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Bible Commentaries

The Church Pulpit Commentary

Zechariah 2

Verses 1-2

‘A MAN WITH A MEASURING LINE’

‘I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.’

Zechariah 2:1-2

It was a difficult time in Jewish history. People were coming back from the Captivity. They had to rebuild Jerusalem, to restore the Temple, to make a new nation, as it were, out of the old fragments that were left. No wonder that hearts failed on all sides. Zechariah rises to meet these evils, vision after vision passes before his eyes, and among these visions there is this man of the measuring line, the cautious man, the prudent man, the calculating man. ‘What is the good? You can do nothing. What can you poor people do to build a city like the old Jerusalem—to guard it, to fence it round, to make its ramparts strong? You must be cautious and careful, you must take heed what you are about lest you fail.’ Very useful are such counsels in life, but they may be overdone. Prudent worldliness has not much room in the household of God.

I. Think of what faith has done.—Take the case of the Apostles, when Jesus said unto them, ‘Go ye into all the world, and preach the Gospel to every creature’; or when He added, ‘beginning at Jerusalem.’ I can fancy the man with the measuring line there saying, ‘What can you do here in Jerusalem among the learned scribes and righteous Pharisees, you poor Galilæan fishermen? What can you do? You had better hold your tongues. You will not succeed.’ Or afterwards, ‘What! Do you think you will capture Rome, the greatest power in the world, the capital of the greatest empire that was ever seen? Better try humbler things, my friends, than that.’ But the Twelve went on calmly, quietly, facing the odds, content to do little so long as they did it, satisfied if only they were walking in the Master’s steps, laying foundation stones for others to build on after they were gone. On they went, because all the while they felt that God was with them, and that He would not fail. Just as Zechariah the prophet was sustained by the recollection of what God had done for Israel, so the Apostles, with the whole history of the past before their eyes, recollecting what the history of Jerusalem had been, went on calmly, quietly, just doing the work that lay straight before them, attempting no great things, hoping no great things, but just trying to fulfil their Master’s command.

II. Think of what faith can do.—How many of us are disposed to say, ‘Well, what can we do?’ We want, perhaps, to achieve a character, we would like to be good people. We want to be men of faith, like St. Paul; men of zeal, like St. Peter; men of love, like St. John: but we feel we never can attain to it. We are so ill-tempered, unbelieving, unconcerned, and indifferent. What can we do? What is the use of our trying? The man with the measuring line, our own doubting hearts this time, our own prudence, perhaps, suggests how little we can do, how useless it all is. Why should we attempt more? Nevertheless it is good for us to remember that the history of the saints has been the history of small things, small efforts, small hopes, of small prayers. Every prayer tells, every hope is answered, every act of faith becomes a victory, if not for ourselves for those who come after. Go on struggling, and by and by when a great crisis comes, as such crises come in every human life, when you have to be tried for what you are, before God and man, you will find that strength, and faith, and zeal are abundant, and love cannot fail. You have won without knowing it the topmost rung, you have built the tower stone by stone. Perhaps we desire to do something while we are here to leave the world a little brighter than we found it. The man with the measuring line at our side is ready to say, ‘You have no ability, your friends want your time, they do not want you to spend it in doing other work.’ You feel all incapable, you are not learned enough, you do not know enough, you have not the gifts. You have just the spirit of a person that the measuring line would keep back, but the spirit of Christ would push forward. Go forward, Christian brother, Christian sister, go forward in your work for God, whatever it be. Your conscience demands it of you. Do not let the measuring line of prudence and calculation and over-safety keep you back.

—Rev. Prebendary Shelford.

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Bibliographical Information
Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Zechariah 2". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/cpc/zechariah-2.html. 1876.