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The Man among the Myrtle Trees
The visions have to do primarily with God's dealings with His chosen people Israel. They will, however, be full of lessons for the saints. God's dealings with His people of old are not distinct in method from His dealings with the Church. He is the same Lord unto all who call upon Him. His judgments are always just, and He is never any respecter of persons.
The 1st chapter of Zechariah contains the Prophet's first vision. By way of introduction we will observe several succinct statements in chapter 1, which lead up to the vision itself.
1. The Lord's displeasure with the fathers. Zechariah 1:2 reads: "The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers." As we turn our eyes backward to our progenitors, we may learn many lessons by their mistakes. Why should we fail where they failed, and fall where they fell?
In the Book of Corinthians we read of the mistakes of Israel; how they sinned, walking after the lusts of their own hearts. They were idolaters, they committed fornication, they tempted Christ, they turned back, and they murmured. For this cause there fell in one day three and twenty thousand under God's judgment. At another time they were destroyed of serpents. At still another, they were destroyed of the destroyer. All of these things happened unto them as types unto us, and they are written to the intent that we should not do as they did.
The whole Bible contains many stories of God's judgments against others who sinned. They are written that we may be warned thereby.
2. A call to repent. Zechariah 1:3 says: "Turn ye unto Me, saith the Lord of Hosts, and I will turn unto you." God's forgiveness depends upon our confession. "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us."
We can almost hear the plea that God made to Hosea, "O Israel, return unto the Lord thy God; for thou hast fallen by thine iniquity. Take with you words, and turn to the Lord: and say unto Him, Take away all iniquity, and receive us graciously." The response is clear and assuring: "I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely."
Let every one of us remember that we must judge ourselves that we be not judged. If we recognize our sin and come to Christ pleading His mercy, we will obtain mercy.
3. The time for our return. In Zechariah 1:4 is this expression: "Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings." Why should we continue longer in sin and in our rebellious ways? "Behold, now is the day of salvation." Here is another Scripture: " To day if ye will hear His voice, harden not your hearts." He who puts off the day of his repentance and return, invites the judgments of God upon him.
4. The former judgments. In Zechariah 1:5 we read: "Your fathers, where are they? and the Prophets, do they live for ever?" The men of old had not done as the Lord commanded them. They had refused to return. The result was that God had poured forth His judgments upon them. Their lives where made bitter. The cup of their sorrow was made full. According to their own doings, so did God deal with them.
God has not changed, during the years, His methods of dealing with those who sin against Him. He also judges His own. "Whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth." There is no son who sins who is not scourged.
I. THE VISION DESCRIBED (Zechariah 1:8 )
Let us place this vision before you step by step.
1. It was a vision by night. The present hour presents to us the deepening shades of night. Wherever God is not on the throne it is night upon the earth. There is not one verse in the New Testament that describes this present period as any other than night.
2. It was a vision of a man riding upon a red horse. This man we think of as the Son of Man. The red horse reminds us of the Christ of Calvary, the Christ of the shed Blood.
3. It was the vision of the man on the red horse standing among the myrtle trees. The myrtle trees clearly set forth God's own chosen and special people Israel.
4. The vision was of the myrtle trees that were in the bottom. "In the bottom" shows that God's people were upon the earth.
5. The vision included a company following the man on the red horse. We read: "Behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white." These were the angelic beings sent by God to walk to and fro throughout the whole earth. Zechariah 1:10 says: "These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth."
The vision as a whole shows us that God, the Lord, is not unmindful of His own. They may be in the bottom, in the place of sorrow and of suffering. They may be trodden under the feet of the Gentiles, but they are dear to the heart of God for they are His "myrtle trees."
This Divine watchcare and protection of God's people, Israel, is suggestive of His same watchcare over His church. If He who watches over Israel never slumbers nor sleeps, neither does He slumber nor sleep as He watches over us.
So far as the ministering angels are concerned "Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" Truly, the angels of the Lord encamp around those who fear Him to deliver them.
II. THE MINISTRY OF ANGELS (Zechariah 1:11 )
We have just heard a little bit about the angels of God. We feel, however, that we should look a little more deeply into their ministry.
1. They are under the command of Jehovah. The last clause of Zechariah 1:10 says: "These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth." Angels do not minister on their own initiative. They are sent from God to do the will of God. They are ministering Spirits because they are ministers.
Follow the story of angels throughout the Old Testament Scriptures and you will find that invariably they are fulfilling an assigned commission. If they are sent to some Old Testament saint, they are sent because God sent them.
Would that every one of us were as ready to go forth, to work His work, and to do His will. Did not Jesus say: "As My Father hath sent. Me, even so send I you"?
2. They work in behalf of God's people. As they move about through the elements, they are unseen to us. They are, however, no less potent in their ministries.
In the first century history of the Church it is most interesting to see how the angels of God wrought in behalf of Peter in jail; in behalf of various saints giving them commands and directing their activities. Not only that, but, particularly with Paul, we remember how they gave encouragement in the hour of his testing and trial.
3. In the coming days of tribulation, the angels will have a far more public and demonstrative ministry. They will break the seals, sound the trumpets, pour forth the vials, They who have been God's ministers of mercy to saints will become ministers of judgment and of wrath toward a Godless world.
III. THE ANGELIC INQUIRY (Zechariah 1:12 )
Our Scripture says: "Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of Hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against whom Thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?"
1. The things into which angels desire to look. There is a vital and an unchangeable interest on the part of the angelic hosts in all things that are coming to pass upon the earth. This is particularly true in their attitude toward God's own people, His holy city, and His chosen people.
2. The things into which saints should desire to look. There is a little verse in one of Peter's Epistles in which we read concerning the Prophets, that they searched diligently and inquired of God relative to those things which the Spirit of Christ, who was in them, did signify. They wrote the Scriptures and testified beforehand of the sufferings of Christ and the glory that should follow. Then, they sought to know the meaning of the times and of seasons of which they wrote.
Daniel who was one of the Prophets who prayed in sackcloth and in ashes, asking God to show unto him the meaning of those prophecies which he, himself, had written. As a result God sent forth an angel Gabriel to cause him to know the things that were coming to pass upon Israel.
Would that we had more interest in God's things. Particularly in those things which concern both Israel and the Church. We should study the Prophets, we should give ourselves continually to the grasping of the truth which is hid away in them, but which now is made known unto us, by the Spirit.
3. The great query, "How long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah?" This same question is asked time and again by others. In the Book of Revelation are the words spoken by those who were slain for the Word of God, and for the testimony which they held. They are crying with a loud voice saying, "How long, Oh, Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?"
The Jews now languish, as they plead for Thee;
Their hearts grow weary; hark how deep their cry!
"Come down, O Lord, our foes against us cry!
How long, oh, Lord, how long? Come, set us free."
IV. GOD'S WORDS OF COMFORT (Zechariah 1:13-38.1.14 )
1. God's jealous watchcare. During all of the centuries, there has been a watching eye that has never slumbered and has never slept. From Heaven above God has looked down and watched over His people. Our key verse says: "Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy."
The Apostle Paul sets forth this marvelous, elective grace of God when he says: "At this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace." What Israel could not find for herself, God's grace will find.
This is also true in God's dealings with us. God loves His Church and gave Himself for it. He is jealous for her with a great jealousy.
2. God's tender words. How Zechariah 1:13 cheers our hearts. "The Lord * * talked with me with good words and comfortable words." Our God is a God of comfort. He is a just God, visiting His wrath unto the third and fourth generation; but He is a God who in wrath, remembers mercy. His judgments are not to destroy, but to lead His people unto repentance.
When God chastens His people, whether it be Israel or whether it be us, He always chastens them for their profit, that we might be partakers of His holiness. Thus, in our hours of distress, He speaks good words of great comfort.
Thank God, His mercy endureth forever.
V. AN AFFLICTION OVERWROUGHT (Zechariah 1:15-38.1.16 )
Our key verses say: "I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction."
1. The nations among whom Israel was scattered, helped forward God's judgments against His people. They have given the Jews no rest. At first God was but a little displeased at their ferocity against Israel, for He had delivered Israel over for chastisement. The nations, however, have gone too far. They have overstepped their wrath.
During twenty-three hundred years, the Children of Israel have been trodden down under the feet of the Gentiles. In the closing part of our chapter, Zechariah caught a second vision. He lifted up his eyes and saw and behold four horns. He asked the angel the meaning of the horns, and the angel replied, "These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem." They are four in number because that is the world number. God says that they scattered Judah, "So that no man did lift up his head."
Beloved, God's eye is upon His people. He said unto Abraham, "Whosoever curseth thee shall be cursed." A little later we will consider how God will judge the horns of the Gentiles because of their villainy toward His people.
2. Mercies extended. Zechariah 1:16 says: "Therefore, thus saith the Lord; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies." Thank God for the promise that God shall yet comfort His people. He will bring them from the four quarters of the earth. He will gather them in from every side. The twelve tribes of Israel shall be reinstated in the land, and one king, even Christ, shall be King over them all.
"Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee."
VI. A GLORY DEFINITELY PROMISED (Zechariah 1:16-38.1.17 )
1. The promise of rebuilding. In Zechariah 1:16 we read, "My House shall be built in it, saith the Lord of Hosts." The building of the Temple is set forth in various Scriptures. However, unto Ezekiel God gave the full description, with measurements of the restored Temple. Thank God, the Man whose name is the Branch will rise and build the Temple and He shall bear the glory.
2. The promise of Jerusalem's enlargement. Jerusalem is the city of peace. It is the city of God. It shall yet be a city without walls. Our key verse says: "A line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem." At this moment Jerusalem has outgrown her former walls and the larger part of the new and enlarged Jerusalem is an unwalled city. What will Jerusalem be in the geographical boundaries when it is the center of a world-wide kingdom, and the joy of all the earth?
3. The promise of prosperity in the cities of Palestine. Not only is Jerusalem to have a line stretched forth upon it, but God has said, "My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad." There is a little foregleam of all of this as we write. Judah and Jerusalem are fast turning their faces backward toward their own land. Great wealth has been discovered hidden away in the Dead Sea. This wealth is now being salvaged, and millions of dollars are being spent to accomplish the task. The cities of Judah are in the throes of a financial prosperity unprecedented in any other part of the earth. All of this is only anticipating the possibilities of their prosperity after the Lord has returned to comfort Zion.
VII. THE JUDGMENT OF THE NATIONS (Zechariah 1:20-38.1.21 )
The final part of the vision of the four horns included four carpenters. As the Prophet saw these he asked of the angels, "What come these to do? and he spake, saying, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles, which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter it."
1. The meaning of the horns of the Gentiles. All students of prophecy realize that the expression "horn," or "horns" typically stand for world-powers, kings, dominions.
In Daniel 7:1-27.7.28 there was a fourth beast which had ten horns. Daniel said: "I considered the horns, and, behold, there came up among them another little horn." In God's interpretation of these horns, He said unto Daniel, "The ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall rise after them."
The story of these horns, and of the one horn, holds a large place in the Book of Revelation. We suggested before that there would be wrath against Israel in the days of tribulation. The nations at this moment are beginning to display an unmitigated antagonism toward the Jew. Not one, but varied governments are taking definite steps against the Semitic race. They are dealing harshly to such a degree that our own country is filled with indignation against those who fray Israel.
2. The meaning of the carpenters, who go forth against the nations, the horns. When antichrist and all his hordes surround Jerusalem, there will be some nations, at least, who will favor God's people. In the 25th chapter of Matthew we read the story of the judgment of the nations. In this statement, Christ who has come down to the earth in His Second Advent will separate the nations as a shepherd separateth the sheep from the goats.
At that time the nations who refused to succor Israel but the rather fought against her will be stricken. Following the final Armageddon and Christ's Coming to the deliverance of His people, it will take six months to bury the dead bodies of the slain. The 19th chapter of the Revelation closes with God's call to the birds of the air to come and feast themselves upon the dead bodies of the slain.
Truly, God's carpenters will fray the nations, which had frayed Israel.
God still watches over His own Who through faith * * * stopped the mouths of lions (Hebrews 11:33 ). It was a tragic night in a Chinese city. The bandits had come, and dangers surrounded the mission compound which sheltered some hundreds of women and children. On the previous night the missionary, Miss Monsen, had been laid low with a very bad attack of malaria, and now the tempter harassed her with questions such as: What will you do when the looters come here? When firing begins on this compound, what about those promises you have been trusting? Miss Monsen turned to the great Conqueror of the hosts of darkness. "Lord, I have been teaching these people all these years that Thy promises are true, and if they fail now, my mouth shall be forever closed; I must go home." All that next night she was up among the frightened refugees, encouraging them to pray and trust God to deliver them. Awful things were happening all around, but the mission compound was untouched. In the morning people from three different neighboring families asked, "Who were those four people, three sitting and one standing, quietly watching from the top of your house all night long?" When told that no one was on the housetop, they refused to believe it, saying, "We saw them with our own eyes!" They were told that God still has His angel guards to protect His children in their hour of need. From Light and Life Evangel.
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Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Neighbour, Robert E. "Wells of Living Water Commentary on Zechariah 1". "Living Water". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent