Zechariah, like Haggai and Malachi, was a post-captivity prophet. He was one of those who came up from Babylon with Zerubbabel (having been born in the land of the stranger) and gave the word of the Lord to the returned remnant. It was Haggai’s mission to arouse to action when they had been overcome by sloth and self-seeking. Zechariah followed with messages of cheer and encouragement designed to bring the souls of the people into the power of the coming glory. He is therefore largely occupied with the appearing of Messiah and His reign of righteousness. There is blessing in thus having heart and mind transported to the days of heaven upon earth. It is then that one is able to estimate aright the transitory glories of this present evil age. The hope of the Lord’s coming has a purifying effect upon the lives of those held by it. “Every man that hath this hope in Him purifieth himself, even as He is pure” (1 John 3:3).
The Church has lost much, therefore, by neglecting the study of prophecy. It should be borne in mind that while the prophets of the Old Testament do not speak of the assembly of the present dispensation, nevertheless those who compose the Body of Christ and the Bride of the Lamb may learn much that is for edification and blessing through Jehovah’s word to Israel. Then too it should be enough for the devoted soul to know that Christ is to be the center of all that glory which is soon to be revealed. If He is concerned in it, all who love Him will find spiritual delight in tracing the steps leading up to His exaltation and the establishment of His kingdom.
This is what is characteristic in Zechariah. He marks out the various stages leading to the appearing of Messiah, thus opening up, in large measure, “the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.”
His book falls readily into two main parts. The first six chapters relate the visions of the prophet. The last eight are devoted to instruction based upon these visions. There are numerous subdivisions which we shall notice as we go on.
It would seem as though Zechariah, like many of his predecessors, died a violent death, and that at the hands of the Jews returned from Babylon, when decline had again set in. At least our Lord Jesus speaks of “the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar,” and which was to be required of the men of that generation, who had filled up the iniquity of their fathers (Matt. 23:35).
It is barely possible, though not probable, that our Lord was referring to the martyrdom of Zechariah the son of Jehoiada, who was stoned to death in the court of the temple (2 Chron. 24:20,21); but in that case we have to suppose a Berechiah in the genealogy of Jehoiada, or else a copyist’s error in transcribing the Greek text. In the absence of proof to the contrary, it seems safer to assume that Zacharias the son of Barachias is none other than the prophet to whose writings we are about to turn for instruction and warning.
The Jews have a tradition that he perished in the manner described. J. N. Darby, in his “Irrationalism of Infidelity,” says that “the Jewish Targum states that Zechariah the son of Iddo, a prophet and priest, was slain in the sanctuary.”30
As the rabbis could have no possible reason for seeking to confirm the words of the Lord Jesus, it would seem as though their testimony were conclusive.
Israel And The Divine Government
By comparing verse 1 with the opening words of Haggai’s prophecy, it will be observed that an interval of two months, approximately, occurred between the beginning of the recorded ministry of the two prophets. Conscience was aroused, and the work of building the house of the Lord begun, as a result of Haggai’s stirring message. In the seventh month he sought to encourage the now awakened people by directing their attention to the future day of Messiah’s glory. Then in the month following, the eighth of Darius’ second year, Zechariah was bidden to speak to them, first in a rousing call to self-judgment, followed later on by a remarkable unfolding of what Haggai had so briefly outlined in chapter 2:6-9.
Others have long since noticed the striking significance of the names in this first verse: “Zechariah the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo.” Zechariah means Jehovah remembers; Berechiah is Jehovah blesses; and Iddo, The appointed time. So read, we would have: “Jehovah remembers, Jehovah blesses at the appointed time.” Thus, when the set time to favor Zion has come, all the promises of the Lord will be fulfilled, and carried out in blessing. If any think such an interpretation fanciful, let them remember how the apostle, by the inspiration of the Holy Ghost, dwells on the meaning of names, and their order, in the case of Melchizedek, King of Salem, in Hebrews 7:2. There is surely more than a hint in that remarkable passage that there are vast stores of instruction in the names of men and places used throughout the Scriptures that many of us have little dreamed of.
Verses 2 to 6 comprise Zechariah’s first message, and are a suited introduction to the book. In view of the return from captivity and the rebuilding of the temple, the people are warned not to repeat the errors of their fathers—a warning, alas, soon forgotten and quite unheeded.
With their ancestors the Lord had been grievously displeased, and because of their sins had given them into the hand of the Gentile foe. Now let the children of those who had failed so repeatedly turn to Him with all their hearts, and He would turn unto them, openly acting for them as Jehovah of hosts. Let them not refuse to hearken as their fathers refused to obey the messages of the prophets that had given them the word of the Lord prior to the long-predicted captivities of Assyria and Babylon. To them He had cried, “Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings!” but His words had been despised. Where were they now who had thus dared to refuse obedience to the Word of the living God? They had been made to know the power of His displeasure, and had at last been obliged to own that His word was infallible. In the land of the enemy they sadly confessed, “Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath He dealt with us” (ver. 6). Thus had He been glorified even in their abasement and discomfiture. In all this how serious and important the lesson for us!
In verse 7 Zechariah begins to relate a series of eight visions, all intimately connected; all of which seem to have been given him on the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, in the same year as that of verse 1. The first vision and its partial explanation occupies verses 7 to 17. For convenience we shall call it, The Man among the Myrtle Trees.
The prophet beheld a man riding upon a red horse, in a deep valley, among a grove of myrtle trees, “and behind him red horses, speckled, and white.” In reply to his surprised inquiry, “O my lord, what are these?” an angel replied, “I will show thee what these be.”
Upon this the rider on the red horse, twice called a man, but in verse 11 identified as the angel of Jehovah, said, “These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.”
Then, as though summoned to give account, the hitherto unmentioned riders31 on the attending horses answered the angel of the Lord, and said, “We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.”
The rider on the first horse would seem to be the Covenant-Angel, standing for the people of Jehovah’s choice. The other horses speak of the providential agencies, possibly angelically-directed, working among the Gentile nations. Observe, the Lord had sent them. The powers that be are ordained of God. They had lately been used for the chastisement of offending Israel. Now all the world was at peace, and the nations utterly indifferent to the low estate of the seed of Abraham.
Hence the cry of the Angel of Jehovah, “O Lord of hosts, how long wilt Thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which Thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?” (ver. 12). The Babylonian captivity had come to a end. Cyrus had given permission for the Jews to return to Jerusalem; but though a remnant had gone back, there was utter indifference on the part of the great powers as to any recognition nationally of the people who were destined to be the chief of the nations. Hence the angel’s question, which Jehovah answered with good words and comfortable words.
It is a little difficult here to distinguish between the Angel of Jehovah riding on the horse among the myrtles (who really speaks of Messiah Himself as the Angel-intercessor on behalf of Israel, as in Rev. 8:1-4), and the interpreting-angel who explained the visions to Zeehariah. The latter it is, in verse 14, who gives the seer a prophetic message telling him to, “Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.”
Proud and self-sufficient, the Gentile powers seek only their own, and regard His chosen with indifference and scorn; but He is looking on, and they are thereby but adding to the cup of their iniquity.
In His own set time, as intimated already in connection with the prophetic character of the three names in verse 1, Jehovah will arise on behalf of His people, and return to Jerusalem, so long trodden under foot of the nations, with great mercies, bringing in all the blessings of the new covenant for the long-despised nation. His house shall be built in the land once more, on a more magnificent scale than ever, as set forth in the last eight chapters of Ezekiel. Jerusalem itself shall arise from its ruins, a glorious city, unequaled in splendor by any of the cities of the nations, in the day when “the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem” (vers. 16, 17).
It is of importance throughout to distinguish between vision and interpretation. Verses 8 to 13 give the vision. Verses 14 to 17 are the divine explanation. Judah and Jerusalem form the subject. There is no reference to the Church of the present dispensation whatever. Spiritualizers have always been fond of so applying it, but to do so is to violently wrest the passage.
The second vision, of the four horns and the four carpenters, or four smiths, is given in verses 18 to 21. The four Gentile world-empires, made familiar to us in Daniel’s prophecy, are exemplified by the horns (symbols of power), viz., Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome.
But for every horn there is a carpenter; and like as they have agreed together to oppress and destroy Israel and Judah, so shall God use these carpenters to destroy them. Israel’s enemies are God’s enemies, and must be frayed and broken when their appointed course is run, with a view to the full deliverance of the remnant of the people of His choice.
In the Hebrew text this vision belongs to the next chapter, as chapter 1 ends with verse 17. It requires no further comment. For the saint of any dispensation it ministers blessed truth, reminding him that God worketh all things after the counsel of His own will; and evil is only permitted in so far as it will serve in the carrying out of His wondrous purposes of blessing.
This chapter contains but one vision—that of the man with a measuring-line in his hand. Upon beholding him, Zechariah asked, “Whither goest thou?” The man replied, “To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the-breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof.”
Upon this, the interpreting angel left the prophet’s side, and advanced to meet another angel who was coming toward him. The latter cried, “Run, speak to this young man,32 saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein; for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her.” See Zeph. 3:5, 14-20.
The young man is Zechariah himself, who is to be informed of Jehovah’s purposes as to Jerusalem in order that he may write it for future generations. The city that he knew was mean and paltry indeed in comparison with the Jerusalem that was yet to be. In the day of its glory and splendor there would be no need of a wall of masonry. The Lord Himself would be her wall of fire, protecting from every assailant, and dwelling in her midst in the glory of the Shekinah.
Verses 6 to 9 form the summons to the remnant to return to their land, in the day when all that God has promised is about to be fulfilled. Morally, they will still be dwelling with the daughter of Babylon, for Gentile dominion was established in Nebuchadnezzar, and the powers that have succeeded him are all of his spirit and character. For over two millenniums they have been the persecutors and haters of the Jew; and though in our day the position of the Hebrew is much more tolerable than ever before since their dispersion, there are still angry mutterings of anti-Semitism in many parts of Europe, which are destined to start a conflagration of unequaled fierceness in the time of Jacob’s trouble which follows the translation of the Church to heaven. But when apparently friendless and helpless, the Lord will send His angel to gather together Kis elect from the four winds of heaven, and to reestablish them in peace in their long-promised inheritance, the land of their fathers.
The exact time when this is to take place is given in verse 8: “After the glory hath He sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of His eye.” The expression, “after the glory,” refers to the period immediately following the revelation, or apocalyptic appearing of Christ from heaven, when He descends in power and great glory to take the kingdom and assert His rights, as in the 2d psalm. Then the world shall know that Israel are the people of His choice, and the sheep of His pasture. As in Esther’s time, the Jews will have light and joy, gladness and a good day, while their enemies will be humbled in the dust before them, and made to know that in oppressing the seed of Jacob they have been fighting against the living God.
Verses 10 to 13 form a fitting close to such a prophecy. The daughter of Zion, who has hung her harp on the willow for so long, as she wept by the rivers of Babylon, is called upon to sing and rejoice: for her glorious Lord will Himself dwell in her midst, and they shall all know Him, “from the least to the greatest.”
Then shall many nations be joined to Jehovah and become His people, being brought into the same blessed knowledge vouchsafed to Israel. This is far different from the call of the Gentiles in the present dispensation. Now God is taking out from among the nations a people for His name, and uniting Jew and Gentile into one body. Then Israel will be supreme in the earth, and all the nations shall find their blessing through her, when “the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again” (ver. 12).
So shall the years of her mourning be ended, and Israel’s long warfare be accomplished. In that day the portion of the Church will be in the heavenly glory, while the earthly people will find their blessing in the land promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as an inalienable inheritance, from which their seed shall never be expelled.
The last verse expresses the attitude of all the world in the day when the Lord shall do this: “Be silent, O all flesh, before the Lord: for He is raised up out of His holy habitation.”
Sweet it is to know that the rising tide of evil will soon be checked; sin and rebellion shall in every shape be eliminated from the earth; all the spared of the nations will own the benignant yet righteous sway of the now-rejected Saviour, and Jehovah of hosts be everywhere worshipped and obeyed.
A Brand Plucked Out Of The Fire
The fourth vision may be looked at in two ways. Primarily it sets forth Israel’s cleansing, judicially and morally, in the last days. It is also a lovely gospel picture, which the soul delights to dwell upon.
Joshua the high priest, the associate of Zerubbabel, the uncrowned heir of David’s line, is seen standing before the angel of Jehovah, as if for judgment. At his right hand appears Satan, the adversary, ever the accuser of the people of God. But he is not permitted to raise any question, or to bring any charge, though Joshua is clothed in filthy garments; for the Lord Himself speaks, saying, “Jehovah rebuke thee, 0 Satan; even Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (vers. 1-3).
It is strikingly solemn, and yet a lovely scene. Joshua represents the entire remnant company; for as priest he went in to God on their behalf. But he is clothed, not in the unsullied robes prescribed by the law, but in filthy garments—setting forth the moral pollution of the whole nation. Isaiah’s description well accords with this significant picture, “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isa. 1:5, 6).
Constitutionally corrupt, the filth of Judah’s pollution defiled all her garments, and made them filthy and vile in God’s sight. Who would have supposed any people so unclean could have been accepted of Jehovah? Surely the adversary would find ready ear when he sought to prefer his charges before the throne of infinite holiness! But God had taken into account all Israel’s failures when He first took them up in grace, so He will listen to no charge against them. He rebukes the devil with the declaration that He has chosen Jerusalem, and that Joshua, as the people’s representative, is a brand plucked out of the fire. This is matchless lovingkindness surely, but just what we should expect here; for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He will chasten and discipline his failing people, but He will not allow Satan to prefer a single charge against them, for provision has been made for their moral fitness for His presence. Zechariah then hears Jehovah’s voice saying to those who stood before Him, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” While to Joshua himself the word is given, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”
At this the prophet’s soul was stirred to its depths, and, entering into the spirit of the occasion, he cried out, “Let them set a fair mitre upon his head!”
Immediately it is done as he requested, and as God had commanded. So Joshua appears no longer as a type, or symbolic character, of Judah, polluted by her failures and sins, but of the remnant which shall be regenerated in the day of Jehovah’s power, when she shall be cleansed from all her pollutions and He will be pacified toward her for all that she has done (Ezek. 16:60-62).
No more beautiful gospel picture is found within the Bible covers this. As aptly as Joshua stands for Judah, so does he represent the poor sinner coming into God’s holy presence with all his guilt upon him. It is thus every soul must meet Him for the first time. None can put away his iniquity and thereby fit himself to face that righteous throne. But clad in his filthy garments, owning fully all his dreadful guilt, every repentant soul may approach God with the conscious knowledge that for such as he there is mercy and cleansing.
The adversary will be there to hinder if he can; but Jehovah will not listen to him, for He has His eye on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplished on Calvary’s cross, when “He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:12). Against that mighty intercession no Satanic charges can avail. Too loudly cries the blood in God’s ear that speaketh better things than that of Abel. Therefore of every believing sinner He delights to say, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
Nor is it merely judicial clearance, but there will be moral fitness too; for those whom God justifies He likewise cleanses, purifying their hearts by faith, when they are born of the water of the Word and by the Spirit of holiness.
To Joshua, after he has been vindicated, cleansed, clothed, and crowned, the angel of the Lord protests, bidding him hear the word of Jehovah of hosts, that he may walk in His ways, and keep His charge, assuring him that if there be faithfulness and devotedness, he will judge God’s house and keep His courts, having “places to walk among these that stand by:” that is, being associated with those seraphic beings whose joy it is to obey the slightest behest of the all-glorious and thrice-holy One (ver. 7).
Thus are God’s redeemed ones called to serve Him whose grace has plucked them as brands from eternal fire. And so, in the coming age, will restored and purged Israel delight to obey the voice of Him who shall have made them willing in the day of His power.
In verse 8 Joshua and his fellows are said to be “men wondered at,” or, more correctly, “men of signification;” making clear that we have been correct in seeing in the high priest, and his companions likewise, symbolic personages.
Only in Christ shall all these prophetic pictures be made good; so at once we are told, “I will bring forth My Servant the Branch.” The title is not a new one as applied to the Lord Jesus. Again and again had the older prophets so designated Him. Isaiah more than once foretold the day when “the Branch of the Lord” should be for beauty and for glory (Isa. 4:2; 11:1); and Jeremiah twice spoke of David’s righteous Branch, who was to be called Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jer. 23:5, 6 and 33:15, 16). So Zechariah but amplifies here and in chapter 6:12 what God had long before made known.
The Branch of verse 2 is identified with the Stone of verse 9, which is to be engraved as with the engraving of a signet, with the sign of perfect intelligence, namely, seven eyes. This is the Stone of salvation which was once a rock of offence, and, as such, was rejected by the builders. Soon it shall fall from heaven, in accordance with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Dan. 2), grinding to powder the enemies of the Lord, but removing the iniquity of the land of Palestine in one day. Then shall the blessings of Messiah’s reign be entered into by the spared remnant, who shall call every man neighbor, under their own vine and fig tree. It is an apparently abrupt conclusion to so marvelous a chapter, but it accords with the general character of Zechariah, where sudden terminations and quick transitions abound throughout.
The Two Anointed Ones
The striking vision next recorded, being the fifth in the series, is of prime importance to any reverent student of the word of God. Not only does it set forth precious and important truth relative to Israel, as God’s light-bearer in the world, but it is the only instance where the typical meaning of oil is distinctly explained. It gives us therefore an unerring key whereby to unlock many of the treasures of symbolic teaching throughout the Old Testament.
The prophet seems to have fallen into a slumber after the interpretation of the previous vision; for we are told that the angel who had been speaking with him came again, and waked him, as a man is waked out of his sleep, saying, “What seest thou?” (vers. 1, 2). Zechariah looked, and beheld a sight of great beauty and splendor. A golden lamp-stand, evidently somewhat similar in construction to that which is described in Exod. 25:31-37, appeared before his eyes. But in one marked respect it differed from that whose lamps the priest had to carefully fill daily lest they should be extinguished. Here no human hand provided the oil, nor was responsible to maintain the light of testimony. The stand and its lamps were of one piece, and the latter were continually supplied in a most remarkable manner. Upon the top of the central shaft was a golden bowl, or fountain. From this radiated seven pipes, which connected with the seven lamps. On either side of the stand an olive tree was growing, the branches of which were represented as bending over the receiver-fountain, and pouring their oil into it in a continual stream. Thus the light was ever maintained in its beauty and power (vers. 2, 3).
In response to Zechariah’s request for enlightenment as to the meaning of this, the angel said, “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.”
Here was no meaningless oracle, such as those of heathen sybils, but a plain declaration that just as the oil pouring into the golden bowl fed the lamps, so the Holy Spirit would confirm and unfailingly furnish Israel to be Jehovah’s testimony-bearer in the earth. He who had brought up a remnant from Babylon under Zerubbabel, the prince of David’s line, would infallibly fulfil every promise made through His holy prophets. Human power and might could neither hinder nor help. The Holy Spirit alone could sustain and maintain them as His light in the world. Thus we know what oil typifies. It speaks ever of the Spirit of God, whether as anointer or earnest. In His divine power alone can any testimony be carried on for God at any time. During the present dispensation of Israel’s scattering, the Church is the light-bearer, even as her Lord was while here upon the earth. By and by, when Israel shall be restored in the saved remnant, she will once more become God’s witness. But whether with the blessed Lord Himself, the Church His Body, or Israel His people, all true testimony is in the energy of the Holy Spirit.
Endued by power divine, who need fear the face of man? Before Zerubbabel and the feeble remnant in the land, Gentile authority might seem like a great mountain, hindering all progress in the special work committed to them. Only unbelief could so count it. Faith would say to the mount of difficulty, “Become a plain,” and so it should be. No weapon formed against them should prosper, no arm should be strong enough to hinder, till the temple was completed to the glory of Jehovah, and Zerubbabel should bring forth the capstone amid the shoutings of a rejoicing people, crying, “Grace, grace unto it?” (vers. 4-7).
Even so shall every promise made in the word of God be fulfilled to the letter. In this case he who had begun the house should finish it (see Ezra 3:10-15 and 6:14-18); thus proving that a prophet had been among them. It was a day of weakness, a day of small things; but they should not despise it, for it was the day of Jehovah’s energy. The nations of the earth might be utterly indifferent to what was transpiring at the insignificant place where the Lord had set His Name; but there He was, working in mighty power, nevertheless. There the plummet of truth was in the hands of Zerubbabel, and the people wrought according as they found it written. There too the eyes of the Lord rested with complacency, after running to and fro through the whole earth (vers. 9, 10).
In God’s sight it was “a great work” that was going on in Jerusalem, for it was the carrying out of His own word, with a view to the coming of His Son into the scene.
On one other point Zechariah desired enlightenment. He had been contemplating the two olive trees, wondering what they might signify; so he inquired boldly of the angel, asking for information regarding them. It would seem as though there was slowness of apprehension on his part; for he not only had to put his question twice over, but the angel did not immediately reply, but questioned him, as in verse 5, where it seemed as though spiritual intuition ought to have made all clear, saying, “Knowest thou not what these be?” Confessing his ignorance, Zechariah is told that, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
To him the two anointed ones could be no other than Zerubbabel, the prince, and Joshua the high priest. So in kingly and priestly power the testimony of God was to be maintained. These were the agencies through which Jehovah would work.
In Rev. 11:4 the two witnesses are said to be “the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” The reference is clearly to Zechariah’s vision; yet there is a marked difference. There we have two candlesticks; here, but one. The reason is plainly this: the two witnesses come on the scene before Israel is established as God’s lamp-stand nationally. With them it is individual testimony. Therefore in place of one seven-branched lamp-stand, setting forth completeness of testimony we have two witnesses described as two lamp-stands. And they are also said to be the two olive trees; for they stand before God as His anointed sons of oil in the day when His name is denied and His word despised. Coming in the spirit and power of Moses and Elijah, they prophesy in the energy of the Spirit till put to death by the Beast and his adherents. Thus, for the moment, all testimony for God will seem to have been blotted out; but the word of the Lord shall not fail, for the seven-branched lamp-stand shall be set up when the Lord descends and delivers His people Israel out of the hands of all who oppress them.
The Flying Roll And The Ephah
The visions of glory which we have been contemplating in the last two chapters are succeeded by others of very diverse kind. If Judah and Jerusalem are to be blessed, it must be on the ground of sovereign grace alone. Merit there was none, but the very opposite. It is this the “flying roll” makes manifest. It speaks of unsparing judgment “according to their works,” which must fall on all who refuse to judge themselves according to the word of the living God. But it lets us know likewise that He, the Holy One, so grievously sinned against, has found a way to save in a righteous manner all who turn to Him and call upon His name; otherwise all should of very necessity be cut off.
There is no word or apparent hint of anything but wrath to the uttermost; yet, read in the light of the preceding symbols, our hearts are lifted up in holy exultation to the praise of the grace that saves.
We are told, “Then I turned and lifted up mine eyes, and looked, and behold a flying roll. And he said unto me, What seest thou? And I answered, I see a flying roll: the length thereof is twenty cubits, and the breadth thereof ten cubits. Then said he unto me, This is the curse that go-eth forth over the face of the whole earth (or, land, R. V.; i. e., Palestine): for every one that stealeth shall be cut off as on this side according to it; and every one that sweareth shall be cut off as on that side according to it. I will bring it forth, saith the Lord of hosts, and it shall enter into the house of the thief and into the house of him that sweareth falsely by My name: and it shall remain in the midst of his house, and shall consume it, with the timber thereof and the stones thereof” (vers. 1-4).
I have quoted the account of both the vision and its interpretation in full; for it is of a most solemn character, and may well speak loudly to every heart, both of the sinners of the Gentiles and of the people of Israel. Primarily it refers distinctively to Judah. They will be restored to the land in unbelief when it has its fulfilment. Note well that the Revised reading, “land,” in verse 3, here, as generally in the Prophets, is much to be preferred to the more general “earth” of the A.V. In studying the seventeen books that make up the last part of the Old Testament, it is of prime importance to remember that throughout God has Israel as a people and Palestine as their land before His eyes. That apparently insignificant strip of country is, for Him, the centre of the earth, and of all His ways with men on the earth. He gave it by inviolable covenant to Abraham and his descendants. There His blessed Son was born, and lived and died. Thence He ascended to heaven. To that same land He shall descend in person to usher in the kingdom long foretold.
For centuries that land has been trodden ignominiously beneath the foot of the haughty Gentile conqueror, while its rightful inhabitants have, for their sins, been dispersed among the nations. But thither they shall return; yea, even now are returning in large numbers, though as yet in darkness of soul and unbelief. There, God will pass them through a trial of unequaled fierceness, called “the time of Jacob’s trouble,” or “the great tribulation,” separating thereby the precious from the vile; destroying the sinners and transgressors from among them, and saving the repentant subjects of His grace, who shall form the nucleus for the kingdom in the day of His power.
Of this preparatory judgment the vision now claiming our attention speaks. Zechariah beheld in the heavens a vast scroll in majestic yet hurried notion, moving swiftly through the air, over all the land of Canaan. Closely observing, he saw that it was written on both sides with curses and judgments. On the one side was God’s word against those who wronged their neighbor, in accordance with the second table of the law (first mentioned, for man can best appreciate the wickedness of sin against his fellow); on the other side, the doom pronounced on those guilty of impiety, according to the first table.
That law, in itself “holy, and just, and good,” becomes their condemnation; for “as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Gal. 3:10). The Jew makes his boast in that law; yet it speaks only for his condemnation.
The flying roll is the answer to the foolhardiness of the people who cried at Sinai, “All that the Lord hath spoken will we do.” After a trial lasting through long centuries and millenniums, it is the witness against them, making manifest the solemn fact that they have failed at every point, so must be cut off in judgment.
Into every house where the thief or the false swearer is found the curse enters, bringing utter destruction in its wake. This is all the law can do for any sinner. It can only condemn and curse the violator of it.
And who has not violated it? Wherever it has been promulgated, it has found many to promise, but none to perform. No honest man can claim to have kept it; therefore on that ground, as righteousness he has not, salvation there cannot be.
But, blessed be God, He has found a ransom for men and women who have forfeited all title to His favor. “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree” (Gal. 3:13). On the ground of an accomplished redemption, grace flows out now to every transgressor who owns his lost condition and trusts the sinner’s Saviour. On the same ground will the flying roll be turned aside from the houses of all the remnant of Judah in the last days, who turn to God in repentance, and, like their fathers on the passover night in Egypt, find shelter beneath the blood of atonement. This the wondrous vision of chapter three has already set forth.
Beginning with verse 5, we have another and a stranger symbol. Zechariah, evidently musing with downcast eyes on the awful portent we have been considering, was aroused by the interpreting angel, and called upon to observe the next remarkable vision. He saw a great ephah, a vessel for measuring merchandise, with a weighty piece of base metal, akin to lead, upon the top of it. This being lifted, he beheld a woman who was cast into the ephah, which was again covered with the lead. Two other women then appeared, with wings like those of a stork, who lifted up the measure between them and flew with it to the north. In reply to the seer’s question, “Whither do these bear the ephah?” the angel said, “To build it a house in the land of Shinar: and it shall be established, and set there upon her own base” (vers. 5-11).
Such was the strange portent beheld by the prophet. What is the meaning to be gathered from it?
It is noticeable that, as we go on with the series, there is less and less given in the way of interpretation. It is as though the Lord would give enough in regard to the earlier visions to lay a solid foundation for the understanding of the later ones. Thus the need of carefully comparing what we have here with what has already come before us.
Various interpretations have been suggested, many of which seem to be extremely fanciful. One of the most common is this: The ephah is a symbol of commercialism, setting forth the great characteristic mark of the Jewish race, who are a nation of keen bargainers. The woman sets forth iniquity in business, now come to the full. The carrying of the woman in the ephah to the land of Shinar indicates the revival of the ancient city of Babylon in great splendor as the commercial centre of the coming day. Interpreters of this stamp point to certain negotiations now going on for the opening up of Mesopotamia and the extension of railroad enterprise in that direction as sure indications that they are on the right track. But to our mind all this is pure speculation, and absolutely unsupported by Scripture. Both Jeremiah and Isaiah make it clear, in my judgment, that Babylon has fallen to rise no more.33 It has been literally burned with fire and utterly destroyed, and God Himself has solemnly declared that for that wicked city there shall be no healing nor revival.
Nor is there any solid reason for supposing that the ephah is in itself, of necessity, a symbol of great commercial enterprise. Is it not rather the recognized symbol of measurement, telling us that God shall weigh and measure Judah’s sin, and the sin of the whole house of Israel, with unerring accuracy. When their iniquity has come to the full, in wondrous grace He will separate the wickedness from the preserved remnant, dealing with it in connection with the place of its origin, the land of Shinar. For the woman in the ephah sets forth unmistakably, I judge, wickedness of a religious character, as in the parallel cases of the woman hiding the leaven of evil teaching in the food of the people of God (Matt. 13), and the woman Jezebel corrupting the assembly at Thyatira, issuing in the awful impiety of the scarlet woman of Rev. 17.
Now, Israel’s great religious sin was idolatry. They had been separated from the nations to be Jehovah’s witnesses to the unity of the Godhead. Instead of maintaining the place of testimony thus given them, they turned to the practices of the heathen, provoking their Rock and causing Him to fall upon them in indignation. Babylon was the mother of idolatry. It was the home of all that is false in a religious way. In the time of the end this spirit of wickedness will be separated from Judah and carried by stork-winged women (symbol surely of the unclean energy of the human mind, femininely lovely, but propelled by the energy of the prince of the power of the air) to the land of Shinar, where its house will be built. That is, there its habitation will be, and there will it be judged.
It is a moral continuity. In mystical Babylon literal Babylon finds her identity continued and her sin fully dealt with. With her sorcery have all nations been deceived, and in her shall be “found the blood of prophets, and of saints, and of all that were slain upon the earth” (Rev. 18:24).
Thus shall Israel be purified and idolatry of every form meet its just and final doom, preparatory to the establishment of the world-kingdom of our God and His Christ.
The Four Chariots, And The Crowning Day
This chapter concludes the first division of the prophecy, and is itself divided into two parts. Verses 1 to 8 give us Zechariah’s final vision. Verses 9 to 15 set forth the glorious climax of all prophetic instruction, in figure; the crowning of Joshua the high priest representing the coronation of our Lord Jesus Christ when He shall be manifested to Israel as “a Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek,” who combined in himself the kingly and priestly offices.
The vision is simple, yet comforting, and requires but little explanation. Zechariah saw four chariots, drawn respectively by red, black, white and speckled bay horses. No mention is made of drivers. It would seem as though the horses were directed by unseen agency, which is fully in keeping with the explanation given afterward.
The chariots and their horses were seen coming out from between two mountains of brass. The prophet inquired as to the identity of the symbols, and was answered by the angel, who said, “These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth. The black horses which are therein go forth into the north country; and the white go forth after them; and the grizzled go forth toward the south country. And the bay34 went forth, and sought to go that they might walk to and fro through the earth.” Then the angel addressed the restless steeds directly, bidding them, “Get you hence, walk to and fro through the earth.”
At once they started on their mission, whereupon the angel turned again to Zechariah, and said, “Behold, these that go toward the north country have quieted my spirit in the north country” (vers. 1-8).
The vision evidently sets forth God’s control of all destructive agencies used by Him in the punishment of the nations that have deserved His wrath. It was intended to give repose of heart and confidence of mind to the remnant, making known to them the fact that the God of Israel was the Lord of all the earth. “All things serve His might.” In His own way and time, therefore, He would send the chariots of His government against the nations that had made a prey of and spoiled His people. “Mountains of brass” speaks of power in righteous judgment. From between two such mountains the chariots go forth.
God’s providential agencies may seem, to unbelief, like restless, uncurbed horses rushing here and there according to blind chance or their own uncontrolled energy. But the man of faith, though he cannot always see the Hand that guides the reins, yet knows that divine wisdom orders all according to righteousness.
The special prophetic application of what Zechariah had beheld was at that moment connected with the kingdom of Babylon on the north and Egypt on the south. Between these two powers God would sustain His feeble flock, checkmating every effort to destroy them till Messiah should Himself appear. Alas, that when He came they knew Him not! therefore they have been driven from their ancestral home and scattered among the Gentiles. But in the last days they will again be found in a similar, though more serious, state than that in which they once failed so grievously. Then the lesson of this vision will be for their comfort and cheer, bidding them look up in confidence to Him who controls all agencies that would seek their overthrow. Compare Rev. 7:1-3, where four angels are seen holding the winds, or spirits of destruction, in check till the sealing of the remnant who are to be preserved for the kingdom soon to be established.
We have thus gone over the apocalypse of Zechariah, seeking to understand his visions in their prophetic and moral bearing. They harmonize perfectly with those of Daniel and the Revelation, as also with the unfolding of the ways of God in Hosea.
We are now to notice a symbolic action on the part of the prophet, which sets forth the bringing in of the glory, or the crowning day—the coronation of the once-rejected Jesus as Priest-King over all the earth.
Zechariah was bidden to go to some of the returned captivity, and to take from them gifts of silver and gold to make crowns. One he was directed to set upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest; but even as he did so, he was to speak of a greater than Joshua, 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: even He shall build the temple of the Lord; and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne; and He shall be a priest upon His throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both” (vers. 12, 13).
Upon the brows of the associates of Joshua crowns were also placed, as setting forth the dignity of restored Israel when they shall all be a kingdom of priests. This was done “for a memorial in the temple of the Lord” (ver. 14). Then followed a declaration that “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. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God” (ver. 15).
Those directly addressed by Zechariah did not diligently obey Jehovah’s voice, and so forfeited the promised blessing. But in a future day an obedient remnant will be found who shall be born again, and in whose hearts and minds will be written the law of God so that they shall delight in His testimonies. Then shall the Branch of Jehovah be glorious throughout the whole earth, and the crown be placed upon that brow that was once pierced with the mock crown of thorns, when Pilate led Him forth, uttering unconsciously the very words of the prophet, “Behold the Man!” There he stopped, for the hour had not yet come when that lowly Man was to be invested with His regal glories. But when God brings His First-begotten into the world again, He will call upon all created intelligences, human and angelic, to do Him homage. Then shall the promise of the 110th psalm be fulfilled, and His Melchizedek priesthood, in relation to Israel and the earth, be ushered in.
The words, “He shall build the temple of the Lord,” together with the prophecy of verse 15, make it clear that another and more glorious temple than that of Zerubbabel was contemplated. That house, “exceeding magnifical,” is fully described, together with its surroundings and order, in the last eight chapters of Ezekiel. It is to be built when the long-looked-for King has come, and in His Person the two offices of Priest and Ruler combine.
“The counsel of peace shall be between them both,” we are told. That is, the new covenant will rest, not on an agreement entered into by man and God, but it will be established forever on the ground of “the counsel of peace” made between Jehovah of hosts and the Man whose name is “The Branch.” He, the Man of God’s purpose, settled every question as to sin when He died upon the tree; and now, “having made peace through the blood of His cross,” He is the agent through whom the reconciliation of all things in heaven and earth will be effected (Col. 1:20).
Thus have we been carried in spirit from the days of Judah’s first restoration to her final blessing in the land, when “this Man shall be the peace,” and “in His own times He shall show, who is that blessed and only potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords.”
This is the ultimate goal of prophecy, and closes the first division of our book.
The Need Of Reality
The opening date for the second division of the prophecy of Zechariah is a little more than two years later than what we have been considering. In the meantime royal permission had been given for the completion of the temple, and the work went on with some degree of energy. See Ezra, 5th chapter. Already there had been some effort made to revive the ancient feasts, and likewise to keep the more modern fasts. Concerning one of the latter, a deputation of Jews came to consult Zechariah and the elders, both of the priests and prophets. Their Chaldean names tell that they had been born in captivity. As representatives of the people, “Sherezer and Regem-melech, and their men,” came “to pray before the Lord, and to speak unto the priests which were in the house of the Lord of hosts, and to the prophets, saying, Should I weep in. the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?” (vers. 2, 3).
There seems to have been propriety in the question. For the fast of the fifth month, as also for the fasts of the fourth, seventh and tenth months (chap. 8:19), there was no direct authority in the word of God, and the returned remnant had been learning to inquire, “What saith the Scriptures?” as to both command and teaching.
During their Babylonian sojourn they had kept the four fasts mentioned, commemorating various events in their past sad history, all connected with their punishment for their sins. None need doubt the piety that prompted the observance of these special seasons of humiliation before God.
The only trouble was, that formality so readily took the place of reality and genuine self-humbling in the presence of the Lord. On the tenth day of the fifth month Nebuzar-adan burnt the temple and the city of Jerusalem. On the yearly anniversary of that solemn event they fasted and wept, beseeching the Lord to have mercy, and restore the house and the city.
Naturally, now that they were again in the midst of Jerusalem’s ruins, and their prayer seemed answered in measure before their eyes as the house of God neared completion, the question of the righteousness of continuing the self-appointed fast of the fifth month came before them.
The word of the Lord of hosts came through Zechariah in reply. But there was no legislation regarding the fast at all: He neither forbade nor enjoined it. In itself, such a fast was without positive scriptural authority. On the other hand, it was in full keeping with the general tenor of the Word. It was extra-scriptural, rather than un-scriptural. If the people met in true self-judgment and brokenness of spirit before God on that day, or any day, it would have been acceptable. If they met simply as legally observing a fast which, after all, He had never appointed, it was a weariness of the flesh, and worthless in His sight. Therefore Zechariah presses home the need of reality. What had been their object and condition of soul as they kept the fasts in the past? When they commemorated the burning of the temple in the fifth month (2 Kings 25:8; Jer. 52:12), and the death of the faithful Gedaliah in the seventh month (2 Kings 25:25; Jer. 41:1, 2),35 did they at all fast unto Jehovah all the years of the captivity?
When, on the other hand, they kept the appointed feasts, in place of the fasts, was it His glory they sought? Or did they simply come together for social enjoyment, eating and drinking, without one thought of honoring Him whose power and grace they were supposed to be remembering? (vers. 6, 7).
Surely, if all before had been unreal and hollow, now, with such marked evidences both of divine grace and government before them, they should turn to God with all their hearts, remembering the words which He had cried by the former prophets, who had testified to their fathers before Jerusalem was destroyed, and when they dwelt therein in peace, and prosperity was in the land (ver. 7).
This is all the answer that was given for the moment. It was left to them to decide whether they should keep the fast or not. And this is most significant, and has a voice for us whose lot is cast in a similar day, if we will hear it, emphasizing the fact that mere formality will never do for God. He must see a true turning to Himself if He would find delight in the gathering together of His people. There may not always be chapter and verse for every practice, but God will graciously accept all that springs from true self-judgment, and that is not opposed to the plain letter of His Word. It has become the fashion in some places to ask, “Where is the scripture for a Bible-reading, or where the direct verse for gathering the young together to teach them the knowledge of the Bible, and thus to lead them to Christ?” We need not be troubled by such cold-hearted queries as these. Rather let the Sunday-school worker ask himself, or herself, “Why do I thus labor among the children? Is it with me but a weariness of the flesh, and a matter of form? Has it become simply legal drudgery, which I carry on because such work is now customary? Or do I seek thus to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ? Is my purpose so to minister Him to those young in years that their tender hearts may be drawn to Himself ere they become hardened by the deceitfulness of sin?” If this be the case, let there be no further question, but go on joyfully with your service, doing it heartily, as unto the Lord.
The same principle applies to the meeting appointed for the study of the Word, among believers. There is no direct scripture that such meetings are to be held at stated intervals; but there is plenty in the way of scripture warrant and example to make it clear that when such meetings are convened by earnest, loyal-hearted saints, who come together hungering for the precious truth of God, and ever letting it sit in judgment on them and on their ways, it is truly pleasing in His sight. Otherwise it is but a work of the flesh—religious flesh, no doubt, but flesh still, for all that.
And what has been said is equally true of the assembly-meeting of 1 Cor. 14 and the meeting for the breaking of bread of 1 Cor. 11 and Acts 20:7. It is quite possible to sit down at the Lord’s table, where the bread and wine speak of His body given and blood shed for us, and yet not eat the Lord’s Supper at all, because the mind is so fully occupied with other things that there is no true remembrance of Christ. One may go from the meeting-room eased in conscience because he has not neglected the table of the Lord, and superciliously regarding himself as superior to Christians whose light and privileges seem of a lower order, when all the time there has been nothing for God in it all, but the whole thing was a perfunctory and empty ceremony, detestable in His eyes, if indeed there has not been an actual eating and drinking of judgment to oneself.
But if there is to be reality when saints are gathered together, there must be righteousness in their daily lives. So Zechariah again speaks the word of the Lord, saying, “Execute true judgment, and show mercy and compassions every man to his brother: and oppress not the widow, nor the fatherless, the stranger, nor the poor; and let none of you imagine evil against his brother in your heart” (vers. 9, 10). Solemn words are these! Would that they had been oftener called to mind by the people of God in all ages! He has said, “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees!” (Isa. 10:1), yet how frequently has ecclesiastical authority been invoked to enforce the most palpably cruel and unholy decisions! Oh, the crimes that have been committed in the name of the Lord and His truth! The cruelties of those who have vaunted the exclusive mind of the Lord will make a terrible and a humiliating record at the judgment-seat of Christ. When will saints learn that nothing is of God which is unholy; that nothing is right which is not righteous; that nothing is bound, or ratified, by the Just One which in itself is unjust! Neither is anything to be owned as having divine sanction which outrages the mercy and compassions of Christ.
Because Israel forgot all this, and “made their hearts as an adamant stone,” the former prophets had been sent to warn them, and they would not hear; therefore great wrath came upon them. As they were indifferent to the cry of the distressed, and calloused as to the sorrows of the needy, God gave them over to learn in bitterness of soul what distress and need really meant. In the day of their anguished cry, He refused to hearken, even as they had refused to hear His voice of entreaty and warning. So they had been scattered with a whirlwind among all the nations (vers. 11-14). Would their children learn from the sad experiences of the past, or must they too be broken and driven forth because of indifference to the claims of the Holy and the True?
To Christians of the present day the same questions may well be put. May God give us grace to profit by the failures of the past, and to walk softly and in charity, according to truth, in the little while ere the Lord Jesus comes again!
The Light Of The Future Shining On The Present Path
The value of the study of future prophecy is strikingly displayed in this chapter, where we find God, through His servant, drawing back the veil that hides the coming glory, in order that His people may comprehend in some measure their hope, that their present path may be in accordance therewith.
It would perhaps have been better had there been no break between this portion and that which we have just had before us, as it all seems to be part of Jehovah’s answer to the inquirers regarding the propriety of observing the fast-day of the fifth month.
Verses 1 to 8 form a lovely millennial picture, describing the conditions which will prevail when “Jerusalem shall be called, A city of truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, The holy mountain.” Because of their idolatrous ways the Lord had been “jealous for Zion with a great jealousy,” and with great wrath had delivered Judah into the hands of their enemies, that they might learn in the strangers’ land the folly of trusting in graven images and sacrificing to the demons behind the symbols (ver. 2). Their sojourn in Babylon had cured them of this for the time, though our Lord Jesus showed that they were but as a house empty, swept and garnished, to which the unclean spirit who had gone out will yet return, bringing with him seven demons worse than himself. This will be fulfilled when idolatry of a worse kind than ever before is established among them—even the abomination of desolation standing in the holy place.
But all this is passed over here, for it is God’s purpose that is before us, not the people’s failure. Nothing is plainer than that the latter half of verse 3 never could have been properly applied to Jerusalem and Mount Zion since the return from Babylon. Yet it is there intimately connected with the first part, “I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem.” All the succeeding failure, even to the rejection of Messiah Himself and their consequent dispersion, is passed over in silence, and the future glorious estate of Jerusalem is linked up with the remnant then in the land. Only when the Lord has been manifested in power will the words that follow be fulfilled. Then shall there be old men and aged women dwelling in the restored city, while “the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof” (vers. 4, 5). The street is now the place of danger. Then the children can play therein with perfect safety. It is a sweet and touching thing thus to see how the Eternal God concerns Himself even about the innocent pastimes of the little ones. It might be well if some parents who are prone to a more than Puritanic legality pondered this 5th verse; for I fear that the boys and girls are often made to feel that their simple pleasures are, if not displeasing to Him, at least unprofitable and vain.
The accomplishment of what has here been outlined must be marvelous indeed in the eyes of puny man; but it is but a small thing with Him who hurled worlds into space, and directs the movements of the minutest of His creatures. His omnipotent Hand shall surely perform what His mouth has spoken. But that a future return from among the nations was before His mind is evidenced by what follows: “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” (vers. 7, 8). This is the universal testimony of the prophets. The restoration from Babylon was but temporary, in order that what had been written concerning Messiah might be fulfilled. He having been cut off, they who refused Him were driven forth into all the ends of the earth. From thence, in God’s appointed time, they shall return again to that country, which is still to them “the land of promise,” where all that the prophets have spoken shall come to pass.
In verse 9 the practical application is pressed home. In view of the glory that is coming, the hands may well be strong. What need to be downcast and discouraged with such a portion assured us in Christ? So the people were urged to labor and hope, cheered by the promises of rich reward. God was caring for their interests. He would have them in earnest as to His. When Haggai was first raised up to speak to them, famine threatened, and disappointment clouded all their sky. But when they willingly and cheerfully gave themselves to the work of building His house, He had declared, “From this day will I bless you” (Haggai 1:9-11; 2:18,19). He had been as good as His word, and would still watch over them for blessing, giving prosperity and increase while they “put first things first,” making His glory their object (vers. 10-12).
But in all these promises it is plain that God has something more before Him than the little company then returned. He was looking on to fulness of blessing in the Millennium. Hence He declares that Israel, once a curse among the nations, shall be saved and made a blessing, according to His oath to Abraham. This was not true in any large measure, nor for long, of the actual company, or their descendants, to whom Zechariah spoke; for in less than six hundred years later we hear the Holy Spirit declaring that through them the name of God was blasphemed among the Gentiles (Rom. 2:24). And so it has been ever since. But God’s Word abides nevertheless, and in a future remnant every promise shall be made good (ver. 13).
The Lord had no delight in afflicting His people; but their fathers had provoked Him to wrath. Let their children take heed to their ways therefore, and obey His voice, and all would be well. “These are the things that ye shall do: Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbor; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbor; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord” (vers. 16, 17).
Practical righteousness and true morality are the same in all dispensations. Christians may well challenge their hearts as we read these verses and note what is abhorrent in God’s sight. Truth, and judgment according to truth: in these He delights. Evil surmisings (a most fruitful source of trouble in all ages) and false oaths: these He hates. May we have grace given to cleave to the former and refuse the latter!
The question as to the fasts (chap. 7:3) is again reverted to in verses 18, 19. Those of the fifth and seventh months we have already noticed. That of the fourth month commemorated the taking of Jerusalem, while that of the tenth called to mind the beginning of its siege. If the restored residue sought to walk with God, truly judging the past, these fasts would be transformed into cheerful feasts. “Therefore love the truth and peace,” they were told. Notice that truth comes first, then peace; as in 2 Tim. 2:22 believers are called upon in a day of confusion and distraction to follow righteousness first of all. Then faith, love and peace would rightly follow.
The chapter concludes by portraying the happy spiritual conditions which will prevail in the day that Messiah’s kingdom is established. It shall be no matter of hardship or cold, formal obedience to come together in a solemn assembly before Jehovah when Israel shall be a regenerated and sanctified people. Each city shall then vie with the other in “provoking unto love and to good works,” saying one to another, “Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of hosts: I will go also” (vers. 20, 21). His service will then be their joy and delight. The 122d Psalm will be fulfilled, and the voices of the restored remnant will sing with exultation, “I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the Lord.” It is ever thus when Christ Himself is before the soul. The gatherings of the children of God become in very deed as foretastes of heaven when He is to His own the altogether lovely. There are no dry, listless meetings then; but every heart thrills with a joy not earthly as He fills the vision of the enraptured soul. If right with God, there would ever be this holy freshness and fervent longing for His presence. But when permitted sin has been allowed to do its deadly work unjudged, the Holy Spirit is grieved, Christ is hidden, and what would have been a delight becomes a weariness of the flesh. When the saints of God are enjoying Christ, others are attracted to Him and to them. So, when Israel shall be gathered round Himself, dwelling under His shadow, and happy in His love, there will be a great stirring of heart among the spared of the nations who will not have been destroyed when the stone falls from heaven— “Many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.” The Jew, so long despised and hated, will be looked upon as the ambassador of the Lord, and ten men of all languages shall cleave to one who is of Judah, saying, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (vers. 22, 23). It is impossible, by any principle of honest interpretation, to make these words fit any revival of the past or present. They apply only to the day when Jerusalem shall be the spiritual metropolis of the whole earth, and when the name of Jew, so often used in contempt and derision, will proclaim one who is truly a son of praise,36 joyfully worshiping the Lord of hosts as he stands upon redemption ground. Then indeed shall all the nations know that “salvation is of the Jews.”
But that there is a spiritual application, I have already pointed out. When the people of God, in any age, are going on in happy fellowship with their Lord and Saviour, the unsaved will be attracted to Him, and will be found seeking out His disciples, saying, “We would see Jesus.”
The Coming King
We have already pointed out that this book divides into two parts. The second division embraces chapters 7 to 14. Our study has shown us that, of these, chapters 7 and 8 stand together. A second section, or subdivision, begins with chapter 9, and goes on to the end of chapter 11, giving in a most instructive way the coming of Messiah, and His rejection by Judah. Chapters 12 to 14 follow with the inspired account of His second coming and His acceptance by the repentant remnant.
The refusal of Christ when He came in grace is morally connected with the state into which the people had fallen long before. The cross was but the culmination of a course of wilful hardening that had been going on from the days of the wilderness. Because of this were the various captivities and the many afflictions which had come upon them. When these resulted in exercise and repentance, the peaceable fruit of righteousness and repentance followed. To this the remnant had been called in chapters 7 and 8. Now the prophet points them on to the coming Saviour-King, that there might be heart-preparation for His reception. But the 11th chapter closes with the solemn prediction of the selling of the true Shepherd for thirty pieces of silver, and the consequent acceptance of the Idol-shepherd, the Antichrist.
The opening verses, 1 to 8, are occupied with the destruction of the Syrian power in “the land of Hadrach,” together with all Israel’s enemies bordering on the land of Palestine, preparatory to the extension of the promised kingdom; and evidently have a double application, setting forth, as they do, the past overthrow of the kingdoms ere the first coming of the Lord (which would have been final had He been received and owned as the Anointed of Jehovah), as well as the future doom of the powers which will be in those lands when comes the final triumph of the King of kings. In that day He will “encamp about His house,” becoming as a wall of fire for the protection of His own, and every foe shall be destroyed, so that “no oppressor shall pass through them any more.”
Through all these lands the victorious armies of Alexander passed, overthrowing all of the cities mentioned, in strict accordance with the prophetic Word. Damascus, Hamath, Tyre and Zidon, and the strongholds of the Philistines, were all alike subjugated, and some utterly ruined, to rise no more. Yet Judah and Jerusalem were spared, as if by direct divine intervention, and the Grecian armies became the protectors, in place of the destroyers, of the seed of Abraham. The temple and city were preserved that in them might be carried out all that the prophets had spoken concerning the coming of the Just One, who was to suffer and to die there.
So in verse 9 we have recorded the words which Matt. 21:4, 5 and John 12:14, 15 tell us were directly fulfilled when the Lord Jesus Christ rode into Jerusalem amid the welcoming cries of the disciples, the children, and of the people. “Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: He is just, and having salvation: lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass.” Thus He came as the Prince of Peace, only to be eventually despised and set at naught. When He comes the second time, it will be as the Warrior-King on the white horse of victorious judgment (Rev. 19).
Between verse 9 and verse 10 this entire dispensation of grace comes in; for it is evident that the latter part of the chapter has never yet had its fulfilment. The King came, but was refused. His cross becomes the sign of salvation for all who trust Him; while He Himself has taken His seat on the Father’s throne in the heavens. Never for one hour has He occupied the throne of David which is yet to be His. That throne He will take when He descends from the heavens with power and great glory. Then He will cut off all the enemies of Jerusalem, and “He shall speak peace unto the heathen: and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the river to the ends of the earth” (ver. 10). Only when He appears in person will these words come to pass. There can be no Millennium without Christ.
At His glorious revelation He will deliver Judah’s prisoners out of the pit wherein is no water, through the blood of the covenant confirmed in His death, bringing salvation to these prisoners of hope, who will find in Him a stronghold and a defence from all their enemies—after He has rendered to Israel double for all their iniquities (Isa. 40:2; 61:7). Then shall Judah be as a strong bow in His hand, and Ephraim as a polished shaft, before whom the nations shall bow, owning the excellency of the God of Jacob (vers. 11-13).
Again we have to notice a secondary application of a part of this prophecy. Verses 13 to 16 seem to refer in measure to the Maccabean contest with Antiochus Epiphanes, type of the Antichrist of the last days. Then Jehovah raised up the sons of Zion against the sons of Greece, and made the army of Judah “as the sword of a mighty man.” But undoubtedly the fuller interpretation is that which refers these words to the conflicts of the great tribulation, when, in their darkest hour of trial, “the Lord shall be seen over them, and His arrow shall go forth as the lightning,” when He shall blow the trumpet for the defence of those who in their distress shall turn to Him with all their hearts.
He will “save them in that day as the flock of His people,” when they shall become the jewels of His crown, brilliantly shining upon Immanuel’s land (ver. 16). What a day of glory for the people so long hated and oppressed! They who have been accounted by many as the very off-scouring of the earth shall shine in unequaled brilliancy in the diadem of the Crucified, when they cry, “Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord!” No longer will He be to them “without form or comeliness,” and bereft of all beauty that would cause them to desire Him. On the contrary, as they gaze astonished upon His head once crowned with thorns and His visage once marred more than any man, they will cry, with rapturous amazement, “How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty!” Then shall He feed them with bountiful hand, providing them with every needful blessing, so that “corn shall make the young men cheerful, and new wine the maids” (ver. 17). Fasting and sorrow will have ceased forever. The joy of an unending feast in the banqueting house will have begun with the banner of love waving over all.
The chapter pursues the same general subject, detailing the glory which might long since have been enjoyed by Israel had they owned Messiah’s claims, but which, consequent on their rejection of Him, has been in abeyance during the present period of the calling out of the Church, and will only be made good to the earthly people when they own Him, whom they once spurned, as the Anointed of Jehovah.
It will be noticed that all Israel are included, however (vers. 6, 7)—not merely Judah. At the appointed time a remnant from all of the twelve tribes will be brought into blessing and settled in the land of their fathers, never more to be uprooted by an enemy’s hand.
Without the latter rain (see Joel 2:23 and notes) Palestine becomes little better than a wilderness, though in our day conservation of the waters and irrigation are made somewhat to answer in its place. But under natural conditions the former and the latter rains are required to ensure plenty and prosperity. Therefore we need not be surprised to find the prophets using the rains in a figurative sense. Spiritually, Israel has had her former rain, but a long season of drought has since come in. Now they are bidden to look up in hope, and ask of the Lord “rain in the time of the latter rain;” in response to which He pledges Himself to give showers of blessing. This is undoubtedly the outpouring of the Spirit predicted by Joel, which will surely take place at the time of the end.
Till then spiritual famine necessarily prevails. In their idols no comfort was to be found, so at the captivity they put them away; but they have been since like an unshepherded flock, taking their own course, and wandering in a dry, desolate land. The undershepherds and the leaders of the people, “the goats,” have caused them to stray, thus incurring the Lord’s anger, who is about to visit His flock (limited here to the house of Judah, for it was they who crucified the Lord of glory); and, bringing them once more under His control, they shall become “as His goodly horse in the battle” (vers. 1-3).
Out of him, that is, Judah, came forth the Corner-stone and the Nail. Both of these names I take to refer to Christ. He is the Head of the corner, and “it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah.” He is also the Nail upon whom Jehovah will hang all the glory of His Father’s house. (See Isa. 22:22-24.)
But the Battle-bow and every exactor, or ruler, together shall likewise spring from Judah. The Battle-bow seems also to be used symbolically of the Lord when He rides forth in His might to overthrow all His enemies. With Him will be associated the rulers of Judah when the first dominion shall have returned to the royal tribe.
Victorious over all who have sought their destruction, the once feeble remnant shall become as mighty men treading down their enemies when led to certain triumph by the Lion out of Judah (ver. 5).
Every enemy at last overthrown, Jehovah will strengthen the house of Judah, and save the house of Joseph, bringing them again in mercy to their land, and making them one people, restoring them to His favor as though He had never cast them off (ver. 6), thus repealing the Lo-ammi sentence of Hos. 1:9. The Jews, first brought back to their land in unbelief, will pass through the sorrows of the great tribulation, by means of which the remnant will be separated from the apostate mass. The ten tribes will be gathered later, and added to Judah and Benjamin, when Messiah Himself has appeared in glory. They had no direct part in the crucifixion of God’s Son, so the special hour of trial is not for them.
The restoration will be far more than a political or national event giving them back to Palestine, their ancestral home. There will be a divine work in the souls of the people so long blinded, so that the veil of unbelief having been taken away, they shall rejoice in the Lord, and be glad in His presence. It will be the fulfilment of the type of the feast of tabernacles, the happiest season of all the year (ver. 7). Joying in conscious redemption, fruitfulness will again be theirs, and they shall increase as in the days of old.
The manner of their ancient deliverance (vers. 9-12) is used as a figure of this future one. They are to be gathered from all the lands of their captivity, to the land of promise, thus set in the midst of the nations, in accordance with the word of the Lord as to Jezreel, the seed of God (Hos. 2:22, 23—see the notes.) Passing in triumph through the sea of affliction37 and the river of sorrow, they shall find in the Lord their God strength and victory, and shall walk at liberty in His name.
This is the universal testimony of Scripture as to the future glory of the nation now scattered and despised. Their blindness is to pass away; and, with the eyes of their heart enlightened, they will behold the beauty of Him who was once abhorred and crucified.
Thus shall their whole history become a lovely illustration of the precious words of Psalm 76:10, “Surely the wrath of man shall praise Thee: the remainder of wrath shalt Thou restrain;” God will only permit so much evil as will ultimately glorify Him. Anything beyond that He will hold in check. How consolatory is this for the tried saint in any dispensation! How often is the spirit overwhelmed and the soul cast down! But faith can look up in the hour when all seems hopeless, and darkness overspreads the scene, knowing that,
“God sits as Sovereign on His throne,
And ruleth all things well.”
He can make a way for His redeemed through the sea. His power can dry up the rivers, and make His people to pass over dry-shod. What will be true for Israel nationally, it is for every child of God to enjoy personally.
Zech. 10:9-12 coalesces with Isa. 43:1-7. “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art Mine. When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee. For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, thy Saviour: I gave Egypt for thy ransom, Ethiopia and Seba for thee. Since thou wast precious in My sight, thou hast been honorable, and I have loved thee: therefore will I give men for thee, and people for thy life. Fear not; for I am with thee: I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather thee from the west: I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back: bring My sons from far, and My daughters from the ends of the earth; even every one that is called by My name: for I have created him for My glory, I have formed him; yea, I have made him.”
What human words could compare with this divine declaration of God’s unchangeable purpose in regard to His earthly people! And by what perverse system of interpretation can such words be made to find their fulfilment in the present work of grace going on among the Gentiles? It is an instance of that high-mindedness which the apostle rebukes in Rom. 11, that such passages are wrested altogether from their true connection by unspiritual spiritualizers, and applied to the Church, whose heavenly calling is lost sight of, while Israel’s hope is denied.
Only as one learns to rightly divide the word of truth do its various lines fall into order and its happy distinctions become plain to the anointed eye. The confusion will then be seen to exist, not in God’s perfect Word, but in man’s bewildered mind, controlled by tradition, and often clouded by self-sufficiency. Truth is learned in the conscience. If that be in exercise, the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of Truth, can be depended on to make plain the mind of the Lord to the simplest.
“Thirty Pieces Of Silver”
Surpassingly lovely have been the scenes briefly depicted in the preceding chapters. But the glory there promised is in abeyance during the present interval because of the rejection of the One upon whom it all depends. So we now have a sorrowful account of the scornful refusal of the Good Shepherd and the acceptance instead of the Anti-shepherd, who seeks only his own exaltation and cares not for the ruin and scattering of Jehovah’s flock.
The two opening verses sound an alarm, and speak of woe and disaster. “Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars. Howl, O fir tree; for the cedar is fallen; because the goodly ones are laid waste: howl, O ye oaks of Bashan; for the strong forest is come down” (R.V.). It is the solemn announcement of wrath upon the land and people because of the tragedy of the cross. Fire, in Scripture, speaks of God’s holiness exerted in the judgment of what is opposed thereto. Against Judah it has been fiercely burning for centuries since the day when they cried, as to the Lord Jesus, “His blood be on us, and on our children.” He had come in grace as the Shepherd of Israel to gather together and feed the poor of the flock; but though He came unto His own, His own received Him not; so desolation and dispersion ensued. The under-shepherds might well cry out in dismay, for they themselves had led the revolt against Him whose love would have been as a rod and staff in the hour of need. Their glory is spoiled, and the pride of Jordan likewise. No barrier any longer hindered the coming in of the lions of the wilderness, seeking to prey upon the flock of slaughter (ver. 3).
Zechariah is directed to act the part of the shepherd. He is to feed the flock whose buyers slay them and hold themselves guiltless. Unpitied by their own shepherds, they were appointed to death; but a remnant are distinguished, even the poor of the flock aforementioned (vers. 4-7).
In obedience to the command given, the prophet took two symbolic staves, and fed the flock. One staff was called Beauty; the other, Bands, or, Concord. They spoke of the pastoral care Israel is yet to know, when, with the beauty of the Lord her God upon her, she shall dwell in unity and concord as one nation in the land covenanted to Abraham. Then she will sing with joy, “Jehovah is my Shepherd; I shall not want. He causeth me to lie down in pastures of tender grass: by waters of rest He leadeth me.”
All this they might now be in the happy enjoyment of had there been but ears to hear and a heart to understand when He who spake as never man spake cried, yearningly, “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” But they turned a deaf ear and hardened their hearts to the voice of loving entreaty; so they must know to the full the bitterness of forsaking the only One who could meet their need, both nationally and spiritually. So Zechariah (in vision, I take it) cuts off the hireling shepherds, who loathed him, and whom he loathed, because of their unprincipled conduct. Three in one month are judged. But there is no recognition, on the part of the flock, of his tender care; so he gives them up too, that desolation and cutting-off, both by their enemies and internecine strife, may be their portion (vers. 7-9).
As signifying the breaking of Jehovah’s covenant, which was forfeited by their sin, he destroyed the staff called Beauty—for all their loveliness was gone and they were unclean in His sight. But still a feeble remnant is distinguished, for God has ever preserved an election of grace; and so we read, “The poor of the flock that waited upon me knew that it was the word of the Lord” (vers. 10, 11).
Then, impersonating Messiah in a manner most striking, he said to them, “If ye think good, give me my price; and if not, forbear.” They need no time to consider. All is settled in their minds. His rejection is fully determined upon before he speaks. At once they weigh for his price “thirty pieces of silver”; the very sum for which Judas afterwards sold the true Shepherd of Israel (ver. 12).
Observe, it was not merely the prophet who was estimated at this sum; but Jehovah speaks, saying, “Cast it unto the potter: a goodly price that I was prized at of them.” By reference to Exod. 21:32 the irony of this expression, “a goodly price,” becomes clearly manifest. Thirty pieces of silver was the value the law set on a slave who had been gored and slain by an ox. Such was the value man put upon Him who had been acquired as a bondman from His youth, See chap. 13:5, 6, and notes.
The money was cast to the potter in the house of the Lord; and the other staff, Unity, or Concord, was broken, that it might display the breach between Judah and Israel (vers. 13,14).
All this we see fulfilled to the letter in the case of the Lord Jesus. Sold for thirty pieces of silver, the wretched betrayer cast down the money in the house of the Lord; but, in blind obedience to the Word, which they seemed too dull to comprehend the import of, the chief priests gave it to the potter as the purchase-price of a field to bury strangers in. Such a potter’s field, an Aceldama of wrath, has Palestine been ever since.38
But ere His rejection, our Lord said to the Jews, “I am come in My Father’s name, and ye receive Me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive” (John 5:43). He spoke, undoubtedly, of the wilful king, the personal Antichrist of the last days, who will be received by the Jews as the Messiah when he comes with all power and signs and lying wonders. This dreadful person, Zechariah is next called upon to set forth. He is directed by the Lord to take the instruments of a foolish shepherd and impersonate one who is to be raised up in the land, in whom Judah will vainly hope for deliverance. Unmarked by compassion for the flock, he will seek only his own ends, and “he shall eat the flesh of the fat, and tear their hoofs in pieces.” Upon this impious wretch the judgment of indignant heaven is to descend; so we read, “Woe to the idol shepherd that leaveth the flock! the sword shall be upon his arm, and upon his right eye: his arm shall be clean dried up, and his right eye shall be utterly darkened” (vers. 15-17). His final doom is given in Rev. 19, where we see the false prophet cast alive into the lake of fire.
In our days of great achievement and marvelous advancement on all lines, we hear much of the coming man, the fully-developed, cultivated man of the twentieth century, upon which we have so recently entered. The expression refers, of course, to the vaunted progress of the race, not to any solitary individual; but it may well remind us of the two coming men spoken of in this chapter, and elsewhere in the book of God, though both are alike forgotten by people generally. God has His coming Man—the Man Christ Jesus. In speaking so of Him, the dignity of His Person should not be lost sight of. He is indeed declared to be “God over all, blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5). Long before this century has run its course, He will perhaps have returned in glory to this world, which, having slain Him when He was here before, turned, Cain-like, to building cities, and making advancement in the arts and sciences, quite forgetful of the blood shed on Calvary’s cross, which cries still unto God from the ground. (Compare Gen. 4:8-22). It is not as often insisted on as it should be that there are two aspects in which the death of Christ is brought before us in the Bible, with widely different results. Viewed as His offering Himself a sacrifice to God for sin and sins, and suffering at the hand of God for guilt not His own, the result is free salvation and complete justification for all who believe in Him. On the other hand, viewed as the One rejected of earth, and suffering from the hands of wicked men, the result is dire and unmixed judgment on the ordered system of things called the world, that cast Him out. (These two aspects and results are especially presented to us in Psalms 22 and 69). When He returns the second time, it will be “without sin unto salvation” (Heb. 9:28), for all who have trusted Him as their Saviour, who will be “in the twinkling of an eye” changed and caught up together in the clouds to meet Him in the air (1 Cor. 15:51, 52; 1 Thess. 4:16,17); but He will shortly after be revealed from heaven in flaming fire, to take vengeance on all who have rejected His grace (2 Thess. 1:7-10).
He is to be judge of both living and dead (2 Tim. 4:1; 1 Pet. 4:5). The living who have spurned His proffered mercy He will judge at His appearing to institute the kingdom long promised by the prophets (Rev. 20:1-6; Isa. 32, 63, etc.). This is the judgment of the “sheep and goats” depicted in Matt. 25, and is premillennial. The wicked dead will be judged by Him when He sits on the Great White Throne, at the close of the ages of time.
Of the day or hour of His return no man knows, or can know. Computations are useless. “In such an hour as ye think not the Son of Man cometh.” It behooves all, then, to be ready to meet the Coming Man, and not be ashamed before Him.
There is only one way by which any one born in sin and a transgressor by practice can be ready to face Him, the Holy and the True. All who trust Him are instantly cleansed from every sin by His precious blood. His work, finished when He was here before, is of such infinite value, and so thoroughly met all the claims of God’s holiness, that all who believe are “made meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light” (Col. 1:12). If the reader has rested his soul upon Him as his Saviour, he will be ready to meet Him, and will be rapt away to be forever with Himself, if spared till He comes.
But Satan also has his “coming man,” of whom our Lord spoke, as we have seen, in John 5:43. In the interval between the rapture of the Church and the appearing in glory of the Saviour, this monster of infamy, in himself a very incarnation of the devil, will arise to dazzle the eyes of the world by his unhallowed brilliancy and power. He will be Satan’s masterpiece of deception, the false Christ, who will have sway over the minds and consciences of those who reject the love of the truth.
He is called “the son of perdition,” linking him in character with that awful apostate who sold his Master for “thirty pieces of silver.”
Think of men, men of greatest culture and erudition, bowing down before this vile creature, and owning him as their Lord! He is well called a “beast” in Rev. 13:11, though in appearance he is the counterfeit of the Lamb of God; but his speech is that of the dragon, “that old serpent, which is the devil, and Satan.”
This is the coming man of the earth, as the Lord Jesus is the Coming Man from heaven.
Which, dear reader, will have your heart and your allegiance? If you are left behind unsaved at the Lord’s coming, you will worship Antichrist, for God will send them strong delusion, to those who obeyed not the truth, that they may believe the lie of “the man of sin,” to their eternal condemnation (2 Thess. 2:8-12).
May it be yours then, if still out of Christ, to “turn to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for His Son from heaven.” Then your portion will be with that blessed Man in glory forever. If you turn from Him, awful must be your doom, with “the man of the earth,” yea, and all the lost, in the lake of fire for eternity.
The True Day Of Atonement For Judah
The last three chapters relate almost entirely to the period denominated the great tribulation, or the time of Jacob’s trouble, with the establishment of the kingdom following. To that short but solemn season our attention has already been directed in what we have been noticing as to the Antichrist. It is the moral result of the rejection of the Lord Jesus, and will be the final governmental display of Jehovah’s wrath because of that colossal error on Judah’s part.
He speaks of Himself in the first verse as the One which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
This latter clause deserves our careful attention. God forms man’s spirit within him. The spirit then is an entity existing distinct from the body. It is not to be confounded with the breath, nor is it merely the same as the mind. Mind is one of the functions of the spirit, for it is the seat of the intelligence. “What man knoweth the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? Even so the things of God knoweth no man, but the Spirit of God” (1 Cor. 2:11). It is impossible logically to deny the personality of man’s spirit and not likewise deny the personality of the Spirit of God. The spirit is the real man, who inhabits the body during life, and at death puts off the tabernacle of flesh and goes out unclothed into the unseen world, called by the Jews Sheol, by the Greeks Hades. This is not the grave, but the condition of departed spirits, whether saved or lost. The spirit of the believer is “absent from the body and present with the Lord.” That of the unsaved is “in torment,” but awaiting the final judgment, when “death and Hades will be emptied into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15).
Sadducees of every stripe deny the true personality of the spirit, as an unseen something formed within the man our eyes behold. God links this special creation with that of the heavens and the earth. “Thus saith God the Lord, He that created the heavens, and stretched them out; He that spread forth the earth, and that which cometh out of it; He that giveth breath unto the people upon it, and spirit to them that walk therein” (Isa. 42:5). Here breath and spirit are clearly distinguished. The one is fleeting, the other exists forever. True, it is but incidentally, as we would say, this statement as to the spirit of man is here introduced; but it is all-important nevertheless, and a distinct guard against Sadduceeism, if carefully considered.
In verse 2 Jerusalem, the centre of all God’s ways as to the earth, is introduced, and a siege spoken of, which is evidently that of the last days. Jerusalem is then to be a cup of trembling, or reeling—that is, an intoxicating draught—unto all nations. Possessed with an almost insane desire to control the ancient city which is recognized by all as the key of the East, they will make desperate attempts to obtain suzerainty over it. But it shall prove to be then, as it has been down through the centuries, a burdensome stone. Every nation burdening itself with it shall be destroyed, even though a coalition were effected for this purpose between all the people of the prophetic earth (ver. 3).
There will be a number of powers, however, each acting for itself, in the time of the tribulation. The Roman empire will be revived in the form of ten kingdoms voluntarily associated together, and giving their support to that impious character denominated the Beast in the first part of Rev. 13, whose seat will be in Rome, proudly called the Eternal City. In Jerusalem itself the Antichrist will reign, having made a league, offensive and defensive, with the Beast. He is the second Beast of Rev. 13, who simulates the Lamb of God, but whose dragonic speech betrays his real character.
Against him, as prophesied in Dan. 11, two rival powers will set themselves, endeavoring to obtain Jerusalem and destroy him and each other, namely, the kings of the north and of the south. That is, an Egyptian power will attain some prominence and aspire to Palestine in that time of trouble, but will be opposed by a northern power inhabiting the territory now called Turkey in Asia. This is identical with the Assyrian so frequently mentioned.
Farther north will be the great empire of Gog, the last enemy to come against Jerusalem, which is undoubtedly Russia, ever the inveterate enemy of the Jews, and grasping eagerly after their land. The end of this power is foretold in Ezek. 38 and 39.
Another confederacy is mentioned in Revelation as “the kings of the east,” or, “the sun-rising;” but it would seem as though the hordes of these nations barely reach the land ere the judgment falls. It is significant that Japan is called the kingdom of the rising sun. Who can say that the German emperor’s fear of “the yellow peril” is not based on something more substantial than a political nightmare?
In the time of the end, mighty armies will be gathered from all quarters against Jerusalem just before the appearing of Messiah in glory. They will clash together in the great battle of Armageddon, long since predicted by the prophets, and briefly depicted in verses 4 and 5, but more fully described in chapter 14 and in Rev. 19.
Following upon the utter discomfiture of all Israel’s foes, government will be established firmly in Judah, and Jerusalem shall be rebuilt in unequaled splendor, and inhabited by a redeemed and happy people (ver. 6).
The ten tribes will be regathered after the kingdom is set up. The tents of Judah are to be saved first, then the house of David distinguished from them, and one taken therefrom, who shall act as prince-regent on earth for the true Son of David who will reign from heaven. Afterwards, as we learn from various scriptures, the ten tribes will ask the way to Zion, and will return from all the countries whither they have been driven.
Thus will that ideal state have been reached, so long anticipated by inspired seers, when the Lord Himself shall be the defence of His people, and the weakest among them shall be as David, the heroic defender of the liberties of Israel, whose house shall be in direct communication with heaven, thus establishing a pure theocracy on earth, when every enemy shall be destroyed and peace and good will everywhere prevail (vers. 7, 8).
All this the chosen people might long since have been in the enjoyment of, had they but obeyed the Spirit’s call to repentance as given in the 2d of Acts. It was a summons to self-judgment and humiliation in Jehovah’s presence because of their national crime, the crucifixion of the Messiah. All their blessings wait for this, which will mark their entering into the truth of the atoning value of the work of the Lord Jesus. Only then will they in spirit have reached the great feast of the seventh month, the true day of atonement.
There is important instruction as to this in the 23rd chapter of Leviticus. There we have the yearly calendar of the seven great feasts. The sabbath is introduced as the symbol of the rest which is to follow all the dispensations when the course of time has come to a close, as declared in Heb. 3:10—4:11.
The passover prefigures the Cross, even as we are told that “Christ our passover was sacrificed for us.” This is immediately followed by the feast of unleavened bread; so the passage referred to goes on to say, “Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, neither with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth” (1 Cor. 5:7, 8). This sets forth the call to repentance, now extended to Jew and Gentile alike, who, resting beneath the sheltering blood of the slain Lamb, are to be found in holy separation from all evil, waiting the hour of their full redemption.
But this does not necessarily imply the heavenly calling; so we next get the day of Pentecost, or the feast of weeks, when a new meal-offering was presented before Jehovah, setting forth the present truth of the mystery never made known till the final rejection of the testimony of the Lord and His apostles by Israel as a nation. Observe that this was in the third month.
Then there is a long break, until the seventh month. Now, as it is clear that Pentecost includes the calling out of a people for the name of the Lord from among the nations, it is evident that all the feasts of the seventh month have reference particularly to Israel when the fulness of the Gentiles shall have come in, and the trumpet of recall will once more summon God’s earthly people to gather around Himself in the land of their fathers. That trumpet will blow when the Church has been caught up to heaven. This the feast of trumpets beautifully pictures. It is the awakening of Israel when the veil shall begin to be taken away. (See Rom. 11, et al.). Then will come the call to self-abasement and contrition of heart for their fearful sin, which was manifested in the cross, and consummated in the rejection of the Holy Ghost. This is, for them, the great day of atonement. Long centuries have elapsed since the Victim bled, but they have never yet kept the day of fasting and affliction of soul that God joined with the offering up of the sacrifice to make atonement for their souls.
To this they will come in the hour of their deep distress, just prior to the appearing of the Crucified in the glory of His Father, and all His holy ones with Him. This, therefore, is the mourning referred to in Rev. 1:7, and here, in verses 10 to 14. In the Apocalyptic passage we read, “Behold, He cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see Him…and all tribes of the land shall mourn over Him.” It is not wailing in terror that is contemplated, but the anguished mourning of the awakened remnant when they realize the dreadful impiety of which their fathers were guilty in crucifying the Lord of glory.
God Himself will pour upon the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem the spirit of grace and supplications, and “they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for Him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born” (ver. 10). The word “look” might be rendered “contemplate.” It implies an earnest attention, beholding with thoughtfulness, that every lineament of His face may be imprinted upon their souls. His once-marred visage, His pierced hands and side—all will be indelibly impressed upon them. When they thus learn that He who was spurned as a malefactor and a blasphemer was really the Lord of glory, their grief and repentance will know no bounds.
We have two New Testament pictures of this scene: Thomas the apostle, called Didymus (the twin), believed when he saw. In the remnant of Judah, the other twin—may I say?—will come to the front, equally unbelieving till the marks of spear and nails shall prove convincing.
Then in Saul of Tarsus we have a preeminent picture of the same remnant. Hating the name of Jesus, he goes on his way, zealously persecuting all who love that name, till arrested by a light from heaven: his eyes, blinded to earth’s glory, peer into the holiest; and there, upon the throne of God, he beholds the Nazarene! Thus he was one born before the time; that is, before the time when, by a similar sight, the remnant will be brought to cry, as he did, “Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?”
His days and nights of darkness answer to the period of mourning here set forth. “In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon” (ver. 11). The reference is generally supposed to be to the great grief that fell on Judah when Josiah was slain, in the same valley where the Lord is yet to appear for the judgment of the armies of the haters of His earthly people. Megiddon is, of course, Armageddon, the valley of slaughter, of Revelation 16:16.
In vers. 12 to 14 the people are distinguished into various classes. The family of the house of David, the royalty of Judah, mourn apart. The house of Nathan, the very prophet who once reproved David for his sin, mourn also apart. Then there are the families of Levi and of Shimei, or Simeon, once joined in iniquity, now each joining, though apart, in common confession because of sin.
So shall every family participate in the affliction of soul that extends to the glorious appearing of Him who long since entered into the heavenly sanctuary by His own blood.
Another feast closes the series in Lev. 23. Of that, chapter 14 of our prophet treats; so I leave it till we reach that portion.
The Fountain Opened And The Shepherd Smitten
Immediately linked with the time when Israel shall have reached, in spirit, the day of atonement, the fountain is provided for cleansing from all defilement which the first verse of this chapter announces. When the Spirit of God has wrought repentance in the remnant, the word of God will at once be applied in cleansing.
It is to (not “in,” as people often attempt to quote it) the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem that the fountain is opened in order that they may be morally cleansed from all sin and uncleanness, in accordance with the testimony of Ezekiel (chap. 36:24-27): “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.”
The day of atonement brings them to the cross. The next step is the laver, to which the fountain answers. Observe well, it is not, as Christian poets have sung, “a fountain filled with blood,” but of living water—the word of God applied in the Spirit’s power to their consciences. The same truth is taught in the Lord’s washing His disciples’ feet, the laver of regeneration, and the washing of water by the Word, but all in connection with the present dispensation. So from the side of the crucified Saviour flowed both blood and water — blood, to expiate sin before God; water, to cleanse the ways and keep the saint free from defilement.
As the power of the truth is brought home to the remnant, it will lead them to judge all iniquity and to put away all uncleanness. Idolatry will become as an evil dream when it is past, and deceivers of all kinds will “pass out of the land” (ver. 2).
As all prophecy will have come to its glorious fulfilment, the office of the prophet shall cease. Any essaying that role will be judged even by his own parents (vers. 3, 4).
But One there is in contrast to the false prophets in every way, even the One for whom they shall mourn when they are brought to see how they have sinned against Him. “He shall say, I am no prophet, I am a husbandman; for man acquired Me as a servant from My youth.” Some have followed the rabbis in applying these words, and those following, to the deceivers; but it seems far clearer, and more in keeping with the context, to apply them to the Lord Jesus Christ. He was acquired as a servant from His youth, and, like the devoted slaves of Exod. 21, for love of His own He would not go out free. To Him the wondering remnant cry, “What are these wounds in Thy hands?” He replies, “Those with which I was wounded in the house of My friends.” What grace, that He should so speak of Judah, who knew Him not when He came among them in lowliness (vers. 5, 6).
But He could never have been wounded by them, had it not been according to the purpose of God that He should be made a sin-offering. So at once we read, “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, and against the Man that is My Fellow, saith Jehovah: smite the Shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn My hand upon the little ones” (ver. 7). Clearly the smitten Shepherd here is the wounded One of the preceding verses. There, it was man’s treatment of Him that was emphasized. Here, it is the solemn fact that God’s judgment fell upon Him when, for our sins, He was smitten on the cross. There, as the Good Shepherd, He gave His life for the sheep, and endured divine wrath, that all who trust in Him might be forever secure from the well-deserved vengeance of Jehovah’s insulted throne. So the words are directly applied in Matt. 26:31. The Shepherd was smitten by Jehovah Himself. The sheep were for the moment scattered, but God’s hand is turned in grace to the little ones who are lowly enough to own their guilt and trust in Him whose precious blood cleanseth from every stain. To the remnant, the value of His work will be made known when their blindness has passed away, and they will be numbered among the feeble and the poor in spirit who cast themselves upon redeeming grace.
Not all Israel, however, nor yet all of Judah, shall be saved. But of those restored to the land after the Church has been rapt away to heaven, two parts will be cut off in death during the time of Jacob’s trouble. The third part will be brought through the fiery trials of the great tribulation, and will be refined as silver and purified as gold. They shall call upon Jehovah’s name, and He will respond to them in grace and loving-kindness. To them He will say, “It is My people,” thus reversing the Lo-ammi sentence of Hosea, chap. 1; while they in turn shall cry with hearts uplifted at the thought of such abounding mercy, “Jehovah is my God!”
Their salvation will be thus of a double character, as was that of their fathers of old, wherever faith was in exercise, who were brought to God and saved from Egyptian bondage.
The closing chapter gives us the details of their deliverance from their enemies, and does not leave them till they are seen keeping the happiest feast of all the year—that of the tabernacles— with the assured sense of the favor of Jehovah.
The True Feast Of Tabernacles
Deep indeed is the darkness with which this chapter opens, but gloriously brilliant the light at the close.
Of all Jerusalem’s sieges in the past, none were more severe than that depicted in the first two verses. They describe conditions which careful students of history admit have never been known in any past destruction of the city, and can only apply to something yet future.
“Behold, the day of Jehovah cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city” (vers. 1, 2). From east, west, north and south, the armies of the nations will have advanced upon Jerusalem, hating the people and city of God, but mutually hating each other.
Antichrist will be owned by the apostate Jews within the city as the Messiah and King of Judah. But against him the Assyrian, or king of the north, and the king of the south (terms used relative to Palestine), will pour their hordes into the land in one last desperate effort to wrest from this wicked king his brief authority. Behind the Assyrian power will be Gog, the last prince of Rosh, Meshech, and Tubal—undoubtedly the head of the vast Russian empire. Allied with him will apparently be the kings from the sun-rising, or the far east, whose armies will hasten to join him in his assault on Jerusalem.
On the other hand, the Beast, the elected emperor of the confederacy forming the revived Roman Empire, will be the sworn foe of all these hostile powers, and the arm upon which Antichrist will lean. From every part of western and southern Europe he will draw his vast armies, who will be imbued with equal hate against both the faithful remnant of Judah and the Assyrian coalition.
Between these conflicting powers Jerusalem’s position will be a most pitiable one. Unable to maintain the dreadful struggle, the city will be taken, and the horrors of a sack be again undergone.
But when, as it would seem, no power, human or divine, could prevent its total extinction, the Lord shall go forth, staining all His raiment in the blood of the adversaries of His people, fighting as a mighty warrior in the day of battle (ver. 3). Before the eyes of the astonished armies of the world He will appear in glory, and He “shall stand upon the mount of Olives,” from which He ascended to heaven when He had by Himself made purification for sins.
As His feet touch that sacred spot, a great earthquake will rend the mount asunder, which will depart to the east and to the west, opening up a deep valley, through which the remnant of His people shall flee for refuge unto Azal (a spot now unknown), which will be as a Zoar for the faithful residue, when judgment is about to sweep over the scene. Thus will they be hidden in the day of the Lord’s anger till the indignation be overcast.
This section closes, if properly punctuated, with the declaration, “Yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah king of Judah.” Here there should be a full stop. Of this earthquake in the days of Uzziah we have no specific record, though it is generally supposed to be the one referred to in Amos 1:1. The reference to it here completes the dramatic account of the siege and the deliverance. A new beginning is made in the last clause of the 5th verse, which introduces an orderly account of the appearing in glory of the Lord Jesus and all His heavenly saints, and the blessed results that follow. “The Lord My God shall come, and all the holy ones with Thee!” Thus shall be ushered in that glorious kingdom which has been so long predicted. Not by the preaching of the gospel and the conversion of the world will this event be brought to pass. Nothing less than the personal presence of the Son of God will ever bring in the Millennium. The holy ones who will come with Him include all the heavenly hosts—angels, and redeemed sinners transformed into glorified saints. 1 Thess. 4 and 1 Cor. 15:51-57 make it plain that ere the time of trouble begins for Israel all the saved of every past dispensation will be caught up to meet their Lord in the air.
“Dead and living, changed and rising,
In the twinkling of an eye.”
They will appear at His judgment-seat, to be rewarded according to the services rendered to Himself while in this scene. Then the Church as the Bride, and all Old Testament saints as the called and chosen guests, will participate in the marriage supper of the Lamb, which is to be celebrated in the Father’s house. After the happy-nuptial rites, the Lord Jesus, accompanied by all His holy ones, will descend to take His earthly kingdom, and to deliver the remnant of Israel and Judah from their cruel and blasphemous adversaries.
This will take place on “one day which shall be known to Jehovah,” a day which no human method of computation can determine. The exact meaning of verses 6 and 7 has puzzled the most scholarly; but this much seems clear, that it shall be a day diverse from every other, beginning in deepest gloom and darkness, but, brightened by the outshining of the Sun of Righteousness, “at evening time it shall be light.” So will the morning without clouds have dawned upon this poor world, where night has held sway so long.
Probably as a result of the great earthquake, predicted in verses 4 and 5, will be the phenomena of verse 8. According to the word of the Lord given in Ezek. 47:1-12 and Joel 3:18, living waters shall go out from Jerusalem—a perennial stream of refreshment, dividing into two parts, half going toward the eastern sea and half toward the western. Of spiritual blessing likewise does this speak, for it sets before us also that river of God’s pleasure, the Holy Spirit’s testimony to the glories of Christ, which will be as a stream of life and joy to the saved nations.
Remarkable physical changes will take place in Palestine. The valleys exalted, and mountains leveled, the country will become as a great tableland from Geba on the north to Rimmon, south of Jerusalem. This sacred city will be inhabited in security, and her day of trembling be forever past, for the Lord shall be King over all the earth, and be everywhere owned as the one Jehovah, and His name one (vers. 9-11).
The nations who will have shown no mercy to Jerusalem will be dealt with in judgment without mercy, a plague consuming their flesh, and internecine strife, or civil feud, causing them to destroy each other. Satan himself was an anarchist in the beginning. His kingdom is a kingdom of anarchy, knowing neither love nor pity (vers. 12, 13).
Judah will become as the battle-axe of the Lord in that day of His power, victorious over every foe, and enriched by the spoil of those who would fain have spoiled them. Retributive justice will thus be visited on all oppressors when righteousness shall no longer suffer, but reign triumphant over every adversary (vers. 14, 15).
Then shall the last joyful feast of the Levitical calendar be actually reached (that of the tabernacles), which was to be observed after the ingathering for a full week, culminating in the holy convocation of the eighth day—looking on to eternity (Lev. 23:33-43). The sowing, and the long period of waiting for the harvest, over, the reaping time will have come, when joy and praise will fill every heart and songs of thanksgiving be upon every lip.
Nor shall Israel keep her feast« alone, but all the nations that are left for the kingdom shall go up from year to year to Jerusalem, there to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to join with His people (they themselves being numbered among them) in celebrating the glorious ingathering, as they dwell in booths of verdure, as of old it was written in the Book. It will be a sweet and lovely ending after centuries, yea, millenniums, of bitter strife and bloody warfare, when the noise of battle shall be no more heard, national hatreds shall be done away, and the era of peace on earth and God’s good pleasure in men shall have in very deed arrived.
If, as seems to be intimated in verses 17 to 19, at the beginning, there be any dissentients who shall dare to refuse to wend their way to the city of the great King to worship before Him, immediate judgment shall fall upon them. The heavens will be closed so that their lands will be parched for lack of rain; that they may know that the time when God is directly governing the world shall have at last arrived. If the family of Egypt go not up, who depend not on rain, but on the yearly inundation of the Nile for the fertilization and maturing of their crops, then a special visitation shall be theirs, a plague “wherewith the Lord shall smite the heathen that come not up to keep the feast of tabernacles.”
In this age men may defy God and seem to prosper. In that, which is so soon to come, godliness and prosperity will be linked together. It will be the dispensation of the fulness of the seasons, when all things shall be headed up in Christ, and every knee must bow to Him—when men will no longer walk by faith, as now, but by the sight of their eyes, beholding on every hand the evidences of direct divine intervention in human affairs.
The last two verses form a fitting climax to the chapter and the book. “In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, Holiness unto the Lord; and the pots in the Lord’s house shall be like the bowls before the altar. Yea, every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts: and all they that sacrifice shall come and take of them, and seethe therein: and in that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts.” No longer will a distinction be made between sacred and secular; but men will have learned that anything worth doing at all should be done for the glory of God. The articles for temple service (used in the rebuilt temple of Ezek. 40 to 48) will be sacred to Jehovah. But so will also be every vessel used by the house-wife in Jerusalem and in Judah; while the very bells upon the horses will tinkle His praises. This is the lovely ideal the Holy Ghost portrays for Christians living in the present age; as it is written, “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by Him” (Col. 3:16, 17). And, again, we are told, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Cor. 10:31). He who thus has God’s glory ever before Him, even in the smallest details of life, will anticipate the Millennium, and already enter into what shall by-and-by be true of restored Israel under the reign of the Lord Jesus Christ.
There will be no drudgery then, no mere working for reward, for the Canaanite will have ceased out of the land in that day. Undoubtedly the name refers to the ancient enemy who ever contested Israel’s possession of the promised inheritance; but it bears the meaning of “trafficker,” or “bargainer,” to whom, in Hos. 12:7, we have seen the sons of Jacob are compared. When ill feeling between Abraham and Lot was so narrowly averted through the generosity of the former, it is significantly stated that “the Canaanite… dwelt then in the land” (Gen. 13:7). When all strife and bitterness shall be done away in Abraham’s redeemed seed, the Canaanite will have passed out of the scene for all time to come.
This is Israel’s hope: the possession of the land pledged to their fathers, under the sway of Him whom David called,
“A righteous Ruler over men,
A Ruler in the fear of God!”
even our adorable Lord Jesus Christ; when in His own times He shall show, who is that blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords. Ours is a higher and holier portion, even to be the Bride of Him who is then to reign. We look to heaven, not to earth, for our inheritance, from whence we expect that very soon now “the Lord Himself shall descend … with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thess. 4:16, 17).
Thus the two callings are clearly distinguished in Scripture. Israel is the wife of Jehovah, now divorced because of her sin, but to be brought back to Himself in grace and made to dwell in her former land in the day when the kingdom is displayed. The Church of the present dispensation is the Bride of the Lamb, whose nuptial hour is drawing near, and who will be one with her Redeemer throughout all the ages to come. Old Testament saints, and tribulation saints who are taken away by death ere the kingdom is set up, will be, as was John the Baptizer, friends of the Bridegroom, “called” to the marriage-supper of the Lamb, to participate in their Lord’s rejoicing, and able also to share in Jehovah’s joy when the earthly Bride shall return to His arms of love and compassion. In heaven their position will be analogous to that of the spared of the nations on earth, who will rejoice with Israel when they see the place she will have in the millennial kingdom. Thus are there various companies and varied glories in heaven and upon earth; but when the authority of the Lord Jesus is owned in both spheres, and every enemy has been banished and rendered powerless, all redeemed creation will delight to ascribe blessing and honor and glory and power to our God and to the Lamb that was slain, world without end. Amen.
30 The whole question is pretty thoroughly examined in the work referred to, pp. 150-159, a volume which I am glad to take this opportunity of commending to any troubled with doubts as to the full inspiration of Holy Scripture. (It may be had from my Publishers.)
31 Some suppose the other horses to be riderless, and see in this a significant picture of the restless energy of Gentile dominion; but this involves speaking horses, a figure, it seems to me, grotesque and unimplied here.
32 I suppose most are aware of the foolish Mormon conceit which makes this young man to be Joseph Smith, the pseudo-prophet, and the angel to be Moroni, who reveals to him the golden plates of the book of Mormon!
The most casual reading of the passage will make clear that it has no reference to a Zion in America, but is intimately connected with what has gone before, and follows after, as to Jerusalem in the land of Palestine.
33 I do not enter into this in detail here, as I have already done so in commenting on Jeremiah, chapters fifty and fifty-one. The interested reader may consult “The Weeping Prophet: Notes on Jeremiah and the Lamentations.” Same author and publishers.
34 Some read, “the red;” see R.V., margin. Others translate this word, “the strong.”
35 I have thought that possibly commentators in general are wrong in applying “the fast of the seventh month” to the lesser fast commemorating the murder of Gedaliah, and that it really refers to the great fast of the day of atonement. In that case the prophet would be showing that whether directly appointed by God in His Word, or added by pious consent, no observance was acceptable apart from reality. But as the Jews themselves apply the passage as in the text, I have left it at that.
36 Jew is but a contraction of Judah, which means “praise.” Note how the apostle interprets the name in Rom. 2:28, 29.
37 In verse 11 read, “He shall pass through the sea of affliction,” as in R. V.,—not “with affliction,” as the A. V. has it.
38 I do not consider it needful to go into the question of the reference to Jeremy the prophet in Matt. 27:9. Many theories have been suggested. The day will declare it.