The Positive Answer
In this chapter the Lord gives a wonderfully positive answer to the question of Zechariah 7:2. The positive answer is found only in His own great and effective work to which the eyes of Israel are to be directed. Yet the answer looks forward, far beyond any small measure of revival in Israel, to the time when God restores the nation permanently in the age of millennial glory.
Another direct word from the Lord of hosts comes to Zechariah, not regarding Israel's guilt, but to affirm His own great jealousy for Zion's welfare. Zion (meaning sunny) is Jerusalem's name given in view of Christ's coming to her as "the Sun of Righteousness" (Malachi 4:2) in a future day. The Lord adds, "I am zealous for Zion with great zeal" (v. 2). How rightly He hates the evil that has caused His people to fall and to be estranged from Him! When He judges His anger will burn and He will accomplish His ends.
His promise is irrevocable in spite of Israel's failure. "I will return to Zion and dwell in the midst of Jerusalem" (v. 3). The fulfillment of this has been delayed for many centuries, and Israel's failure has been the cause of the delay. In fact, God did return in person when Christ came into the world, but Israel coldly rejected Him, causing further delay to His dwelling in their midst. Only when their attitude toward the Lord Jesus is sovereignly changed to one of faith and submission will they be blessed with the joy of His presence in their midst. Then "Jerusalem shall be called the City of Truth, the Mountain of the Lord of hosts, the Holy Mountain." What a contrast indeed to what Revelation 11:8 has to say of Jerusalem: "the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt." The change will be absolutely the Lord's doing. He will change their corruption (their Sodom character) into truth, and their independence of God (their Egyptian character) into holiness. Wonderful work of divine grace and power!
The permanence of the blessing of the Millennium is seen in verse 4, which tells us, "Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each one with his staff in his hand because of great age." At the time of writing, only the young and virile had been able to survive the rigors of captivity and wars, and only the comparatively young had returned from the captivity. But during the Millennium many people will live through the entire thousand years, so their age will be great, yet they will not die.
The streets will be filled with children playing, not filled with civil rights marches and protests and crime. Today the streets are the most dangerous areas for children to play, but whatever modes of transportation will then be used, they will pose no threat even to children. The pleasant circumstances of prosperity and contentment will be such a contrast to the world's present day confusion.
When the time comes for this to take place, it will seem too difficult in the eyes of the godly remnant of Israel (v. 6). Will it also be too difficult in God's eyes? It will involve tremendous changes that even we today may find it hard to imagine. What will happen to the results of the industrial revolution? What of all the amazing inventions that have flooded the world's markets? There is no question that all the world's weapons of war will be done away, but what of its advanced methods of rapid transportation, cars, trucks, planes, space ships, etc.? Distribution of food will be necessary, and garbage disposal. Homes will be built, crops planted, clothing manufactured, and many other things will require the work of people's hands. But where will the line be drawn? At least there will not be the complications of present day society. The simplicity of living is emphasized wherever the Millennium is spoken of in Scripture. Accidental death will apparently never take place, nor the death of an infant (Isaiah 65:18-25). Whatever changes God sees fit to introduce, He will accomplish His promise perfectly in spite of any objections unbelief may advance.
For the fourth time in this chapter the words are repeated, "Thus says the Lord of hosts" (v. 7). He is emphasizing the absolute truth of what He says. Though the returned remnant of Israel was very small, God was still "the Lord of hosts," the Commander of multitudes. Though Israel was scattered far from their land, and are still scattered, He will save them just as simply as He saved the remnant from the captivity of the Medes and Persians. He will bring them back eventually to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, where He will own them as His own people (v. 8). In Hosea 1:9 God speaks of disowning Israel, calling them "not My people" because of their rebellion against Him. But in the future, they will have pleasure in obeying Him.
Again, for the fifth time in this chapter (v. 9) Israel is told, "Thus says the Lord of hosts." In this case He asks for a fitting response from the nation, though He later affirms again the certainty of His own work, interspersing this with appeals to them to act consistently in view of God's faithfulness. "Let your hands be strong." They were not to wait for the coming day of glory to act for God, but "You who have been hearing in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets" were called upon to be strong now. The prophets had prophesied when the foundation of the restored temple was laid. God had spoken by the prophets. The people were therefore responsible to listen and apply themselves to obey. This was more important than being occupied with questions as to whether or not they should fast at certain times. The temple signified God's dwelling among them. This wonderful fact should have had deep effect on the heart of every Israelite.
"For before these days, while the land was lying desolate for seventy years, there were no wages for man nor hire for beast; there was no peace from the enemy for whoever went out or came in; for I set all men, everyone, against his neighbor" (v. 10). This was the hand of God in discipline, not merely unfortunate circumstances. He had changed Israel's circumstances before from favorable to miserable. His power is just as effective to change them back again. This power not only changed circumstances, but also influenced the attitude of people, setting them against one another. By the same power God could change people's attitudes as well as their outward circumstances. In other words, they sorely need God!
"But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days, says the Lord of hosts" (v. 11). The little reviving God had given in restoring the small fraction of the people after the captivity partially fulfilled this promise, but the revival did not last. So it was only a small pledge of the later complete fulfillment, which will take place in the millennial kingdom of the Lord Jesus.
God will then make the seed they sow to prosper and cause their vines to produce fruit (v. 12). The ground will bring forth abundance. The heavens will give dew, not wild rainstorms, but gentle moisture necessary for growth, given at night with no inconvenience for mankind. God will cause the remnant of Israel to possess all these blessings in His own time.
As to the people themselves, whether Judah or Israel, they then will no longer be a curse among the Gentiles, as they have been for centuries (v. 13). Gentiles have generally despised the Jewish people, yet their identity as Jews has been maintained throughout the years in spite of their being scattered away from their land. In every country where they have been dispersed they have been considered a curse. But God will save them and they will become a blessing, recognized as such by the nations. This will be another miraculous result of God's work of grace in their hearts. He tells them, "Do not fear, let your hands be strong." Their situation at the time caused them to fear the opposition of the nations, but since God Himself will eventually change this opposition into approval, why not now be strong to do the will of God?
Again with the expression, "Thus says the Lord of hosts" (v. 14), the faithfulness of God in carrying out His Word is pressed on Israel. When His righteous punishment had been executed in the past because their fathers had provoked Him to anger, He had not repented of His expressed warnings, but carried out His Word. He meant what He said. Similarly, His thoughts of doing well to Israel have been expressed in this very chapter and in the great field of prophecy (v. 15). In this case His Word will not fail either. Will they not trust Him as fully for the second as for the first? Well might they be told then not to fear, but to let their hands be strong. They may depend utterly on the faithfulness of God to uphold them.
With the basis of God's faithfulness, how becoming and right it is that He should expect a true response, as is seen in verses 16 and 17. Notice, however, that no selfish motive on God's part is involved in what He requires. Rather, His concern is for the welfare of others. He insists that they speak the truth to neighbors: one should not deceive another. Also, those who held the office of judges in the gates are expected to execute the judgment of truth that has the element of peace instead of resentment, as was often the reaction to court judgments in those days, just as in our days. God is deeply concerned as to how we consider one another.
Verse 17 goes deeper than verse 16. Verse 16 refers to actions and verse 17 to thoughts. Imagining evil even in one's heart toward one's neighbor is forbidden, as is loving a false oath. God knows our motives, and we must judge them as in the sight of God, for He hates all evil, whether evil actions or evil thoughts.
THE FASTS TURNED INTO FEASTS
Verses 18 and 19 connect with the question of Zechariah 7:3 and with the negative answer in Zechariah 7:5-6. Here we have the positive answer in a way far higher than the questioners had ever imagined. For the seventh time in the chapter the message is prefaced with the words, "Thus says the Lord of hosts." The men from Bethel had asked only about observing the fast of the fifth month. In the negative answer God had added the fast of the seventh month (Zechariah 7:5). Now two more fasts are added to these, those of the fourth and tenth months. The fast of the fourth month was in memory of Nebuchadnezzar's taking the city Jerusalem (2 Kings 25:3-4). That of the tenth month commemorated the beginning of the siege of Jerusalem in the ninth year of Zedekiah (1 Kings 25: 1).
Rather than telling the men of Bethel to no longer observe these fasts, the Lord tells them that all of these fasts will be turned into cheerful feasts of joy and gladness for the house of Judah. This refers to the future because Judah has not taken to heart the serious significance of the fasts in humbling themselves in self-judgment and faith in the Son of God. Yet God's answer in grace far transcends all that anyone could imagine, and He will wonderfully carry out His Word. Because of the certainty of this, they are told to love truth and peace. God has spoken the truth; therefore love it. If one's thoughts conflict with this, he does not really love peace: if he loves peace, he will not entertain thoughts of conflict with God.
In verse 9 for the eighth time we are told, "Thus says the Lord of hosts." In this case the Lord promises that the blessing will not be confined to the house of Judah. The inhabitants of many cities will come to share in the joy that Judah is given. These are the cities of Israel. Their refreshing desire for fellowship then will lead those of one city to go to another, so that together they might go up to supplicate the Lord at Jerusalem. The unity of Israel will be far more than formal, but will issue from willing hearts.
In verse 22 the blessing is seen to be wider still. Many peoples and strong nations will also come to seek the Lord and present their supplication before Him at Jerusalem. Gentiles will recognize His glory as being identified with the people of Israel whom they had long despised. How marvelous this work of grace will be! What a change from present day intrigue, distrust, hatred and violence even within Israel and in all the nations toward her!
Again, for the ninth time in the chapter it is emphasized, "Thus says the Lord of hosts." When those days arrive, as many as ten Gentiles will be attracted to one Jew, not to terrorize him, but to seek his favor, for, they will say, "we have heard that God is with you" (v. 23). In fact, the name of the city will be "The Lord is there" (Ezek 38: 35).
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Grant, L. M. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". L.M. Grant's Commentary on the Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany