Millions miss a meal or two each day.
Help us change that! Click to donate today!
The Man with the Measuring Line
The vision. This vision is really the protest of the Prophet against the attempt the Jews were making to narrow down the Divine purposes to the limit of their own paltry plans. In his vision the Prophet sees a young man, who stands for the Jewish people, with a measuring line in his hand. The Prophet hails the young man, and asks him whither he is going, and what is his errand. The young man answers, 'I go to measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. The young man's notion of Jerusalem was of a city strictly limited, compassable, and measurable, whose dimensions could be stated in so many yards and feet. But that was not God's Jerusalem at all. God's Jerusalem was vast, illimitable, boundless. That is the truth set forth in the angel's reply. 'Run and speak to this young man,' says the one angel to the other 'run and speak to this young man. Tell him he is attempting the impossible. Tell him he is trying to measure the immeasurable. Tell him he might as well try to count the stars in the midnight sky, or the grains of the sand on the seashore, or the drops of water in the vasty deep, as seek to measure the Holy City with his tape. Run and speak to this young man tell him Jerusalem cannot be measured; tell him it is to be no narrow, paltry, mountain fortress; tell him it is to be inhabited as villages, without walls, by reason of the multitude of men and cattle therein; tell him it is to be a spacious, vast, illimitable city, so that no measuring line on earth is sufficient to compass it.'
The amplitude, the vastness of God's design, and the impossibility of compassing it by any human measurement, that is the superficial and obvious lesson of the text.
I. Let me illustrate the text with reference to the kingdom of God. There is need still to insist upon the wideness of the kingdom, for men are busy still trying to narrow its boundaries.
II. Next let me illustrate it with reference to the love of God. In all ages, men have been applying the measuring line to the love of God. Go back eighteen centuries, and you find the Pharisees and Scribes busy with the measuring line.
And yet, in spite of the life and witness of Jesus, men have not ceased to think God's love can be measured. They have tried to limit it by theological theories. Men preached a hateful theory of election, asserting there were some whom God loved and saved, and some on whom He visited His wrath and damned. They have preached a 'limited atonement,' as if Christ died only for a section of the race, and His blood availed to cleanse but a few. And I do not hesitate to say that that doctrine of election and that doctrine of a limited atonement are a slander and libel upon the love of God.
I know nothing of love for an 'elect few'. My gospel says, 'God so loved the world'. I know nothing of a limited atonement. My gospel says, 'He is the Propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world'. The love of God knows no limit it is vast, boundless, infinite. It embraces every man it endures to all eternity.
III. Let me illustrate it further with reference to man's destiny. Man's destiny is beyond the reach of any earthly measuring line. 'Beloved, now are we children of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be.' It doth not yet appear what we shall be; the splendour of our destiny is beyond the utmost reach of our imagination and thought, for we know that when He shall appeal", we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.
IV. We tax our imaginations to try and picture to ourselves the glory and bliss of heaven. But the measuring line of the human mind is not equal to the task. It exceeds our utmost stretch of thought John has given us a glowing picture in the Apocalypse. But heaven is better even than John's sketch of it. Even his soaring imagination could not take in all its splendour and beauty. Heaven's glory baffles description, defies every measuring line. 'Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath entered into the mind of man the things which God hath prepared for those who love Him.'
J. D. Jones, The Elims of Life, p. 202.
A Man with a Measuring Line
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 over-done. Prudent worldliness has not much room in the household of God. Small is the company of those who have begun and not been able to finish compared with those who have been scared back at the outset. As an old proverb says,' The best is often the enemy of the good'. Because we cannot do at once in a moment all that we want to do, because we cannot always see our way to accomplish anything at all, or very little, because the task seems too much, and our abilities too small, those are the sort of feelings that unman us, that bar all progress.
I. 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 Galilean 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. 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? We have not the power, the opportunities that others possess. It seems to us as if we never should win our way upwards. We want to begin at the top of the ladder and not at the bottom. We want to soar instantly to the heights without having to tramp the weary way, but God's way is not our way, nor His thoughts our thoughts. 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.
References. II. 1, 2. C. H. Wright, The Unrecognized Christ, p. 84. II. 1-4. J. G. Greenhough, The Cross in Modern Life, p. 148. II. 1-5. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. x. No. 604. II. 4. C. Perren, Revival Sermons in Outline, pp. 210, 331. II. 4, 5. A. Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture Ezekiel, Daniel, and the Minor Prophets, p. 273.
The Wall of Fire
This prophecy, as you read it Today, might seem to have been enthusiastic and sanguine and doomed to disappointment. The young man's vision was not fulfilled in the literal sense which he probably expected. That great city, Jerusalem, the city of his dreams, was never built. But remember, if we bring to the interpretation of it that which grew out of Jerusalem the Christian religion this prophecy of Zechariah becomes singularly beautiful and accurate. How could the Christian religion be better described than by saying that it is a wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst? And as that new faith came out of the old, the nations of the earth wen; gathered to it as Zechariah saw.
I. Let us take this vision for a moment as it applies to every country, and especially to our own, Measure not the walls. Forbid that reed by which you estimate a city's strength or a nation's pride. A nation's greatness does not consist in its size, nor in the multitude of its people, nor in the strength of its battlements or its defences. There is no security in great armies, no defence in warships. A nation that depends upon them cannot prosper. There is but one security for a nation it is God. There is but one defence to our life, whether personal or family or national it is the wall of fire round about, and the glory in the midst.
II. Apply these words to yourselves, to your personal life. The wall of fire round about represents the transcendence, and the glory in the midst represents the immanence of God. The belief in Jesus Christ is nothing if it does not bring an experience with it. And it is not true unless the experience it brings is precisely this: An inward life which is the glory in the midst resulting in an outward protection which is the wall of fire round about. The inward life is of this character: that by the faith of Christ your inward being becomes filled with God. The Spirit of God dwells there. Harmony, purity, and love are within you. And that inward light becomes a guidance and a power in every action of the day. That glory in the midst is the secret of the Christian life. And from that glory in the midst of you, that is to say, from the rightness with God within, and only from that, comes the wall of fire round about you.
III. The wall of fire round about you means that there is warmth within and light shining out around. All the piercing cold of unbelief and the chilly fogs of doubt have been dissipated by that wall of fire round about you. The man who has religion and the one who has not is largely represented by warmth. The one who is aglow, the love of God is shed abroad in his heart and it is a sacred warmth of fire. And as the wall of fire is warmth for you within, it is light shed far and wide upon the world around. For such a soul is as a city set upon a hill, and as a light of the world.
R. F. Horton, Christian World Pulpit, vol. lxxiii. 1908, p. 24.
References. II. 5. H. Rose Rae, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xlv. 1894, p. 170. II. 8. Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. viii. No. 452. B. Wilberforce, Following on to Know the Lord, p. 85. II. 12. C. Leach, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxviii. 1891, p. 310.
From Darkness to Light
Zechariah 2:13 ; Zechariah 3:1-4
These verses illustrate the steps through which God brings a soul out of darkness into His marvellous light, and from the power of Satan unto God. We have here the simile of a Court of Justice. The prisoner is Joshua the high priest, standing as the typical man. And what position does he take up in that dock? He takes up the position of the guilty one. He is described as standing arrayed in filthy garments. The Bible never makes light of sin; the Bible never speaks of sin as an accident or a peccadillo; the Bible always speaks of sin in plain unmistakable language; and the sinner here is represented as standing clothed with filthy garments. I. The First Step must be Conviction. You must take your place by the side of Joshua in the dock, you must acknowledge the justice of God's sentence against you; you must make the words in the Epistle to the Romans your own: 'All have sinned and come short of the glory of God'. This verse, then, shows us that the first step in salvation is conviction.
II. The Second Step is Cleansing. When a man takes the place of the guilty one, when a man acknowledges his own sins, what does he hear proceeding from the Master's lips? He hears the language of the fourth verse,' Take away the filthy garments from him. Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment'. The question may arise in the minds of many, How can God, Who is a righteous God and Who only can act righteously, how can He say to a soul, 'I have caused thine iniquities to pass from thee'. I will tell you in a moment; I say it with the deepest reverence, God can only utter those words because of the finished work of Jesus Christ on the Cross of Calvary. If you and I will come to the foot of that cross, taking the place of the guilty one, we shall hear the voice from the glory saying to us, 'I have caused thine iniquities to pass from thee'.
If any of you have ever been in America you may possibly have witnessed that very remarkable, never-to-be-forgotten sight of a prairie fire. I dare say you know that, when the prairie catches fire, if the wind is blowing very strongly, the prairie fire will travel faster than a horse can gallop. Those who have settled on the prairies see the devouring flames come, and they know they cannot run away from them. What do they do? They burn a large space in the vicinity of their home; in a short time a very large piece of ground is absolutely cleared and blackened. What do they do then? For purposes of safety they go and stand on the ground where the fire has been already. When the great devouring prairie fire comes up it stops there it can go no farther there is nothing to bum.
May I use that simile? There is but one place where the fire has already been, and that is the Cross of Calvary, the Cross of the Lord Jesus Christ.
III. The Third Step is Clothing. 'I will clothe thee with change of raiment' Joshua is first represented as clothed with filthy garments, standing in the dock. Filthy garments were not at all inappropriate to his position there; but now his position is changed. He is no longer the prodigal, the suppliant, seeking for salvation; he has taken his right place before God; he has heard the words of pardon and rejoiced in them, and now the filthy rags are no longer suitable to his changed condition; and he hears that same voice that spoke pardon to him saying, 'I will clothe thee with change of raiment'. With what raiment are you and I clothed when we come as suppliants to the foot of the Cross?
IV. The Fourth Step is Crowning. In the fifth verse we read, 'Let them set the fair mitre upon his head'. Whenever in Old Testament Scripture you find the mitre used it is always in connexion with the office of the priesthood. The high priest had the mitre placed upon his forehead, and in that mitre there was a plate with the words 'Holiness to the Lord'.
V. There is one Step More. Joshua needs counsel. Although his position is about as changed as it is possible to be, from being a convicted felon in the dock to a crowned priest unto God, he is still in the world, subject to the same difficulties and temptations; he still wanted daily and hourly guidance. We find guidance and counsel are given to him in the ninth verse: 'Behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua,' eta All commentators agree that the stone there means Jesus Christ the Lord.
A Message to Young Men
It is an angel who speaks. And he addresses the charge to another angel.
I. The Divine Message to young men is an Individual Message. The angel is bidden speak 'to this young man'. God's heart has always gone out towards the individual.
1. This young man was interested in the Church. He has 'a measuring line in his hand,'and his avowed purpose was 'to measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. It is not often you meet a reflective young man who has not' a measuring line in his hand'. Young men will take the measure of everything, and as of everything so of the Church of God. The danger is lest a young man forget to measure himself. Do not neglect to use your 'measuring line,' your reason, your judgment, your conscience. The more you apply your measuring line to the Bible, the more you will be satisfied of its intrinsic Divinity. The Christian Religion is not in fear of your measuring line. As to all these things measure the spiritual city with your 'measuring line'. We do not fear the decision you will arrive at if you measure with a steady hand and a true heart.
2. There are some who use the 'measuring line' in a wrong spirit Your measurement will be wrong if your motive be wrong. There is much contemptible measuring of the holy city. Some apply their 'measuring line' to the creeds and institutions of the Church in a fault-finding spirit. Reverence is a wise interpreter. Love measures truly.
3. This young man was religiously candid. When the Prophet interrogated him he avowed his deliberate intention 'to measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof'. He had not already made up his mind as to its dimensions. Many have decided as to Jerusalem's dimensions without having themselves ascertained them. Some are infidels on trust. They are sceptics by hearsay. He measures Christianity best who endeavours to live it.
II. This young man was taught of God. The angel declared to him the future which awaited Jerusalem. And God will teach every young man who sincerely desires to be taught by Him.
III. The Divine message to young men is imperatively urgent The angel is bidden ' Run, speak to this young man'. No time is to be lost. With urgency, too, we bring the word of exhortation to every Christian young man. It is ours, in God's name, to delegate you with the solemn yet gladsome duty of seeking for Christ every young man who is not yet His.
Dinsdale T. Young, Messages for Home and Life, p. 3.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Nicoll, William Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Zechariah 2". Expositor's Dictionary of Text. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 8 / Ordinary 13