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Bible Commentaries

Simeon's Horae Homileticae

Zechariah 2

Verse 5

DISCOURSE: 1240
GOD THE PROTECTION AND GLORY OF HIS PEOPLE

Zechariah 2:5. I, saith the Lord, will he unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.

IF some of the prophecies of Zechariah be dark and intricate, some are peculiarly clear. Such is that in the close of the preceding chapter, respecting “four horns, and four carpenters;”—“the horns” denoting the enemies who had scattered Israel; and “the carpenters,” those whom God would raise up for their restoration and protection. To the same effect is the vision of “a man with a measuring-line, going forth to measure Jerusalem;” in order that the city might be re-constructed on its former site, and be of the dimensions which God had previously ordained. As the former vision denoted the removal of all obstacles to this work, this marked its speedy and well-ordered accomplishment. But, as enemies had prevailed against the city before, so, it was feared, they might again: God therefore promises, that, though walls should be constructed, such should be the concourse of people to Jerusalem, that multitudes should live without the walls: yet should they be safe from every enemy, because God himself would be to them both a wall of fire for their protection, and the glory in the midst of them for their honour. What he had been to Israel when coming out of Egypt, that he would be to them again.

But, as the prophecy before us admits of a general application, I shall consider it,

I.

In reference to the Jewish Church—

Respecting that, at the time the prophecy was delivered, it must be understood, in the first place—
[The Jews, after their restoration, were impeded in their endeavours to rebuild their city and temple; and it seemed as if they would never be able to accomplish it. But God promised that their enemies should not be able finally to prevail; for that he himself would be an effectual protection to them; not only as a wall which might keep off their assailants, but as “a wall of fire,” that should devour them: and that his worship should be re-established among them, as in former days; so that they should again, as they had formerly been, become the joy and glory of the whole earth. Through the energy with which the people were inspired, they rebuilt the wall with incredible speed [Note: See Nehemiah 4:7-8; Nehemiah 4:13-18; Nehemiah 6:15.]: and the temple itself also, after many hindrances, was raised; and in some respects, especially by the presence of the Messiah himself in it, the glory of it was made to exceed even that of the former house [Note: Haggai 2:9.].]

But it has a further reference to that Church in the latter-days—
[Their future restoration will be opposed with far greater vehemence and malignity than it was after the Babylonish captivity. Great and mighty nations will come against them, to destroy them [Note: Ezekiel 38:14-16.]. But then will God be a wall of fire round about them; and not only will he protect them effectually, but he will spread such desolation amongst their enemies as has never yet been heard of, from the foundation of the world. When Pharaoh pursued them, God made the Red Sea a wall for their defence, and by that swallowed up all the hosts of Egypt: but when God and Magog shall come up against them, such shall be the extent of the victories that, shall be gained by Israel, that the weapons with which they have been assailed, shall suffice for fire-wood in the whole land, for the space of seven years; and it shall occupy the whole people of the land seven months to bury the slain [Note: Ezekiel 39:8-13.].

And how exalted shall be the piety of that Church in the latter day, the Prophet Isaiah very fully describes. The 60th chapter of his prophecies is generally understood as referring to the Gentiles: but, beyond all doubt, it relates primarily to the Jewish Church; which will then be so glorious, by reason of God’s presence with her, that no earthly distinction can augment her glory: “The sun shall be no more thy light by day; neither for brightness shall the moon give light unto thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee an everlasting light, and thy God thy glory [Note: Isaiah 60:19.].”]

But the text may he understood also,

II.

In reference to the Church of God in all ages—

To the Church at large, and to every individual in it, God promises,

1.

The protection of his providence—

[Wonderfully was the Church of Christ preserved in the first ages of its establishment. What but Omnipotence could have kept it, amidst all the assaults which it had to endure on every side? But God had said, that “the gates of hell should not prevail against it:” and it yet exists, a monument of his Almighty power. And what is every individual believer, but a spark kept alive in the midst of the ocean? Verily, if “He who dwelt in the bush,” which, though burning, was not consumed, had not dwelt in us, we must all have been consumed long ago. But the mercy vouchsafed to the Prophet Elisha has been renewed to us; yea, and is renewed at this very moment, if we had but eyes to see it. There are chariots of fire, and horses of fire, round about us: and it is through their incessant and effectual interposition that no enemy has been able to prevail against us. There is not one of us that is not a witness for God, in this behalf.]

2.

The blessings of his grace—

[What glory was seen in the Church on the day of Pentecost! That out-pouring of the Spirit, by which such miraculous effects were instantaneously produced, and so many souls converted unto God, when was any thing like it seen, from the foundation of the world? Such extraordinary manifestations of the Divine glory have, indeed, long since ceased in the Church: but is not God yet present with us? Yes, he is present, as he has said: “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the world.” Wherever his Gospel is preached with fidelity, there may the lighting down of his arm be seen; there are sinners quickened from their death in trespasses and sins, and enabled to live unto their God in righteousness and true holiness. And are there none here present who can bear witness to this truth? Yes, brethren, I bless God that there are those amongst you who can bear witness that God is with his Church: and that his word is still, as formerly, the power of God unto salvation! Nor is it only by the manifestations of his love to your souls that God is seen: he has raised up from amongst you, I trust, many who, by making their light to shine before men, constrain even the ungodly world to glorify him. His people are yet “lights shining in a dark world,” and “cities set on a hill.” They are still, as heretofore, “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men:” and “God is glorified in them,” as he is not in the whole world besides.
How he shall be seen, admired, and glorified in them at the last day, when the whole number of his elect shall be assembled before his throne, every one shining forth in his Saviour’s image, I forbear to say. But, in a measure, that time is already commenced; and we enjoy even now, in our better moments, the dawn of that bright and blessed day.]

As an improvement of our subject, let us contemplate,
1.

What reason we have for thankfulness in the review of the past—

[As, at the rebuilding of Jerusalem, enemies arose to obstruct its progress, so, in every place where a Church is erected for the Lord, are enemies without number ready to destroy it. The same I may say respecting every soul that sets himself to seek the Lord. Where shall we find one who has not many difficulties to contend with; and that too, not only from avowed enemies, but from professed friends. But here we are, this day, monuments of God’s tender care; and, I would hope too, of his effectual grace. Let us not overlook this great transcendent mercy. Let us remember to whom alone we are indebted, if we have not long since fallen by the devices of our great adversary, and made shipwreck of our faith: and let us give glory to God, as a faithful and promise-keeping God.]

2.

What ground we have of hope, prospectively, in the time to come—

[“The name of the Lord is a strong tower; to which, if we run, we shall be safe.” Let no confederacy then, of men or devils, alarm us. “Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.”Our enemies may be mighty; but our Friend is Almighty. He can do every thing for us, and every thing in us. Only let us look to Him, and rely on Him, and “no weapon that is formed against us shall ever prosper.”]


Verse 8

DISCOURSE: 1241
GOD’S SYMPATHY WITH HIS PEOPLE

Zechariah 2:8. He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.

GOD makes use of the wicked as his rod, wherewith to chastise his own children. But while he accomplishes his own gracious ends with respect to them, he is not indifferent to the conduct of his agents, who unwittingly fulfil his will; he notices their motives, and will call them into judgment for the dispositions they have manifested [Note: Isaiah 10:5-7; Isaiah 10:12.]: and because they exceed their commission, and seek the destruction, rather than the benefit, of his people, he will vindicate the cause of the oppressed, and recompense upon their own heads the wickedness of their oppressors [Note: Isaiah 47:6-9.]. This assurance the prophet gave to those who yet remained in Babylon after that the greater part of the captive Jews had returned to Jerusalem: he exhorted them instantly to come forth from that wicked city; for that God had tenderly sympathized with them in the midst of all his chastisements, and had determined to visit with very signal judgments the Babylonish nation for the needless and excessive severities they had exercised towards them [Note: Zechariah 1:15; Zechariah 2:6-8.].

From these remarkable words we may observe,

I.

God sympathizes with his people in all their troubles—

No terms can more strongly convey this idea than those used in the text—
[The eye is the tenderest part of the whole body; it not only is susceptible of injury from the smallest accident, but it feels most acutely any injury it may sustain. What exquisite concern then must God feel for his people, when their afflictions pierce him in so deep a manner; yea, when even that, which is but as a slight “touch” to them, inflicts on him so severe a wound! Can our imagination conceive a more expressive image, a more astonishing declaration?]
Nor is there any truth more abundantly confirmed in the Holy Scriptures—
[Look we for examples of it? how pitifully did he regard the afflictions of his people in Egypt [Note: Acts 7:34.], and how was “his soul grieved for the misery of Israel” (though they were but ill-deserving of such mercy) when the Ammonites came up to fight against them [Note: Judges 10:16.]! Nor does he sympathize with them under temporal troubles only, but still more under spiritual afflictions. When Ephraim bemoaned his guilty state, how attentively did God listen to his complaints, and how compassionately did his bowels yearn over him [Note: Jeremiah 31:18-20.]! Look we for promises of similar regard? how does God represent himself to us as “the comforter of them that are cast down,” yea, as a “God of all comfort [Note: 2 Corinthians 1:3; 2 Corinthians 7:6.]!” He calls himself the “God that pleadeth the cause of his people [Note: Isaiah 51:22.]:” He assures us that he pitieth them even as a father pitieth his own children [Note: Psalms 103:13.], and he illustrates his compassion by the most tender image that the whole universe affords, even by that of “a mother dandling upon her knee her suckling child,” and striving by all possible methods to soothe and please it [Note: Isaiah 66:12-13.]. Nor is he ever more ready to hear and answer our petitions, than when we plead like the Church of old, “Where is thy zeal, and thy strength, the sounding of thy bowels, and of thy mercies towards me? Are they restrained? doubtless thou art my father, though Abraham be ignorant of me, and Israel acknowledge me not [Note: Isaiah 63:15-16.].”]

This truth, glorious as it is, is far from comprehending the full extent of God’s love to his people; for,

II.

He has communion with them in all their interests—

God considers himself as altogether one with his people—

[There is an union subsisting between him and them; yet not merely such as exists between a husband and wife, or a vine and its branches [Note: Romans 7:4.John 15:1; John 15:1.], but one far closer; for he is the head, and his people are his members [Note: Ephesians 4:15-16.]; he dwelleth in them, and they in him [Note: 1 John 4:12-16.]; he is one with them, and they with him; in short, they are so united, as to be one body [Note: 1 Corinthians 12:12; 1 Corinthians 12:27.], and one spirit, with the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 6:17.]. And when our Lord himself was pleased to illustrate this subject, in order, if possible, to convey to us some adequate idea of it, he set forth the union of the different persons of the Godhead as the truest pattern of that which subsists between himself and his people [Note: John 17:21.].]

Hence he participates in every thing which relates to them—
[Are any of them relieved? he acknowledges the kindness as shewn to him [Note: Matthew 25:40.]. On the other hand, are they despised? he does not scruple to declare, that he will consider himself as the object of that contempt which is poured on them [Note: Luke 10:16.]. We have a memorable example of this in the account which St. Paul gives us of his own conversion: he was going with a commission to Damascus to extirpate, if possible, the Christian name: and, if be bad been asked, Who were the objects of his rage? he would doubtless have branded the Christians with some odious name, and affirmed, that he was treating them as they deserved. Little did he think that the Lord of Glory himself was the person at whom his shafts were hurled. But Jesus stopped him in his mad career, and asked, “Saul, Saul, why persecutes! thou me [Note: Acts 9:4.]?” Thus at this day every thing done to the Lord’s people is done to God himself; or, as the text expresses it, “Whoso toucheth them toucheth the apple of his eye.”]

Nor is his a mere inactive sympathy; for,

III.

He will avenge every injury inflicted on them—

Often has he interposed to rebuke and confound their enemies—
[What signal vengeance did he take on the Egyptians in ten successive plagues, and in the destruction of Pharaoh and all his host in the Red Sea! And with what righteous severity did he command the Israelites to blot out the very remembrance of Amalek from under heaven, on account of the cruel ties they had exercised towards them forty years before [Note: Deuteronomy 25:17-19.]! Nor is it injurious treatment only that God notices, but even a neglect to succour them: he denounceth the bitterest curses against Meroz for refusing to help them, and bestows the highest encomiums on Jael for her exertions in their favour [Note: Judges 5:23-24.]. Indeed the Jews at this hour are a living monument of the indignation which God will manifest against all who hate his Christ, and persecute his people.]

And he will still plead their cause against all that injure them—
[Doubtless “the blood of his saints is as precious to him” as ever. And he accounts his own justice and holiness as pledged to render tribulation unto their persecutors [Note: 2 Thessalonians 1:6.]. Let those who revile and ridicule the Lord’s people well consider this. He makes use of this as an argument why his people should forbear to avenge their own cause, namely, that vengeance will one day be executed on their enemies by himself, and that too in a more equitable and more effectual manner than it could be by an arm of flesh [Note: Romans 12:19.]. Nor will he punish only the positive evils that may be inflicted on them; he will mark also an inattention to their wants, and treat as despisers of himself, those who did not actively administer to their necessities [Note: Matthew 25:41-42.].]

Infer—
1.

How low are our conceptions of God’s love to man!

[How little are any of us able to realize the idea in the text! how little can we comprehend the heights and depths of such unsearchable love! Still is he dealing with us as with his people of old [Note: Deu 32:9-12 and Isaiah 63:9.]. Yet we, like little infants, are almost unconscious of our Father’s love. But O that every heart might “praise the Lord for his goodness, and declare the wonders that he doeth for the children of men!”]

2.

How tender ought to be our concern for God!

[In general we think but little of his honour in the world. But shall he be so mindful of us, and we be forgetful of him? Shall he be so concerned for our welfare, and we be indifferent about his glory [Note: See the conduct of Moses, Exo 32:11-13 and of Joshua, Joshua 7:9.]. Shall not sin, the accursed thing which he hates, be a source of pain and anguish to our minds? Could we see the eye of an earthly parent pierced, and be unconcerned about it? Let “rivers of waters then run down our eyes because men keep not God’s law [Note: Psalms 119:136.].”Let us especially weep over the sins of his professing people [Note: Philippians 3:18.]. And above all, let us lothe and abhor ourselves for all the evils of our hearts and lives. Let us feel, as it becomes us, our obligations to God, and labour to requite his kindness by a suitable deportment. Yes, while we entreat him to “keep us as the apple of his eye [Note: Psalms 17:8.], let us keep his “law as the apple of our eye [Note: Proverbs 7:2.],” and, “whether we eat, or drink, or whatever we do, do all to his glory [Note: 1 Corinthians 10:31.].”]

3.

How strong a motive have we to beneficence!

[If God be so sensible of any injuries we receive, surely he cannot be regardless of any benefits conferred upon us: if he avenge the one, surely he will also reward the other. Nor is this an uncertain deduction of human reason: he himself tells us, that at the last day every kindness that was shewn to us shall be recorded as shewn to himself, and a suitable recompence be awarded for it [Note: Matthew 25:34-35.]; nor shall even a cup of cold water given to one of his disciples lose its reward [Note: Matthew 10:42.]. Shall not then this thought stimulate us to acts of beneficence? Has “Christ so pitied us as to give himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling savour,” and shall not we endeavour to shew love to him [Note: Ephesians 5:1-2.]? Can I, in administering to the poor, relieve him who is my Lord and my God? Can I assist him, who, as my great High Priest, is yet daily and hourly touched with the feeling of all my infirmities [Note: Hebrews 4:15.]? O let no opportunity then be lost; nor let me ever think much of any thing that I can do for such a tender Friend, such an adorable Benefactor!]


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Bibliographical Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Zechariah 2". Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/shh/zechariah-2.html. 1832.