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Zechariah 10:1, Zechariah 10:2
§ 4. A connecting link between the last section and the next. The condition for obtaining the promised blessings is that they are to be sought from the Lord, not from idols.
Ask ye of the Lord rain. The promise of abundance at the end of the last chapter suggests to the prophet to make a special application to the practice of his countrymen. They must put their trust in God alone for the supply of temporal as well as spiritual bounties. The latter rain was due at the time of the vernal equinox, and was necessary in order to swell the maturing grain (comp. Deuteronomy 11:14). The early rain occurred at the autumnal equinox. It was considered as a special manifestation of God's providential care that these periodical rains were received (see Isaiah 30:23; Jeremiah 5:24; Joel 2:23). So the Lord shall make bright clouds; rather, Jehovah maketh the lightnings. Thunderstorms accompany the periodical rains. Ye must ask of him, and ye shall have. Septuagint, Κύριος ἐποίησε φαντασίας," The Lord makes flashes" (of lightning?); Vulgate, Domiaus faciet nives, where the right reading is supposed to be nubes (comp. Psalms 135:7; Job 38:25, Job 38:26). Give them showers of rain. Abundant rain, as Job 37:6. The address is now in the third person. Grass. All vegetable food for man and beast, as in Genesis 1:11, Genesis 1:29; Psalms 104:14; Amos 7:2.
For. The prophet supports his exhortation to pray to Jehovah by showing the worthlessness of trust in idols. Idols; teraphim. What these were is not known for certain. They seem to have been images of human form and sometimes of life size, corresponding in some degree to the lares or penates of the Romans (Genesis 31:19; 1 Samuel 19:13). They were supposed to be capable of bestowing temporal blessings and giving oracles (Judges 17:5; Judges 18:5, Judges 18:24; Ezekiel 21:21). Have spoken vanity. Gave worthless, misleading responses. The mention of teraphim in this passage is thought to indicate a date anterior to the Captivity; but the prophet is speaking of past events, of the results of these base superstitions in former, not present, time. Three kinds of superstition are mentioned. Septuagint, οἱ ἀποφθεγγόμενοι, "speaking" images. These are the first. Secondly come the soothsayers, the diviners, persons who pretended to predict the future (Jeremiah 27:9; Jeremiah 29:8; Ezekiel 21:21; Habukkuk 2:18). Have told false dreams; Vulgate, somniatores locuti sunt frustra; LXX; τὰ ἐνύπνια ψευδῆ ἐλάλουν, "spake false dreams." The Vulgate seems to be correct, "dreams, i.e. dreamers, spake deceit." This is the third class among the practisers of superstitious observances. They comfort in vain, when they promise temporal blessings (Job 21:34). Therefore they went their way as a flock. Because they trusted in these vain superstitions, the Israelites had to leave their own place, were led into exile like a flock of sheep driven away for sale or slaughter (Jeremiah 1:17). They were troubled. They were and are still oppressed by the heathen. Because there was (is) no shepherd. Because they had no king to guard and lead them, they fell under the power of foreign rulers, who ill treated and oppressed them (Ezekiel 34:5; Nehemiah 5:15).
Zechariah 10:3, Zechariah 10:4
§ 5. The evil rulers set over them for their sins shall be removed, and Israel shall be firmly established.
Mine anger was (is) kindled against the shepherds. These heathen rulers were indeed God's instruments in punishing his people, but they had exceeded their commission, and afflicted Israel in order to carry out their own evil designs, and now they themselves shall be chastised. Some commentators raise "the shepherds" to be the rulers of Israel civil and ecclesiastical, comparing Ezekiel 34:2, Ezekiel 34:5, etc. But the context leads us to consider them as those who took the place of rulers of Israel when she had no shepherd of her own (Ezekiel 34:2). I punished (will punish) the goats (bellwethers); literally, will visit upon; i.e. will chastise. The same word (paquad) is used in the next clause in a good sense. The "goats" are the leading men, those powerful for evil, as Isaiah 14:9. Hath visited his flock. The reason why the evil shepherds are punished is because God visits his flock in love and care, to see their state and to relieve them from trouble (Zephaniah 2:7). The house of Judah here includes all the nation, to which it afterwards gave its name. Hath made (shall make) them as his goodly horse. The Israelites shall not only be delivered from oppression, but God shall use them as a stately war horse, richly caparisoned, to tread down enemies and triumph ever them. So he said before (Zechariah 9:13) that he would make Judah his bow and Ephraim his arrow. (For a description of the war horse, see Job 39:19-25; comp. Revelation 6:2; Revelation 19:14, where Christ is represented riding on a white horse, and his saints following him on white horses.)
The firmness and security of Judah, thus "visited," is announced in terms admitting of further application. Out of him came forth (shall come). Out of Judah, mentioned in Zechariah 10:3. Others, not so suitably, explain, "out of Jehovah," in contrast to Hosea 8:4. The succeeding figures are taken from the building and furnishing of a house. The corner. The cornerstone (Isaiah 28:16). From Judah herself shall come the prince on whom the whole edifice shall rest; i.e. primarily, she shall be independent of foreign rulers; and secondly, from Judah shall come the Messiah, "the Headstone of the corner" (Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20; Hebrews 7:14). Septuagint (taking the noun as a verb), καὶ ἀπ αὐτοῦ ἐπέβλεψε, "et ex ipso respexit" (Jerome). The nail. The word (yathed) is taken for the peg that fastens the cord of a tent, for a nail used in building with timber, or a peg for hanging up arms and utensils on the walls of a house. In whichever sense we take it here, it implies one who consolidates or upholds the political constitution (Isaiah 22:23, Isaiah 22:24). The battle bow. The people shall themselves have arms and military skill to protect them against all assailants. Oppressor; rather, ruler, as Isaiah 3:12; Isaiah 60:17. Judah shall have every leader necessary for all emergencies. Septuagint, πᾶς ὁ ἐξελαύνων ἐν τῷ αὐτῷ, "he that expelleth together;" Vulgate, omnis exactor simul. If the word be taken in the sense of these versions and the Authorized Version, the clause would mean that the Israelites shall subjugate their enemies, and oppress them, and exact tribute from them. The word (noges) usually means "taskmaster."
§ 6. Thus equipped, Israel and Judah united shall triumph over their foes.
Which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets. "Their enemies" is supplied naturally from the context. Others take the participle "treading" intransitively, "treading upon street mire," the enemy being figuratively denoted by "mire." The Greek and Latin Versions give, "treading the mud in the streets" (comp. Psalms 18:42; Micah 7:10). They shall fight. They shall carry on long continued war successfully because God is with them. The riders on horses. The strong force of cavalry arrayed against them shall fall before Israel, and be put to shame. The Israelite forces were for the most part infantry, while the principal strength of their enemies consisted in cavalry (Daniel 11:40).
House of Joseph; i.e. Israel, or the ten tribes, called Ephraim in the next verse (see note on Amos 5:6). Israel and Judah alike shall share in the contest and the victory, under the protection of God. I will bring them again to place them. This is one word in Hebrew, which may mean either "I bring them again," or "I make them dwell." The Authorized Version unwarrantably combines both significations. Septuagint, κατοικιῶ αὐτούς, "I will settle them;" Vulgate, convertam eos. It is better taken here, in contrast with "cast off" in a following clause, in the sense of "I will cause them to dwell," i.e. in safety and comfort. As though I had not cast them off. The happy restoration shall make thrum forget former troubles and the calamities of their rejection (Isaiah 43:18, Isaiah 43:19). Will hear them (Zechariah 13:9; Isaiah 58:9).
They of Ephraim; i.e. as well as Judah, shall be heroes. Not many members of the northern kingdom returned at first from the Captivity; but the prophet gives the assurance that they shall come and prove themselves mighty warriors. As through wine. They shall hasten to the battle cheerfully and exultingly, like men refreshed and strengthened with wine (see Zechariah 9:15; Psalms 78:65, Psalms 78:66). Their children shall see it. Though unable to participate in the struggle, their children shall share the universal joy. Their heart shall rejoice in the Lord (Psalms 63:7; Isaiah 41:16; Joel 2:23; Habakkuk 3:18). Attempts have been made to find the fulfilment of these prophecies (Zechariah 10:3, etc.) in certain events of Maccabean times. Thus, according to Patritius, the sin for which the Hebrews surfeited such distress at the hands of the Seleucidae (Zechariah 10:2) was their imitation of heathen practices mentioned in 1 Macc. 1:13-15 and 2 Macc. 4:7-17, when the high priest purchased his office by a bribe, and the other priests followed Greek customs. The prophet is supposed to refer specially to this state of things when he says, "They were troubled because there was no shepherd. Mine auger was kindled against the shepherds." But we have shown above that Zechariah is here speaking of the past, not of the future. There is more verisimilitude in discerning the wars and victories of Judas, his brothers and successors, in the allusions of verses 4-7. The truth is that such descriptions suit many different events, and have various applications. Though their complete fulfilment may be expected only in Messianic times and circumstances, yet we may see many anticipatory and preparative transactions, which are meant to introduce the final accomplishment. The Jewish prophet is not always foretelling certain definite events. Oftentimes he is teaching, warning, and exhorting; and generally he is enunciating great principles, the truth of which shall be clear in the future, rather than predicting particular facts. Not unfrequently commentators have neglected this consideration, and sought too curiously to restrict the prophet's words to some one issue. It may be noted, further, that where the prophetic language concerning the destiny of the restored people seems to be exaggerated and not borne out by subsequent facts, the promises are always conditioned by the moral state of the recipients. If they answered fully and consistently to God's call, the result would be such as was predicted. That the event in all respects did not correspond with the high ideal previously announced must be attributed, not to the prophet's mistake, but to the people's waywardness and disobedience.
§ 7. The scattered people shall be gathered from all parts of the world, and dwell in their own land, under the protection of Jehovah.
I will him for them; σημανῶ αὐτοῖς," I will signal to them"; sibilabo eis (Vulgate). The slightest summons will bring them when God wills the return of the dispersed. The "hissing" is the whistling or tinkling with which bees are allured to swarm (Isaiah 5:26; Isaiah 7:18, Isaiah 7:19). I have redeemed them. They were virtually delivered from captivity and exile, though all had not taken advantage of the deliverance. They shall increase as they have increased. The same promise is made in Ezekiel 36:10, Ezekiel 36:11. The allusion is to the marvellous growth of the Israelite nation in Egypt (Exodus 1:7, Exodus 1:12). The prophets often announce this fulfilment of the promise made to Abraham (Genesis 13:16; Genesis 15:5, etc.) after the return (see Isaiah 54:2; Hosea 1:10; Micah 2:12).
I will sow them among the people (peoples). The "sowing" here does not mean scattering, but increase, and this was to go on while they were dispersed among the nations. The word is used in the same sense in Hosea 2:23; Jeremiah 31:27. This continued dispersion was a part of their discipline, a test of their loyalty to God. They shall remember me. In the countries where they are living they shall worship the Lord and observe his Law, and be a witness for him among the heathen. They shall live with their children (Ezekiel 37:14). The promised blessing is not for a time only, but perpetual. Turn again; i.e. return to their own land (Isaiah 35:10). It cannot mean, "turn to the Lord," for they are said already to remember the Lord, and their "conversion must precede the promise of life." The next verse describes the return more particularly.
Egypt … Assyria. It is certain that there was a large body of Jews in Egypt at this time (Jeremiah 43:6, Jeremiah 43:7); and to Assyria the ten tribes, who are here specially mentioned under the name Ephraim, had been deported. Besides this, Assyria is often used loosely for Western Asia or Babylonia, of which, after its submission, it formed a most important feature (see 2 Kings 23:29; Ezra 6:22; and in the Apocrypha, 1 Esdr. 7:15; Judith 1:7; 2:1). In the 'Oracula Sibyllina,' the Assyrians are continually confused with Persians, Babylonians, and other Eastern nations. Egypt and Assyria are here used as types of the countries to which Jews had been banished (comp. Hosea 11:11). Gilead and Lebanon. A designation of the northern district of Palestine, on both sides of the Jordan, in which these tribes had been originally settled. This region had been most exposed to hostile attacks, and was the first to be depopulated. Place shall not be found for them (Isaiah 49:20). Josephus testifies to the teeming population of Galilee in later times ('Bell. Jud.,' 2.3, 1; 3.3, 2; 4.1, 2; 7.5). Septuagint, "There shall not even one of them be left behind," i.e. in exile.
He shall pass through the sea with affliction. In bringing his people back the Lord is ready to repeat the miracles of the Exodus. This is the general meaning of the passage; but the details present difficulties. For "he shall pass" the LXX. gives, "they shall pass through." But the reference is plainly to Jehovah, as the following clause shows. The next two words are in apposition, "the sea," "affliction." Revised Version, "the sea of affliction;" Septuagint, ἐν θαλάσσῃ στενῇ, "in a strait sea;" or, as the Hebrew cannot be so translated, "in a sea, a strait;" Vulgate, in maris freto. It seems best to take the two words simply as, "the sea, which is affliction." The Red Sea, through which Jehovah led his people, was a figure of the sufferings which they had endured in Egypt, and brought destruction upon their enemies (comp. Exodus 14:16, Exodus 14:17, Exodus 14:24, etc.). Smite the waves (Exodus 15:8; Isaiah 11:15, Isaiah 11:16; Isaiah 51:10). The river. The Nile. The drying up of the waters of the Nile is a figure of the humiliation of the nations which have been guilty of enslaving the chosen people. The Nile. the representative of Egypt, is mentioned because of the allusion to the bondage in Egypt running through the paragraph. The pride of Assyria. Pride is noted as the characteristic of Assyria (comp. Isaiah 10:7, etc.; Ezekiel 31:3, Ezekiel 31:10). The sceptre. This may refer to the decadence of the power of Egypt, and the transference of royal authority to strangers; but, regarding the immediate context, we had better translate, "the rod of Egypt," and see in it an allusion to the oppression of the taskmasters during the sojourn in that land. All such tyranny shall be at an end (comp. Isaiah 10:24).
I will strengthen them in the Lord. I will strengthen them with myself—with my grace and power. They shall walk up and down in his Name. They shall live in obedience to, and dependence upon, the Lord (Micah 4:5, where see note). The Septuagint reads, "They shall boast themselves." So God will work wonders to deliver his people from the captivity of the devil, destroying all enemies, visible and invisible, which array themselves against him. This is the final fulfilment of the prophecy. The complete restoration from the Captivity is the immediate subject of the prophet's words; and between these two we may see a reference to the conversion of the Jews in the time of Christ and the apostles, which shall go on until the end.
The secret of victory.
"Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time," etc. In the last passage the Church of God (in its new Testament form, as we supposal) was presented to us under the figures of an army (verse 13, etc.); a flock (verse 16); and a field which the Lord had blessed (verse 17). In the present verses we find all these figures again employed: the field (Zechariah 10:1); the flock (Zechariah 10:2, Zechariah 10:3); the army or host (Zechariah 10:3-5). It would appear, therefore, that we have also presented to us the same topic of illustration, viz. the New Testament Church; and that, further, under the same circumstances and at the same time as before. The distinction to be noted is, that, in the present passage, we have a deeper view of the subject—the secret nature of that Church being explained and enforced by describing to us
(1) a special gift;
(2) a grievous failure;
(3) a signal success.
I. A SPECIAL GIFT. According to the first verse, there is something to be "asked of the Lord;" something appointed by him, having its proper "time;" something to be hoped for from him: "the Lord shall give;" something to be hoped for by all: "to every one." It is figured to us as "rain." What does it signify? In the present connection, what can it signify but the gift of God's Spirit (Isaiah 44:3; Joel 2:28) ? How specially were men taught, in New Testament times, to "ask" for this gift (see Luke 11:9-13, where men nine times over are encouraged in praying for this very blessing; also John 4:10; John 7:37-39)! How expressly, again, were those "latter" days the appointed "time" for this blessing (Luke 24:49; John 16:7; Acts 1:4)! In what abundant "showers," once more, was it given in these primitive times, as it were, "to every one" "in the field" (Acts 2:17; Acts 8:17-19; Acts 11:17; Galatians 3:2, Galatians 3:3)! These were some of the things which caused the dispensation then commenced to be called "the dispensation of the Spirit"! In short, without this holy "rain" from above, the strictly "Christian" Church could never have come into existence. Much less, of course, could it have continued alive.
II. A GRIEVOUS FAILURE. The state of things in the Jewish Church at the coming of Christ seems described to us next. In one sense that Church, as a body, though free from the grosser idolatry of earlier days, was worshipping "idols" of its own. Its members trusted to merely external rites, and names, and privileges, and professions (Romans 2:17-20; Matthew 3:9; Matthew 23:14, Matthew 23:23, Matthew 23:30, etc.). As a consequence, they never obtained (Jeremiah 14:2, etc.), as they never desired, the gift spoken of here. Failing of this, they failed altogether, notwithstanding all their privileges (Romans 3:1, Romans 3:2), as a Church: This evidenced at the time—as apparently here predicted beforehand—in various ways. For example, by the absence among them:
1. Of solid knowledge and truth. "The diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams" (comp. Matthew 15:14; Matthew 23:16, Matthew 23:19, Matthew 23:24, Matthew 23:26; John 9:40, John 9:41).
2. Of saving knowledge and truth. "They comfort in vain".
3. Of proper pastoral oversight. (See end of Zechariah 10:2; and comp. Matthew 9:36.) Also by the presence among them:
4. Of special judgments on those who professed (Matthew 23:2) to be "shepherds" (Zechariah 10:3). (See Matthew 23:1-39, throughout, with its sevenfold denunciation of "woe" on the "scribes and Pharisees.") Was there not "failure," indeed, when such language could be used as that found in Matthew 23:33 and Matthew 21:13?
III. A SIGNAL SUCCESS.
1. Its nature. Being the same as that noted before on Matthew 9:14, Matthew 9:15, viz. success in preaching the gospel of Christ and bringing sinners beneath its power.
2. Its secret. This found in the fact that, by the coming of Christ, "the Lord of hosts" (Matthew 9:3) had "visited" his people and "flock" (comp. Luke 1:68, Luke 1:78, Luke 1:79; Luke 7:16; and note, in Luke 7:5, the expression, "They shall fight, because the Lord is with them").
3. Its instruments. These very notable,
(1) as being men of "Judah," or Jews (as all the apostles were); men, i.e; belonging to that very Church and people which, in religious matters, as just now noted, had so egregiously failed. Possibly, also,
(2) as being, some of them, men like Saul of Tarsus, who, at first, were "oppressors" (see also John 1:46). And certainly,
(3) as being able to "tread down" obstacles, and "confound" opponents in a very marvellous way (see Acts 4:13; Acts 5:33; Acts 6:10; Acts 9:22; Acts 18:28; and perhaps, also, Acts 26:28).
How strikingly all this teaches us the absolute need of the Spirit of God!
1. For all true religious life. It was the absence of this which made the Jewish Church the dead thing (Luke 17:37) that it was, like the old world and Sodom (Luke 17:27, Luke 17:29) when Noah and Lot had gone out of them. All their many other privileges (see Romans 2:17-20; Romans 3:1, Romans 3:2; Romans 9:4, Romans 9:5) were of no avail without this.
2. From all true religious work. It was the presence of this, secured by that coming and work of Christ which we have supposed to be referred to in Matthew 9:3 (comp. Acts 2:33), which encountered and overcame both the Jewish Church and the Gentile world (see Acts 1:8; Acts 5:32; 1 Peter 1:12). How essential, indeed, was that gift, which more than supplied, in one sense, the presence of Christ himself (John 16:7-10)!
The restoration of Israel.
"And I will strengthen the house of Judah," etc. The separate mention in this passage (Zechariah 10:6, Zechariah 10:7) of Judah, Joseph, and Ephraim, taken together with that of Gilead, Lebanon, Egypt, and Assyria, in Zechariah 10:10, Zechariah 10:11, seems an indication that we now have to do especially with Israel "after the flesh." The previous verses spoke of "the times of the Gentiles," and of the great spiritual conquests to be inaugurated amongst the Gentiles during those times by teacher warriors of Jewish birth. "Jerusalem" itself, however, in all the mean time, was to be "trodden down of the Gentiles" (Luke 21:24). What was to happen to it when that long "tribulation" should be over? The present passage seems to reply, teaching us, apparently, that the literal Israel should then be restored
(1) to their former favour; and
(2) to their former inheritance.
I. THEIR RESTORATION TO FAVOUR. We may notice:
1. Its reality; as shown by the expressions, "I will strengthen" (comp. Psalms 80:14, Psalms 80:15, Psalms 80:17); "I will save;" "I have mercy upon them;" "I will hear them" (comp. Psalms 66:18-20).
2. Its universality; as embracing both "Judah" and "Joseph," the two rival and long divided leading families of Jacob (see Isaiah 11:13, Isaiah 11:14; Jeremiah 3:18; Ezekiel 37:16, Ezekiel 37:17, etc.).
3. Its completeness. What "Judah" needs, viz. "strengthening," being accomplished for it; what "Joseph" needs, as having been more heavily punished, viz. "saving," being accomplished for it; and that, in both cases, so effectually as entirely to obliterate the evil past: "They shall be as though I had not cast them off."
4. Its blessedness. Causing special rejoicing and exhilaration, like that occasioned through "wine."
5. Its solidity. Causing joy in the "heart" (comp. Psalms 4:7, and context).
6. fits permanence. Their "children" sharing in the joy as well as themselves (comp. Isaiah 65:22, Isaiah 65:23, "their offspring with them").
II. THEIR RESTORATION (APPARENTLY) TO PALESTINE. See, generally, Zechariah 10:6, "I will bring them again to place them." And observe, more particularly:
1. The call. They are to be summoned aloud ("I will hiss," comp. Isaiah 5:26), as people living afar off; also as people belonging to God, because "redeemed;" as rightly also belonging to that place in which they had formerly "increased" so amazingly; and possibly, once more, as having been long intended for this very destiny, like seed "sown" (Zechariah 10:9) with the ultimate object of reaping a harvest to correspond.
2. The response. However "far off," however widely dispersed, when that call is given, they will "remember" that voice, and hear it; and, together with their children (see end of Zechariah 10:9), prepare to return.
3. The return. In correspondence with this preparation, they are
(1) to be "brought out" of the countries of their dispersion, whether lying, like "Egypt," to the south, or lying, like "Assyria," to the north; and
(2) are also, in a manner as wonderful and as humbling to their enemies as when the Red "Sea" and the "river" Jordan in former days had been divided and dried up before them, to be "brought into" their ancient possession; and that further,
(3) in such exuberant numbers as not only to occupy the trans-Jordanie region of Gilead, but even a territory like that of Lebanon, almost beyond the limits of ancient Israel; and not, even so, to have sufficient room (end of Zechariah 10:10; comp. Isaiah 49:20).
4. The happy result. The strength of their enemies (end of Zechariah 10:11) being forever broken, and they themselves being "strengthened in Jehovah," they shall be able to rent the whole land then as fully their own (comp. Genesis 13:14-17); they themselves, also, as God's own people, doing everything therein in his Name (Psalms 67:6; Micah 4:5; Colossians 3:17).
These things may teach us, in conclusion:
1. To take an ever-increasing interest in Israel's lot. Whether right or wrong in our view of details, the general principle is undoubted. The future history of the world, as its past history, turns on the history of Abraham's seed (Genesis 12:3, etc.).
2. To place ever-increasing confidence in Israel's God. In whatever circumstances, through whatever vicissitudes, under whatever provocations, how amazingly faithful to his ancient promise (Romans 11:1, Romans 11:28, Romans 11:29)!
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Zechariah 10:1, Zechariah 10:2
Prayer for temporal blessings.
I. AGREEABLE TO OUR CIRCUMSTANCES. Dependent. In want. Instinctively turn turn God. We have his Word to cheer us; the record of his deeds to comfort us; the testimony of his saints to encourage us.
II. CONDITIONED BY THE NECESSITY OF THINGS. There are limits. Plainly there are things which it would be reasonable, and others which it would be unreasonable and foolish, to ask. "Pray ye that your flight be not in the winter," said our Lord. The flight was a necessity, but the time and manner were within the ravage of things unsettled. This seems hinted at here by the condition, "in the time of the latter rain."
III. SHOULD BE SUBORDINATED TO OUR SPIRITUAL GOOD. The soul is more than the body. It may not be necessary for us to live, but it is necessary that we should abide in the love of God and do his will. "Rain" is symbolic of spiritual blessings. Only God can give rain, and only God can give the quickening, invigorating, sanctifying influences of the Holy Spirit. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God."
IV. SHOULD BE OFFERED IN HUMBLE SUBMISSION TO THE WILL OF GOD. He is infinitely wise and holy and good. Let us trust him, for he cannot will us aught but good.
V. SHOULD BE ACCOMPANIED BY EARNEST USE OF ALL LAWFUL MEANS. It is an old saying that "God helps those who help themselves." Prayer without work is fanaticism and folly; but prayer and work is the highest wisdom and the surest way to success. "Wherefore criest thou unto me?" said the Lord to Moses. "Speak unto the children of Israel, that they go forward" (Exodus 14:15).—F.
Zechariah 10:1, Zechariah 10:2
Parable of the rain.
I. MAN'S GREAT NEED. Without rain the ground is impoverished and dead. So is the soul without God. No good fruit.
II. MAN'S GREAT RESOURCE. Not idols or enchantments, not human devices or philosophies, but appeal to God. He will withhold no good from them that walk uprightly.
III. MAN'S GREAT CONSOLATION.
1. Sweet. (Cf. Deuteronomy 32:2.)
2. Timely. God does not give in an arbitrary way, but according to his own wise and holy laws When rain is most needed, it is most appreciated. So in spiritual things (cf. Psalms 44:3).
3. Abundant. "Showers." Rains sometimes slight, partial, or temporary. Here promise of "abundance of rain" (1 Kings 18:41), meeting the needs of all, reaching to the furthest limits of the parched land.
4. Invigorating and fertilizing. "To every one grass in the field." Calls for thankfulness and joy.—F.
God's visits to his people.
I. HIS CONCERN FOR THEIR WELFARE.
II. HIS PURPOSE TO DO THEM GOOD.
III. HIS DELIGHT IN THEIR HEALTH AND PROSPERITY. Wordsworth gave as a motto for a dial, "Light, come, visit me." So we should lay open our souls to the coming of God, and welcome his visits.—F.
Zechariah 10:4, Zechariah 10:5
The strength of states.
I. CAPABLE RULERS. "Cornerstone," on which the fabric rests. The stability of the whole depends on the foundation.
II. JUST ADMINISTRATION. "Nail"—what binds and fixes. The laws must not only be just, but justly applied. Forms of government vary according to the circumstances and needs of the people. There is much truth in Pope's saying, "Whate'er is best administered is best."
III. AMPLE RESOURCES. "Battle bow" may stand for implements of war. Means of defence. The weapons are nothing compared to the men who wield them. True citizens, devoted to the right, giving themselves and their all for the defence of truth and liberty, and for the advancement of the general good.
IV. NATIONAL INDEPENDENCE. Enlightenment. Love of freedom and justice. Purity of domestic life. Superiority to passion and vain glory. Courage in duty. Power not only to hold their own, but to bear themselves generously towards the vanquished, and to overcome evil with good.
"What constitutes a state?
Not high-raised battlements or laboured mound,
Thick walls or moated gate;
Not cities proud, with spire and turret crowned,
Nor bays, nor broad arm'd ports,
Where, laughing at the storm, rich navies ride;
But men, high-minded Christian men."
I. CONFLICT RESULTING IN VICTORY.
II. VICTORY RESULTING IN UNION. This does not always happen. There have been wars that have bred more wars, and victories that have left strong hates and bitter memories prolonged for generations. Besides, union may be based on defeat in the interest of the conqueror and not of the conquered; more formal than real, more a thing of covenants and legal fictions than the free choice of the people. But here it is real and true. The middle wall of partition has been taken away. Enmity has given place to love. Jealousy and strife, to brotherhood and peace.
III. UNION RESULTING IN HAPPINESS. There have been examples of union with various results. The union of England and Scotland has been productive of the highest good to both countries. The union with Ireland has not been so happy. We see a beautiful example of prosperity under just covenants and laws in the United States of America. Here the highest and best results are foreshadowed.
1. Increase of strength.
2. General freedom.
3. Abounding prosperity.—F.
The hand of God in Jewish history.
I. IN THEIR LONG DESCENT. Origin of nations is generally obscure. As difficult to find as the source of the Nile. The Jews are like their own Jordan. They are the only people that can trace their descent. "Children of Abraham." Two friends were visiting the museum at Berlin. One said how strange it was to look at the intellectual features of Julius Caesar, and to think of his triumphal march northward when the Britons were but roving barbarians. "Speak for your own ancestors," answered the other, who was a Jew; "as for mine, they were singing the psalms of David, and worshipping God as members of his true Church on earth, centuries before Julius Caesar was born!"
II. IN THE VICISSITUDES OF THEIR HISTORY. "As the modern traveller surveys the remains of the arch of Titus at Rome, he feels bewildered in endeavouring to realize the distant date of its erection; and yet it commemorates only the last of a long series of Jewish dispersions. You read of the fragments of antiquity dug up from the ruins of Babylon, and your mind is carried still further back than by the Roman arch; but the Jew possibly formed that Babylonian brick, and imprinted on it those arrow-hearted characters. The pyramids of Egypt take your imagination still further back; the Jew not improbably helped to build the oldest of them. Time was young when God said to Abram, 'I will make of thee a great nation'" (Dr. Harris). In the various dispersions we see the fulfilment of Scripture (Deuteronomy 28:64-67) and the preparation for the gospel of Christ (Acts 2:5, Acts 2:9-11).
III. IN THE PERMANENCY OF THEIR CHARACTER. From Jacob down to our own day we see the same prevailing elements of character. Their very physiognomy is that painted on the walls of Thebes. They are still a separate people. Their purity of blood, their education and training throughout the ages, have raised them high physically and intellectually. In the struggle for existence, they seem an instance of the survival of the fittest.
IV. IS THE GREATNESS OF THEIR DESTINY. Preserved—but why? Surely for some great purpose. Witnesses for God. Servants of righteousness. Ministers of the cross (Romans 11:1-27).—F.
The great exodus.
From Egypt—the type (cf. Isaiah 11:11-16).
I. THE GATHERING. So now under the gospel. From far and near they come. At the call of Jesus they gather under the banner of the cross.
II. THE PASSAGE. (Zechariah 10:11.) Like children of Israel—pilgrims in the wilderness Manifold trials. Educated by adversity and prosperity. Course ever onward, under the hand and guidance of God.
III. THE SETTLEMENT. Canaan. Future glory of the Church—in increase and prosperity. "Place not found."—F.
Of the true man, we might ask, as Delilah did of Samson, "Tell me, I pray thee, wherein thy great strength lieth?" The answer includes several things.
I. SELF-MASTERY. Reason must rule, and not passion. The Spirit, not the flesh.
II. DIVINE INVIGORATION. Need constant aid. The plant thrives by commerce with the sun, so the soul gains energy from God. The prayer of all true men is that favourite one of David, "Quicken thou me."
III. DEVOTION TO THE RIGHT. Doing evil is dissipation of strength. Doing good brings its own recompense. The Sandwich Islanders believed that the souls of the braves slain in war pass into those who slay them, and that therefore the more a man kills the stronger he becomes. This is true spiritually. It was fabled of the giant Antares that when he touched the earth he renewed his strength; so when we touch right we are renewed after the image of God.
IV. ASSOCIATION WITH THE NOBLEST. To be allied with the bad is not only criminal, but ruinous. Fellowship with the good elevates and ennobles.
V. GROWING NOBLENESS OF CHARACTER, There is the consciousness of advance. Settled principles. Enlarged experience. Progress in faith and godliness. All this prophesies of victory. Peter was far stronger at Pentecost than when he made his great confession; when he wrote his Epistles than when Paul had to withstand him to the face for dissembling at Antioch.
VI. HOPE OF IMMORTALITY. The strength won will never be lost. The life given by God in Christ is everlasting.
Whene'er right feelings fire thy languid heart,
Let them not smoulder out in sighs and songs,
But flash them into living acts forthwith.
Thus strength Divine shall nerve thy mortal frame,
And light from upper worlds shall fall upon thy path."
The true life.
I. HOLY CONSECRATION. "In the Name of the Lord." Sincere and thorough renewal of consecration essential to increase of faith and holiness.
II. HARMONIOUS DEVELOPMENT. "Walking" implies health, freedom, activity. Necessary to the right development of the soul. Not in part, but in all its powers.
III. SPIRITUAL USEFULNESS. Time, talent, opportunity, rightly employed. "Up and down" zeal and diligence in all good.
IV. HAPPY ASSOCIATIONS. We are continually forming associations in life. Places and persons. The result may be good or evil, sad and painful or bright and exhilarating.
V. DELIGHTFUL PROSPECTS. Not only memories to cheer, but the outlook of the future, bright with hope up to the very gates of heaven.—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
God in relation to the good and the bad.
"Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field," etc. This chapter is a continuation of the subject with which the former concluded; and the words lead us to observe three facts in relation to the Almighty.
I. HE ATTENDS TO THE PRAYERS OF GOOD MEN. "Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain; so the Lord shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain." The abundance of corn promised in the last clause of the preceding chapter depends upon rain, and this rain God will give in answer to prayer. Observe:
1. God gives rain. A pseudo-science would ascribe "rain" and "clouds" and "showers" to what they call the laws of nature; but what these laws are, and how they operate, they cannot tell. The Bible, giving us at once an adequate and an intelligible cause, is more philosophical than any meteorological science. "He watereth the hills from his chambers: the earth is eatisfied with the fruit of thy works. He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle, and herb for the service of man: that he may bring forth food out of the earth; and wine that maketh glad the heart of man, and oil to make his face to shine, and bread which strengtheneth man's heart" (Psalms 104:13-15). "Thou visitest the earth, and waterest it: thou greatly enrichest it with the river of God, which is full of water: thou preparest them corn, when thou hast so provided for it. Thou waterest the ridges thereof abundantly: thou settlest the furrows thereof: thou makest it soft with showers: thou blessest the springing thereof. Thou crownest the year with thy goodness; and thy paths drop fatness" (Psalms 65:9-11).
2. The God who gives rain attends to human prayer. This is wonderful, but not absurd. Wonderful, that the God who created nature, and presides over it, should condescend to listen to the supplications of such an insignificant creature as man. But it is not absurd, because:
(1) Man is greater than material nature.
(2) Prayer is a settled law of the Divine government. To cry to the Almighty in distress is an instinct of the soul. Prayer, instead of interfering with the laws of nature, is a law of nature.
II. HE ABOMINATES THE CHARACTER OF RELIGIOUS IMPOSTORS. "For the idols [the household gods] have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats." This stands in contrast with the former verse, and is a reason for the duty there enjoined. Their false prophets—attaching themselves to idols and seducing the people to their worship, and those of them who, speaking in Jehovah's name, said, "Thus saith Jehovah," when Jehovah had not spoken, putting in his lips and clothing with his authority the "lies" and "false dreams" by which they sought to entice them from him and from his ways—had ever given promises and "vain comfort," all ending in bitterness and vexation of spirit. They had proved shepherds that only starved and scattered and exposed their flocks, instead of feeding and tending, gathering and protecting, them. "Thus, under such misleading guides, such selfish and unprincipled shepherds, the flock was driven about and 'troubled.' They had 'no shepherd,' no truly faithful shepherd, who took a concern in the well being of the flock" (Wardlaw). Now, against such impostors, Jehovah says, "Mine anger was kindled." "That the shepherds and the goats," says Hengstenberg, "are the heathen rulers who obtained dominion over Judah when the native government was suppressed, is evident from the contrast so emphatically pointed out in the fourth verse, where particular prominence is given to the fact that the new rulers whom God was about to appoint would be taken from the midst of the nation itself." Are there no religious impostors now, no false teachers, no blind leading the blind, no shepherds fleecing the flocks?
III. HE WORKS IN ALL FOR HIS PEOPLE. "Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together." The words teach that all their help came from him. "Out of him came forth the corner," or cornerstone, that upon which the whole building stands firmly. It means that from him comes stability. All stability in moral character, in social order, and political prosperity, is from God. "Out of him the nail." With us a nail is a small thing; but with the Orientals it is not so. It is a large peg in the inside of the room, wrought into the wall when the house was built, and on which are hung the utensils of the household. It means, therefore, support. "Out of him the battle bow." This word is used synecdochically, to represent all effective weapons of war; power to conquer comes from him. "Out of him every oppressor together," or, as Keil renders it, "from him will every ruler go forth at once." Thus God is all in all to the true. Whatever we need comes from him. "Every good and every perfect gift cometh down from the Father."
CONCLUSION. What a sublime view of the Almighty have we here! He is over all nature, yet listening to the prayers of the true; indignant with religious imposters, yet tolerating their existence and permitting their pernicious influence; sending out from himself all that true souls require to fight bravely and triumphantly the great moral battle of life.—D.T.
Victory, unification, and blessedness for the good.
"And they shall be as mighty men," etc. This paragraph is a continuation of the preceding portions of the chapter. The various statements bring under our notice subjects which, if we give them a spiritual application, are of great and permanent interest, viz. the subjects of victory, unification, and blessedness.
I. VICTORY. "And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the Lord is with them, and the riders on the horses shall be confounded." Or, as Hengstenberg renders it, "And they will be like heroes, treading street mire in the battle: and will fight, for Jehovah is with them, and the riders upon horses are put to shame." "Though the Jews were forbidden by the Law to multiply horses in battle (Deuteronomy 17:16), they themselves figuratively are made Jehovah's war horses (Psalms 20:7), and so on foot tread down the foe, with all his cavalry (Ezekiel 38:4; Daniel 11:40). Cavalry was the chief strength of the Syro-Grecian army." This victory was:
1. Complete. The enemies were trodden down as "mire in the streets," and were utterly discomfited.
2. Divine. "Because the Lord is with them." They became victorious through him.
3. Reinvigorating. "I will strengthen the house of Judah, and I will save the house of Joseph, and I will bring them again to place them." They would be strengthened by their victory, not only in wealth and security, but in courage.
4. Extensive. "And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord." "The prophet had," says Hengstenberg, "occupied himself first of all with Judah, the centre of the people of God. In Zechariah 10:6 he proceeds to speak of Judah and Ephraim together. In this verse, and those which follow, he fixes his attention peculiarly upon Ephraim, which looked in the prophet's day like a withered branch that had been severed from the vine. He first promises that descendants of the citizens of the former kingdom of the ten tribes will also take part in the glorious conflict, and then announces the return of the ten tribes from their exile, which was to be the condition of their participating in the battle. Now, all these facts connected with this victory apply to that victory the grandest of all—the victory of all true souls over error and wrong. That victory will be complete. "The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death." That victory will be Divine. It is the Almighty himself that bruises Satan under their feet. That victory will be reinvigorating. Some savages have the belief that the strength of the creature they destroy passes into themselves, and gives new vigour to their frames. Every victory we achieve in morals adds new energy to our souls. This victory will be extensive. Millions in heaven have achieved it; millions on earth are achieving it now; the moral conquerors will at last be more numerous than the stars of heaven, or perhaps the sands that gird old ocean's shores.
II. UNIFICATION. "I will hiss for them, and gather them," etc. There is no sufficient reason for regarding this regathering, recollecting of the world scattered Hebrews as pointing to that far distant period which some believe in, viz. the universal restoration of the Jews to their own country. Observe:
1. The ease with which the regathering will be effected. "I will hiss [or, 'whistle '] for them." The word is understood as referring to a particular whistle used by the shepherd for calling his scattered flock together, or by those who have the care of bees, to bring them into the hive. "As sheep flock together at the well known call of the shepherd, as bees follow in swarms the shrill note of the bee master, so should the Lord, by his own means, gather his scattered people from their dispersions, how widely soever distant, and bring them to himself and to their heritage." With what ease God does his work—a mere look, a breath, a word! "He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth; he toucheth the hills, and they smoke."
2. The regions to which the regathering will extend. "And I will sow them among the people [or, as some render it, 'Though I have scattered them among the nations']: and they shall remember me in far countries [distant regions]; and they shall live with their, children, and turn again." They had been scattered, not only through Egypt and Assyria. It does not say that all Jews shall return, but a great multitude is implied.
3. The scene at which the regathering will take place. "I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria," and I will bring them into the land of Gilead and Lebanon. This describes the whole of Palestine, with its two boundaries—the eastern, Gilead beyond Jordan; and the northern, that is, Lebanon. Large as that district is, there will not be room for all. "Place shall not be found for them."
4. The national catastrophes which the regathering will involve. "And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up." There is evidently an allusion here to their first deliverance from Egypt; and it means that something similar to that event will occur in the course of their regathering (see Exodus 14:4-14). "And the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away." The idea probably is that as "the haughty boastings of Sennacherib and the sceptred power of Pharaoh proved alike feeble and unavailing against the might of Jehovah in former days, so should all the combined opposition of the most inveterate enemies prove in days to come. Before him—when he had a purpose to fulfil or promise to his people to accomplish—all pride should be abased, all power baffled, all counsel turned to foolishness." Now there is a unification, of which this is but a faint emblem—the unification of the good of all ages. "They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down with Isaac and with Jacob." What a blessed union is this! What countless millions will it include, and what overturning of the kingdoms of the world will its full realization involve!
III. BLESSEDNESS. Here is the highest strength. "And I will strengthen them in the Lord."
1. Whether this refers to their national strength, their security in their own country, or moral strength—strength of faith in him—or all, one thing is clear, that to be strengthened in the Lord is the highest strength we can have. The greatest blessing of life is strength: physical strength, to do with ease and to endure with patience; intellectual strength—strength to master with ease all the great problems of life, and to reach a theory of being in which the understanding can repose tree from all disturbing doubt. These strengths are blessings; but moral strength—strength to resist the wrong, to pursue, the right, to serve Almighty God with acceptance, and to bless the race of man with beneficent influences—this, indeed, is the perfection of our blessedness. This strength, which implies unbounded confidence in the procedure and an unconquerable love for the character of God, is the strength we all need. "Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might, says Paul. He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might he increaseth strength."
2. Here is the highest exercise. "They shall walk up and down in his Name, saith the Lord,"
(1) All living men must walk the road that is "up and down" Human life is made up of "ups" and "downs;" the road is not smooth and level, but rugged and hilly, sometimes up and sometimes down; up today and down tomorrow.
(2) This road can only be walked happily by walking it in the "Name" of the Lord. A practical recognition of his presence, and of his claims to our supreme reverence and worship. Alas I how few walk this road in the Name of the Lord! They walk it in the name of pleasure, of greed, or of ambition, or, it may be, of intellectual research. Dreary and dangerous is this road without God.
CONCLUSION. Let us battle for this victory, cease not a stroke until the foe is beneath our feet; let us hail this grand unification of souls, hail the time when God shall meet and mingle with all noble and Heaven-born spirits. Meanwhile, let us walk this "up-and-down" road of life in the Name of the Lord. "For all people will walk every one in the name of his god, but we will walk in the Name of the Lord" (Micah 4:5).—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 10". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany