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The Light Of The Future Shining On The Present Path
The value of the study of future prophecy is strikingly displayed in this chapter, where we find God, through His servant, drawing back the veil that hides the coming glory, in order that His people may comprehend in some measure their hope, that their present path may be in accordance therewith.
It would perhaps have been better had there been no break between this portion and that which we have just had before us, as it all seems to be part of Jehovah’s answer to the inquirers regarding the propriety of observing the fast-day of the fifth month.
Verses 1 to 8 form a lovely millennial picture, describing the conditions which will prevail when “Jerusalem shall be called, A city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, The holy mountain.” Because of their idolatrous ways the Lord had been “jealous for Zion with a great jealousy,” and with great wrath had delivered Judah into the hands of their enemies, that they might learn in the strangers’ land the folly of trusting in graven images and sacrificing to the demons behind the symbols (ver. 2). Their sojourn in Babylon had cured them of this for the time, though our Lord Jesus showed that they were but as a house empty, swept and garnished, to which the unclean spirit who had gone out will yet return, bringing with him seven demons worse than himself. This will be fulfilled when idolatry of a worse kind than ever before is established among them-even the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place.
But all this is passed over here, for it is God’s purpose that is before us, not the people’s failure. Nothing is plainer than that the latter half of verse 3 never could have been properly applied to Jerusalem and Mount Zion since the return from Babylon. Yet it is there intimately connected with the first part, “I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.” All the succeeding failure, even to the rejection of Messiah Himself and their consequent dispersion, is passed over in silence, and the future glorious estate of Jerusalem is linked up with the remnant then in the land. Only when the Lord has been manifested in power will the words that follow be fulfilled. Then shall there be old men and aged women dwelling in the restored city, while “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (vers. 4, 5). The street is now the place of danger. Then the children can play therein with perfect safety. It is a sweet and touching thing thus to see how the Eternal God concerns Himself even about the innocent pastimes of the little ones. It might be well if some parents who are prone to a more than Puritanic legality pondered this 5th verse; for I fear that the boys and girls are often made to feel that their simple pleasures are, if not displeasing to Him, at least unprofitable and vain.
The accomplishment of what has here been outlined must be marvelous indeed in the eyes of puny man; but it is but a small thing with Him who hurled worlds into space, and directs the movements of the minutest of His creatures. His omnipotent Hand shall surely perform what His mouth has spoken. But that a future return from among the nations was before His mind is evidenced by what follows: “Behold, I will save My people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness” (vers. 7, 8). This is the universal testimony of the prophets. The restoration from Babylon was but temporary, in order that what had been written concerning Messiah might be fulfilled. He having been cut off, they who refused Him were driven forth into all the ends of the earth. From thence, in God’s appointed time, they shall return again to that country, which is still to them “the land of promise,” where all that the prophets have spoken shall come to pass.
In verse 9 the practical application is pressed home. In view of the glory that is coming, the hands may well be strong. What need to be downcast and discouraged with such a portion assured us in Christ? So the people were urged to labor and hope, cheered by the promises of rich reward. God was caring for their interests. He would have them in earnest as to His. When Haggai was first raised up to speak to them, famine threatened, and disappointment clouded all their sky. But when they willingly and cheerfully gave themselves to the work of building His house, He had declared, “From this day will I bless you” (Haggai 1:9-11; Haggai 2:18, Haggai 2:19). He had been as good as His word, and would still watch over them for blessing, giving prosperity and increase while they “put first things first,” making His glory their object (vers. 10-12).
But in all these promises it is plain that God has something more before Him than the little company then returned. He was looking on to fulness of blessing in the Millennium. Hence He declares that Israel, once a curse among the nations, shall be saved and made a blessing, according to His oath to Abraham. This was not true in any large measure, nor for long, of the actual company, or their descendants, to whom Zechariah spoke; for in less than six hundred years later we hear the Holy Spirit declaring that through them the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles (Romans 2:24). And so it has been ever since. But God’s Word abides nevertheless, and in a future remnant every promise shall be made good (ver. 13).
The Lord had no delight in afflicting His people; but their fathers had provoked Him to wrath. Let their children take heed to their ways therefore, and obey His voice, and all would be well. “These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord” (vers. 16, 17).
Practical righteousness and true morality are the same in all dispensations. Christians may well challenge their hearts as we read these verses and note what is abhorrent in God’s sight. Truth, and judgment according to truth: in these He delights. Evil surmisings (a most fruitful source of trouble in all ages) and false oaths: these He hates. May we have grace given to cleave to the former and refuse the latter!
The question as to the fasts (chap. 7:3) is again reverted to in verses 18, 19. Those of the fifth and seventh months we have already noticed. That of the fourth month commemorated the taking of Jerusalem, while that of the tenth called to mind the beginning of its siege. If the restored residue sought to walk with God, truly judging the past, these fasts would be transformed into cheerful feasts. “Therefore love the truth and peace,” they were told. Notice that truth comes first, then peace; as in 2 Timothy 2:22 believers are called upon in a day of confusion and distraction to follow righteousness first of all. Then faith, love and peace would rightly follow.
The chapter concludes by portraying the happy spiritual conditions which will prevail in the day that Messiah’s kingdom is established. It shall be no matter of hardship or cold, formal obedience to come together in a solemn assembly before Jehovah when Israel shall be a regenerated and sanctified people. Each city shall then vie with the other in “provoking unto love and to good works,” saying one to another, “Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also” (vers. 20, 21). His service will then be their joy and delight. The 122d Psalm will be fulfilled, and the voices of the restored remnant will sing with exultation, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” It is ever thus when Christ Himself is before the soul. The gatherings of the children of God become in very deed as foretastes of heaven when He is to His own the altogether lovely. There are no dry, listless meetings then; but every heart thrills with a joy not earthly as He fills the vision of the enraptured soul. If right with God, there would ever be this holy freshness and fervent longing for His presence. But when permitted sin has been allowed to do its deadly work unjudged, the Holy Spirit is grieved, Christ is hidden, and what would have been a delight becomes a weariness of the flesh. When the saints of God are enjoying Christ, others are attracted to Him and to them. So, when Israel shall be gathered round Himself, dwelling under His shadow, and happy in His love, there will be a great stirring of heart among the spared of the nations who will not have been destroyed when the stone falls from heaven- “Many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.” The Jew, so long despised and hated, will be looked upon as the ambassador of the Lord, and ten men of all languages shall cleave to one who is of Judah, saying, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (vers. 22, 23). It is impossible, by any principle of honest interpretation, to make these words fit any revival of the past or present. They apply only to the day when Jerusalem shall be the spiritual metropolis of the whole earth, and when the name of Jew, so often used in contempt and derision, will proclaim one who is truly a son of praise,36 joyfully worshiping the Lord of hosts as he stands upon redemption ground. Then indeed shall all the nations know that “salvation is of the Jews.”
But that there is a spiritual application, I have already pointed out. When the people of God, in any age, are going on in happy fellowship with their Lord and Saviour, the unsaved will be attracted to Him, and will be found seeking out His disciples, saying, “We would see Jesus.”
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29