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Bible Commentaries

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae
Zechariah 8

 

 

Verses 3-8

DISCOURSE: 1249

THE RESTORATION OF THE JEWS

Zechariah 8:3-8. Thus saith the Lord: I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem, shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the Lord of Hosts the holy mountain. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts: There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of Hosts. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.

THE restoration of the Jews from their present dispersion forms a very principal subject of all the prophetic writings; and one cannot but be amazed that it should occupy so small a share of attention amongst the ministers of religion, as scarcely to be noticed by them. Indeed those who do notice the passages relating to that event, pervert them for the most part, by applying them to the Church of Christ, and giving them an interpretation which they were never designed to bear. From whatever cause this proceeds, it tends exceedingly to keep out of view the mercy of God towards his once-favoured people, and to foster in our bosoms an indifference to their welfare. But let us indulge a more benevolent disposition towards them, and contemplate with pleasure,

I. Their interest in this prophecy—

In its primary sense, it was applicable to the Jews of that day—

[They were at present but a small “remnant,” and under circumstances that were very discouraging. They had long been afflicted, both by God and man. Previous to their captivity, the judgments of God had been so heavily inflicted on them, that scarcely an old man was to be found among them; and nothing but want and misery was to be seen in the streets [Note: ver. 10.]: but now peace and plenty should be restored to them [Note: ver. 11, 12.]. In a moral view, also, there should be a great and general improvement, insomuch that their city, which had been the seat of the most abominable idolatries, should be called “A city of truth;” and the mountain where their temple was rebuilding, “The holy mountain.”]

But it had respect to the Jewish nation in days that are yet future—

[Of this there is abundant evidence: for Judah alone returned from captivity; whereas the chapter before us speaks of “Israel and Judah.” Moreover, the Jews after their return never displayed any great piety; whereas they were, in this prophecy, designated as a holy people. They were also to “be a blessing among the heathen, as before they had been a curse [Note: ver. 13.].” But never, at any period, were they so execrated amongst the heathen, as since their dispersion by the Romans: nor, with the exception of the Saviour and his Apostles, have they ever been such a blessing to the world, as they will be at a future period, when they shall rise up as missionaries in all the countries where they have been scattered, and be the means of converting the whole Gentile world to the faith of Christ [Note: Micah 5:7.]. Nor can the concluding part of this chapter be referred to any events that have hitherto taken place in the world. The time is yet to come, when “many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem;” and when “ten men out of all languages of the nations shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you [Note: ver. 20–23.].”

What then are the things here predicted? First, the return of the Jews to their own land. And this is an event which shall certainly be accomplished in due season [Note: Isaiah 27:13. Jeremiah 30:3; Jeremiah 30:18-19.] — — — Next it declares their conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ as their Messiah, and their instrumentality in converting the heathen world. This also shall be accomplished at the appointed time [Note: Hosea 3:5. Isaiah 66:19-20. Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15.] — — —]

God, foreseeing the incredulity of all to whom this prophecy should come, declares,

II. The certainty of its accomplishment, notwithstanding all the difficulties which lie in the way—

When things are far beyond the powers of man we are apt to judge that they can never be effected—

[Unbelief is deeply rooted in the heart of man. When Sarah was informed, that she, notwithstanding the advanced age of herself and her husband, should bear a child, she laughed at the idea, as altogether incredible [Note: Genesis 18:9-15.]. The Israelites in the wilderness, notwithstanding they had seen all God’s wonders in Egypt and at the Red Sea, conceived it impossible that God should ever give them flesh to eat in the wilderness [Note: Psalms 78:19-20.]: and Moses himself staggered at this promise through unbelief [Note: Numbers 11:18-23.]. So it is with us all: “we limit the Holy One of Israel [Note: Psalms 78:41.],” and “judge of him as if he were altogether such an one as ourselves [Note: Psalms 50:21.].”]

But this is erroneous and absurd—

[Very pointed is that interrogation in the text: “Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the Lord of Hosts.” “There is nothing impossible to God.” He that by a word called the whole universe into existence, What can he not do? There were many in our Lord’s days who doubted the resurrection of the body, because they could not conceive how the scattered atoms could ever be brought together and re-united into the same corporeal mass, so that every human being from the beginning to the end of the world should have his own proper body. But our blessed Lord said to them, “Ye do err, not knowing the Scriptures and the power of God [Note: Matthew 22:29.].” A just consideration of God’s omnipotence would at once have removed all their doubts on this subject, as it will also on every other subject connected with prophecy. Particularly in reference to the final restoration and conversion of the Jews is the power of God insisted on, as a pledge and security for the performance of his promised mercy: “They shall be graffed into their own olivetree again; for God is able to graff them in again [Note: Romans 11:23.].” When therefore we see the desperate state to which the Jews are reduced, and feel inclined to ask, “Can these dry bones live?” let us bear in mind, that God has declared they shall live [Note: Ezekiel 37:3-5.], and that “what he has promised he is able also to perform [Note: Romans 4:21.].”]

Address—

1. Let none indulge unbelief, in reference to their own souls—

[Frequently are persons ready to despond, as though their difficulties in the divine life were too great to be surmounted. And truly, if our salvation depended on our own efforts only, we might well despond. But has not God engaged to keep his people [Note: 1 Samuel 2:9. Job 17:9. Philippians 1:6.]? — — — Has not the Lord Jesus Christ assured us, that “his grace shall be sufficient for us [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.]?” Why then should we be cast down, as though there were no hope? See how tenderly God chides us for such unworthy and unbecoming fears [Note: Isaiah 40:27-31.] — — — and learn to “live by faith in the Lord Jesus,” and to be “strong in faith, giving glory to God [Note: Romans 4:20.].”]

2. Let none indulge it, in reference to the Church of God—

[We confess, “it is marvellous in our eyes,” that the Jews should ever become such a people as we are taught to expect. But we are not therefore to doubt whether the promises of God respecting them will be fulfilled. What the prophet predicted respecting the speedy re-establishment of the Jews after their captivity, was fulfilled: and so will his predictions relative to their future restoration. Hence, in the words immediately following the text, it is said, “Let your hands be strong, ye that hear, in these days, these words by the mouth of the prophets:” and again, in ver. 13 “Fear not, but let your hands be strong.” So then say I to you at this time: You who are engaged in promoting the welfare of the Jewish nation, “fear not, but let your hands be strong.” Your prospects, humanly speaking, are discouraging; but God is on your side; and he who by the sound of rams’ horns cast down the walls of Jericho, will, by your feeble efforts, “glorify himself, and make his own strength perfect in your weakness.”]


Verses 20-23

DISCOURSE: 1251

THE CONNEXION BETWEEN THE CONVERSION OF THE JEWS AND GENTILES

Zechariah 8:20-23. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: and the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord. Thus saith the Lord of Hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.

WHEN the conversion of the Jews is proposed as an object proper to occupy the attention, and to call forth the exertions of the Christian world, it is often regarded as a visionary scheme, which it is in vain to hope will be realized in any other way than by miracle. The attempt also is deemed premature, because it is supposed that their conversion cannot be accomplished till the great mass of the Gentile world shall have embraced the faith of Christ. But the Scriptures give us no more reason to expect a miraculous interposition in behalf of the one, than of the other. The conversion of both will be effected as in the apostolic age. Though miracles were wrought then for the confirmation of the word, neither Jews nor Gentiles were converted by miracle, but by the preaching of the word, and the mighty operation of the Holy Spirit upon their souls. So, also, will it be in the latter day; and in somewhat of a similar order too. In the apostolic age, a number of Jews were first called, and then the Gentiles. So, in the Millennial period, the awakening will commence among the Gentiles; and then shall come the conversion of the Jews; who, being turned to the faith, will be God’s instruments for the bringing-in of the whole Gentile world. This, I apprehend, is strongly intimated in the passage before us; in considering which, we shall have to state,

I. The conversion of the Gentiles—

[This is an event which shall certainly take place in God’s appointed time, and that, too, through the instrumentality of human efforts. As, in the apostolic age, the saints, on being driven from Jerusalem, “went every where preaching the word [Note: Acts 8:1-4.];” so, at the period we are now speaking of, all, as soon as they are themselves awakened to see and feel the excellence of religion, will exert themselves to propagate it to the utmost of their power; the inhabitants of one city going to those of another, and exhorting them without delay to seek the Lord. This has certainly never yet been accomplished: for, though it is true that great multitudes of Gentiles were converted in the apostolic age, and their union with the Christian Church may be fitly considered as a fulfilment of the prophecy which says, They should “come up to worship the Lord in Jerusalem,” as all Israel were wont to do three times in the year; yet nothing has ever yet taken place that has corresponded with the strong expressions in our text. There has never yet been such a conflux of Gentiles to the Christian Church as has answered to the declaration, that “many people and strong nations” should come unto it. Whilst we admit, therefore, that there was, in the first ages of Christianity, a partial accomplishment of this prophecy, we must affirm, that its complete fulfilment is yet future, and that it is reserved for that time which is generally designated “the latter days.” Then will a spirit of piety be diffused throughout the whole earth; insomuch that, “from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof, the name” of Jesus shall be adored [Note: Malachi 1:11.], and “all the nations of the earth shall worship before him [Note: Psalms 72:8-11; Psalms 86:9.].” “Theu shall there be but one King over all the earth [Note: Zechariah 14:9.];” and “all the kingdoms of the world be the kingdom of the Lord, and of his Christ [Note: Revelation 11:15.].”]

This point, the future conversion of the whole Gentile world, being generally known and admitted, I forbear to enlarge upon it; and proceed to mark, what is less known and less considered,

II. Its connexion with, and dependence on, the conversion of the Jews—

The latter part of our text, like the former, may be regarded as having had a partial accomplishment in the days of the Apostles, through whose ministry vast multitudes were converted to the faith of Christ: for, as the Apostles were Jews, and as the Gentile converts, seeing, by the miracles which they wrought, that God was with them, freely and unreservedly submitted to their word; it might be said, that, in embracing the Gospel, they “took hold of the skirt of him that was a Jew.” But we have already shewn that the whole prophecy relates to a future period, even to that period when all, both Jews and Gentiles, shall be united under one Head, and form one glorious Church, under the true David, the Lord Jesus Christ [Note: Hosea 3:5.]. Then shall the Jews, who reaped the first-fruits among the Gentiles, be employed to gather in the whole harvest; and, to an extent that has never been seen before, shall ten men, out of all the languages of the nations, lay hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew; saying, “We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.”

To these words different interpretations have been given. Some suppose “the Jew” here spoken of, is the Gospel, as revealed by the Apostles, who were Jews: others understand the word as designating Christians generally, who are sometimes called “Jews.” Others think that Christ himself is spoken of under this name. But I understand it as relating literally to the Jewish nation; and as declaring, that the Jews shall be first converted to the faith of Christ; that their conversion shall attract the notice and admiration of the Gentiles; and that they shall be eminently instrumental in converting the whole Gentile world.

This appears,

1. From the whole scope of the preceding context—

[Can any one read the first eight verses of the chapter, and imagine for a moment that the Apostles are spoken of; or that their word is spoken of; or that Christians are spoken of, under the name of Jews? Beyond a doubt, the persons referred to are the descendants of Israel and Judah, who shall be restored to their own land, and enjoy there a state of unprecedented prosperity [Note: Cite the whole of the passages here referred to.] — — —]

2. From many particular expressions throughout the context—

[“The House of Israel and the House of Judah” are spoken of as the persons to whom the prophecy pertains, and as the persons who are to be instrumental in conveying “the blessings to the Gentile world.” And these are the persons who have been “a curse” to the world. Can this refer to the Apostles, or to the word which they have transmitted to us, or to converted Christians, in any age? Have the Apostles ever been a curse to the world, or their word a curse, or pious Christians a curse? Have they ever been any thing but “a blessing?” But the Jewish people have been execrated all the world over; yes, and have been the occasions of many judgments to the people amongst whom they have dwelt: and of them it is said, that they shall be “a blessing [Note: ver. 13.].”

Again: God says, that as He repented not, but executed upon the Jews his threatened judgments, so will he assuredly fulfil to them his “promises to do them good [Note: ver. 14, 15.].” What reference can this have to the Apostles, or their word, or to the Church of Christ?

Again: He exhorts them to “speak the truth, and love no false oath [Note: ver. 16, 17.].” To whom can this refer, but to the Jews who shall exist at that time?

Again: He tells them, that the Fasts instituted in remembrance of the evils which had brought upon them the Divine judgments, and of the calamities which the Chaldeans had inflicted on them, should, at the appointed season, be turned to Feasts [Note: ver. 18, 19. The two former of these, the Fast of the fifth month and of the seventh, are mentioned in chap. 7:3, 5.That of the fifth month (July) was in remembrance of the City and Temple burnt by the Chaldeans. See 2 Kings 25:8-9. That of the seventh (Sept.) in memory of the murder of Gedaliah. See 2 Kings 25:25. with Jeremiah 41:17-18. That of the fourth month (June) commemorated the taking of Jerusalem. See Jeremiah 52:6-7 : and that of the tenth (Dec.) the commencement of the siege by the Chaldean army. See Jeremiah 52:4.]. What sense can there be in this, as applied to the

Apostles, or their word; or to the Christian Church? It can relate to none but the Jews personally; even those who shall be alive in the latter day.]

3. From the express words of our text—

[On a supposition that the great body of the Gentiles are to be converted first, and that they are to be the means of bringing in the Jews, the language of the text must be altogether changed. The Gentiles are more than a hundred times as numerous as the Jews; and if they are to be converted first, and then bring in the Jews, they must say, not as in the text, “Ten men shall take hold of the skirt of one Jew;” but, “we ten, out of all the languages of the nations, hold out our skirts to you, a poor Jew, saying, Come with US for ye have heard and seen that God is with us.” But this were to reverse the text altogether, which represents ten Gentiles as taking hold of the skirt of one Jew.]

4. From the passage to which the text itself evidently refers—

[There can be no doubt but that the prophet had in his mind the language used by Moses to Hobab, his father-in-law, when he endeavoured to persuade him to go up to the earthly Canaan: “Come thou with us, and we will do thee good: for the Lord hath spoken good concerning Israel. And it shall be, if thou go with us; yea, it shall be, that what goodness the Lord shall do unto us, the same will we do unto thee [Note: Numbers 10:29; Numbers 10:32.].” Thus, in the latter days, the Gentiles, seeing beyond a doubt that God is with his people the Jews, will be anxious to go up with them to “the New Jerusalem, the city that cometh down from God out of heaven.”]

5. From the whole Scriptures of truth—

[The whole Scriptures declare, with one voice, that the Jews shall be converted first, and be God’s honoured instruments for the converting of the whole Gentile world. The Prophet Micah says, “The remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the Lord, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men [Note: Micah 5:7.].” The dew and the clouds come not at man’s call; but go when and where the Lord is pleased to send them: and, unconscious of the ends for which they are sent, they fertilize the ground in God’s appointed time, and diffuse life wherever they descend. So are the Jews scattered unwittingly, and unconscious of the ends for which they are sent, over the face of the whole earth, to impart, in due season, all the blessings of life and salvation to a perishing world. And to this effect does the Prophet Isaiah also speak, when of them, in their present scattered state, he says, “They shall declare my glory among the Gentiles; and shall bring all their Brethren, as the Children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the House of the Lord [Note: Isaiah 66:19-20. with Romans 15:16.].” Whether the persons, here called their brethren, be their brethren of the ten tribes, whose place of residence is not known; or of the Gentiles, who may be called brethren by anticipation; I cannot exactly say: but this is plain; “They shall declare God’s glory among the Gentiles.” And speaks not the Apostle Paul also to the same purpose? He says, “If the fall of them (the Jews) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness? If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead [Note: Romans 11:12; Romans 11:15.]?” Yes, it is the admission of the Jews into the Christian Church that will be the means of awakening the attention of the whole Gentile world; who, beholding and admiring the grace of God in them, will, with holy zeal, embrace the Gospel of Christ, and fly to him with unanimity, “as a cloud,” and with speed, “as doves to their windows [Note: Isaiah 60:8. with Zephaniah 3:20 and Jeremiah 33:9.].”

Thus I think it appears, both from the Scriptures in general, and from my text in particular, that the Jews must be converted first, before the great body of the Gentiles be gathered in; and that they are ordained of God to be his honoured instruments for the conversion of the whole world.

As for the notion of some Commentators, that Christ is the Jew, on whose skirt the Gentiles shall lay hold, it really is so foreign to the whole context, that it does not deserve a moment’s consideration. The Jews themselves are far nearer to the true interpretation than such expositors as these. The Jews adduce this passage, to prove, that, instead of their ever embracing Christianity, the Christian world are to become Jews; since it is said, that the whole world shall “take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you; for we have heard that God is with you.” The Jews, I say, are so far right in this interpretation, that they are the persons designated in the text: only the passage must be understood of Jews who have embraced their Messiah, and not of Jews who continue to reject him. With this only proviso, the Jews are right: and we Christians should exert ourselves to the utmost, to prepare them for the work they are destined to perform.]

Learn, then, from hence,

1. The great importance of the Jewish cause—

[By the Jewish cause, I mean the endeavours which are now making for the conversion of the Jews. It is a lamentable fact, that the Christian world has never yet, since the time of the Apostles, paid to it the attention it deserves. The situation of the Gentile world has not been overlooked; but that of the Jews has been altogether forgotten, except in one or two instances, where partial exertions have been made for their welfare. But why should they be thus excepted, and be the only people upon earth that are to be cut off from the flow of Christian benevolence? Are not their souls of as much value as the souls of others? Is it a small matter that six or eight millions of souls should be daily and hourly going down into perdition; and be left, in all their successive generations, to “perish for lack of knowledge?” But consider them as “beloved of God;” as no doubt they still are, notwithstanding all that they are suffering at his hands; consider them, I say, as “beloved of God;” and will you think it right that they should be despised by us?

But come more closely to the point: view them as God’s instruments for the conversion of the world; and then say, whether we should not seek to bring them to the knowledge of the truth? Verily, if we have no regard but for the Gentiles, we ought, even for their sakes, to express love to the Jews, and to labour, to the utmost of our power, to fit them for their destined work: yea, the greater our concern for the Gentiles, the more earnest should be our efforts for the Jews. Permit me then, if it be only for the Gentiles’ sake, to urge upon you an attention to the Jews; and henceforth to labour for them, as their ancestors in the apostolic age laboured and endured for you — — — The husbandman, when his corn is ripe, looks out for reapers. Do ye the same now. The Gentile field is ripening apace: the Jews are God’s appointed reapers. Engage them, then, without delay, that the harvest may be gathered throughout all the earth.]

2. The duty of Christians in all ages—

[You have seen the religion which will characterize that blessed period to which we are looking forward. There will be a delight in worshipping and serving God: there will be zealous exertions, too, in all, to stir up one another to a holy emulation in this good work. None will be satisfied with going to heaven alone, or serving God alone. All will be anxious for the good of all: all will be active, too, in honouring their God, and in promoting the interests of the Redeemer’s kingdom. The people of one city will go to another city, to exhort and urge them to an active concurrence in every good work. Methinks the means, which are now used on so contracted a scale that a few only embark in this service of love, will then be adopted on the largest scale; and whole societies, or rather whole cities, shall unite to provoke one another unto love and to good works.

Yet, let me say, I would not have any to imagine that a zeal either for Jews or Gentiles will stand in the place of personal religion. If we commend to any the blessed word of God, or the embracing of our holy religion, let us take care to lead the way, in the study of the one, and in the practice of the other. Let us never say to any, “Come,” without adding at the same time, “I will go also.” Yea, and let us so lead the way, as the Jew will do at the period before referred to: let us so walk before others, that they may see, and be constrained to acknowledge, “that God is with us of a truth.” Let us be living “epistles of Christ, known and read of all men;” so that others may “lay hold of our skirt,” and wish to “go with us,” and have “their portion with us,” in the realms of bliss. Let us “be as lights shining in a dark world;” and “so make our light to shine before men, that they, seeing our good works, may glorify our Father which is in heaven.” This is our duty, no less than it will be of those who shall live in the latter day. Our religion must be neither wholly personal, nor wholly official; but a just combination of both: and, whilst we are labouring to the uttermost to “save ourselves,” we must use all diligence to save every other person who can by any means be brought within the sphere of our influence.”]

 


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Bibliography Information
Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Zechariah 8:4". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/shh/zechariah-8.html. 1832.

Lectionary Calendar
Monday, November 18th, 2019
the Week of Proper 28 / Ordinary 33
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