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CRITICAL NOTES.] The fate of their fathers urged them to obedience, now the promise of future prosperity.
Zechariah 8:2. Jealous] Implying warmth of love and zeal. Fury] Indignation to enemies.
Zechariah 8:3.] Proofs of love. Returned] Jerusalem forsaken when given up to foes; now God resumes abode. Truth] or fidelity, i.e. in which truth and fidelity towards Jehovah have their abode (Isaiah 1:21; Jeremiah 17:17), fully realized under the Messiah.
Zechariah 8:4-5.] No sweeping disease among them; long life one of the greatest blessings of the theocracy; plenty of children playing securely in the streets (contrast Jeremiah 6:11; Jeremiah 9:21).
Zechariah 8:6. Marvellous] These promised blessings seem incredible to the people; but nothing impossible to God.
Zechariah 8:7. East] Lit. rising of the sun. West] Lit. the going down of the sun (cf. Isaiah 50:1). They will be gathered from every region to which they were scattered.
Zechariah 8:8.] The covenant renewed. In truth] On both sides the relation real and sincere (Hosea 2:21-22; Isaiah 48:1; 1 Kings 3:6).
THE RESTORATION OF LOST PURITY.—Zechariah 8:1-3
The prophet had rebuked the people for their formalism and set forth the results of disobedience. Now he assures them of God’s love, and describes the consequences of obedience in restored privileges and restored purity. Their purity is restored—
I. By the manifestation of God. This is the first requirement. Man has wandered from God, sinned so much that he has no disposition to return. The sun must first shine to draw the plant. Grace must first work to dispose the heart. Men can never convert themselves; they have fallen, but God alone can raise them again. “Turn thou us unto thee, O Lord, and we shall be turned.”
II. By reconciliation to God. God can never dwell with wickedness. When Jerusalem was in the hands of enemies God forsook the temple. Only when we forsake sin and return to God—when reconciled to him—do we secure the aid of his grace and Spirit to purify us. Conversion leads to renovation and holiness of character. “Do thou give us the grace of conversion and amendment,” says W. Lowth, “and then thou wilt remove thy heavy judgments, and restore us to that happiness and prosperity which we formerly enjoyed.”
III. By consecration to God. When God returned to Zion it became “a city of truth.” It became what it had been before, the city which God had “chosen to put his name there.” Hence—
1. The city was holy. “The holy mountain.” Holy as the residence of Jehovah and the object of devout veneration. True worship and spiritual blessings were restored. “The name of the city from that day shall be, The Lord is there.”
2. The people were truthful. Their attachment to God sincere and not hypocritical; their love to man not in word, but in deed and of a truth. The proof of real conversion is not in partial, outward reform, but in devotion to God and growth in holiness founded upon truth. As God is righteous and holy, those who enjoy his favour must partake of these qualities. “The new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.”
GOD’S LOVE AND ITS WONDERFUL DISPLAYS.—Zechariah 8:1-8
The Jews are encouraged in distrust by the affection of God for them. He was jealous as a husband or loving father; he loved most earnestly, most constantly, and out of free love bestowed upon them the blessings here mentioned.
I. It is revealed by the authority of his word. “Again the word of the Lord of hosts came.” In the former chapter we have reproof, in this encouragement, lest his people should despair. Times of adversity and reproof dishearten, hide the love of God, like clouds before the sun. But God repeats former messages, gives Scripture comforts, and reminds us of past deliverances. “I was jealous for her with great fury.”
II. It is displayed in the manifestation of his presence. “I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.” Ezekiel saw the glory of God depart from the sanctuary, and pictured the consequences in the conquest, bondage, and exile of Israel. But return is the pledge of his love and the path to pre-eminence. God’s presence is heaven and its bliss; “the river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God.” “As a countenance is made beautiful by the soul’s shining through it, so the world is beautiful by the shining through it of God” [Jacobi].
III. It is proved in abundant blessings. Manifold are the blessings here promised.
1. The Jews should be restored to their own city (Zechariah 8:7). From east and west, from every nation, would they be redeemed. Their distance and weakness would be no barrier to Divine power.
2. Spiritual privileges would be regained. (a) The covenant would be renewed. God would be their God, and they would be his people. (b) God’s presence would be given. He would dwell in their midst, (c) Divine worship would be restored. Jerusalem would be holy, and idolatry and falsehood would eventually cease. The mount, the temple, the mercy-seat, and all the memorials of God’s mercy would enhance their joy and privilege.
3. Temporal prosperity would be given. When God in covenant grace takes away sin, he takes away sorrow. (a) Long life and freedom from disease. Men and women would live to an advanced age. (b) Outward peace and security. The streets would be full of children playing in fearlessness and joy. Age sat resting the weight of years on its supporting staff, yet looking fresh and happy. Youth enjoyed its cheerful sports without the stern reproof or the angry growl. The sports of childhood and the benefits of old age are contrasted with the days of sin (Jeremiah 9:21; Jeremiah 6:11) and the purpose of God. “As the days of a tree are the days of my people, and mine elect shall long enjoy the work of their hands.”
GOD’S WORKS GREATER THAN MAN’S CONCEPTION OF THEM.—Zechariah 8:6
The promises just made seemed improbable, morally impossible to the Jews in their present condition. But God encourages faith by reminding them that what seemed incredible to them was possible to him. Learn—
I. Men stagger at the greatness of God’s promises. “If it be marvellous” to you, something distinct and prominent from common events. The doings of God, by reason of his infinite greatness and goodness, are beyond anticipation, past belief.
1. His people are few. “A remnant” of what was once a great nation. Will he interfere on their behalf?
2. The times seem unlikely. “In these days” of infidelity, oppression, and sorrow.
3. We doubt his word. “These things are too good to be true.” They can never be realized in our experience.
4. We measure God by ourselves. We cannot act, therefore God cannot perform his promises. They appear against the course of nature and the laws of worldly policy. Thus do we sin against God and wrong ourselves by measuring his power and purpose by human standards. Be “fully persuaded that what God had promised he was able also to perform.”
II. God’s promises are not too great for him to perform. “Should it also be marvellous in mine eyes, saith the Lord of hosts?”
1. His love indicates this. It is unchangeable and never offers what he will not give. He forgives, and forgives abundantly. In daily life and Christian experience he works far more exceeding abundantly above all we can ask or think.
2. His power proves it. “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Many things with man are impossible, but “with God all things are possible.” Beware of profanity and unbelief (2 Kings 7:2). Look to God in all things to increase faith and secure comfort. “I know that thou canst do everything” (Job 42:2).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Zechariah 8:1. The word came. The first (Zechariah 8:1-17) declaring the reversal of the former judgments, and the complete though conditional restoration of God’s favour; the second (Zechariah 8:18-23) containing the answer to the original question as to those facts in the declaration of the joy and the spread of the gospel. The first has, again, a sevenfold, the second a threefold, subordinate division, marked by the beginning, Thus saith the Lord of hosts [Pusey].
Zechariah 8:2. Divine jealousy.
1. Its nature. “Great jealousy” to love men and hate their sins.
2. Its object. “Jealous for Zion.” Though he punishes yet he loves. “The Lord will be jealous for his land, and pity his people.”
Zechariah 8:3. Returned. The departure of God a curse, and the return of God a blessing to a people. God’s presence in ordinances and God’s favour in providences.
Zechariah 8:4-5. A delightful scene.
1. Boys and girls playing in the streets.
2. Aged men and women watching them. “The sports of childhood—innocent sports in their own nature, of course—are the very instincts of that period of life; and they have here the sanction of a benevolent God, being a part of his promised blessing to his favoured city. Who would like to be the man or the woman the sight of whom frightened such a group?” [Wardlaw]. Great blessings.
2. Peace and security.
3. Real enjoyments. “Thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel.”
Zechariah 8:6. Marvellous.
1. A great salvation.
2. Accomplished with (a) ease and (b) certainty, yet—
3. Doubted by an incredulous people. “Strange that, among a people who had amongst them the records of all the ‘mighty deeds’ done for them by the finger of Jehovah in the days of their fathers, there should have existed the slightest surmise of impossibility, or even of difficulty, in regard to any assurance of good coming from him. On many occasions was the incredulity, both of individuals in what regarded themselves, and of the community in what regarded the public interests, met with a similar rebuke” [Wardlaw].
Zechariah 8:7-8. Israel’s restoration.
1. They shall be gathered together into the kingdom of God. “Not to the earthly Jerusalem, that not large enough for Jews scattered throughout all the world, but to the open and enlarged Jerusalem in ch. Zechariah 2:8, i.e. the Messianic kingdom of God” [Keil].
2. They shall become God’s people, and God will again become their God.
3. This new relation shall not be as the past; a new feature is given by which the future will be distinguished “in truth and righteousness.” A father may chastise a son for disobedience, put him into temporary seclusion and disgrace, and then restore him. God will never disown his relation to Israel, but eventually bless them more than ever in Christ.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Zechariah 8:1-2. Jealous. Love often re-illumines his extinguished flame at the torch of jealousy [Lady Blessington]. Jealousy is always born with love, but does not always die with it [Rochefoucauld].
Zechariah 8:3. City of truth. Justice is the idea of God, the ideal of man, the rule of conduct writ in the nature of mankind [Theodore Parker]. Great is truth and mighty above all things (Esd. 4:51).
Zechariah 8:4-5. Here is a fine picture. The scene is the streets of Jerusalem. For it is clear that in this connexion, the word rendered “dwell” is decidedly to be understood as meaning “sit.” Longevity, when in any country it is found on a more than ordinary average, is a proof of a healthful and prosperous condition of society; and although I am satisfied that some passages of Scripture which have been interpreted of personal longevity have reference rather to the long-continued national possession of the land of promise; yet that longevity is included amongst the promises of temporal blessing and well-being, there can be little doubt. “Thou shalt see thy children’s children, and peace upon Israel,” is one of not a few similar assurances. The state described is one of peace and tranquil security [Wardlaw].
Zechariah 8:6. Marvellous. The man who cannot wonder, who does not habitually wonder and worship, were he president of innumerable royal societies, is but a pair of spectacles behind which there is no eye [Carlyle].
“Wonder is involuntary praise” [Young].
Zechariah 8:8. In truth. God’s relation sustained from the time of having chosen them had been always thus characterized. Not so theirs. They called God their God, and themselves his people; while too often it was neither “in truth” nor “in righteousness;” but when their hearts and lives gave the lie to their lips; when they flagrantly played the hypocrite, and defrauded him of his due, both in inward devotion and in outward service. Let us see that our professions are sincere—that our hearts are steadfast [Wardlaw].
Zechariah 8:9.] Adversity followed neglect of duty, now blessings promised to create courage. Hands] With such bright prospects be energetic and active (2 Samuel 16:21). These words] of consolation and encouragement from Haggai and Zechariah.
Zechariah 8:10.] A reason for courage in work. No hire] The labour of man and beast little or nothing; agricultural results meagre (cf. Haggai 1:6; Haggai 1:9-11; Haggai 2:16-19). Neither peace] None free from the enemy in the ordinary pursuits of life; intestine broils and contentions prevailed everywhere.
Zechariah 8:11. Now] a vivid contrast, blessings for obedience in building the temple.
Zechariah 8:12. Seed] will be healthy and not fail to yield abundance (Hosea 2:21-22). Dew] beneficial, especially in hot climates, where rain is scarce. “Future abundance will compensate for the drought and scarcity of the past” [Jerome].
Zechariah 8:13.] All the blessings summed up in this verse. “The formula, to be a curse among the nations, is to be interpreted according to Jeremiah 24:9; Jeremiah 25:9; Jeremiah 42:18; 2 Kings 22:19, as equivalent to being the object of a curse, i.e. so smitten by God as to serve as the object of curses. In harmony with this, the phrase to “become a blessing” is equivalent to being so blessed as to be used as a benedictory formula (cf. Genesis 48:22; Jeremiah 29:22). “This promise is made to the remnant of Judah and Israel, and therefore of all the twelve tribes, who are to become partakers of the future salvationin undivided unity (cf. ch. Zechariah 9:10; Zechariah 9:13; Zechariah 10:6; Zechariah 11:14)” [Keil]. “The ground upon which this promise rests is given in Zechariah 8:14-15, and it is closed in Zechariah 8:16-17 by the addition of the condition upon which it is fulfilled.”
Zechariah 8:14. Repented not] Just as the threatening did not fail, neither shall the promise.
COURAGE IN DUTY.—Zechariah 8:9-15
The prophet now urges the people to be courageous in their work. Adversity formerly attended them for neglect of duty, but God will henceforth bestow blessings, which are but the earnest of greater ones which await those who return to God. The grounds for courage are distinctly given.
I. The words of the prophets. “Ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets.” Ever since they had commenced to build God had exhorted them in their work and assured them that it would be finished. Special messengers sent to stir us up and predict success ought to encourage. It is a privilege to hear the prophets, and a sure way to prosperity to believe them (2 Chronicles 20:20).
II. The prospect of better days. Before, they were hindered in their work; man and beast laboured in vain. But bright is the future if they will be strong.
1. Great rewards for labour. “There was no hire for man, nor hire for beast.” Produce was expected, waited for, but came not (Haggai 1:10). “Man must be disappointed with the lesser things of life before he can comprehend the full value of the greater” [Bulwer Lytton].
2. Abundant temporal prosperity. The seed will be healthy and the harvests fruitful. The earth will give its increase and the heaven its dew. No failure nor famine, no poverty nor distress. There will be seed to the sower and bread to the eater.
3. Entire security from foes. Neither discord within nor invasion without will disturb their peace and security. They will dwell together in unity and labour without fear. Their disposition will be peaceful and their country secure. “Peace is rarely denied to the peaceful” [Schiller].
4. Complete reversal of fortunes. “I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days.” If we return to duty God will visit us in favour. The curse shall be turned into a blessing, and we shall be saved from dispersion and dishonour. God will dwell with us without fear and reproach. “I know the thoughts that I think towards you, saith the Lord; thoughts of peace, and not of evil.”
III. The pledge of God’s help. “Again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem.” God had determined, purposed to help.
1. God’s word is explicit. “Fear not,” “let your hands he strong.” Fear makes the heart faint, and when the heart is feeble the hands can never be strong. When the spirit is timid and irresolute we have neither energy in body nor mind to work. Confidence will brace up the energies, and the joy of the Lord will be our strength.
2. God’s faithfulness is unchangeable. His word was true to the fathers. He “repented not.” If faithful to his threatenings, will he not be to his promises? Punishment long suspended came at length. Those who would not hear were made to feel that God’s denunciations were not empty words. So “all that God is, and all that God has, are alike pledged in the promises of his covenant,” says Wardlaw, “to do good to his confiding and obedient people.” “Hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?”
PAST AND PRESENT, OR ONCE A CURSE AND NOW A BLESSING.—Zechariah 8:13
These words apply to all the tribes of Israel—have been partially fulfilled. For generations Jews have been cursed by all people, but a more glorious accomplishment will be in the future. They might be taken literally, but apply them in another sense.
I. God’s people have once been a curse.
1. When unconverted. many were a curse in their influence and example. Their lives, if not openly wicked, were a hindrance to everything good. “One sinner destroyeth much good.”
2. When chastised by God they were in a sense cursed. From the first a curse and a blessing were set before Israel, and the result was according to their choice (Deuteronomy 11:26; Deuteronomy 30:1). But God’s people disobey, and are corrected by sufferings.
3. When persecuted they are cursed. They are ridiculed for their profession, and often become a by-word and a proverb (Jeremiah 24:9). They are thought to be “stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.” “Thou makest us a reproach to our neighbours, a scorn and a derision to them that are round about us” (Psalms 44:13-14).
II. God’s people are now a blessing. “Ye shall be a blessing.”
1. They are blessed in their own experience. They are renewed and forgiven. They enjoy the presence and the favour of God. “And such were some of you; but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.”
2. They are the means of blessing others. In their influence and example, prayers and efforts, good men are a blessing. As the Jew was a source of blessing to the Gentile, so is the Christian to the world. “I will bless thee and make thy name great, and thou shalt be a blessing.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
1. The privilege. Hearing the words of the prophets.
2. The duty. “Let your hands be strong.” “Those only who are employed for God may expect to be encouraged by him; those who lay their hands to the plough of duty shall have them strengthened with the promises of mercy.”
1. Those who neglect God’s work will not always succeed in their own. “There was no hire for man.” Neither can they always expect peace and prosperity. “There was no peace to him that went out.”
2. Outward troubles and civil discord may be judgments from God, in which his hand should be specially recognized. “I set all men,” &c. God’s holy hand hath a special stroke in the Church’s afflictions, whosoever be the instrument. Herein is all-disposing Providence not only permissive, but active. “I make peace and create evil,” that is, war and contention (Isaiah 45:7), which is called evil by a speciality, as including all evils. This God doth—
1. By letting loose Satan upon them (that great kindle-coal and make-bate of the world) to raise jealousies, heart-burnings, and discontents between them.
2. By giving them up to the lusts and corruptions of their own wicked hearts.
3. By giving occasions of enraging them more and more one against another [Trapp].
Zechariah 8:11. I will cause. Whereas people are apt to attribute too much to means and second causes of plenty and prosperity, God assumes the honour of all to himself. Rain and fruitful seasons are his gift (Acts 14:17). He resolveth the genealogy of corn and wine unto himself (Hosea 2:22); and both here and elsewhere he giveth us to know that the reward of religion is abundance of outward blessings, which yet are not always entailed to godliness, to the end that it may be admired for itself, and not for these transitory trappings [Trapp].
Zechariah 8:14-15. Past sorrows pledges of future good. How?
1. Because past sorrows inflicted to prevent future evil.
2. Because past sorrows prove God’s unchangeable purpose and love. “So have I turned and purposed,” &c. “The illustrations of God’s severity will be surpassed by those of his goodness” [Lange]. His chastisements were the earnest of his mercies, for they too were an austere form of his love [Pusey].
1. Grounds of apprehension.
2. Grounds of confidence.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Zechariah 8:9. Strong.
“Fear is the virtue of slaves: but the heart that loveth is willing” [Longfellow].
Zechariah 8:10-12. Fruit. Interesting and lovely as the green fields in their luxuriant riches must ever be, to the eye of faith and devotion they are even more so. Did we accustom ourselves to associate with their beauty the superintending providence of God, as well as the subordinate art and labour of man, they would possess an interest and a loveliness which the mere lover of nature never knew. The sweetest landscape is improved by the presence of animated objects, which impart a liveliness, an interest, as it were, an existence, to the whole. What increased force and interest are added to it by the presence, so to speak, of the living God [Palin].
Zechariah 8:13. Curse.
“A curse is like a cloud,—it passes” [Bailey].
Zechariah 8:14-15. Do well. God is goodness itself; and whatsoever is good is of him [Sir P. Sidney]. God has been pleased to prescribe limits to his own power, and to work his ends within these limits [Paley].
Zechariah 8:16.] Just as in ch. Zechariah 7:9-10, first positive (Zechariah 8:16), then negative (Zechariah 8:17). Judge] truly and promote peace. Gates] Places of administering justice.
Zechariah 8:17. Hate] Lit. emphatic. “They are all these things which I hate;” i.e. the sum of what I hate; for they comprise the breaches of the two tables [cf. Pusey].
MORAL CONDITIONS OF PROSPERITY.—Zechariah 8:16-17
These verses contain a virtual and instructive reply to the question relative to the celebration of the fast (chap. Zechariah 7:3). It was not in such merely external, ritual, or ceremonial observances, that Jehovah delighted; but in the love and practice of moral rectitude [Hend.]. In Zechariah 8:14-15 we have the grounds upon which God’s promise rests; here, the conditions upon which it will be fulfilled. There are two aspects of duty as essential to prosperity.
I. Sympathy with our fellow-creatures. We are forbidden—
1. To act evil “Execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates.” Nothing must be done in partiality, violence, and passion. In public administration and private inter course we must allay feuds and seek peace.
2. To speak evil. “Speak ye every man the truth.” (a) In social intercourse. “To his neighbour.” (b) In public courts. “Love no false oath.” “Truth is the band of union, and the basis of human happiness. Without this virtue there is no reliance upon language, no confidence in friendship, no security in promises and oaths” [Jeremy Collier].
3. To think evil. “Let none of you imagine evil in your hearts.” All evil springs from the thoughts. The most secret sins and the most grievous acts begin there. “To think well,” says Paley, “is the way to act well.” “The thoughts of the righteous are right” (Proverbs 12:5).
II. Moral conformity to God. “All these things” forbidden, are evils which God hates, and will punish. Therefore we should hate and avoid them also; shun them, not for the sake of policy, nor propriety, but as offensive to God. Men are seeking to substitute philanthropy for piety; “the claims of humanity” fur the worship of God. But Scripture and experience prove that there can be no true and permanent love to man, which is not the offspring of love to God. The test of our character and the degree of our prosperity will be according to our conformity to God. If we love what he loves, and hate what he hates, we shall bear his image and become his children. “For love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God and knoweth God.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Zechariah 8:16-17. I hate. Men resemble the gods in nothing so much as in doing good to their fellow-creatures [Cicero]. Every day should be distinguished by at least one particular act of love [Lavater].
Zechariah 8:18-19.] An answer to question (ch. Zechariah 7:3). Fasts] shall be turned into Feasts] of joy and gladness. Love] Live in harmony among yourselves as the result: others as the only condition of blessing.
FASTS TURNED INTO FESTIVE JOY.—Zechariah 8:18-19
These words are fresh grounds for encouragement.
I. Their mourning will be turned into gladness. Their seasons of sorrow and penitential confession should end in feasting and praise. They would be delivered from foreign yoke, and brought back to their own land; restored from spiritual desolation to the privileges of the temple. Personally and socially, joy and gladness would be great. Troublous times often end in joyous songs to the Church. After the night of weeping, the morning dawns in light and cheerfulness. “They shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.”
II. This gladness will lead to sincerity of life. “Therefore, love the truth and peace.” God blesses his people, that they may love him. The greater his promises, the greater should be our obedience. Fasts and feasts are empty forms. God requires truth in our life, and peace in our hearts. “What doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?”
“Truth is always straightforward” [Sophocles].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Zechariah 8:19. Mark the practical improvement. “Therefore, love the truth and peace.” The words may be taken in two senses: First, as an appeal to gratitude, as if Jehovah had said, “You owe your deliverance to me.” You deserved it not. You never could have wrought it for yourselves. It is all my doing. If, therefore, you feel as you ought; thankful to your covenant God for my interposing on your behalf, think of my will, and henceforward attend to what you know will be pleasing in my sight: “love the truth and peace.” Secondly, as an appeal to self-love—an appeal grounded on a regard to their own interests: as if he had said, “You have been suffering for your own and your fathers’ sins. You have been delivered. If you would shun a repetition of the sufferings—if you would continue in possession of your now restored land and liberty, and temporal and spiritual blessings—‘love the truth and peace.’ Love them in heart: show love to them in practice. It is thus only that you can retain my favour and blessing; thus only that your days can be prolonged upon the land which the Lord your God has again given you” [Wardlaw].
Truth and peace, twin virtues. Observe—
1. Their connection. Truth should be sought, maintained, and diffused in a peaceful spirit.
2. Their order. Truth first, and then peace. Trust must not be compromised for the sake of peace. It is not peace on any terms. “If it be possible (it may not be so always), as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.”
“Truth hath a quiet breast” [Shakspeare].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Zechariah 8:19. Joy. What is joy? A sunbeam between two clouds [Madame Deluzy]. Joy never feasts so high, as when the first course is of misery [Suckling].
Zechariah 8:20. Yet] Emphatic. People] shall be attracted to God’s house.
Zechariah 8:21. Saying] Mutually appealing to one another. Speedily] Lit. go, going, implying intense earnestness and determination. I also] Prompt response.
Zechariah 8:22. Many] in contrast to a few and weak Jews now engaged in God’s work.
Zechariah 8:23. Ten] A definite for an indefinite number; denoting a great and complete multitude (Genesis 31:7; Leviticus 26:26; Numbers 14:22). For the figure cf. Isaiah 4:1. Converts from among the Gentiles shall be as ten to one Jew. All languages] i.e. of nations of all languages. Take hold] A gesture of entreaty for help and protection (Isaiah 3:6; 1 Samuel 15:32). With you] An effect often produced upon unbelievers when entering the assemblies of Christians (1 Corinthians 14:25). Primarily produced on the nations who witnessed the deliverance by Cyrus; finally, that to be produced by the future grand interposition of Messiah on behalf of his people [cf. Fausset].
THE FUTURE PROSPERITY OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.—Zechariah 8:20-23
The ordinary reference of these words is to Gospel times, and, in part, to the Gospel dispensation of the future. They express the obligations to be felt and owned by the whole world—by “men of every kindred, and people, and nation, and tongue”—to the Jews, for the knowledge, the worship, and the practice of true religion [cf. Wardlaw]. The text contains a wonderful description of future prosperity to the Church of God.
I. Multitudes will be converted to God. “Many people and strong nations shall come.” The few and feeble Jews shall increase into a mighty nation. “Many shall come from the east and the west, from the north and the south.” Bigotry says few. Modern Scribes and Pharisees say few; but God says many. Every fresh conversion shall win others, until “all nations flow” into God’s kingdom.
II. Multitudes will be converted to God by the instrumentality of the Jews. “Ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations of the skirt of him that is a Jew.”
1. Nations shall feel indebted to the Jews. Their outward polity has decayed, and they have been scattered and despised for centuries; but the world will yet own its obligation to them. Other nations have given science and art, government and laws; but to the Jews are we indebted for a knowledge of God, and the preservation of his Word. “What advantage then hath the Jew? Much every way; chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God” (cf. Romans 3:2; Romans 9:4-5).
2. Nations shall discern that God is with the Jews. “For we have heard that God is with you.” God has not cast off his ancient people, but still watches over them. The report of his deeds among them shall spread. They shall be gathered and honoured, and other nations will be anxious to participate in their blessings. All people shall yet testify in their favour. “Their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people; all they that see them shall acknowledge them that they are the seed which the Lord hath blessed.”
A CALL TO GOD’S HOUSE.—Zechariah 8:21-22
Take Jerusalem here literally or spiritually, the words may be regarded as a call to Christian worship. God has put his name in his house. It shall be attractive to all sincere believers, and in whatever place they reside they shall come to the great festivals of the future.
I. The purpose for which they come. Not to play nor pass away the time; not for any secular, but a spiritual end.
1. They go to pray before the Lord. Prayer is the language of dependence and entreaty. Men feel that nothing can satisfy but God—are led to give up every kind of idolatry and come to him, believing that he will hear prayer. Prayer is most important, and most necessary, yet meetings for united prayer are neglected. If the spirit of prayer be not with a people, there can be no life and unity.
2. They go to seek the Lord. God preeminently displays grace and glory in his house. True worshippers covet his favour, and long for his fellowship. They regard God in everything. They earnestly seek to behold his power and glory in his sanctuary (Psalms 63:2). Through the veil of ceremonies they look to the Invisible One. “This is the generation of those that seek him.”
II. The method in which they come. “Many people and strong nations,” &c.
1. In great numbers. At present the ways of Zion mourn. Few attend the house of God, and like sparrows are alone upon the house-top. As in ancient times, Jews went from village to village, gathering numbers and singing hymns as they journeyed on, until all appeared in Zion before God: so shall multitudes say, “Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob” (Isaiah 2:3).
2. In great variety. “The inhabitants of many cities.” Country and townspeople, merchants and mechanics, masters and servants, shall come. “Men out of all languages of the nations”—the Mahomedan and the Turk, the Hindoo and the Hottentot, Greek and Jew, shall yet meet together in the house of God.
III. The spirit in which they come.
1. A spirit of mutual excitement. The inhabitants of one city go to another. They do not invite those whom they accidentally meet on the way, nor do they wait for the minister and the missionary to do their work. They go to the negligent—perhaps at some sacrifice and inconvenience—and stir one another up. This is needful now. Frivolous are the excuses, and unjustifiable the causes, which keep men from the house of God.
2. A spirit of personal resolve. “I will go also,” was the response of each when invited. Many excuse; they have no time, no clothes, and you must call again. But others are only waiting for an invitation. Let us all resolve with Nehemiah and his friends: “We will not forsake the house of our God.”
3. A spirit of earnestness. “Let us go speedily.” (a) Go with heartiness. Put heart and feeling into your work. Angels are like flaming fire in their service. We are dull and half-asleep. (b) Go withtout delay. Many delay and never go. They never begin to pray, till God has ceased to hear. Let all attend and take others to the house of God—pray that God would revive his work, and bless our souls. “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord. Our feet shall stand within thy gates, O Jerusalem.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Zechariah 8:20-21. Characteristics of a genuine revival.
1. A general interest in the house of God.
2. A mutual concern for each other’s welfare.
3. An earnest resolve for individual duty; and
4. A great accession to the Christian Church.
The inhabitants, &c. They shall not be satisfied with their own salvation, careless about the salvation of others; they shall employ all labour and industry, with wondrous love, to provide for the salvation of others as if it were their own It is a marvellous stirring of minds [Pusey]. Learn also—
1. That those who know God will seek to bring others to know him.
2. That mutual stirring up to duty is a means of increase to the Church. 3. That in this work we should not be discouraged.
(1) Sad times should not blot out remembrance of the Church’s charter and future privileges.
(2) Personal sacrifices should not tire nor dishearten us. Indifference and lukewarmness are out of place. We must be active and constant in the work. “Let us go speedily.”
I will go also. I. The object of the awakened sinner. To seek God. II. The means of accomplishing this object.
(1) Attendance in sanctuary.
(2) Prayer. III. The influence of example in pursuing this object. Inciting others. Individual example connected with general exhortation.
Zechariah 8:23. A revived people.
1. Blessed with God’s presence.
2. Instrumental in the conversion of others.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 8
Zechariah 8:20-22. Pray. The gracious God is pleased to esteem it his glory to have many beggars thronging at the beautiful gate of his temple, for spiritual and corporal alms. What an honour it is to our Great Landlord that multitudes of tenants flock together to his house to pay their rent of thanks and worship for all which they hold of him! How loud and lovely is the noise of many golden trumpets! Good Lord, what an echo do they make in heaven’s ears! When many skilful musicians play in concert with well-tuned and prepared instruments, the music cannot but be ravishing to God himself [George Swinnock].
Zechariah 8:23. Skirt. This is a simple and striking expression. We have seen a dear little infant, when he wished to engage the attention of his mother, pulling her by the clothes. When a child has been walking along with his father, and afraid that he would leave him, he not only cries but lays hold of his coat. When the cripple had been healed at the beautiful gate of the temple, he held Peter and John, and was afraid to let them go (probably dreading a return of his former misery), as much as to say, “You shall not go, and if you do I will go with you, and you shall draw me after you.” Just so is it here. It shows conviction, attachment, eager attention, a wishing to be among them and of them [Jay].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Zechariah 8". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 7 / Ordinary 12