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§ 10. The eighth vision: the four chariots.
I turned, and lifted up mine eyes (see note on Zechariah 5:1). Four chariots. These are war chariots. The angel explains, in Zechariah 6:5, etc; what these chariots mean, how that they represent God's judgments on sinners in all the world. Though evil is removed from the Church, God's vengeance pursues it wherever it is located. If we compare this vision with the first (Zechariah 1:8-11), we shall see that the quiet there spoken of is here broken, and that the shaking of the nations, which is to accompany Messiah's advent (Haggai 2:7), has begun. That the four chariots are to be identified with the four powers of Daniel's visions (2 and 7.)—the Babylonian, Medo-Persian, Macedonian, and Roman—is an opinion that does not commend itself. These four kingdoms and their fate have been already symbolized in the horns of the second vision (Zechariah 1:19-21), and it is most unlikely that they should be again introduced under a different figure. This would mar the orderly development of the revelation. And how could these kingdoms, such as they were, be said to issue from the seat of the theocracy and to be attentive to God's commands? Further, how could the chariots symbolize the kingdoms which were to be the objects of punishment, when at the same time they are themselves the instruments which inflict the chastisement? Neither does the angel's explanation suit this notion; for kingdoms are nowhere found under the figure of winds, and such a symbol would have been unintelligible to the prophet without further elucidation. Two mountains. The Hebrew has the article, "the two mountains," two well known mountains. The scene of the vision is Jerusalem or its neighbourhood; hence the two mountains mentioned are thought to he those of Zion or the temple mount, and Olives (comp. Zechariah 14:4; Joel 3:16). It is impossible to identify them; end probably nothing more is meant than that the chariots came forth from a defile between the two mountains which appeared in the vision. Mountains of brass; or, copper. These impregnable, undecaying mountains represent the immovable, invincible nature of the theocracy and of God's decrees respecting it. From it the chariots go forth, because for the sake of God's kingdom and to promote its objects the world powers are destroyed (Knabenbauer) (Isaiah 66:15). The number "four" represents completeness; the judgment shall leave no quarter unvisited.
Red horses (see note on Zechariah 1:8). The colours of the horses are significant, though the symbols are not undisputed. "Red" symbolizes bloodshed and war (Isaiah 63:2; Revelation 6:4); "black," sorrow and mourning (Isaiah 1:3; Jeremiah 4:28; Revelation 6:5); "white," victory and joy (Ecclesiastes 9:8; Revelation 6:2; Revelation 19:11). What the colour of the horses in the fourth chariot means is very doubtful (see below on Zechariah 6:3).
Grisled and bay; rather, speckled, strong; Septuagint, ἵπποι ποικίλαι ψαροί, "horses pied and dapple-grey." But ψαρὸς is explained by the Scholiast in Aristophanes, 'Nub.,' 1225, as "swift;" and possibly the LXX. used it in that sense here. The Vulgate has fortes; Aquila, καρτεροί. One would have expected a colour to be named. but why these are specially mentioned as strong or active is seen in Zechariah 6:7. The word beruddim, "speckled," occurs only in Genesis 31:10, Genesis 31:12, where it has no symbolical character. As it denotes a combination of colours, probably spots of white on a dark ground, it may signify a quality of a mixed, nature, thus indicating a visitation of war and pestilence, the sword and famine.
The four spirits of the heavens. Both the Septuagint and Vulgate render, "the four winds of heaven;" and this is doubtless correct. It was a familiar symbol to the Jews. The winds are often introduced in executing God's will on sinners (comp. Psalms 104:4; Psalms 148:8; Jeremiah 49:36; Daniel 7:2). Which go forth from standing before the Lord (comp. Job 1:6; Job 2:1). The winds are supposed to be God's servants, waiting his pleasure to be sent forth on his errands. The Septuagint and Vulgate translate, "which go forth to stand before the Lord." This denotes merely their usual obedience; but the text implies that the prophet sees them moving from their usual expectant attitude, and hastening forth to do God's commands.
The angel now (Zechariah 6:6, Zechariah 6:7) indicates the various destinations of the chariots, except the first with the red horses. Why this is omitted has never been satisfactorily explained. Some regard Zechariah 6:7 as giving the destination of this chariot, by making a slight change in the word rendered "bay" in the Authorized Version, which would cause it to mean "red." The Syriac, indeed, which omits the word in Zechariah 6:3, translates it here by "red." If we retain the Masoretic reading, we must let this difficulty remain unsolved, and suppose that the angel explains only part of the vision, leaving the rest for the prophet's meditation. The black horses which are therein; literally, that wherein are the black horses, they go forth, etc.; which is equivalent to "the chariot wherein are the black horses goeth forth." So the Revised Version. The north country. Babylonia (see note on Zechariah 2:6). After them; behind them. The white horses go to the same quarter; and thus is indicated the overwhelming destruction that was coming on Babylon, and the victory and triumph of the conquerors over it. The south country; i.e. Egypt (Isaiah 30:6; Daniel 11:5), another hostile power, also, perhaps, Edom and Ethiopia. One chariot only is seen to go towards it, drawn by the speckled horses that denote a mixed judgment, perhaps of war and pestilence (see on Zechariah 6:3). The north and south symbolize the whole earth and the powers hostile to the true Israel.
The bay; rather, the strong, as in Zechariah 6:3; the horses in the fourth chariot, whose special mission needed peculiar powers. Septuagint, οἱ ψαροί: but the Vulgate, qui erant robustissimi. Sought to go. These agents desired a wider sphere, and asked permission to extend their action, and to walk to and fro through the earth. Famine and pestilence, which this chariot symbolizes, come at different times and in different places mysteriously and unexpectedly "as arrows shot from the hand of God (Ezekiel 5:16) on the objects of his displeasure" (Alexander). LXX; Καὶ ἐπέβλεπον [S2, Καὶ ἐζήτουν καὶ ἐπέβλεπον] τοῦ πορεύεσθαι τοῦ [Α, καὶ] περιοδεῦσαι τὴν γῆν, "And looked to go and compass the earth."
Then cried he upon me. The angel cried aloud (like a herald announcing a proclamation, Jonah 3:7), to call the prophet's attention to what was coming, which was of most immediate consequence to his people. This angel speaks as in the person of God. Have quieted my spirit; literally, have caused my spirit to rest; LXX; ἀνέπαυσαν τὸν θυμόν μου, "quieted my anger," i.e. by satiating it. Many commentators take the clause as equivalent to "have caused my wrath to rest upon the land" (comp. John 3:36), referring to Judges 8:3; Proverbs 16:32; Ecclesiastes 10:4, for the use of the word "spirit" (ruach) in the sense of "anger." Others see here an intimation of mercy and grace to the Jews still resident in Babylonia. But it is plain that the vision is one of judgment: and the Spirit of the Lord is a Spirit of judgment and vengeance (Isaiah 4:4), which destroys evil that good may flourish.
§ 11. A symbolical action—the crowning of the high priest.
The preceding visions having come to an end, they are now confirmed by a public act which should show the glory of the future temple, the acceptance of the members of the theocracy, and the King and Priest who Was to come. Came unto me. This was probably on the morning after the night of visions, or as soon as he had divulged them to the people.
Take of them of the Captivity. The verb is in the infinitive for the imperative, "take thou from the Captivity;" what he is to take is noted in the next verse. "Those of the Captivity" are certain envoys sent by the Jews who still dwelt in Babylon (Ezekiel 1:1; Ezekiel 3:11), bearing gifts for the temple. These messengers the prophet was to visit at the house of Josiah, their host. Heldai; or, Cheldai, in Zechariah 6:14 "Helem" or "Chelem," "The Enduring One" (Keil); "The Lord's Word" (Pussy). The name occurs in 1 Chronicles 27:15. Tobijah; "The Lord is good," a well known name. Jedaiah; "God careth." The name is found in 1 Chronicles 9:10; 1 Chronicles 24:7. The LXX. explains the names in symbolical fashion, Παρὰ τῶν ἀρχόντων καὶ παρὰ τῶν χρησίμων αὐτῆς καὶ παρὰ τῶν ἐπεγνωκότων αὐτήν "From the chief men, and from its good men, and from those that have understood it." Which are come from Babylon. This clause in the Authorized Version is transposed from its place in the Hebrew, which is at the end of the verse, where it refers to the house of Josiah, and should be rendered, "to which," or "whither they have come from Babylon." Septuagint, Τὸν οἶκον Ὠσίου … τοῦ ἥκοντος ἐκ Βαβυλῶνος, "The house of Josiah … who came from Babylon." The same day. There was to be no delay; the transaction was to be carried out "on that day," the day made known to the prophet, and by himself in person. The house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah. He was, perhaps, treasurer. At any rate, at his house the envoys were entertained, and there were stored the contributions which the Jews in exile had sent to their brethren in Jerusalem. Josiah is the same person as Hen, according to the Authorized Version and the Vulgate, in verse 14 (where see note). He was probably son of the Zephaniah mentioned in 2 Kings 25:18 as in the second rank of priests among those who were deported to Babylon (comp. Jeremiah 21:1; Jeremiah 37:3).
Silver and gold. That which had been brought from Babylon. However unwilling the Jews were to let the Samaritans take part in the good work, they were quite ready to receive contributions from their brethren in the dispersion, and likewise from heathen kings and princes (see Ezra 6:8, etc.; Ezra 7:15, etc.). Make crowns. The prophet was to get the crowns made (comp. Exodus 25:1-40; passim). The plural may here be used intensively for "a noble crown," as in Job 31:36; or it may signify the two metals of which the crown was made, two or more wreaths being intertwined to form it. It is certain that only one crown was to be made, and that that was to be placed on Joshua's head. There is no mention of Zerubbabel in the passage; so the plural cannot be taken to intimate that there was a crown for the high priest and a crown for the princely ruler, as Ewald and Bunsen assert. These critics, followed by Hitzig and Wellhausen, supply the passage thus: "on the head of Zerubbabel and on the head of Joshua." Zerubbabel had no kingly position. Rather, all mention of Zerubbabel is expressly excluded, in order to denote that in the Person of him whom Joshua symbolized, the offices of priest and king were united (Psalms 110:1-7). We may note that in Revelation 19:12 Christ is said to have on his head many crowns, by which is meant a diadem composed of many circlets. The high priest's mitre is never called a crown. That which was placed on Joshua's head was a royal crown, a token of royal dignity, not his own, but his whom he represented—Christ the eternal Priest, the universal King.
Speak unto him, saying. The prophet is to explain to Joshua the meaning of this public act. Behold the Man whose name is The BRANCH; literally, behold the man, BRANCH is his name (see note on Zechariah 3:8). The Targum has, "Behold the Man, Messiah is his name." It is plain that the term "Branch" or "Shoot" (LXX; Ἀνατολή: Vulgate, Oriens) could not be addressed to Joshua; indeed, the very form of the sentence, "his name," not "thy name," shows this. All who saw the transaction and heard the words must have understood that they had reference to the "Shoot" of David, the Messiah that was to come, to whom was committed the regal and priestly dignity. And he shall grow up out of his place; Septuagint, Καὶ ὑποκάτωθεν αὐτοῦ ἀνατελεῖ, "And item beneath him he shall spring up;" Vulgate, Et subter eum orietur; Drake, "He shall sprout forth from under himself;" Revised Version margin, "And it (or they) shall bud forth under him;" Hitzig, Ewald, "From under him there shall be sprouting." But them is no need to alter the rendering of the Authorized Version, which indicates that the shoot shall grow from its own soil, that Messiah shall arise in his own country and nation, and shall spring from a lowly origin to the highest glory (see Isaiah 11:1; Isaiah 53:2). He shall build the temple of the Lord. He should build, not the material temple whose foundations Zerubbabel had laid, but the spiritual temple of which the tabernacle and the temple of Jerusalem were only the type and shadow—that new sanctuary which Ezekiel beheld (41), a house not made with hands, the Church of the living God (Ephesians 2:20, etc.; 1 Peter 2:5).
Even he shall build. A forcible repetition of the preceding statement, laying stress on the Person, "He, and no one else, shall build." The clause is omitted by the Septuagint. He shall bear the glory. The word rendered "glory" is used to denote royal honours here, as in 1 Chronicles 29:25; Jeremiah 22:18; Daniel 11:21. Messiah shall have regal majesty. Compare the many passages where the glory of Christ is spoken of; e.g. John 1:14; John 2:11; John 17:5; Luke 9:32; Luke 24:26; Hebrews 2:9; Revelation 5:12, etc. Shall sit and rule upon his throne (comp. Zechariah 9:10). Thus Christ says, "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Matthew 28:18; see Luke 1:32). And he shall be a Priest upon his throne; Septuagint, Καὶ ἔσται ἱερεὺς ἐκ δεξιῶν αὐτοῦ, "There shall be a Priest upon his right hand." The Authorized Version is doubtless correct, as the clause is intended to declare that Messiah should, like Melchizedek, combine the offices of Priest and King (Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 5:6, Hebrews 5:10). The counsel of peace shall be between them both. The two offices or dignities are meant, which are combined in one person. The Messiah, in his two offices of Priest and King, has one common design, to bring peace to his people (Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:5, where see note). Other interpretations are unsuitable. Thus: There shall be harmony between Joshua and Zerubbabel; but the two are nowhere mentioned together in the paragraph, and, indeed, the statement would be superfluous. There shall be perfect concord between the two offices; but a person is spoken of. not an abstraction. Others explain the "counsel of peace" to be between Jews and Gentiles, or the returned and the exiled Jews; but neither of these have been named. Pusey takes it to mean, "between the Father and the Son;" but there is nothing in the passage to lead to this. Kuabenhauer expounds it of those who alone are mentioned in the text, Messiah and Joshua, seeing in it an exhortation to the latter to make the type correspond to the Antitype, so that all may see that there is perfect harmony between them.
The crowns shall be … for a memorial. The crown was to be taken from Joshua's head and deposited in the temple as a memorial of this prophecy, and of the zeal of those who had come from far to bring offerings to the Lord, and likewise of the hospitality of Josiah, who had received them into his house. That such "gifts" were dedicated in the temple is well known. Helem is the same as Heldai (verse 10), whether he bore both names, or whether, as is probable, this is a mere mistake of a copyist. To Hen. The Authorized Version considers this as a proper name. In this case it would be another name for Josiah. But it is really an appellative, and the rendering should be, "for the kindness of the son of Zephaniah." The crown would be also a memorial of his kindness in receiving and entertaining these exiles (comp. Matthew 10:41). The LXX. explains the names as in verse 10, though not quite in the same way, Εσται τοῖς ὑπομένουσι καὶ τοῖς χρησίμοις αὐτῆς καὶ τοῖς ἐπεγνωκόσιν αὐτὴν καὶ εἰς χάριτα υἱοῦ Σοφονίον καὶ εἰς ψαλμὸν ἐν οἴκῳ Κυρίου, "The crown shall be to them that endure, and to its good men, and to those that have understood it, both for a favour to the son of Sophonias, and for a psalm in the house of the Lord."
They that are far off; οἱ μακράν,; comp. Ephesians 2:13, Ephesians 2:17. The Jews who had come from Babylon to Jerusalem are a figure of the conversion of distant nations and their offerings to the Church (see Haggai 2:7, and note there). Build in the temple of the Lord. They shall join in building up the spiritual temple, the universal Church of Christ. Ye shall know, etc. (Zechariah 2:9, Zechariah 2:11; Zechariah 4:9). The Angel of Jehovah is speaking in Jehovah's name (Ephesians 2:9). What takes place in the case of this material temple shall be a token and a prelude of the great fulfilment in Messianic times. If ye will diligently obey. Neither the restoration of the temple nor the advent of Messiah's kingdom was in itself doubtful; but the people's share in the former, and their participation in the blessings of the latter, depended on the preparation of the heart, obedience, zeal, and holiness (Daniel 12:10; Malachi 4:1, Malachi 4:2; John 1:12; 2 Timothy 2:11, 2 Timothy 2:12).
The ministry of angels.
"And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains." This, the last of the present series of visions, is perceptibly similar in several points, to the first (Zechariah 1:7-11). We find mention in both, e.g; of "horses;" of the variety of their colours; of the prophet's inquiry respecting their meaning; of some of them going to and fro on the earth; and of final "quiet" (Zechariah 6:8) or "rest" (Zechariah 1:11). If we were right, therefore, in understanding the first as a "vision of angels," we may do the same, of course, of this last. This idea is confirmed by the frequent way in which "chariots," as here spoken of, are employed in Holy Scripture as descriptive of the angels of God (see Psalms 68:17; Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:53; 2 Kings 2:11; 2 Kings 6:17); as also by what is said of those seen as "standing by the Lord of the whole earth" (1 Kings 22:19; Daniel 7:10; Luke 1:19; also Zechariah 4:14, supra, where we, perhaps, have an example of the placing of men on an angelic level; Psalms 8:5; Luke 20:36). Taking this general view of the passage, it may be understood as giving us instruction
(1) respecting the nature of the angels; and
(2) respecting their work.
I. THEIR NATURE. We are shown in this vision, for example:
1. How mighty they are. They are represented as chariots of war—chariots of "fire," in other places—probably because such chariots, in old days, were, like artillery in these days, the most formidable "arm" of an army (see Judges 1:19; Judges 4:3; 2 Chronicles 18:30, 2 Chronicles 18:31; and note how angels, whether elect or fallen, are spoken of in Romans 8:38; Ephesians 1:21; Ephesians 6:10; 2 Peter 2:11).
2. How orderly. Each separate emblematical "colour" being distinguished from the others, and each coming forth in its turn. May we not trace similar ideas of perfect order and symmetrical arrangement, and consequent facility in ascertaining numbers, in Revelation 5:11; Daniel 7:10?
3. How diverse. This, also, seems intimated by what is said of the different "colours" of the horses. This also we can easily understand to be true. If the varieties of men are so many, who yet are all "men," however diverse (Acts 17:26), why not of the angels also? why not of the angels much more, being innumerable (Hebrews 12:22)? This same truth seems intimated to us also in Colossians 1:16; and, perhaps, of evil angels, in Mark 9:29. A legitimate subject this for meditation and praise, though not for intrusion (Colossians 1:18).
4. How diversely employed. Like "the four winds of heaven," e.g; some go in this direction, some in that. Also some are to follow, some to precede. Some, again, to move in one direction only; some in every direction, "to and fro." Angels, in short, like the stars of the mighty firmament, and apparently bearing, therefore, the same name, "the host of heaven" (Genesis 2:1; Psalms 33:6; Luke 2:13; Job 38:6), are, as it were, some fixed, and some revolving; some of one light, some of another; some larger, some smaller; some single, some double or treble; some nearer, some more remote (1 Corinthians 15:41).
II. THEIR WORK. However mighty or diverse these angels, all that they here do is seen to be:
1. In strict subordination to God's purposes. These mystical "chariots" only run, as it were, "between," and not over the mountains—the unsurmountable and undecaying "brass" mountains of God's settled arrangements (see Micah 4:13). Even of the mightiest angels Acts 4:28 holds good.
2. In strict obedience to God's directions. Observe what is said in Acts 4:7 of those who "sought to go," but till expressly allowed, did not go, "to and fro" (comp. Daniel 9:23; Hebrews 1:14, "sent forth;" and see, even of evil angels, Luke 8:32).
3. To the complete satisfaction of God's Son. See the emphatic declaration of the Angel-Jehovah in Acts 4:8. This is true, even if we understand that verse (with some), "These have made my anger to rest on the north country." Why else does this Divine Angel employ this word "my "? Why proclaim this fact thus "aloud" (Pusey; comp. Psalms 103:20, Psalms 103:21; Matthew 6:10)?
4. For the sake of God's friends. What is this "north country' on which God's anger is thus caused to abide? What but that great enemy of his Zion—that mystic Babylon, or "Shinar," by banishment in which (see last chapter) he had punished his Israel for their sin? Compare this predicted fate of the future "Babylon" with that of the literal as described in Isaiah 47:6-9, and elsewhere; and compare Zechariah 1:15, and perhaps Revelation 18:5, Revelation 18:6.
From the whole, we may see, to conclude:
1. The exceeding complexity of God's government. How many instruments—what varied agents, both in heaven and earth—he employs (comp. Daniel 4:35)! Much as there is to admire in that visible "cosmos" of which men have discovered (under one aspect) so much; how much more there is when we include also that invisible "cosmos" (Genesis 28:12; John 1:51), of which revelation informs us I It is, in fact, only less marvellous than its Maker himself.
2. The exceeding simplicity of its general principle. So far as explained to us, it all turns on one point, viz. "Israel's" calling and work. This shown here of the literal Israel. This still more true of the spiritual. See two last references again; also such passages as 2 Corinthians 4:15; 1 Corinthians 3:21; Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:11. Note, also, how this principle was laid down once for all in Genesis 12:3; and how it corresponds with and is partly explained by the remarkable declaration of Ephesians 1:23.
The ministry of Messiah.
"And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying," etc. The series of striking visions which we have now been considering had a kind of "prologue" in Zechariah 1:1-6. We seem to have the corresponding "epilogue" here. It turns on the fact of the arrival (probably about the same season, no special note of time being given as in Zechariah 7:1) of certain visitors at Jerusalem, with offerings for the temple, from a "far" country, viz. "Babylon" (see Zechariah 1:10 and Zechariah 1:15; and comp. Isaiah 39:3). And what we seem invited to notice, respecting these visitors, is
(1) the welcome;
(2) the instruction; and
(3) the promotion which they received.
I. THE WELCOME ACCORDED THEM. This is shown in several ways.
1. As to their persons. They are mentioned by name (Zechariah 1:10; comp. Exodus 31:2; Exodus 33:12; 1 Kings 13:2; Isaiah 45:3; John 10:3), including the name of the man who appears to have given them hospitality in his "house" (Matthew 10:41). Also, if it be true, as some suppose from comparing Zechariah 1:10 and Zechariah 1:14, that two among them had more names than one, the second name in each case being one assumed because containing in it, like all the rest (see Pusey), the name of Jehovah or Jah (comp. Daniel 1:7; Daniel 4:8; Daniel 5:12; Micah 4:5), it is, perhaps, worthy of notice that their names seem mentioned in full; thus showing, further, it may be, how God is pleased to notice and honour the very least thing that is done by us in remembrance of his Name (Mark 9:41).
2. As to their offerings. These are not only not refused, but openly accepted—a very great point, and by no means such a matter of course as we are sometimes inclined to suppose (Genesis 4:4, Genesis 4:5; Numbers 16:15; Exodus 25:2; Exodus 30:16; Exodus 35:5, etc.). Also, when accepted, these offerings are honoured, and put to very dignified use, being employed to make "crowns" (Zechariah 1:11) for God's chief minister then upon earth.
II. THE INSTRUCTION VOUCHSAFED THEM. See what God says of Joshua, when thus adorned, as a type or sign (comp. Zechariah 3:8), in verses 12 and 13. With these two crowns on him, he seems to represent to us:
1. The appearance of the coming Messiah in his humiliation. We see him here
(1) as a man ("Behold the Man!" verse 12; John 19:5); and, therefore, as sharing to the full man's nature and circumstances ("growing up;" comp. Isaiah 53:2; Luke 2:51, Luke 2:52). We see him here
(2) as the Representative Man, the Son of man ("The Branch," Verse 12), engaged, as such, in doing man's work, viz. in saving men or bringing them to glory (Hebrews 2:10, Hebrews 2:11); in other words, in "building" God's "temple," or Church (Matthew 16:18).
2. The appearance of the coming Messiah in his glory. For example, we see him here
(1) as a Builder or Teacher, doing all by himself. "Even he" (verse 13). He, indeed, being such as he is] He, alone, having no one else with him (see Isaiah 63:3, Isaiah 63:5)! More especially and clearly we see him
(2) as both King and High Priest. This also foreshadowed by the case of Melchizedek (Genesis 14:18; Psalms 110:4; Hebrews 7:14). This signified here by the interpretation apparently given to the two "crowns" in verse 13 ("sitting and ruling on his throne," and being "a priest on his throne"); and possibly, also, by the intimation at the end of that verse, of perfectly harmonious cooperation, in his case, of these generally divided and even incompatible offices. This afterwards accomplished, as to his priestly office, when, by being "lifted up" on the cross, he drew all men to himself (John 12:32, where note also the connection between the inquiry of the Greeks, so "far off," in John 12:20-23, and the "glorifying" of the Son of man in the subsequent verse); and, as to his kingly office, in that primary "building" up of his Church by the bestowment of the gifts mentioned in Acts 2:33 and Acts 5:31. Then most manifestly did he "bear" that twofold "glory" referred to here in Acts 5:13.
III. THE SPECIAL PROMOTION CONFERRED ON THEM. As shown by the final destination of their offerings. After doing their duty, as "crowns" to Joshua, in a typical way, they were to have a perpetual place amongst the treasures of God's house (verse 14). This:
1. As a "memorial." (Verse 14.) Future visitors should learn from them how these first visitors (as they appear to have been) had been welcomed. Possibly this may even help to account for the world wide habit which afterwards prevailed amongst the Jews in this respect (Acts 2:1-11, etc.; and compare, perhaps, Romans 16:5; Ephesians 2:12).
2. As a pledge. Placed in the restored temple, these crowns would be a kind of standing prophecy:
(1) Of the future calling of the Gentiles, when those now "afar off" should not only come and be welcomed, but should even help to build the true temple of God.
(2) Of the coming glory of Messiah. Then, i.e. when this ingathering of the Gentiles (Genesis 49:10) has taken place, says the Angel-Jehovah here (in verse 15), ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you (compare two clauses of Luke 2:31).
3. As a warning. "Ye shall know," if willing to know—so it means (see end of verse 15; and comp. Daniel 12:10; John 7:17).
See how these various considerations show the unity of the Bible.
1. As to its structure. Joshua, or Jesus, after the Exodus, brings the Israelites, as Moses could not do, into rest. Another "Jesus," after the Captivity, typifies, in Zechariah 3:6-10, the two natures of Christ; and, in this passage, his two offices of King and Priest. In the "fulness of time" a third "Jesus" arises, in whom all these things are fulfilled. Is there no evidence, in all this, of "design"?
2. As to its subject. Wherever we penetrate far enough beneath the surface, we find this one "Rock." Must it not, therefore, like the granite in geological formations, be the foundation of all?
3. As to its source. To what are we to attribute such singular unity of teaching, at such very different times, and in such very different circumstances, except virtual unity of origin, or of supervision, to say the least? Is not the true and only explanation in such passages as 2 Peter 1:21; 1 Corinthians 12:6-11.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
The world ruled in the interest of Christianity.
I. THE POWERS OF THE WORLD ARE UNDER THE CONTROL OF GOD. East and west, north and south, all the world over, God is supreme. He is the Lord of all forces, the Ruler of all events, the Arbiter of all destinies. War, famine, pestilence, may be the result of natural causes, but, all the same, they are his servants; they come and go at his command; they accomplish what he pleases.
"Happy the man who sees a God employed
In all the good and ill that chequer life."
II. THE POWERS OF THE WORLD ARE CONTROLLED BY GOD IN THE INTEREST OF CHRISTIANITY. God takes a direct and living interest in his people. He is Enemy of their enemies, and the Friend of their friends. "All things work together for good to them who love God." And there is nothing arbitrary in this. God is not partial, but just. As he is God, he must act as God. The true and the righteous and the holy must ever receive the protection and the blessing of the True and the Righteous and the Holy One. God's government is marked by immutability of counsel, variety of method, universality of range, sovereignty of sway, and beneficence of result. How grand and benign must be the end that satisfies the mind of the Eternal! "Quieted my spirit."—F.
Messiah the Prince.
I. THE COMING MAN OF THE AGES. "Branch." Lowliness, and yet dignity. The heathens fabled that the Titans were sons of heaven and earth. Here is what they vainly imagined. "Grew up." Natural development. Perfection of humanity. Long the cry was, "He cometh." We see his shadow in every sacrifice. Find his presence in every prophecy. Hear his footfall in every promise. He was the Hope of Israel, and the Desire of all nations.
II. CHARGED WITH THE NOBLEST MISSION. "Build"—personally and instrumentally. Many whom he honours as "fellow workers." Temple slowly rising. Grandeur and beauty gradually unfolding. Implies the union and fellowship of men as "living stones" in the great temple of humanity.
III. DESTINED FOR THE GRANDEST EMPIRE. "The glory."
1. Priest. Power with God. "Forever, after the order of Melchizedek."
2. King. Power with men. The rule of righteousness and love.
3. The recompose of his sufferings. "Sit and rule." First the cross, then the crown (cf. Hebrews 10:12, Hebrews 10:13; 1 Peter 1:11).
IV. DESIGNATED FOR IMMORTAL HONOUR. Heaven is the perfect state. What do we see there? Let St. John declare (Revelation 5:6). Even on earth, what honour to Christ! Every day, and especially on the Lord's day, what prayers in his Name! what offerings to his praise and glory! In how many lands, by what various voices, with what measureless love, is his name breathed forth! "Behold the Man!" Let each heart answer, with adoring gratitude and joy, "My Lord and my God!"—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
God's government of the world.
"And I turned, and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and, behold, there came four chariots out from between two mountains; and the mountains were mountains of brass," etc. This is the last in the series of visions, which amount in all to eight, during that one night. All are so obscure that the more scholarly and enlightened the expositor, the less disposed will he be to regard his interpretation as absolutely correct. Certainly this is not more easy of interpretation than the preceding ones. The objects which were now revealed to the prophet's vision are various and strange.
1. He sees four chariots. It does not say expressly whether they were chariots of war bearing the warrior out to battle or home in triumph, or whether they were chariots used for private or public conveyances; but it is implied that they were war chariots.
2. He saw these four chariots proceeding from two mountains. These were not mountains of earth or intone, but mountains of brass; mountains, therefore, having peculiar solidity and strength.
3. He saw these chariots drawn by horses of different colours. In the first chariot we have red horses; in the second, black; in the third, white; and in the fourth, grisled or piebald grey. Now, the prophet seemed utterly unable to understand the meaning of these objects. But he is anxious to do so, and he addresses the interpreting angel, and says, "What are these, my lord?" Here is the answer: "And the angel answered and said unto me, These are the/bur spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth," etc. The chariots, then, are the four "spirits," or winds, as the margin has it. Some translate the word, "celestial spirits," and suppose that angels are referred to. The "four winds" probably represent the invisible agencies by which the Almighty is pleased to carry on the government of the world. These spirits stand before the Lord of all the earth, and are in his presence, at his disposal, ever ready to execute his behests. My purpose in these sketches is not speculative, but practical. Were it speculative, I should find a wide and fertile field for hypothetical thought. For example, a large variety of opinions exist concerning the four chariots and horses and their charioteers. Some suppose that they represent the great monarchies of the ancient world—the Chaldean, the Grecian, and the Roman. Some, indeed, have supposed them to refer to the four Gospels. And some have supposed them to refer to the history of the Church after Constantine—the first, to the wars of invaders of the Roman Empire, and the wars of controverted doctrines and opinions; the second, to the blackness of darkness, the ignorance, oppression, and misery of papal domination; the third, to the light and knowledge, the joy and triumph, of the Reformation; and the fourth, to the mixed condition of things, the confusion of false doctrine and true, right and wrong precepts, holy and unholy rites of worship, subsequent to that great revolution. But I take the vision to illustrate God's government of the world; and it illustrates four facts concerning that government—its variety, immutability, universality, and supremacy.
I. VARIETY. This is suggested by the colour of the steeds that bear onward the chariots of his plans. The "red horses," emblem of war and bloodshed. The "black," emblem of calamity, distress, and mourning. The "white," emblem of gladness and prosperity. The "grisled" and "bay," or piebald, a mixture of events, prosperity and adversity, friendship and bereavement, sorrow and joy, etc. Has not this variety characterized the providence that is over man from the beginning until this hour? It is not only seen in every page of the history of nations and Churches and families, but in the history of individuals. The experience of every man is more changeable than the weather. There is a constant alternation—the red, the black, the white, the mixed. These changes are useful.
1. They break the monotony of life. They tend to keep the heart of humanity on the alert. There is but little opportunity for moral sleep.
2. They create a desire for a state of certainty. They prompt a search for a "city that hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God." This is not our rest.
II. IMMUTABILITY. These chariots move between two "mountains of brass." Though they are borne by a variety of steeds, and move rapidly towards every point of the compass, and carry a variety of events wherever they go, they are overshadowed and hedged in by the immutable, represented by mountains of brass. God's immutable counsels of decrees keep all the motions and commotions, all the convulsions and revolutions of the world in their place. As the ocean, amidst all its ebbings and flowings, rage and fury, is bound to obey the moon, which remains serenely settled in her orbit, so all the agitations of the earth are bound to obey the immutable decrees of Heaven. Thank God, that in this changing world of ours there are mountains of brass, things that cannot be shaken. "All flesh is grass,… but the word of our God shall stand forever;" "My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure."
III. UNIVERSALITY. These chariots, borne by these varied coloured steeds, rolled towards every point of the globe, some to the north and some to the south. They walked "to and fro through the earth." Yes; through the earth—through every part of it. Not a spot unvisited or ignored. God's providence embraces all, matter and mind, great and small, good and evil. All we have, and all that every creature has, is borne to us in these chariots; they bear to us our trials and our joys. Hence we should bow with resignation under all our sorrows, and shout with gratitude in all our enjoyments. Hence, too, we should practically realize our dependence upon him in every moment of our life. "Give us this day our daily bread," etc.
IV. SUPREMACY. "These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth." He is at the head of all. No evil spirit moves without his permission and control; no good spirit without his inspiration and guidance. He is the Lord of all the earth. How great must he be who manages all things!
"All good proceedeth from him, as sunbeams from the sun;
All evils fall before him; his will through all is done."
Let us trust him with an unbounded confidence. Let us obey him with loving loyalty, "Of him, and by him, and to him are all things." "He is over all, God blessed forever."—D.T.
The matchless Man in history.
"And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Take of them of the Captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day." The crowning, the work, and the position of Joshua spoken of in these verses are obviously employed to symbolize some coming Man who would be matchless in all history. Concerning this matchless Man, we are here taught—
I. THAT HE IS ONE WHOM HEAVEN COMMANDS THE PEOPLE TO HONOUR. "And the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Take of them of the Captivity, even of Heldai, of Tobijah, and of Jedaiah, which are come from Babylon, and come thou the same day, and go into the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah; then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest." The prophet is commanded to go to certain of the more distinguished men who had returned from Babylonian captivity, representative men and envoys it may be. He was to take these men, whose names are here given, who were entertained in the house of another distinguished man, here called Josiah the son of Zephaniah. From that house the silver and gold which they had brought from Babylon were to be taken, with which crowns were to be made and placed upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest. By the general consent of expositors, this was a mere symbolical transaction—a transaction pointing to some great Man whom Heaven will require all men to crown with the highest dignity. The spirit of hero worship is so strong in human nature that the servile multitudes of all times have been ready to fall down and render homage to most unholy characters. They hoist flags, ring bells, shout hurrahs, in honour of the laurelled butchers, crowned despots, and gorgeous millionaires. This is one cf the worst features of human depravity, one of the greatest obstructions to the progress of men and nations. But here is a character symbolized by the name of Joshua, to whom the people are called upon by God himself to render honour. Who is this Man? Can you find him anywhere amongst the millions of your contemporaries in any land, or on the page of the history of the people of any time? anywhere but in the records of the four evangelists—the Man Christ Jesus? "When he bringeth in the First Begotten into the world, he saith, Let all the angels of God worship him." And all heaven worships him. "I heard the voice of angels round about the throne," etc.
II. THAT HIS PEDIGREE WAS STRIKINGLY SINGULAR, "Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord." He is a "Branch;" he has root somewhere; he has life, and he grows. It is here said, "He shall grow up out of his place." The reference is to some Man who grows on the earth, who is not of the earth. What man on the earth can be said to have grown out of his place? The earth is the place of all men during their stay here. It is their native home. Only one such Man we know of—the illustrious "Son of Mary." He came down from heaven and tabernacled on this earth, which was not his place. And here he grew in body and mind, in the favour of God and man. Though there was nothing congenial with his Spirit here, still he grew and became the Prince of life, the Conqueror of death, and the moral Commander of the race. A great soul, dominated by a supreme sympathy with the Supremely Good, can grow anywhere, in its place or out of it. It can subordinate the most. hostile external elements and forces to its own will and interests.
III. THAT HE IS ONE WHOSE MISSION IS SUBLIMELY GLORIOUS. "He shall build the temple of the Lord," etc. Zerubbabol was now engaged in the work of rearing the material temple at Jerusalem; and a more glorious work than this is not given to man than to promote the public worship of God. The progress of nations is dependent upon morality, and morality is the growth of genuine religion. Philanthropy springs from piety; it is only as philanthropy grows that humanity can advance. Hence no work so transcendently important as that of promoting public worship, building temples, etc. Hence it is added here, "He shall bear the glory." The true promoter of public worship bears with him in every honest effort the glory, compared with which the glory of every other department of human labour pales into dimness. The building of the material temple is but the emblem of the rearing of the great spiritual temple And the Man here referred to is the Builder of that. There is one and only one, and that is Christ. He is not only the Builder, but the Creator of the materials, and himself the Foundation of the whole. "Other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, that is Jesus Christ." In doing this he bears the glory. "Now is the Son of man glorified." God is glorified in him. "God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name," etc. St. Peter gives a beautiful description of this temple when he says, "To whom coming, as unto a living stone, disallowed indeed of men, but chosen of God, and precious, ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ." Christ is the great Builder of the moral temple of the world, and no one else.
IV. THAT HE IS ONE WHOSE POSITION AND FUNCTIONS ARE TRANSCENDENTALLY EXALTED. He is on a throne. "He is exalted far above all heavens." But he is there:
1. As a priestly King. On behalf of humanity before God, he holds the reins of universal dominion.
2. As a glorious Reconciler. "The counsel of peace shall be between them both." What does this mean? Not that there is a covenant of peace between him and his Father. They were never at variance. And to suppose any contract or covenant between them is to derogate Infinite Majesty. The "counsel of peace" between the Infinite Father and his alien and rebellious children. He is the Mediator between God and man. He is the Reconciliation, the Atonement. (But see in the Exposition (verse 13) another explanation, and one more conformable to the context.)
V. THAT HE IS ONE WHOSE POWER TO ATTRACT OTHERS TO HIS ENTERPRISE IS IMMENSELY GREAT. "And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you." "There can," says Dr. Wardlaw, "be no doubt here; to you who were far off, and to them that were near are the very terms of distinction between Gentile and Jew, which, in addressing the former, the apostle uses. 'I will bring my sons from far,' says Jehovah, 'and my daughters from the ends of the earth.' The Gentiles were to be themselves stones in the building, and agents in the rearing of it. And this was fulfilled in the beginning of the gospel, in the ministerial activity and usefulness of many a Gentile convert; and it is fulfilling to this day in every Gentile nation where Christianity has formed a settlement, and in every heathen country to which missionaries are carrying the message of salvation, and gathering sinners into the Church of God. For that Church of God is his temple (the members of it, how widely soever scattered, being all 'builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit'), in which 'spiritual sacrifices' will be offered to him—'acceptable through Jesus Christ,' in all time and forever!"
CONCLUSION. "Behold the Man!" What manner of man is he? He stands alone, the majestic cedar amongst the saplings of the race, the sun amidst the satellites. He is the "Wonderful."—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 6". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 14 / Ordinary 19