§ 5. The third vision: the man with the measuring line.
(Hebrews 2:5.) I lifted up mine eyes again (comp. Zechariah 5:1; Zechariah 6:1; Daniel 8:3). This third vision makes a further revelation of God's mercy to Israel. Consequent on the destruction of enemies shall be the growth and development of the chosen people till the time of their final glory (comp. Zechariah 1:16). There is some difficulty in arranging the details of this vision, depending in great measure on the decision we arrive at with regard to the identification of the "young man" of Zechariah 2:4. Those who, as Theodoret, Hitzig, Schegg, Trcehon, Wright, Perowne, etc; consider him to be the man with the measuring line of Zechariah 2:1, do not explain why the message should be given to him instead of to the prophet who had asked for information. Nor is it at all certain that the measurer is meant to be regarded as having made a mistake in attempting to define the limits of what was practically unlimited—viz. the restored Jerusalem—and was stopped accordingly in his proceedings. It seems preferable, with Jerome, Cornelius a Lapide, Pusey, Keil, Knabenbauer, etc; to regard the "young man" as Zechariah himself. Then the vision is thus presented: The prophet sees a man with a measuring line; he asks whither he is going, and is answered that he was going forth to measure Jerusalem. Upon this the interpreting angel leaves the prophet's side to receive the explanation of the man's proceedings, and is met by a superior angel, who bids him hasten to tell the prophet the meaning of the vision. A man. Probably an angel in human form, as Zechariah 1:8. A measuring line. This is not the same word as that in Zechariah 1:16; but the idea there proposed is taken up here, and its fulfilment is set forth (comp. Ezekiel 11:3; Revelation 11:1; Revelation 21:15, Revelation 21:16).
What is the breadth thereof. The man measures to see what shall be the dimensions of the restored city, for from Zechariah 2:12 it is apparent that the building is not yet completed, nor are we to think that the rebuilding of the material ruined walls is meant.
Went forth. The interpreting angel leaves the prophet, and goes away to meet another angel who advances from the opposite side. Septuagint, εἰστήκει, "stood." Another angel went out; went forth, the word being the same as before. This latter angel, sent by God with a revelation, is superior to the interpreter, as the latter receives the message from him to deliver to the prophet.
And said unto him; i.e. the second angel said to the interpreter. Run. He was to hasten and deliver the message, because it was a joyful one and calculated to allay the prophet's solicitude. This young man. The Prophet Zechariah. The term applied to him is thought to show that he was still young when the vision appeared; but the word is used also for minister, or servant, or disciple, without necessarily defining the age. Others, not so suitably, consider that the measuring angel is meant, who is thus stopped in his intention of measuring Jerusalem, as being ignorant of God's counsels. Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls. Jerusalem shall be as open villages in a plain country. The word perazoth is used in Ezekiel 38:11, meaning "unwalled villages" where men dwelt "without walls, having neither bars nor gates." So Esther 9:19, where it means, "country towns," in contrast to the metropolis, which was walled and fortified. The idea in the text is that Jerusalem in the future shall be so extended that walls shall no longer contain its inhabitants, but they shall spread themselves in the open country on every side. It is certain that the city did greatly increase in after time, if we may believe Aristeas's account in his famous letter to his brother Philocrates; and the annunciation of this prosperity would be a comfort to the prophet (comp. Josephus, 'Bell. Jud.,' 5.4, 2). But no material increase of this nature satisfies the prophecy, which can only have its fulfilment in the spiritual Jerusalem, whose Builder is Christ, in whose light the nations of them that are saved shall walk (Revelation 21:24; see Isaiah 49:18, etc.; Isaiah 54:2, Isaiah 54:3). This open condition implies not only extent, but peace and safety also. The reason of this quiet security is given in the next verse. Septuagint, κατακάρπως κατοικηθήσεται ἰερουσαλὴμ, "Jerusalem shall be abundantly inhabited."
A wall of fire. She will not need walls. God will be her protection, not only defending her from attack, but consuming the enemy who may presume to assault her (comp. Deuteronomy 4:24; Psalms 68:2). The glory; εἰς δόξαν ἔσομαι. God will make his glory conspicuous by the mighty deeds he will do in Jerusalem and the providential care he will take of her. He shall be known to be dwelling there, as he revealed his presence by the pillar of fire and the Shechinah (comp. Isaiah 60:1, Isaiah 60:2, Isaiah 60:19).
The superior angel of Zechariah 2:4 continues to speak. He calls on all the Hebrews still in dispersion to come and share this glorious state and escape the punishment which was about to fall upon the hostile kingdom. The exaltation of Jerusalem is connected with the downfall of her enemies. Ho, ho, come forth, and flee; Hebrew, "Ho, ho I and flee," or, "flee thou" (comp. Isaiah 48:20; Jeremiah 51:6, Jeremiah 51:45.) A great number of the exiles had remained in Babylonia, having established themselves there, according to the injunction in Jeremiah 29:5, etc; and grown rich. These people had refused to exchange their present prosperity for the doubtful future offered by a return to their desolate native land. But they are now called upon to "flee" from the danger that menaced the country of their adoption. Babylon is said to have been twice taken in the reign of Darius (see note on Jeremiah 29:7). The land of the north; i.e. Babylonia (comp. Jeremiah 1:14; Jeremiah 4:6; Jeremiah 23:8). We should have nailed the Babylonians an Eastern people if we had dwelt in Palestine; but they always invaded this land from the north, and the great caravan route entered the country from the same quarter, so they were deemed to he a northern power. I have spread you abroad as the four winds (Ezekiel 17:21). The Jews had been dispersed through all parts of the extensive Babylonian empire, and that with a violence which is compared to the force of the combined winds of heaven. Keil, Wright, and others regard the words as a promise of future extension only to be obtained by a return to the promised land, translating, "I will spread you," the perfect of the text being taken to express prophetic certainty. But it is surely incongruous to comfort the dispersed Jews by the promise of a still wider dispersion. This appears to be as erroneous as the Septuagint rendering of the verb, συνάξω, "I will gather."
Deliver thyself. Escape from the danger. O Zion. The exiled Jews are thus designated. Septuagint, εἰς σιὼν ἀνασώζεσθε "Go to Zion, and save yourselves." That dwellest (thou that dwellest) with the daughter of Babylon. The inhabitants of Babylon are called "the daughter of Babylon," in analogy with the common phrases, "the daughter of Zion," "the daughter of Jerusalem" (comp. Jeremiah 46:19). There is soma reproach implied in the clause, as if these Jews were content to dwell and remain in this heathen city. The immediate danger that menaced Babylon arose from two severe rebellions, in the course of which the city was twice taken. The first revolt was headed by Nidinta-Bel, B.C. 519, who was slain by Darius at Babylon. The second took place under Arakha, B.C. 514; he was defeated by a general of Darius, named Intaphernes, taken prisoner and crucified. A record of these occurrences is found in Darius's inscription on the rock at Behlstun, translated in 'Records of the Past,' vol. 1. The merciless Persians would doubtless treat the inhabitants of the captured city with their wonted cruelty.
After the glory hath he sent me. After glory (there is no article in the original), i.e. to win honour, hath Jehovah sent me—the superior angel who speaks. As the words, "thus saith the Lord," precede, we should have expected, "have I sent thee," but such change of persons, and indirect address, are common in Hebrew (comp. Zechariah 14:5). The angel is sent to get glory over the heathen by taking vengeance on them (comp. Exodus 14:18). Such judgments are often represented to be inflicted by angelic agency (Genesis 19:13; 2 Kings 19:35; Ezekiel 9:1-11.) The apple of his eye. The language is human. Israel is very precious to God; and they who vex and harass him are as they who hurt that which God prizes inestimably, and which a mere touch offends and injures. The word rendered "apple" is usually considered in mean "aperture," or "gate," the pupil being the entrance to the visual organ; but Dr. Wright regards it rather as a natural word of endearment, like the Latin, pupa, pupilla, indicating "a doll," "little maiden of the eye." Similar, though not identical, expressions occur in Deuteronomy 32:10; Proverbs 7:2; Psalms 17:8.
I will shake mine hand upon (over) them. The angel reports Jehovah's message now in the first person, or speaks as the representative of Jehovah. The action of shaking the hand over a nation is one of menace (Job 31:21; Isaiah 11:15; Isaiah 19:16). Shall be a spoil to their servants; to their slaves, those who once served them. This was true only in a spiritual sense, when the nations were won over to the true faith (see Zechariah 2:11; and comp. Isaiah 14:2; Isaiah 49:22, etc.; Ezekiel 16:61). Septuagint, τοῖς δουλεύουσιν αὐτοῖς, "to them that serve them." Ye shall know, etc. (Zechariah 4:9; Zechariah 6:15). When this comes to pass, the Israelites shall recognize and own the Divine mission of God's messenger.
Sing and rejoice. The Jews released from Babylon, and the whole Jewish nation, are bidden to exult in the promised protection and presence of the Lord. Lo, I come; Septuagint, ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ ἔρχομαι, So Christ is called, ὁ ἐρχόμενος, "he that cometh" (Matthew 11:3). I will dwell in the midst of thee (Zechariah 8:3; Zechariah 9:9). Not merely the rebuilding of the temple is siginified, and the re-establisihment of the ordained worship (though without the Shechinah), but rather the incarnation of Christ and his perpetual presence in the Church. κατασκηνώσω ἐν μέσῳ σου, which recalls John 1:14, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt ( ἐσκήνωσεν) among us" (comp. Isaiah 12:6; Ezekiel 43:9; Ezekiel 48:35; Malachi 3:1).
Many nations shall be joined (shall join themselves) to the Lord; "shall fly for refuge unto the Lord". My people; unto me for a people; Septuagint, "shall be unto him for a people" (comp. Zechariah 8:20). No mere conversion of individuals among the heathen satisfies this promise. Whole nations shall become the Lord's people. That title shall be shared with Israel by countless multitudes (comp, Isaiah 2:2, Isaiah 2:3; Isaiah 11:10; Micah 4:2; Zephaniah 2:11), I will dwell, etc. The promise of Zechariah 2:10 is repeated for assurance' sake. The LXX. has, "And they shall dwell in the midst of thee." Thou shalt know (as Zechariah 2:9).
Shall inherit Judah. The Lord, though it is true that many other nations shall be converted, shall take Judah (i.e. the whole Jewish nation) as his portion, in accordance with Deuteronomy 32:9. In the holy land. This expression is not found elsewhere applied to Judaea, nor is it to be confined to that nation here. Every land is holy where the Lord dwells. The conversion of the heathen should emanate from Judaea (Luke 24:47), and spread through all the world, and thus the earth should be holy ground. Shah choose Jerusalem again; Revised Version, "shall yet choose Jerusalem" (comp. Zechariah 1:17). This points to Christ as King of the spiritual Zion.
Be silent; hush (comp. Habakkuk 2:20; Zephaniah 1:7, and notes there). In the expectation of these mighty events, men are called upon to wait in awe and reverence. He is raised up; he hath arisen. He had seemed to sleep when he let his people be trodden down by the heathen; but now he, as it were, waketh and cometh from heaven, his holy habitation (Deuteronomy 26:15), to inflict the threatened judgment on the nations, and to succour his own people (comp. Psalms 44:23, etc.).
A vision of safety.
"I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand," etc. We have here another case of repetition and expansion. In the end of Zechariah 1:16 we had a brief promise of the full restoration of Jerusalem as a city—a place of dwellings with dwellers therein. In the present passage we have the same promise expressed at more length. In other words, we are asked to observe
I. HOW IMMEDIATE ITS APPLICATION. So immediate, in fact, that the first steps towards its accomplishment had already begun. Whatever may have been previously resolved on in private in regard to building operations, the first visible and overt step in those operations themselves is that of measuring and staking the ground. The very children understand the meaning of that. Jehovah, accordingly, in the opening verses of this chapter, accommodates himself to this truth. The prophet sees manifestly (he "lifted up his eyes, and looked"), but apparently much to his surprise ("behold"), a man with a measuring line in his hand. Where is he going? so the prophet asks; and is told—He is going to "Jerusalem" with his line. For what purpose? To "measure" it, to survey it as for building, to ascertain its length and its breadth. What does all this amount to? It amounts to "business," as we should now express it. Consultation, deliberation, decision,—the time for all these is now past. It is the time for doing, for actual fulfilment. The work, in one sense, therefore, as we said, has begun. Compare "The hour is coming, and now is," in John 4:23; John 5:25; also Luke 12:49.
II. HOW EMPHATIC ITS REPETITION. This shown:
1. By the dignity of the speaker. Two angels are now spoken of (Luke 12:3, Luke 12:4), about whom and their respective doings much difference of interpretation exists. If, however, we assume the "young man" of Luke 12:4 to be the prophet himself (see Pusey, in loc.; and comp. Jeremiah 1:6; 2 Kings 9:4, "the young man the prophet"), it seems clear that the one of these angels, speaking as he does (in Luke 12:5) in Jehovah s name, is that Angel-Jehovah mentioned before in Zechariah 1:11, Zechariah 1:12, and afterwards in Zechariah 3:1; as also that it is this same Angel who commissions the other to communicate to the prophet the declaration of Zechariah 3:4. No speaker, therefore, in regard to dignity, can go beyond him (Matthew 21:37; Hebrews 1:5).
2. The earnestness of the action.
3. The explicitness of the language. Jerusalem was to more than recover (Zechariah 3:4) its former population and size. Now its population and dwellings were much too few for its ancient limits. By and by they should be as much too many. What evidence this of increase! What a picture of security, of population, of wealth (comp. Genesis 13:2; Genesis 24:35; Job 1:3)! What a promise, in short, of blessing and good!
III. HOW PROFOUND ITS SIGNIFICANCE. The features already noticed, however stalking, were only, as it were, on the surface. There were others deeper and still more worthy of notice which accounted for these.
1. How came Jerusalem to be thus secure and enlarged? Because the Lord Jehovah himself was as "a wall of fire round about;" such a defence, i.e; as would not only keep the enemies out, but also destroy them if they essayed to draw near.
2. How came Jerusalem to be thus protected and favoured? Because God himself had returned to dwell in her; and to do so, moreover, as her peculiar "glory." These two points illustrated by Psalms 46:5; and Acts 2:5-11; Acts 8:27, Acts 8:28. This, in short, was why there should be so many other inhabitants in Jerusalem, viz. because of this most glorious Inhabitant of all.
We are reminded by this subject yet further:
1. How swift and willing is the service of the angels of heaven. Compare the word "run," etc; with Daniel 9:21, Daniel 9:23; Ezekiel 1:14; and Psalms 103:20, Psalms 103:21. This described by the poet—
"Thousands at his bidding speed,
And post o'er land and ocean."
This partly at the root, perhaps, of the common notion that angels have wings. This also a thing to be imitated and aimed at by us. "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven."
2. How blessed the effects of the presence of Christ. As to safety (Matthew 8:24-26); as to success (Matthew 18:19, Matthew 18:20); as to comfort (Mark 2:19); as to hope (Colossians 1:27, "Christ among you, the Hope of glory"); as to all that constitutes heaven (1 John 3:2; John 14:8; John 16:24).
A promise of triumph.
"Ho, ho! come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord," etc. Soon after the time of the deliverance of this prophecy, Babylon suffered greatly at the hands of Darius. The primary reference of the verses before us is to this fact, in the judgment of some—Zechariah 2:6, Zechariah 2:7 being an urgent call to flee from that city and land, and Zechariah 2:8, Zechariah 2:9 a solemn prediction of the calamities about to come upon it, uttered in support of that call. It will, perhaps, be safer for us to use the passage in a general way, and as showing to us
I. ZION'S DUTY TOWARDS GOD. God's people called here by that name because the prophet has been speaking specially of Jerusalem, and because the "time to favour Zion," as the life-centre of their whole community, had now come. Being so named, observe:
1. To what they are called; viz. to be separated from Babylon, and her doings, and, to a certain extent, from her people (comp. Revelation 18:4; Isaiah 48:20; 2 Corinthians 6:17; 2 Chronicles 19:2, etc.).
2. How they are called to this; viz.
3. Why they are called to it.
II. GOD'S DEVOTION TO ZION. If God thus calls upon his people to be peculiarly his (1 Peter 2:9), he is ready and willing, on his part, to be peculiarly theirs. "After the glory" just previously spoken of—i.e. (perhaps) besides being the invisible glory and defence, as there described, of his Zion—there were two further things he would do.
1. He would openly identify himself with their cause. He would let it be seen; he would "send" the Messenger-Jehovah himself to proclaim it, that they were part of himself, as it were—nothing more intimately so, in real truth (see end of Zechariah 2:8; and comp. Deuteronomy 32:10; also Exodus 4:22; Acts 9:4; Matthew 25:40).
2. He would as openly manifest himself against their enemies. "I will shake my hand over them," and spoil those that spoil thee (comp. Zechariah 2:9 and Zechariah 2:8). This a special proof of the presence of God with his servants, and of their mission to speak in his Name (end of Zechariah 2:9). So of Moses (comp. Exodus 3:21, Exodus 3:22; Exodus 12:35, Exodus 12:36); of Barak ( 5:12); of Christ himself (Psalms 68:18; Ephesians 4:8; Colossians 2:15).
1. A glorious picture of the state of God's people at the time of the end.
2. An instructive lesson as to the great thing to be aimed at by us now. (So 2:16; John 15:4, etc.; compare also what is shown of the importance of "holding the Head," in Colossians 2:19, and context; and of being "found in Christ," in Philippians 3:9.)
The benefits of God's presence.
"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for to, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee," etc. In these verses the prophecy takes us back to a thought twice touched on already (see Zechariah 1:16; Zechariah 2:5), viz. the manifested presence of God with his people. Three times over in the present passage is this same thought referred to (observe" I will dwell," both in Zechariah 2:10 and Zechariah 2:11; and "habitation," in Zechariah 2:13). Taking this, therefore, as the main idea of the passage, we may learn from it, in a general way, how such a presence of God in Christ is connected
I. THE EXTENSION OF HIS KINGDOM. "Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day." So says the Angel-Jehovah here as the Representative and Equal of Jehovah. In what day? The "day" so often referred to of his "dwelling" or being amongst them. "Joined," in what manner? So as to become his "people" themselves. The illustrations of this general principle, whatever be the special application thereof primarily intended in this passage, are many. and close. Compare the command ("make disciples") and the promise ("I am with you") of Matthew 28:19, Matthew 28:20; also the connection, in Romans 11:12, Romans 11:15, between the restoration of Israel to God's favour (equivalent to his presence among them) and the conversion of the world; also Psalms 68:1-35, throughout; Genesis 49:10; 1 Corinthians 14:25; Isaiah 45:14; Zechariah 8:23.
II. THE STABLISHMENT OF HIS PEOPLE. "Thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me."
1. This partly due to the direct results of the manifested presence of Christ. Contrast the language of Cleophas ("we trusted," Luke 24:21), when he supposed Christ to be absent, with the language of the disciples, not long before, in his presence (John 16:30).
2. Partly due to its indirect effects as referred to just now. It greatly confirms our own faith in Christianity when we see strangers brought to believe it. The more widely a remedy is found to succeed, the more our trust in it is augmented. This truth seems recognized or implied in such passages as Romans 1:13; Acts 11:22, Acts 11:23; Colossians 1:3-6, Colossians 1:23, etc.
III. THE CONFUTATION OF UNBELIEF. "Be silent, O all flesh." All "flesh and blood"—human nature at large. Compare, after the presence and power of the Captain of the Lord's host (Joshua 5:13-15) had been so signally manifested in the events recorded in Joshua 10:1-43; how we read in the twenty-first verse of that chapter, that "none moved his tonque against any of the children of Israel" (see Exodus 11:7; Psalms 76:7-9; Zephaniah 1:7; Habakkuk 2:20). Also Romans 11:33-36, where we have the same arising of God to manifest his presence by restoring Israel to his favour (note expressions, "choose Jerusalem again," and "raised up," in Romans 11:12, Romans 11:13), and the same call to "silent awe and reverential contemplation" (Wardlaw) of his greatness. May we not also compare what is said in the prophecy of Enoch as quoted in Jude 1:14, Jude 1:15? When "every eye shall see him" (Revelation 1:7) every mind shall believe.
1. How deep the foundations of gospel truth! Some of the most vital of these are connected with the Person and office of Christ, viz. as already referred to, his being at once the appointed Messenger and the personal Equal of God. Observe how each of these separate lines is woven into the whole tenor and structure of the passage before us. Three times over the person speaking is described as being "sent" (Jude 1:8, Jude 1:9, Jude 1:11); yet nowhere can we find any distinction as to authority between the speaker and Jehovah himself. So far from this, in fact, as to lead to an appearance of utter confusion between him who is sent and him who sends; like the apparent confusion to be found in the language of the Angel-Jehovah in Genesis 22:11, Genesis 22:12. A confusion, however, which, when viewed in the more explicit light of New Testament teaching, becomes comparatively clear, and even natural. How striking, because—on the human writer's part—how undesigned a coincidence!
2. How peculiarly important in these days the duty of preaching the gospel "afar off "! The best answer to sceptical questionings at home is to be found in missionary conquests abroad. Other religions, being the inventions of particular "races," suit those races alone. Christianity sails "every creature" (Mark 16:15), because the Creator's own work.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Zechariah 2:1 -25
Measuring the Church.
"Jerusalem" stands for the Church. The "man" (Zechariah 2:1) seems the same person who is afterwards spoken of as "young," and who is implicitly rebuked for taking in hand a task beyond his powers. The passage suggests for consideration—
I. MAN'S IDEA OF THE CHURCH AS CAPABLE OF STRICT DEFINITION AND MEASUREMENT. There has always been a disposition to fix and limit the boundaries of the Church.
1. Irrational. The visible Church may be defined, but not the invisible. Truth is not to be measured by our belief, or godliness by the piety of the party to which we belong, or the community of the good by the little systems of our day.
2. Presumptuous. This work cannot be done by man. He has neither the capacity nor the means. "We mete out love as if our eye saw to the end of heaven." It demands higher powers—a purer eye, a deeper insight, a more far reaching vision. Even Elijah failed, and Peter greatly erred. Only the Lord himself knoweth them who are his.
3. Injurious. Mistakes must occur. Some excluded who ought to have been included, and others included who should have been excluded. Hence evil both to the judge and to the judged—pride, injustice, uncharitableness. See Saul "breathing out threatenings and slaughter." Mark John, the beloved disciple, wanting to call down fire on the Samaritans. Behold the Corinthian Church—sample of many others down to our own day—torn by factions and blighted by party spirit. How often, in the world, have grievous wars arisen from paltry questions as to boundaries! So the Church has suffered incalculable evils from "profane and vain babblings" and questions which minister strife.
II. GOD'S IDEA OF THE CHURCH AS TRANSCENDING ALL HUMAN LIMITATIONS, God is the Supreme and only Judge. He sees things as they are. He knows not only the outward works, but the heart, and the end from the beginning. In the woman whom Simon the Pharisee despised our Lord saw a true penitent. In the man who was casting out devils in his name he discerns an ally, though he followed him not openly as a disciple. In the devout Cornelius he acknowledged a true worshipper and servant of God, though he was as yet unknown to the apostles. His love overflows the letter of our Creeds and the boundaries of our Churches. And as in the past, so in the future. The picture is grand and inspiring. It foreshadows the glory of the latter day. Here is:
1. Vast extension. (Verses 6, 7.) The Church is like a city that outgrows its walls, that absorbs the outlying villages and hamlets, that gradually includes the whole land in its benign embrace. As Jerusalem, so the Church, in the day of prosperity, would far surpass all former bounds.
2. Inviolable security. The figure is vivid and striking. It recalls the story of the prophet (2 Kings 6:15-17) and the more ancient records of Moses and of Israel in the wilderness. The true defence is not material, but spiritual—not of the world, but of God.
3. Divine blessedness. The life and splendour of the Church are in the inhabitation of God. This secures the supremacy of goodness, and the brotherhood of man in Christ Jesus. God is in the midst. "God is Light," "God is Love," God is Holiness; therefore the people will live and move and have their being in light and love and holiness. It will be the days of heaven on earth.—F.
The exiles' return.
"Return." This call implies—
I. KNOWLEDGE OF THEIR CONDITION. In the dark days we are apt to say, "Doth God know?" This is our weakness. The cries Of the poor, the needy, and the oppressed are ever heard on high.
II. CONTINUED INTEREST IN THEIR WELFARE. Israel, though scattered, was not forsaken. Affliction witnesses both as to our sin and God's mercy. If God did not care, he would let us go on in sin. But because he loves and pities us and yearns for our home coming, he ceases not to cry, "Return."
III. ADEQUATE MEANS PROVIDED FOR THEIR RESTORATION. God does not require the impossible. His commands are promises. The way is open. The exiles are free to come back. Welcome and peace are assured on the word of the Lord. But self-effort is needed. We must ourselves act.
IV. GRANDEST ENCOURAGEMENT TO OBEDIENCE. The best reasons to convince the judgment. The most powerful motives to sway the heart. God appeals:
1. To the sense of right. What should be the best and the noblest? "We needs must love the highest when we see it"'
2. The feeling of brotherhood. The old unity might be restored. The Jews looked back with pride to the days of David and Solomon. So of the Church.
3. Their consciousness of the real dignity of their being. They were precious in God's sight. Specially protected and dear "as the apple of his eye." Such thoughts fitted to raise our hearts, to inspire us with worthier ideas of our nature and destiny (1 John 3:1).
4. Their hope of better times. Obedience would bring blessedness.—F.
The joys of the Church in her great Head.
"It is a great jubilee of joy to which Zion is invited. Thrice besides is she invited with the same word (Isaiah 54:1; Zephaniah 3:14, Zephaniah 3:15; Isaiah 12:6), and all for the restored and renewed presence of God" (Pusey).
I. THE GLORY OF HIS PRESENCE. Absenteeism is a sore evil among men, but the King of Zion is always in residence.
II. THE VASTNESS OF HIS DOMINION. Not material but moral. Souls. "The riches of his inheritance in the saints." Far and wide. People of every kindred and tongue. Constant accessions of territory, till the uttermost parts of the earth are possessed.
III. THE SPLENDOUR OF HIS ACHIEVEMENTS. The cross means death to evil and life to good. As when our Lord was in the world, wherever he went he brought light and blessing, so it is still. There is joy in heaven over every sinner that repenteth, and this joy is shared by the saints on earth.
IV. THE BLESSEDNESS OF HIS REIGN. He rules not by force, but by love. The homage of his subjects is from the heart, and their service is freely and joyously rendered. The honours of his kingdom are not to the noble and the great of the earth, but to the good. At last the old word is fulfilled, "In his days shall the righteous flourish" (Psalms 72:7).—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
Third vision: an interesting future for the world.
"I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and, behold, a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof," etc. Here is the third vision which the prophet had the same night. It is a continuation of the subject of the former one, namely, the rebuilding and reoccupation of Jerusalem and the temple. Observe:
1. What he saw. "A man with a measuring line in his hand." In Ezekiel 40:3; Ezekiel 41:1-26; Ezekiel 42:1-20; you have the same image. Who was this man? The general impression is that it was the Messiah in human form. He is the great Moral Architect, the Builder of the great temple of truth in the world. Then the prophet sees angels. "Behold, the angel that talked with me went forth." Who was this angel? The interpreter. Then there is another angel he sees, who went out to meet him. Who is he? Some suppose, the same as the "man with the measuring line." In addition to this he sees a young man. "Run, speak to this young man." Who is this young man? He is generally believed to be the prophet himself; and Christ is here represented as commissioning an angel to run and speak.
2. What he says to him. "Whither goest thou?" The "man with the measuring line" excites his curiosity. His appearance, gait, speed, as he carried the measuring line in his hand, would naturally give occasion to the question.
3. What he heard. He heard the answer to his question: "To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof." He beard the commission given to the angel: "Run, speak to this young man." He heard a description given of Jerusalem: "Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls," etc. And he heard the Divine promise made concerning it: "For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about." This part of his vision may be fairly taken to illustrate the future increase, security, and glory of good men on the earth.
I. THE FUTURE INCREASE OF GOOD MEN ON THE EARTH. Two remarks are suggested concerning the extent of genuine religion. It is:
1. Measurable only by the Divine. Who had the "measuring line"? Not a mere man, not any created intelligence, but the God-Man, the Messiah. Men cannot measure the growth of piety in the world. They attempt it, but make fearful mistakes. They deal in statistics, they count the number of Churches in the world and the number of professed worshippers. But piety cannot be measured in this way. When you have summed up the number of temples and the number of professed worshippers, you have not approached a correct estimate as to the amount of genuine piety in the world. Have you scales by which to weigh genuine love? any numbers by which to count holy thoughts, aspirations, and volitions? any rules by which to gauge spiritual intelligence? Have you any plummet by which to fathom even the depths of a mother's affections? No one but God can weigh and measure the holy experiences of holy souls. By his method of measurement he may discover more piety in a humble cottage than in crowded tabernacles and cathedrals. He hath the true "measuring line," and no one else. Hence endeavour not to determine the usefulness of a minister by the numbers of his congregation or the funds contributed by them.
2. Unrestricted by material bounds. "Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein." The literal idea is that so many shall be its inhabitants that all could not be contained within the walls, but shall spread out in the open country around (Esther 9:19), and so secure shall they be as not to need shelter behind walls for themselves and the cattle. So hereafter Judaea is to be "the land of unwalled villages" (Ezekiel 38:11), We are told that "the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea."
II. THE FUTURE SECURITY OF GOOD MEN ON THE EARTH. "For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about." "A wall of fire." Who shall penetrate a massive wall of fire? But that wall is God himself, omnipotent in strength, immeasurably high. "I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God;" "And the city had no need of the sun, neither of the moon, to shine in it: for the glory of God did lighten it, and the Lamb is the light thereof" (Revelation 21:3, Revelation 21:23). Conventional Christians talk about the Church being in danger. Are the stars of heaven in danger? The true Church is founded on a rock, and the gates of hell cannot prevail against it. Omnipotence is the Guardian of the good. "He shall give his angels charge over thee," etc.
III. THE FUTURE GLORY OF THE GOOD MEN ON THE EARTH. "And will be the Glory in the midst of her." The reference here is to the Shechinah and the mercy seat. Good men are the recipients and the reflectors of Divine glory. They are the temples for the Holy Ghost to dwell in, and they reveal more of him than the whole material universe. Holiest souls are his highest manifestations.—D.T.
"Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord: for I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven, saith the Lord," etc. This is a call of Jehovah to the Jews in Babylonian captivity to return to their own land. Cyrus had made a way for them, and publicly proclaimed their deliverance. There are expressions in these verses, as indeed in almost every verse of the book, the exact meaning of which cannot be settled: it is idle to attempt to interpret their precise significance. For example, what is meant by "I have spread you abroad as the four winds of heaven"? Some say that it means that the proclamation was to he made to every part of the land. Some, that it refers to the extent of their dispersion, that they had been scattered by the four winds of heaven. But what matters it? Again, what is meant by "After the glory hath be sent me unto the nations which spoiled you"? Some suppose the prophet to be the person who here speaks of himself as being sent. Others, the angel mentioned in ver.
4. Some read the words, "after the glory," "to win glory." And again, what is meant by "Behold, I will shake mine hand upon them, and they shall be a spoil to their servants"? The expression, perhaps, is indicative of a threatening attitude of Jehovah when about to inflict punishment upon his enemies, Dr. Wardlaw says of Zechariah 2:8, Zechariah 2:9, "That the simplest and most natural interpretation is that which makes them refer to the fulfilment of the promise in Zechariah 2:5, 'I will be the Glory in the midst of her.'" When this has been fulfilled—when Jehovah's house has been built, and he has returned and taken possession of it, and become anew the glory of his people and his city—then, says the speaker, "He hath sent me unto the nations which spoiled you," words of which, in this connection, the most appropriate interpretation seems to be that Jehovah hath given him a commission against those nations. These words may be fairly taken to illustrate the moral exile of humanity. As the Jews in Babylon were exiled from their own land, souls are away front God in the "far country" of depravity. The point suggested is the reluctance of the exile to return. This reluctance is here seen—
I. IN THE EARNESTNESS OF THE DIVINE APPEAL. "Ho, ho, come forth, and flee from the land of the north, saith the Lord." Though Providence, through the interposition of Cyrus, had removed all physical obstacles to their return, still they had such lingering attachments to the land of their captivity that they seemed loth to break away. Hence the appeal of the Almighty to "flee from the land of the north." Is not this an illustration of the moral state of simmers? Though their way to return back to God has been made clear by Christ, yet return they will not. Hence how earnest and persevering the Divine call! What is the voice to humanity of the Almighty Word, the voice sounding through nature, through all history, and especially through Christ? Does it not amount to this, "Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord," etc.? "Return" is the word. "Flee from the land of the north." It is the land of corruption, the land of tyranny.
II. IN THE POTENCY OF THE DIVINE REASONS. Several things are suggested by God as reasons why they should attend to his call and "relearn."
1. The greatness of their separation. "I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heaven." You ought to be one people, united as loving brethren—united in spirit and aim, in a common worship and a common purpose of life; but you are divided far apart. You are not in one part of the country, but at every point of the compass—east, west, north, south. Do not be separated any more. Gather together into one fold. Is not this a good reason why sinners should return to God? So long as they are away from him they are divided amongst themselves. They are not only apart from each other, they are not only without sympathy with each other, but in antipathy. What a motive this to "return"!
2. The tender interest of God in them. "He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye." Some regard this as meaning, "He that injures you injures himself;" as if the words meant, "He that toucheth you toucheth the pupil of his own eye." There is a great truth in this. He that injures another injures himself thereby. This is a law manifestly just and eternally irrevocable. You cannot wrong another without wronging yourself. But although this is a truth, the words, I think, convey something more than this; they convey the idea of God's gender interest in his people. It is a charming figure. The eye is one of the most intricate and delicate structures in the human frame; and the pupil of the eye—the opening by which the light of heaven enters for the purposes of vision—the most sensitive, as well as important, part of that structure. Nothing can more finely convey the idea of the exquisitely tender care of Jehovah for the objects of his love. Such interest the Bible teaches with frequency and fervour. Hence we read, "In all their affliction, he is afflicted." We read, "As a father pitieth his children," etc. We read, "Can a woman forget her sucking child?" We read, "He is touched with a feeling of our infirmities," etc. What an argument is this for man's moral return! If the Almighty Father is so tender towards us, ought we not to hurry home to his presence! The father of the prodigal son represents the universal Father of mankind. "When he was yet a great way off, his father saw him," etc.
3. The opposition of the Almighty to their enemies. "For, behold, I will shake mine hand upon them." This can be the language of no other than Jehovah, and yet is the language of one who speaks of "Jehovah" as having "sent him." There does not appear to be any reasonable explanation of this but our considering the speaker as the Divine Angel of the covenant. This is a strong reason why they should "return." They need not be afraid, therefore, of their enemies. God is against them. Is not this a good reason why sinners should return to him? They need not dread their enemies, whether they be men or devils. God says, "I will shake mine hand upon them."
CONCLUSION. Why should sinners be so reluctant to return to God? What made the Jews so reluctant "to flee from the north"—to break away from Babylon and return to their own land? Was it indolence? Did they so love ease as to dread exertion? Was it love of the world? Had they established prosperous businesses, and amassed such property as to tie them to the spot? Was it old association? Had they formed acquaintances in which they were interested, associates whose services promoted their private advantage, and whose fellowship yielded pleasure to their social natures? Perhaps each of these acted—indolence, love of the world, old associations. And do not all these act now to prevent sinners from coming out of moral Babylon (see Revelation 18:4) ?—D.T.
The joy of the millennial Church.
"Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord," etc. "The daughter Zion, or the Church of the Lord, delivered out of Babylon, is to rejoice with joy, because her glorification is commencing now. The Lord comes to her in his angel, in whom is his Name (Exodus 23:21) and his face (Exodus 33:14), i.e. the Angel of his face (Isaiah 63:9), who reveals his nature, to dwell in the midst of her. This dwelling of Jehovah, or of his Angel, in the midst of Zion, is essentially different from the dwelling of Jehovah in the most holy place of his temple. It commences with the coming of the Son of God in the flesh, and is completed by his return in glory (John 1:14; Revelation 21:3). Then will many, or powerful nations, attach themselves to Jehovah, and become his people (cf. Zechariah 8:20, Zechariah 8:21; Isaiah 14:1). This kingdom of God, which has hitherto been restricted to Israel, wilt be spread out and glorified by the reception of the heathen nations which are seeking God (Micah 4:2). The repetition of the expression, 'I dwell in the midst of thee,' merely serves as a stronger asseveration of this brilliant promise" (Keil). These words may be fairly taken to represent the joy of the millennial Church. The words, as we have seen, point to the bright periods when Messiah's kingdom shall so extend as to embrace "many nations." Three remarks are suggested concerning this joy. It is righteous, reasonable, and reverential.
I. IT IS RIGHTEOUS. It is not only divinely authorized, but commanded. "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion." Often we are informed by religious teachers that joy is a privilege, but seldom told that joy is a duty. But joy is in truth as much a duty as honesty; for he who has commanded us not to steal has also commanded us to "rejoice evermore." It is as truly a sin against Heaven to be spiritually gloomy and sad as to be socially false and dishonest. "Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion." Similar commands are found elsewhere on the pages of Holy Writ. "Break forth into joy, sing together" (Isaiah 52:9); "Cry out and shout, thou inhabitant of Zion" (Isaiah 12:6); "Rejoice evermore" (1 Thessalonians 5:16); "Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). God in nature says to all, "Be happy." God in Christ says to all, "Be happy." "These things have I spoken unto you, that your joy may be full." Gratitude is joy; and ought not gratitude to flu every soul? Admiration is joy; and ought not every soul to be filled with admiration of the Divine excellence? Love is joy; and ought we not to love all creatures with the love of benevolence, and the Creator with the love of adoration?
II. IT IS REASONABLE. What is righteous is of course always reasonable. True morality is true policy. But here are reasons suggested for this joy. What are they?
1. The presence of God. "Lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord." The highest happiness of an intelligent creature is the presence of the object it supremely loves. "In thy presence is fulness of joy." To be with God is to be with the Fountain of all joy.
2. The increase of the good. "Many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day." There is a bright prospect for the true Church; though it has been and stilt is small, uninfluential, and despised, it is destined to grow, extend its boundaries, and embrace nations. The stone shall become a mountain and fill the whole earth. Is not this a good reason for joy—to see the clouds of error in the human sky breaking, dissolving, vanishing, and the Sun of truth rising, spreading, and penetrating the whole earth with its life giving beams? Is not this a sublime reason for life giving joy—"Many nations shall be joined to the Lord," as the branches are joined to the roots of the tree, as the members of the body are joined to the head?
3. The restoration of the Jews. "And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again." As all the language of this book is highly figurative, to give a literal meaning to this expression' is neither necessary nor just. It is not a literal but a spiritual restoration that is meant. Paul's words are a commentary on this (Romans 11:25-32), "For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come. out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: for this is my covenant irate them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed. God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all."
III. IT IS REVERENTIAL. "Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for he is raised up out of his holy habitation," "The Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him." The profoundest emotions of the soul are always mate. Superficial feelings are noisy and chattering. The shallow stream babbles amongst the hills. The deep river rolls by unheard. There are emotions of a pleasurable kind, that go off in the boisterous laugh, or the jocund song, or the sentimental hymn. But deep joy is silent as the stars. The real lover of art has joy in gazing at a magnificent piece of art, but his joy is inarticulate. The real lover of nature has deep joy in surveying some landscape of unparalleled grandeur. It is a joy that cannot go out in laughter, or speech, or song; it is silent. It is so with the godly soul. In the presence of the supremely beautiful it is filled with a joy that cannot speak, "a joy unspeakable, but full of glory."
CONCLUSION. Are we "joined to the Lord," loyal subjects of his great spiritual empire? If so, we might well be happy.—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 2". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the First Week after Epiphany