and will actively take part in the conflict. He will come with the whirlwinds of the south, flying upon the wings of the mind, and using His lightning’s to discomfit His foes. (See Psalm 28 is truly prophetic.)
In that day God will again own Israel and they will suffer no harm. At present the Jews are wearying themselves trying to interest the world politically in their aspirations, they will only succeed in drawing attention to their forlorn and helpless state, and Jerusalem will become a centre of political intrigue. Jealousy will be aroused and they will bring their aggressors down upon themselves, for many nations desire to control Israel’s strategically situated land, but they have no thought of God and His purposes.
The hopes given by God for the comfort of faith have no meaning unless He is duly honoured. If it is believed that He has promised Israel rich blessing, then the word must be believed which says that He will accomplish it by the power of His arm in His own way, but this will be when Israel has learned through great affliction to wait on Him. They will not trust implicitly in the Lord Jehovah until they have proved for themselves that they have forfeited every natural right to the promises, and that no effort of their own can gain for them the realization of the promises. They have yet to learn that salvation is in the LORD alone; His word says so, and they have still to be made to believe it. Some are being now gathered to prove the prophecy.
All weapons of war which their enemies use against them will prove harmless. In the ears of men of these days such a statement sounds foolish, but the word of God says many more startling things about the impotence of the enemies of the coming King-Messiah when He comes in power. Israel will be filled with exhilaration when they see the effect of Jehovah’s might upon their enemies; He will reveal Himself strong on behalf of His people. Israel will be saved in that day, and will be as the precious stones set in a crown, instead of resembling the base stones of the earth (verse 15, 16).
The soul of the prophet is filled with the goodness of Jehovah, and he speaks with adoration in his heart of His beauty as the glories and joys of the millennial kingdom come before his mind; all flows down from the good hand of Jehovah their God. Youth is in the mind of the Spirit as the beginners of a new day; the young men shall flourish and the maids be filled with joy as with new wine.
When Judah and Ephraim are restored blessing will flow down from the heavens over all the land and to every individual in it. But Israel must learn through discipline that every good thing comes from Jehovah, and that they have only to ask in all confidence for that which God alone can give. They will be encouraged to do so when they know Him and have learned how good He is, by the way He preserves and delivers the elect in the day of trial.
Many know the name of the Lord in this day of grace, but fear to count too much on His grace. They have not been brought to know His grace and love in their perfection as springing from His own heart. God has to teach us dependence, and to know the vast extent of His wondrous goodness. Until we learn to run to God at all times me shall be like Israel, wearying ourselves trying to carry on in our weakness, and all our efforts will be shown to be as nothing worth.
In verse one the people are told to ask the LORD for present blessing. The prophet Malachi speaks in the same strain when he tells the remnant to bring their offerings to the LORD and see how much more He can recompense their giving (Malachi 3:10). They had only to give God His true place in their worship and He would more than fill their storehouses. When the condition of the Church is low, then it; is the time to ask and so prove the grace that is in God for the Church. Too often human efforts are tried to remedy things, or the heart grows despondent and God is not sought for His grace is not sufficiently known. But God is faithful, and by His discipline the heart is stripped of its hindrances, so He prepares the heart to make its petitions and supplications counting on abundant grace.
Every one knows that the early and latter rains are necessary for the growing of crops. The figure of the latter rains is appropriate for the blessings which will come upon Israel in the latter days, and they will be encouraged to ask for them. Only the latter rains are mentioned here. The first rain of blessing came down at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit was sent down to dwell in and with men. There will be an outpouring of the Spirit in the latter days, bringing blessing to Israel through a greater capacity to enjoy the goodness of God, and more power to walk in His ways (Joel 2:28, 29). The prophet urges the people to wait on the LORD and to ask for these times of grace and refreshing. These words will mean much to the godly remnant of Israel when they learn to turn to the LORD, confessing their sins and hoping in His mercy.
Israel had turned to idols and lent their ears to false prophets who turned them aside from the way of truth, until the people wandered as sheep without a shepherd. The he-goats mingled with the sheep, but God would discover them and punish them. The sheep and the goats will be separated, God is able to distinguish them and He knows who pervert the truth and scatter the sheep. He will punish those who have exalted themselves amongst His sheep; in His anger He will judge the he-goats (Ezekiel 34).
In the book of Revelation chapters 2 and 3, the angels of the assemblies are looked upon as responsible for the care and state of the assemblies. Every man is responsible before God for his own state, and those who take the lead in the assembly of Christians are responsible for the state of the assembly, and because of the failure of the responsible ones discipline comes on an assembly. Judah will be Jehovah’s goodly horse in battle; through the Jews the LORD will subdue His enemies when He returns to Zion. This is not merely the hope of Jewry, but the word of God; we might think it impossible, but God will be found to be as good as His word. The “corner” (stone) comes out of the tribe of Judah, and the “nail” upon which will hang all the glory of His Father’s house will come from the favoured tribe. Judah will be the battle-bow (Zechariah 9:13, Jeremiah 51:20) when the LORD strikes through kings in the day of His wrath. No oppressor will pass through Judah any more from that time.
In Judah’s enemies will be overcome, and all the house of Israel will be saved be the irresistible might of the LORD; He will take up the cause of Israel when they are surrounded by enemies and by those who hate them. Jehovah will strengthen Judah already brought back to the land, and He will save Joseph who received the first-born’s inheritance, bringing his family back from the lands of their dispersion.
Ephraim, the younger son of Joseph, and the larger tribe, will feel his strength returning and shall rejoice in the day of national deliverance; his children will rejoice in Jehovah who saves them. They will increase in the land as though they had never left it but had remained under the hand of the LORD for blessing. He will hiss for them, that is, He will make a sound they will hear in their hiding-place; a testimony will be preached which will summon them back to the land. As Jehovah had redeemed them from Egypt by the blood of the Passover sacrifice and through the Red Sea, so in the future day they will be redeemed in a mightier ray, for the ground has been laid in a better sacrifice of which the former redemption from Egypt was but a picture. The children of Israel first entered the land of Canaan as a redeemed people, but as they had put themselves under a condition of blessing through obedience to the law, they lost all through disobedience and positive neglect of the worship of Jehovah. They forgot the grace of their redemption through the death of the lamb and by the power of God at the Red Sea, and thought to retain the blessings of grace by the efforts of the flesh. Their experiences before they know blessing will teach them the futility of trusting in human strength, and when they are delivered from imminent death by the power of Jehovah their God, through the risen glorified Messiah appearing in their midst to bring the long-promised peace to Israel, their blessings will be established for ever.
Israel will be sowed and not scattered, but they will even be blessed among the nations whither they have been dispersed, and God will cause them to increase, having special care for the children. God, who knows the places where He has hidden His people, will increase their numbers and watch over their welfare before He brings them back to the land. They will be called back from Egypt and Assyria to inhabit both sides of the Jordan in their old inheritance, until they fill all the land (verse 10). They must first pass through the sea of affliction, even the time of Jacob’s trouble, but waves of the sea of peoples who have the oppressed Israel will be smitten down by the LORD and the rivers shall dry up. God will allow many people and nations to oppose Israel’s return to the land that their deliverance may be great. Egypt is especially in view among the rivers or governments that have oppressed Israel, and will come into judgment with Assyria in its pride. The pride of all Israel’s old enemies will be laid low, and none will oppress Israel any more, nor in any way fetter their liberty to walk up and down freely in the name of the LORD, who has liberated them and destroyed their enemies (Micah 4:5).
The purposes of God govern the future of nations, not their political acumen nor their strength of arms. Those who search the word of God will have the true understanding of His ways, and have a sure foundation beneath their feet upon which to stand in the economic and political upheavals taking place in the world.
The figurative language of this chapter requires close study. The main theme of the chapter is the rejection of the Messiah and the consequence of His rejection as developed in the last days. The subject is continued in the prophecies of the following chapters. The prophet is himself often used as a figure, and we find him speaking as the Messiah, in words which could only be true of Him.
In the first three verses we have the invasion of the land of Israel by the Gentiles. Lebanon is on the west side of Jordan and will again be occupied by Israel: but here the prophet sees the cedars, the great ones in Israel (Ezekiel 17) coming in for judgment. The invasion comes through the northern part of the Kingdom, advancing down both sides of the Jordan, Bashan being on the east side of the river (verse 1). The leaders and princes of Israel howl and roar, for the strength and glory of Israel is swept away by the Gentiles. The reason for the breaking up of all of God’s ways in Israel of old is told by the prophet in the following verses.
“Thus saith the LORD my God” (verse 4). The Spirit of Christ in the prophet voices the mind of Jehovah God, and the prophecy looks on to the presence of Christ on earth, anticipating what took place then. The glory of the leaders of Israel was pone. The expression, “the flock of the slaughter” seems to indicate that the people had been sold to the Gentiles by their own leaders. Those who possessed them at the time, the Idumean king and the chief priests, gave them up to the Romans to be slaughtered. While the Jewish rulers professed to call on Jehovah they sold His people; and this was fully exemplified in Christ. The leaders had no pity for the poor of the flock (verse 5), and Jehovah does not at all own these shepherds, though they are held responsible as shepherds of Israel.
The flock ready for slaughter is given into the hands of the Lord Christ to care for and feed. The body of the people who dwelt in the land was not owned as the flock of God. The remnant of godly ones was known amid the unfaithfulness of the mass. “I will no more pity the inhabitants of the land, saith Jehovah” (verse 6). “I will feed the flock of slaughter, even you, O poor of the flock” (verse 7). Jehovah recognizes a poor and despised remnant amongst a people who were themselves a remnant. Such is man’s instability. The people as a whole were given up to destruction, but Jehovah makes a finer distinction. Though the nation was given up to be slain, yet the LORD had His eyes on a poor and afflicted little flock within the nation, which was the true flock of slaughter, and He would make it His charge and save it. In Christ’s own day on earth there were these distinctions; and when He comes again they will be found again in the land. The whole nation of Jews will suffer, and be given up to slaughter and there will be a persecuted remnant who despair of their lives, but God will deliver them. The Gentile powers will oppress the Jews. There will be Jewish leaders, who, with the majority of unbelieving Jews, will be in league with their Gentile masters, and there will be the true remnant who wait on God for His deliverance from the oppressors. In that day the godly remnant will be sacrificed by their brethren, to gain the favour of the Gentiles to whom the Jews will turn for protection from the northern enemy.
Jehovah appoints the Messiah to be the keeper of His people, and the Spirit of the Lord speaking in the prophet says, “And I will feed the flock of slaughter”. The prophet, impersonating the Messiah, adds, “And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty [Favour], and the other I called Bands [Bond]; and I fed the flock”. He will not feed the nation, sold by their impious leaders to the Gentiles, because the time of judgment has come (verse 8, 9). A day came when they said that they would have no king but Caesar, a strange choice for a people who expected the Messiah; therefore they would be destroyed, and their destruction would come by the hand of their Roman masters.
The three shepherds, the self-appointed rulers of the day were to be cut off, we are not told how. His soul are was weary of them. He came unto His own, but they would have none of Him. The heart of Christ was grieved with the hardness of heart of those who showed no pity for the man with the withered hand, and who would have prevented him from being healed on the sabbath day, if they could have stopped the work of grace. The Pharisees abhorred Christ and sought means to kill Him.
The cutting asunder of the staff “Beauty” was the sign that the peoples or nations would not yet be gathered unto the Messiah. The covenant of blessing for all peoples was broken with the rejection of Christ; and the formal ending of the covenant, with its expectation of immediate hopes of blessing when the Messiah appeared, was executed at the destruction of Jerusalem, 70 A.D. God waited with long patience until every means to reach the hearts of His people was exhausted.
All nations were to be gathered to the Messiah when He came (see Genesis 49:10), even to the throne of Jehovah at Jerusalem. But He was despised and rejected of all as the humble Man. The gathering of the nations has been postponed until all His enemies are put beneath His feet and He comes to reign in Zion. At the same time the house of Israel will be brought to repentance through trial, and by the discovery through the grace of God working towards them, that He may be found by those who seek Him.
Blessed are the poor of the flock, God cares for them; poor in spirit though they be, yet they have the wisdom to wait on the LORD, and they have the moral discernment to understand that the ways of God are right. They have the faith to see, in the rejection of Christ, the fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah, they know it to be the word of God.
The prophet speaks in these verses as though he offered himself to the people for their valuation. He says by the Spirit of Christ, give me my price if you think me worth anything. It is paid of the true servant of Jehovah; He laboured in vain and spent His strength for nought. At what price did they value Him? At the price of a slave (Exodus 21:32).
It is plain that verses 12, 13 were fulfilled when Judas old the Messiah for thirty pieces of silver and in despair cast down the money on the temple floor. The chief priests bought the potter’s field with the thirty pieces of silver, the goodly price at which they valued their Messiah. The rejection of the Messiah and the selling Him to be slain broke all the bands of brotherhood. The Jews were from henceforth entirely rejected, Jehovah would have no further relationship with Israel on the old grounds.
“Then I cut asunder mine other staff, even Bands, that I might break the brotherhood between Judah and Israel” (verse 14). Jerusalem was to have been the head of Israel, and the tribes all one kingdom; for a moment the kingdom was united under David and Solomon. The prophecy of Ezekiel chapter 37 says they will again be a united kingdom when the true Son of David comes to reign, and He is their King-Messiah. But with His rejection when He first came the counsels of Jehovah were interrupted and they have been postponed, hence the staff Bands was cut asunder. The kingdom will not and cannot be united until David’s greater Son comes to unite them, they will find in Him their common centre. No political arrangements, no councils of conciliation, no agreed partitioning of the land will make Israel a kingdom of peace and a united government. A kingdom of Jews will be tried under the antichrist, but it will fail. The One through whom the union is to be made has been rejected and sold to the Gentiles. He complained not at the humiliation of the price.
The prophet makes no complaint. God has shown the value He has placed on the submission and obedience of the One who made no complaint in the path of His humiliation. He was as a sheep before its shearers, He was dumb and opened not His month. Though in a day to come the people whom He has long spared will choose one who comes in his own name and not in the name of God the Father, for he denies the relationship, yet there is no word of complaint in the prophecy.
In verse 15 the prophet is instructed to take the instruments of a foolish shepherd; one who is prepared to take the leadership of the people without having them in his heart and who will tear them to pieces (verse 16). (Compare with Ezekiel 34:2-4.)
The Jews, under the influence of their leaders, refused the Messiah and chose Barabbas the robber. They will have their antichrist rather than submit to Christ. The false shepherd shows no regard for the poor of the flock and this is in direct contrast Christ, the true Messiah.
But woe to “the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep”. The hireling flees and leaves the sheep to their fate when the wolf comes, but the good Shepherd giveth His life for the sheep. This is just what the Messiah did when He was rejected of men, He died for the sheep. His enemies add to their sin of rejecting Him, the allegiance they give to the idol shepherd, the shepherd of “nothingness”.
“The sword shall be upon his arm and upon his right eye.” Here the sword is the weapon of judgment, the antichrist will be the first to feel the keen edge of the sword and his strength of arm will be dried up and the light of his eye be put out, even in the lake of fire (Revelation 19: 20). In the New Testament the word of God is called the “sword of the Spirit”. Out of the mouth of Him whose name is the “Word of God” “goeth a sharp sword” to consume His enemies in the day of battle (Revelation 19: 13, 15).
The coming day hastens with increasing acceleration. The wise who wait on the Lord will grow wiser understanding the word of God, and they will know that it is true. The Spirit of God, the other Comforter who has now come since Christ has been glorified, bears witness to the glory of Christ, and He awakens hearts to the near return of the Lord of glory as the day which manifests His power draws near. His saints will be manifested with Him.
The previous chapter introduced the antichrist, the idol shepherd, and now the prophet foretells the burden or woe which will overtake Israel. The rejection of the Messiah and the acceptance of the antichrist with his false pretensions and defiant godlessness, will bring the judgment of God on Jerusalem. The “burden” almost wholly concerns Judah and Jerusalem, yet the woe is for or upon Israel. This rather indicates that not only those who are called Jews but the ten tribes also will be concerned in the last trials that come upon Judea and Jerusalem.
In chapter 11 the antichrist receives his judgment (verse 17), but the unrighteous men in Jerusalem who make the compact with the head of the revived Roman Empire (Isaiah 28:15, 18; Daniel 9:27 JND) will suffer the righteous anger of the LORD. His judgment will be executed by the northern armies who in their first attack will show no mercy.
The last of the four empires, which is the Roman, will revive and in its last diabolical form will be the great active power on earth. Although for the moment it will dominate Europe, and its influence be felt far and wide, it does not subdue all the nations. Russia will be beyond its reach. The Assyrian of that day, Turkey in Asia possibly, will come down to Palestine in the power of Russia. Turkey today [even in 2017] stands at the cross-roads. Western Europe, aided by America, is courting her, and Russia is threatening her. Turkey and at least northern Persia will be dominated by Russia (Ezekiel 38, 39). As another has said; “The world, as connected with Israel and God’s ultimate purposes on earth, is divided into Western Europe, and the basin of the Mediterranean, the Roman Empire; and Eastern Europe, or the Russian”. Eastern Europe will fall within the territory of Russian influence. Western Europe and Eastern Europe are never confounded in scripture. There is an ecclesiastical gulf even between the western and eastern churches too wide to span.
Eastern Europe has already fallen into the hands of Russia. Moscow has maintained in the past that she inherits from Constantinople the spiritual leadership of the East.
Today Western Europe is scarcely holding its own against Russian propaganda and infiltration, while Eastern Europe behind the “iron curtain” [removed in 1989] is being moulded after the Russian pattern. But the Latin empire will revive miraculously in the eyes of the world under the leadership of a man who will possess supernatural intelligence and energy. The West, fearing the Northern encroachments in the East and toward the Mediterranean, will combine to withstand the pressure of Russia. There will be wars and fighting’s in Europe, but the last great conflict will take place in the Middle East, the massed forces will meet in Palestine. The Lord appearing in power from heaven will destroy the apostate Western confederacy which will be led by the “beast”, fully portrayed in Daniel and the book of Revelation; at the same time the wicked leader of political Jewry, the antichrist, who is allied with the Roman leader, will be destroyed (Revelation 19: 20). Russia will then think the opportunity ripe to overrun Palestine on its way to world-domination, not realizing that the LORD has come to Jerusalem in His power and glory. Russia and her allied forces of the Northern confederacy will be destroyed on the mountains of Israel (Ezekiel 39:17). The prophet Ezekiel does not speak of the destruction of the Western confederacy but wholly of the Northern or Russian confederacy. Daniel and Revelation are concerned with the rise and fall of the Western confederacy. Zechariah gives the downfall of both these enemies of Israel and of the truth.
This chapter says that all peoples, that is, all nations will be ‘‘in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem”. The fulfilment of the prophecies concerning the Jews and Jerusalem is about to take place, and the representatives of all nations are mustered in the Middle East and around Jerusalem. The LORD is about to reveal Himself in power and great glory, to work wonders among the armies for the deliverance of His people Israel and His city Jerusalem, and so that His promises concerning Israel may be consummated. The godly Jews who have survived the great trials of that day, and the righteous in recovered Israel, will be there when God makes good His title of the God of all the earth. Jehovah, Israel’s God is the Creator (verse 1).
The gathered nations will find Jerusalem a burden too great for them, and their over-zealous interest in the city will lead them to oppose the purposes of God and to bring about their own destruction. (See Psalm 2; Psalm 48 especially v 5.) God will judge the scornful men at Jerusalem, He will bring down the king of the north to execute His judgment, but all nations become over-zealous in their dealings with the Jew. This will cause the LORD to interfere on the behalf of Israel when the Assyrian makes his second and last attack on Jerusalem. Verse two says that all nations that burden themselves with Jerusalem “shall be cut to pieces”. No might of their own, no strength of arms will cave those nations. It will be “in that day”, the day to come, that the nations will discover who is Israel’s God and the power of His arm. At the present time providence is still restraining evil in the world by governments that give honour to His name. But in “that day” the governments of the world will be deceived by the man of sin, and they will be led to their doom by the powers of unrestrained evil let loose on the earth. Outwardly the nations will be at war with one another for the control of strategic centres, but their common cause will be to oppose the setting up of the kingdom of Christ, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.
The world, boasting in its military strength, will be confounded; the horse and the rider, the symbol of earthly power, will be cast down. The governors of Jerusalem will be converted by what they see, and the work of national repentance will begin though the poor of the flock, the despised and afflicted remnant who have been through the awful night of trial, have long waited for the LORD to come and reveal Himself in power on their behalf. The leaders of Jewry will then see that their strength lies in the poor besieged people who are the LORD’S own flock, He is the God of the little flock and He will not forsake them in the hour of their great need.
The princes of Judah, well tried and tempered in the furnace of affliction, and prepared by trial for “the day”, shall now go forth as a fire to consume their enemies, freeing Jerusalem of all her foes and making it habitable again (verse 6) .
Judah, the greatest transgressor and the greatest sufferer, shall receive the most grace and be first saved, lest the house of David, from which the prince shall come, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem blame Judah for all the sorrows of the nation. The LORD will not only be the Defender of Jerusalem, but He will strengthen the inhabitants, the Jews, in proportion to the task before them, for they will be made to triumph over their enemies. Such is the grace that Judah, the chief offender, will experience. God delights to multiply grace with more grace.
These verses contrast the power of man in the nations with the power of God in sovereign grace working in His people. (Compare Joel 3:9-17.) Israel, weakened through many trials until powerless, will be raised by the power of Jehovah God to be the first amongst the nations. Who will be able to prosper against those whom Jehovah strengthens? How different will be the spirit of grace working in the hearts of the inhabitants of Jerusalem in that day from the spirit of hatred that moved the Jews to raise their hands against the Messiah and have Him put to death, though He had come in lowly grace and perfect sympathy to take up their cause even at the cost of His life. They ought to have understood that a sin-offering was required, but that would have meant acknowledging their own sin. Caiaphas the high priest spoke of the sacrifice without understanding its Divine import. The high priest thought that the manifestation of such power as the raising of Lazarus would excite the jealousy of the Romans, and he thought it better that one should die rather than a whole nation perish. God put the words in his mouth for the Divine counsels were about to be fulfilled (John 11: 48-51).
The sorrow of the Jews will be real when they look upon their Messiah and come to believe in His work (Isaiah 53 especially verse 4). “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him” (verse 10). The Spirit of Christ speaking in the prophet says, “upon me”. Jehovah, who pours upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication, says by the mouth of the prophet, “And they shall look upon me whom they have pierced”. Could there be a more definite identification of Jehovah with the crucified Jesus? “And they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son.” The words are appropriate and full of tender feeling. Love presents itself in a way to melt the hearts of those who were once guilty of the utmost hardness of feeling, now love triumphs. Not only will there be national sorrow, but each individual, now freed from the terror of outward enemies, will be bowed before the God of grace who presents to the people the Messiah they once crucified and pierced.
Jerusalem shall mourn, and each family shall mourn. The members of families will separate to mourn apart, each member wider personal conviction, entering into the sin of having crucified the One who is their Saviour. Could they experience more grace? All fear of judgment will then have passed, the spirit of grace will be poured upon them and their hearts yielding to Divine grace will be made truly penitent. They will be free to think of the grace that could not be held back though they had been so cold and hard. Grace that has burst all bands and surmounted every obstacle, will do its full work, and make them know themselves in the presence of the once crucified One who has come to reign over them in power and glory. They will learn that He gave Himself for them when they were enemies at heart and only desired His death.
Four families are named; the family of David, the royal house; the family of Nathan, the house of the prophets; the family of Levi, the priestly house; and the family of Shimei, the house of the priestly servants. The name of the last family is a little difficult to interpret. But the family of Shimites belonged to Gershon, a son of Levi, and the sons of Gershon served the tabernacle. Besides these representative families, every other family in the land will be found mourning.
All the families of the restored nation enter into the mourning of that day, before the Sun shines in His strength and glory to dispel all doubts and fears and dry all tears. First there must be the conviction of their sin, then the saving knowledge of Christ and of the work which He has done to put away the sin. Israel will at last realize the meaning of the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah; the veil will be taken away from their hearts, and they will understand those scriptures which foreshadowed the work of Christ upon the cross. He will then have come to fulfil all the prophecies which speak of His glory and Jehovah’s promised presence in their midst.
This chapter opens with the words “In that day”, an expression which through these last chapters like a refrain. It is the glorious day of the Messiah’s appearing; the day on which the Spirit of God fixes the mind of the prophet, to which He would fasten the faith and hopes of God’s people at all times. Christian’s love the day of Christ’s appearing.
It is the day when the relationship of the people and of Jerusalem with Jehovah is restored. The inhabitants of Jerusalem is have seen the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10), and each individual, convicted of his own sin, will have felt in some measure the depth of sin in rejecting and crucifying the Messiah, for the Jews have to bear this responsibility; His blood be upon us and our children, they cried. But now believing and repentant, and having confessed their sin, they come under the efficacy of the sacrifice and the value of the blood of the slain Lamb. The faith of Him whom they pierced will be in their hearts, and now God provides a means of keeping them purified. A fountain of water for their practical daily cleansing is opened in the house of David. Israel had in the past forsaken “the fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13), but now a means of removing defilement from their walk is provided.
Expiation for sins is made by the blood of Christ alone, and the blood never loses its efficacy; its application never needs to be repeated. But the believer is in contact with the world through which he passes and in his daily walk and conflict he may defile his feet which touch the earth. The Lord Jesus who was ever ready to do anything for His beloved disciples, put water into a basin and washed their feet. He knew what suited His Father’s house and that no defilement could enter that holy place of delight. They had been washed and purified in reality by the words of the Lord, but they needed the water for their daily cleansing, that they might have part with Him in the place into which He was going and that their communion might be maintained.
The spear which pierced the side of Christ when He was dead on the cross drew forth blood and water. The blood which flowed from the side of the dead Saviour was the blood of atonement for our sins, the blood alone pays the price for our sins. In the water we have absolute cleansing, not from sins, but from an evil nature which can only be removed or ended by death. Both the blood and the water are needed for perfect cleansing. The blood makes expiation, by it all sins are washed away, by the blood I am justified, on the blood rests my peace with God. The water, which is the figure of cleansing, flowing from the place of death, is the purifying power of death by which a believer dies to sin in the death of Christ. The blood needs but one application; for perfect moral cleansing in their walk Christians need the constant cleansing by water. The word of God in the power of the Holy Ghost is the means of effecting this moral cleansing so that a believer may be kept free from the defilement of contact with the world. There is only one means of cleansing from an evil nature, which can only sin, if it be allowed to work, and that means is by death. The death of Christ proves that there is nothing for God in the nature that now exists. By the constant cleansing of the water, that is, by the application of the word bringing home to the conscience and heart the death of Christ to all that is in the world, the believer is kept washed in a practical way, and he is enabled to enjoy communion with Christ and have part with Him above as a true heavenly citizen. Christ has made this provision for the maintenance of His members in holiness of walk.
All idols and false prophets, Satan’s two means of introducing and fostering evil, and by which he deceives men and leads their hearts away from the truth, shall be taken away. They were the cause of Israel’s downfall, and Israel will not even remember the names of their old idols (verse 2). The unclean or lying spirit which deliberately deceived the people will pass out of the land. (See 2 Chronicles 18:22.)
These lying spirits suit themselves to the day in their form of deception. At the end they will deny the very foundations of Christianity, and will lead the professing unstable Christian world away from the truth, when God removes His means of restraint. Today there are many false teachers and these answer to the false prophets of old. There is always a basis of truth in every school of thought. Man must begin with a fact, but the imagination of man, when not governed by the truth, weaves a web of error into which evil-doers and the unwary easily fall. The day will come when the scale will be taken away from the eyes of Israel. The Messiah coming in His own power and glory will fill their sight, and will light up everything for them, they will then see dearly. They will be able to discern between the true and the false in the light of His presence. Truth will triumph in Israel. The hearts and consciences of God’s earthly people who will then desire the truth, will be reached, and they will consider truth dearer to them than the dearest ties of nature (verse 3).
If any in that day should still have the visions of lying spirits, he will be ashamed of his visions and not boast in his occult power; he will throw off the garment of hair which was the sign of a prophet’s office. Truth will have a stronger hold on the heart than error, and these prophets will be ashamed of their strange visions.
There will be no need even for a prophet of God, the people will be enjoying the blessing of the Messiah’s peaceful reign and not require the prophet’s rebuke or warning, nor even his word of encouragement. All prophecy looks on to the day of Christ, and He will have come to fulfil all the promises to Israel and the hopes of the prophets which they voiced in anticipation of “that day”, the day of the Messiah’s glory.
Verse 5 raises the question; who is the speaker? The answer is found in verses 6, 7; it is the Messiah Himself, the language suits no other. The verse is translated in various ways and the rendering of the last clause, which seems to harmonize best with the truth, reads, “for man has acquired me (as a slave) from my youth” [JND]. Christ, as the One devoted to the service of man, takes the humble place into which Adam brought himself by sin. He came as the Prophet (Deuteronomy 18:15) to Israel, but He was refused as such, and therefore He became the servant of man for the glory of God. He devoted Himself to the service of men, though it cost Him His life, that He might finish the work of redemption, not only for Israel, but for all who believe in Him. For His love they gave hatred, and the wounds he bears for ever, the marks of His humiliation, were received in the house of those among whom He was born. He was hated by those to whom He came with all love in His heart, betrayed by one who kept company with Him for years, and denied by His closest friend. In every way His love was tried to the utmost, yet He endured all to serve mankind. The wounds in His blessed hands mere received “in the house of my friends”. “They pierced my hands and my feet” (Psalm 12:16).
The sword of the LORD is called to awake against the One who, though He became the servant of man, is addressed by the Spirit, as Jehovah’s equal, “The man that is my fellow”. The sheep are scattered as the result of His rejection (verse 6 & 7). The sheep that had been gathered around the true Shepherd were scattered abroad. The smiting of the Shepherd took place on the cross, there the judicial stroke fell on Christ, it was in that dread hour the sword of judgment awoke against the One who stood in Israel’s place. This prophecy was fulfilled on that Passover night, “When they had sung an hymn, they went out into the Mount Olives. Then saith Jesus unto of them … it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered abroad (Matthew 24: 30, 31). The hopes of Israel after the flesh were shattered.
The prophet does not speak of himself, he speaks of Another whose Spirit was in Him, and speaks as the rejected One. He addresses One whom Jehovah of hosts calls “My Shepherd”, and the appointed Shepherd. The good Shepherd would give His life for the sheep, which meant, much more than suffering in sympathy with Israel in all their sorrows and being afflicted with an their affliction. He made atonement for His sheep in His death. Israel would have nothing to say to Him, but in spite of their hatred He entered into all their sorrows when He was smitten; He gave Himself up to endure it all from the hand of God. Israel will yet come to see that it was upon the cross all this took place, and they will learn that Christ felt it all perfectly.
Many scriptures say that the Messiah is the true Shepherd of Israel (see Ezekiel 34:23; Psalm 78: 70-72; John 10). But He was first smitten that He Himself might know, in perfect sympathy with Israel, the full meaning of their cutting off because of their refusal to receive Him. At the same time He made atonement for His sheep when He laid down His life for them.
There is some doubt whether the words at the end of verse 7, “and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones” should not be used for judgment rather than for protection. The word “upon” [against] might be translated “over”, it could be either. The remnant will experience much trouble which may be for chastening, but even so God will cover and protect His weak ones. God has watched over those who have received Christ through all the long Church period; not one can be plucked from the Father’s hand, they shall never perish.
In the last two verses me come again to Jewish history and the last days of their trial. Jerusalem was destroyed after the Jews rejected Christ, but a third part was not brought through the fire and preserved in relationship with Jehovah to call upon His name. He does not yet own the relationship, that is, openly own them as His earthly people and say “It is my people”, and they are not ready to respond, “Jehovah is my God.
Many Jews have returned to the land in unbelief, still refusing to own Christ as the Messiah. They cannot possess the land on their own terms, but only by accepting God’s terms and they may find them in His word. Where else will they learn His mind? When the day of sifting comes, two thirds of the people will be cut off and die (Christ in sympathy entered into their sorrow perfectly, He was cut off in the midst of His days, having nothing), and unless the LORD shorten those days, no flesh will be saved alive. But God will shorten those terrible days and restrain the hand of the oppressor. He will quench the fires of affliction, saving some as He preserved Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego in the fiery furnace of Nebuchadnezzar. God had written Lo-ammi (not my people) over Israel because of their indifference to His words of warning. He will in mercy save a remnant from the furnace and say to them, “It is my people”. The 144,000 sealed ones of Revelation 14 are no doubt those who are preserved and purified in the fire. They shall call on the name of the LORD and He will hear them.
Chapter 12 has shown Jerusalem as the storm-centre of political intrigue, and the prophet has spoken of the trials that come upon the nations which try to shape the destiny of Jerusalem. These trials follow the rejection of the Messiah as its consequence, especially for Jewry, and their punishment involves all those who have to do with the guilty city. But the LORD will intervene in grace and the repentant people will come to realize their sin.
The Messiah was the special subject of chapter 13; His service to man, and particularly to Israel where He was wounded in the house of His friends. This was followed by a judicial smiting, and the cutting off by the sword of all the hopes of Israel, after the flesh, that is, as a natural expectation. The Messiah suffered the stroke of the sword, Israel can never again have a Messiah merely as a Man whom they can expect after the flesh, when He comes again it will be as the Lord Jehovah from heaven. Blessing for Israel and for all men has been postponed until the day of refining. In the meantime His little ones are covered by His protecting hand.
Now in chapter 14 we have the final events that usher in blessing for Judah, the only tribe mentioned here. First the prophet announces the near approach of “The day of the LORD” (Joel 2), that great day when Jehovah will magnify His name in the earth, and He will do it in connection with Judah and Jerusalem. The spoil taken from the crushed nations who come up to Palestine for the last conflict, will be divided in Jerusalem.
Chapter 12 spoke of the armies massed for the siege of Jerusalem, here in this chapter we have what the LORD says He will do to the armies which besiege His beloved city. But first of all and fearful to record, Jerusalem will be taken and sacked. This will be for the chastening of the apostate Jews because of their allegiance to antichrist (Isaiah 28:14-18). Isaiah calls it the overflowing scourge which will pass through the land (Isaiah 8). The Assyrian is the rod of Jehovah’s anger, and it seems as if there will be two attacks on Jerusalem, one which will be successful, and another which will fail because the LORD is there to defend Zion. (See for the first attack Isaiah 7:20; Daniel 11: 40-45; Zechariah 14:12; and for the second attack Isaiah 8: 7, 8, 12; Micah 5:5; Joel 3, and many others.) The attack in verse 2 appears to be the first. The LORD permits even the sacking of the city to take place before He intervenes, it is His judgment on the living guilty unbelievers “Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle” (verse 3). (See Joshua 5: 13-15.)
The glorious day arrives, Jehovah descends from heaven in the Person of the Messiah, and the Mount of Olive claves in twain to make a way of escape for the remnant who flee from the mighty hosts that are attacking Jerusalem. The Lord Jesus went up from the Mount of Olives (Acts 1:12), and he will come again in the same manner as he left, His feet shall touch the mount. A new thought is added in the last clause, “And Jehovah my God shall come, and all his saints with thee”; this begins a fresh subject. For the saints to appear with the Lord, He must first come and take them up to be with Him ready to bear Him company in the day of His glory. (See 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17; Colossians 3:4). They will be with Him when He comes to make war with the enemies of truth and of His people, but there is no mention made of their actually fighting. His enemies are consumed by the sword which proceeds out of His month, that sword is the Word of God (Revelation 14: 15, 21).
A peculiar day will damn for the world, a strange light will shine, a light of “preciousness”. When it should be dark there will be light, and all the world will wonder.
An actual river of life-giving waters will flow out from Jerusalem, and the stream will divide in two, half of the waters will flow towards the Dead Sea to sweeten [dilute out the salt] those waters, and half flow towards the Mediterranean. The Prophet Ezekiel says that this will be when the temple is rebuilt (Ezekiel 47). The prophetic word is not always given in historical order, but often in a moral order to complete the subject of a prophecy. All prophecies need to be studied closely to find the order of the events which precede the Lord’s appearing so as not to confuse them with those that come after His manifestation.
These living-waters will be a real river of healing water flowing through the country. It will be the earthly counterpart of the pure “river of living water of life, dear as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb” (Revelation 12:1). Christians are familiar with the figure of living water as it is used in the New Testament, it is the symbol of the Holy Ghost as the power of eternal life (John 3:5; 4:10, 14; 7: 37-39).
The waters flow from the city of “the King of all the earth”. The true David will reign from sea to sea (Psalm 72: 8-11). Idolatry will disappear for the world will own one Lord of all the earth. Jerusalem will stand as the head and capital of the world, there will be the throne of the great King. To make Jerusalem more conspicuous, a miracle will take place, and the hills around the city will level out leaving it standing prominently above the surrounding country. God Himself will be in the midst of Jerusalem, and it will be a city safely inhabited.
Plagues will smite the nations which fought against Jerusalem. They must learn the chastening hand of God in righteousness, so that through justice and judgment they may know Him. Though He governs not without grace, for it is a God of all grace who rules; the day of free grace will be over, and righteousness will reign when God deals openly with men in government.
Verse 13 apparently speaks of the last attack of the northern hosts when the LORD is present in Jerusalem. Panic seizes the mighty hosts and they turn their weapons against each other until they melt away as snow in summer heat. The word says that Judah will fight in that day, and great spoil will fall into their hands.
Then the time of blessing for all nations will come, and those who are left will come up to Jerusalem year by year to keep the joyful feast of tabernacles. This will be a compulsory feast for all peoples. Psalm 100 invites all to come to the temple to rejoice with Israel, but Zechariah speaks of a compulsory feast, and warns of the plagues which will overtake those who do not obey. Rain will be withheld from the disobedient, but as Egypt has no rainfall, a plague or pestilence will come upon them. This discipline is necessary because it is the government of men in the flesh, and men are naturally prone to take their ease and forget God.
There has been much uncleanness in Jerusalem, but “in that day” everything in the city will be “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD”. The homes of the people will be holy even as the house of the LORD is holy. No evil will come into the house of the LORD, and its holiness will be secured by the presence of the LORD of hosts. The nations will learn that Jehovah has set Israel apart for Himself when they see His glory over His sanctuary (Ezekiel 37: 27, 28; 43: 1-4).
No other Minor Prophet gives, with such a wealth of detail, the history of Israel from the days of the second empire until the Messiah comes to reign in Zion. Zechariah sees both symbolical representation by which he describes his visions, and also the plain literal expression of prophecy by which God warns wrong-doers and encourages faith in difficult circumstances. The symbolical language is intelligible to those who know its use in scripture, and if the nations to whom a large part of the visions refer do not understand, at least the wise-hearted are instructed and learn how to order their walk with Divine intelligence through the ways of God’s mighty providence. The moral tone of the messages which ordinarily characterize the utterances of the prophet reveals the mind of God concerning His people and their state. The faithful find support in knowing that God keeps them in mind, and they are strengthened in their hopes by the revelation of God’s purposes, for He delights to unfold His plans to those who fear His name.
Zechariah touches the past history of Israel, but gives in greater detail the future events from the return of the remnant to the end. He sets out a complete picture of the happenings which are consequent on the rejection of the Messiah by the Jews, reaching right on to the days of ultimate blessing when Jehovah in the Person of the Messiah makes Jerusalem His dwelling-place, and reigns there in righteousness and peace, bringing blessing to Israel and to all the world through them.
God gave a word of encouragement for the moment while the people waited the fulfilment of the promises. The coming of the Messiah in lowliness to try the hearts of a people grown proud and haughty is plainly foretold, and with His rejection the consequences to follow are dearly set out. The chastening of the Jews as those who refused the Christ, and the gathering of the armies of Gentiles around Jerusalem of God’s chastening, as the instruments are so plainly told that it is impossible to mistake the meaning of the prophecy or the time of the events. The prophecy closes with the deliverance of Jerusalem by the hand of the LORD, the Jews themselves going forth to the day of battle in the strength of the LORD. Finally blessing flows like a river from the sanctuary of the LORD. A river of water carries healing through the land, and all the land and everything in it proclaims “HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD”.
The occasion of all this prophecy was not a time of great outward revival, or when God was changing the government of the world and preparing to own Israel publicly. It was when a disheartened and self-occupied remnant of the people whom God in grace had brought back to the land, were roused a little from their self-absorption to do the work of the LORD, that there might be a testimony to His name in the world from His recognized centre. Although a Gentile power still ruled, and Jerusalem was a ruinous heap, and the house of the LORD was scarcely habitable, yet the Spirit of the LORD remained with them. The Spirit of God by the mouth of the prophet was not ashamed to reveal to the feeble remnant the whole counsels of God concerning Israel and His earthly government, when their hearts had been made responsive to His word. He fully announces the glory of Zion in the day when the Messiah reigns there.
The Christian has even greater privileges. When outwardly evil seems to prevail in the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 13), and the house of God is in mind, the Christian has not to wait until a certain number of years of captivity are over before he can move; or until he receives a letter from the head of earthly government that he may be free from the bondage of the lusts of the flesh, and be free to serve the Lord; he has been set free in Christ. If through negligence he gets under the power of the things of time and sense, the moment God lights up his way and shows him where he is, then it is his duty to “cease to do evil; (and) learn to do well”. There is always grace for the way, and the power of the Spirit has not diminished, but the Christian needs to seek grace at its source, and ever more grace. God gives more knowledge of His ways and fuller enjoyment of His purposes where He finds obedience to His word. “Shall I hide from Abraham that thing which I shall do … for I know him, that he will command his children and his household after him, and they shall keep the way of the LORD” (Genesis 18: 17-19). Then it is that God opens up His heart and delights in unfolding all His ways and counsels of grace; He tells even of His judgments; He has found a heart made ready to obey His word. Abraham was called “the Friend of God.” (See 2 Chronicles 10:7). Circumstances do not count, God may use them to discipline His people, but the truth of God, brought by grace into the heart, is the spring of all right activity for God. Truth working by love. Such a heart is prepared to receive more knowledge of God. The apostle Paul was able, in the power of an ungrieved, unfettered Spirit, to proclaim the whole counsels of God from within the walls of a Roman prison. Paul was never so free in spirit while he lived as when the chain bound the man of indefatigable labour.
Zechariah helps to clear up many prophecies which only vaguely mention some of the events to take place at the end; he sets out many of these in detail. The pre-captivity prophets speak little of the antichrist, Zechariah points him out clearly. All prophecy must be searched even to understand a part; no prophecy carries the whole of its interpretation in itself, all must be interpreted in the light of the whole revelation which the Spirit of God has made known through many instruments of revelation.
God tells beforehand that which He will do in government, so that those who wait on Him and obey His word may be enlightened and encouraged. The prophecy is not only useful as a forewarning of what is coming, but God gives His reason for judging a present state and why it is necessary to make a change. God in government displays the principles of righteousness and justice by which He rules. Government is not an expression of His grace by which He saves and delivers from judgement, but the display of His justice, mercy and goodness.
Though we do not now see God publicly enforcing His decrees in the world, yet He does govern amongst His own in grace and in righteousness. Sometimes it is not difficult to trace the work of His hand in Christendom; the so-called Christian countries have not escaped His sovereign retributive acts of justice in for their deeds of violence done against His saints and against the truth.
God is dealing with men in grace today, and the angels, who understand God’s government in the world, desire to look into His marvellous ways to learn the wisdom of God. The fulness of His grace and the perfection of His wisdom is now unfolded through the Church. God is calling a people out and apart from the world for heaven, and to be in a peculiar relationship with Christ above. Though the Church is still on earth her calling is heavenly, she belongs there and has nothing to do with the world. Christians in word and in practice may deny the bonds of the Spirit by which they are united to Christ, they cannot dissolve the union of the Church with Christ which is formed by the Spirit; nor can they change the Church’s destiny.
When through the unfaithfulness of Christians the truth is practically lost, God in great grace brings the truth, by the word, in the power of the Spirit, to bear on the walk of believers that the conscience may be awakened. He disciplines them when it is needed to open their ears to hear His word, and when the truth is revealed for the obedience of faith, those in whose hearts grace has wrought find blessing in obeying.
God revives His people by first dealing with their consciences, and He contrasts their present state with that which He set up in the beginning of His ways with them. He reveals His purposes of blessing which His people have forgotten, but which He will establish in grace in His own time.
God makes known His plans which He has determined to accomplish, before he places man upon His responsibility, for man’s obligations are measured by the relationship in which he stands to another. The revelation which God makes to man puts him in relationship with God according to the knowledge he receives by it, and man is responsible to be found in the right place according to the knowledge which the revelation gives him. The soul learns God by the way He takes in His wisdom to accomplish His purposes. Though it is made aware of its own weakness, it learns to count wholly on God and believe that He will complete that which He began. He will indeed do all that He has purposed, not by helping man to fulfil his responsibilities, but by setting up in His own manifested glory those eternal counsels of grace which He purposed in Himself before the world began. These purposes were made known to the Church at the beginning of its history by the apostle Paul, who was the vessel of the revelation and the teacher of the Divine mystery to complete the word of God. But while the day of glory is still in the future, we have the treasure in earthen vessels, that the power for life, walk, and testimony may be of God and not of us. We are ever responsible while we remain here to live and walk in the light of truth, and to count on grace for strength to keep to the path. All power for the way is in God, and the moment that this is forgotten there is failure, for then we are not walking in the truth.
At the beginning of the nineteenth century the European countries were suffering amidst social upheavals and revolutions, and the Church was at a very low spiritual ebb; God pressed on the hearts of many the truth of the Church’s high and heavenly calling and her peculiar and near relationship to Christ. This was not a new revelation, nor did it bring back to the Church her former brightness and beauty, but where grace wrought, faith was awakened by the testimony to the truth, and many, humbled by grace, bore a true remnant character and were blessed in their faith. The light shone brightly with the light of heaven and relieved the gloom then settling down on Christendom. The natural mind also received the benefit of the Spirit’s activity, the light shone upon all the ways of men in Christendom and even the heathen received some benefit. But man, as he ever does, used the opportunity to further his own temporal ends. God allowed him to do so, but the greater heights to which man climbs the greater his fall. War has succeeded war, and the civilization of the western world, which has given political lead to the world for more than two thousand years trembles in the balance. Mighty forces are being let loose, and the mind of man reels under the burden of his discoveries, when he is not too ignorant or indifferent to know what is happening. He is confused as he gazes into the unlocked sources of power he is already tapping, which multiply the possibilities of his own destruction. What will he do with the available power? We know what the past has been; God tells us what the future will bring, the wise will understand, and wisdom is justified of all her children.
When we walk by faith in obedience to the word God, He unfolds the secrets of His counsels and we by them learn to know God in His very nature. The path of faith is brightened, and our arms are strengthened for the service of God in what seems an insignificant work on a house in ruins. The Church is encouraged in this day of brokenness, and faith is fed, by the knowledge of that which Christ is to it, and by the revelation of the glories we shall know with Him in that great day of display when He manifests the Church with Himself in the glory of heaven. A comparison between our present state and that which God first established, humbles us and takes away self-confidence. The anticipation by the Spirit of the future joy and glory with Christ, fills the heart with comfort and strength as we wend our way heavenward. But we must be on our guard that we do not grieve the Spirit by pandering to the man whom God has set aside in the death of Christ.
While we as Christians fill up the days of our responsibility awaiting the sure and certain day of glory with Christ, our present enjoyment of the revealed mind of God depends on our separation from all evil and in our unfeigned obedience to the word of God. If the word is not regarded, the soul cannot find joy in the presence of God nor in the hope of glory with Christ. Indifference to His word of promise brings His chastening, for He cannot leave us nor forsake us, neither will He long bear with indifference. God has given many precious promises which He will fulfil to the letter in faithfulness and in power. He has promised not to leave nor forsake us, and that the Lord will come and keep those who look for His return out of the time of trial which is to come on all who dwell upon the earth. But in the main all promises for the Christian are to Christ, and in Christ he has them all. The Holy Spirit is now given to us for power that we may not be swept along with the rising tide of evil which is carrying the world to its destruction, and that we may realize the promises of God in Christ in spirit even now.
The future glory of Israel when they are blest with every earthly blessing, and the way God will bring all to pass, is full of interest for every heart that delights in the varied glories of Christ and is not taken up with its own immediate needs. God has purposed Israel’s blessing and the world’s peace, by wisdom and by power He will accomplish His purposes through grace in Christ.
There is hope for a repentant remnant of Israel, and future prosperity and great gladness when the Messiah comes from heaven in the power of Jehovah. The Christian has the hope of eternal life and the assurance of heavenly glory with Christ when He comes to take His heavenly hide into His home above. The Church has a fuller revelation and knows a more intimate relationship with Christ than Israel or any earthly people can ever know.
Israel has blessing in store after trial. The believer now has in the days of his trial, not only a present blessing and a future hope, but he has a more blessed portion in a more excellent place.
Not only does God present the hope of future blessing before the faith which He in grace awakens in His people, but He presents the Person of Christ for faith to rest upon. It is faith in the Person of Christ that unlocks the door to the understanding of the ways of God and implants hope in the heart. The attractiveness of Christ, and the grace in which He exercises the Divine power in Him for the deliverance of those drawn to Him, bring joy and freedom to the hearts of the faithful.
In Zechariah’s day the poor dispirited people needed reviving, but more than mere reviving was wanted. They had forgotten the reason for their return, and had become absorbed in their own temporal interests. They had drifted away from the thoughts of God and the Divine testimony at Jehovah’s centre to which they had been called to bear witness. Once again their hearts were stirred through the grace of God by the words of His prophets, and some, at least, among them were ready to receive His rich communications for their blessing and to rejoice in the hope of the Messiah. The prophet poured into their hearts for the joy of faith the promise of Jehovah’s deliverance in the day of the Messiah’s glory. All revolved around the Person of the Messiah, the mystery of the Kingdom of God was to be unfolded around Him, the Kingdom which will be set up by power in the Messiah filled the hopes of the faithful of that day.
The Church has known many revivals, somewhat analogous to the history of the judges in Israel, and even the return of the captives from Babylon has its analogy in these last days. “All the counsel of God” as declared by the apostle Paul has been made familiar to many Christians in these last one hundred and twenty years. The final word to complete the truth of God was revealed through Paul (Colossians 1:25). But the Church early left Paul’s teaching and sank down into the world. God has been pleased to revive the truth of the “mystery”, the revelation of the Church in its near and intimate relationship to Christ in heaven above, as His body (Ephesians 1:23), and as one flesh with Him in husband and wife relationship (Ephesians 5: 25-33). Many souls tasted the blessing of such grace and were delivered from worldly and earthly bondage.
When the Assembly left the teaching of the apostle Paul, the apostle John was sent to present to a fallen Assembly, the Person of Christ as the Son of God, even as Zechariah was sent to the Jews at Jerusalem to tell them of their future deliverance by the coming of the Messiah. Israel was not yet restored as a nation, Jehovah was not yet dwelling in Zion, but the Messiah was the expectation of hope and the joy of faith. The Messiah had first to come and be smitten for Israel, and with them too.
The Person of Christ is the attractive power for faith where grace is working in the heart, and to behold Him in His glory is the hope and longing desire of those who love Him. But the wonder of wonders for the hearts of believers is the fact that Christ died for them; He went down into that awful place of death for them. It is an eternal fact and a, most blessed memory; the living blessed Lord was once dead and by His death redeemed His chosen ones, and the fear of death and condemnation is gone for those who believe in Him. He is alive for ever more, and will come in His own glory to gather His redeemed to Himself, and for their eternal joy they will gaze upon Him in His glory. All He has as Man He shares with His own. He is their life, but His death writes death on all things here for those who are one with Him above.
The truth, as in Christ, is God’s most blessed provision for faith that responds to His work of grace the knowledge of the Son of God is the end of the path of faith. “I write unto you, fathers, because ye have known him that is from the beginning” (1John 2: 13, 14).