The Book of Zechariah - "Searchlights from the Word" by G. Campbell Morgan.
Be ye not as your fathers ...
This book has been aptly described as the Apocalypse of the Old Testament, on account of its visional representation of the history of Israel up to the time when it is completely restored. Zechariah was contemporary with Haggai, and helped him in his particular work. His first message (1:1-16) was delivered about a month after Haggai's second message; his second, consisting of visions (1:7-6:15), two months after Haggai's latest; his third, consisting of voices (7-8), nearly two years later; whilst his last concerning the king (9-14) was delivered after the temple was completed, at least four years after Haggai. These words are taken from the first message. The people were looking back, and lamenting the past greatness of the glory of the Temple. Haggai had told them that the glory of the latter house should exceed that of the former. Zechariah reinforced the appeal of Haggai from another standpoint. He charged them to learn the true lesson of the backward look, that of how the glory was lost through the disobedience of the fathers to the word of God. That was, and is, a salutary word. It is a persistent habit, this of talking of "the good old days," and so weakening our powers to serve our own age. It is well that we be reminded that in many ways they were bad old days; and that we take warning from the failures of the past, and so make our work of a more abiding nature.
For I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and I will be the glory in the midst of her.
At the seventh verse of chapter 1 begins the series of eight visions in which the history of Israel from then to the consummation of the Divine purpose was foretold. The first, that of the myrtle trees (1:7-17), shows the long period during which the chosen people of God must dwell among the shadows. The second, that of horns and smiths (1:18-21), recognizes the forces which will be against these people; and the forces which God raises up to destroy those who scatter them. These words occur in the third vision, which occupies the whole of this chapter. It is a radiant setting forth of the restoration and prosperity which will eventually come to Israel as the result of the Divine care. It is a glorious vision of Jerusalem as it will be. A young man was seen going forth to measure the city. He was stopped and, told in effect that no measurement of his could encompass the spacious glory of that city of God which would stretch out into the garden lands like villages. Then came this fine and final figure of speech. When that city is established at last, she will need no material walls to render her safe, Jehovah will encompass her as a wall of fire and be in the midst of her as her supreme glory. The city of God has ever been the goal of the men and women of faith in their pilgrimage, their witness, and their warfare, and no suggestion as to its glory and beauty and safety, in all the Biblical literature, is more perfect and wonderful than this.
I will bring forth My Servant, the Branch.
This chapter contains the fourth vision. It is that of Joshua, the priest, cleansed, and fitted for the fulfilment of priestly function. Israel was chosen to fulfil that function among the nations, to be a dynasty of priests, in that she had access to God. Through her sin she had failed, but by the way of cleansing from that sin she is yet to fulfil that office. The way of restoration for Israel is to be that of the bringing forth of Jehovah's Servant, the Branch. The meaning of the word is simple, it is that of a shoot, or branch, springing out of the tree itself. The use of it is revealed by the Septuagint translation which rendered the word anatole, "that which rises or springs up." This is the word rendered Dayspring in Luke 1:78: "The Dayspring from on high shall visit us," in the prophecy of the priest Zacharias, the father of John Baptist. Here then was the hope of Israel's cleansing and restoration to priestly work. She had failed because the Divinely appointed order of priests within her national life had failed. And how persistently they failed! Their final failure was that of their murder of the very One Who fulfilled in His Own Person, and office this great prediction. Yet He came; the Servant of God was brought forth; the Branch, the Dayspring visited and redeemed His people. The result must be at last the cleansing of that nation, and her exercise of priestly function among the nations of the world. This is all of grace. Such grace is indeed amazing, but it is almighty.
Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of Hosts.
In this chapter we have the fifth vision. It is that of the golden candlestick. To the devout Hebrew its signification was patent. In the Holy Place, just outside the Holiest of all, there stood, the golden lampstand, a perpetual symbol of the function of the nation in the purpose of God; as the table of shewbread was a symbol of its fellowship with Him. The nation was created to be a centre of light to all the nations. In the visions granted to Zechariah, this, then, was a representation of ideal Israel. It fittingly followed that of the priest, cleansed, and so prepared for the fulfilment of the priestly office. The whole vision was intended to show that the nation could only fulfil that function as it was in direct and maintained communion with God. Not by her might or power among the nations could she reveal the truth about God; but only by the life illuminated and energized by His Spirit. Zerubbabel and Joshua stood symbolically for the offices of king and priest, merged in Messiah; through submission to Whose authority, and appropriation of Whose mediatorial work, a perpetual supply of that Spirit can be received. The vision is beautifully pictorial, and full of illumination. The principles apply to the Church equally with Israel. Not by might and power, of money or of organization, can she witness to her Lord; but only by His Spirit. A full supply of that Spirit is ever at her disposal through Him, Who is the one King-Priest.
An house in the land of Shinar.
Two visions, the sixth and seventh, are found in this chapter, those namely of the flying roll, and the ephah. They are visions of administration. The idea is that when Israel is restored, and realizes her true function in the Divine economy, she will exercise a true moral influence in the world. The flying roll is the curse of evil; it represents the principle of law, as it will be applied by Israel. Evil-doers will be discovered, and punished. The ephah with the woman seated in it, recognized, what later prophecy clearly revealed, that the principle of wickedness will have its final stronghold in commerce (see Rev. 13:16 and 17); and read the newspapers). Under the influence of Israel restored, that manifestation is for a period to be restricted. It is to be carried to, and centralized in, the land of Shinar. There the tower of Babel was erected (Gen. 10:10); and there Babylon was built. In the revealed scheme of prophecy, the reference here must be to the millennial reign; during which the spirit of lawlessness will not be destroyed, but restricted and held in check. Babylon will have fallen as a power is the affairs of men; and, under the compulsion of the true moral principle, will be localized and mastered. Beyond that, Satan will be loosed, for one purpose only; to gather together all in whom that principle of lawlessness still his a place, that they may be destroyed, while he is cast out finally.
The counsel of peace shall be between them both.
In this chapter we have the eighth and last vision; and the record of a great symbolic and prophetic ceremony actually performed under the direction of Zechariah. The vision was of four chariots driven from between two mountains of brass; and the explanation given was that they represented the spirits of heaven going forth from the presence of the Lord to walk to and fro in the earth. The suggestion is still that of administration; and the revelation is that this is to be accomplished by spiritual forces. The ceremony was that of setting crowns upon the head of the priest. Thus a great revelation was made, that of a priest upon a throne. The prediction was that the fulfilment of the idea suggested should come in the person of the Man Whose name is the Branch (see chapter 3. verse 8). Then these particular words occur: "The counsel of peace shall be between them both." In this statement the words "them both" refer, not to two persons, but to two offices, those namely of King and Priest, as they merge in the one Person, Who is that Branch. That is a great, a central, a final word on the subject of peace. In the midst of long continued and growingly disastrous and bloody wars, men have discussed the way of peace, but without producing "the counsel of peace." In the widest sense it is true that "The way of peace have they not known." There is only one way of peace. It is that of the exercise of authority over all human affairs by the One Who is not King only, but Priest also. The One Who is able to loose men from sin, is the only One Who is able to bind them together, in peace.
Should I weep in the fifth month, separating myself, as I have done these so many years?
In this and the next chapters, we have the third section of the prophecy. It consists of three messages of Jehovah to the people. These were delivered about two years later than those giving the visions; and two years before the completion of the Temple. The words which we have emphasized introduce us to the reason of these messages. During the times of trouble certain fasts had been instituted by the people. The four of them are mentioned in 8. 19. The question of the deputation from Bethel was as to whether now that the walls of the city were rebuilt, that fast should still be observed which was instituted in connection with their destruction. The first answer to that inquiry is found in this chapter. Its two movements are important. In the first the prophet reminded them that the institution of the fast was not Divine. Themselves had done it. He did not say it was wrong to have done so; but implicated in his words was the warning not to give Divine sanction to human arrangements. In the second movement the prophet delivered the direct word of Jehovah in which they were reminded of the reason of the calamity which caused them to institute this fast. It was that of their iniquity, consequent upon their disobedience. All this is full of suggestiveness. Human appointments may be justified by circumstances arising out of human attitudes which are not justified. Let them not be thought of as of the same nature as Divine ordinances.
The fast ... and the fast ... and the fast ... and the fast ... shall be ... feasts.
This chapter contains the second and third of the messages of Jehovah in answer to the inquiry of the deputation from Bethel. In the second (verses 1-18), the Divine determination to restore Zion was set forth; and appeal was made to the people to act in accordance with this determination. The movement began with the arresting declarations: "I am jealous"; "I am jealous with great wrath"; "I am returned." The result will be that of the establishment of truth in the city, and holiness in the mountain; and the consequent security of the aged, and the play-time of the children. The third and last message returned directly to the question which had been raised, and taking a wider outlook than that of the particular fast named, included the four which had been instituted by the people in the days of calamity. The feast of the tenth month mourned the besieging of the city; that of the fourth, its taking; that of the fifth, its destruction; and that of the seventh, the murder of Gedaliah. None of these things had been in the purpose of God for His people; they had resulted from their sins. The fasts therefore were the result of their sins. In jealousy and fury, the outcome of love, Jehovah would put away their sins, and so restore them to true prosperity. In that day let them still remember and observe, only let the observance be a feast in celebration of God's grace, instead of a fast in memory of their sin. In all this a principle of Divine action is revealed. The grace of God is ever transforming the fast of penitence into a feast of love. Is not this the deep meaning of the Holy Supper to the saints of God?
How great is His goodness, and how great is His beauty.
The last six chapters of Zechariah contain two burdens. They are undated, but we may be certain they were uttered after the completion of the Temple. In the messages already considered, the purpose of the prophet had been that of inspiring the people to complete the work of building that Temple, by showing them the far-reaching effect of their work in its relation to the Coming and Kingdom of Messiah. These final burdens are of the nature of intepretations of some aspects of that Coming and Kingdom. Some of these interpretations were of the nature of predictions of events comparatively nigh at hand; but they were all seen as related to the reign of Messiah; some of them had reference to His first advent and rejection, and these have had literal fulfilment; some of them had reference to the ultimate glory of His reign, and they are still unfulfilled. In this chapter the protection of the city against Alexander was foretold (verses 1-8); and the victory of Judas Maccabaeus over Antiochus Epiphanes predicted (verses 10-16). Between these foretellings the clear announcement of the advent of the Messiah was made. (verse 9). The words we have stressed constitute an exclamation of wonder and adoration resulting from the prophet's vision of the action of Jehovah, and may we not say, as seen in the King? The combination of ideas in the phrases, "His goodness" and "His beauty," is very suggestive. These are things of God, revealed to the pure in heart, in nature, in providence, but with finality and perfection in "the Son of His love."
Ask ye of the Lord rain ... Zech. 10:1
This chapter should not be a chapter. That is to say, it is most clearly the continuation and completion of the first movement in this burden celebrating the coming of Messiah and the victories He will win. It continues and develops the declarations already made. Perhaps, however, there is this justification for the division, that at this point the prophet made a direct appeal to the people to whom he was speaking. He had referred to the fruitfulness, which would follow the reign of Messiah, in the words, "Grain shall make the young men flourish, and new wine the virgins" (9:17); and at once he charged the people to seek these things in the rain which comes from God, rather than from the teraphim and diviners who had always led them astray. Here is revealed an element in prophecy of perpetual application. It is that of its immediate intention. The prophet of God in the most exalted moments of prediction, never forgot that the true purpose of his ministry was to produce immediate results, and not to satisfy curiosity, even on the highest level. Let those who look for an ultimate fruitfulness remember that it will come as the result of rains which God sends; and let them remember that such rains are available to them now, if they will ask of Him. Waiting for future blessings may resolve itself into selfishness, and indeed postpone these blessings. Let there be an immediate seeking, not first for the .fruitfulness, but rather for the Divine rains by which such fruitfulness will come.
So I fed the flock of slaughter, verily the poor of the flock. And I took unto me two staves; the one I called Beauty, and the other I called
Bands; and I fed the flock.
In this chapter we have the second movement in the first Burden. It stands in striking contrast to the first movement. That predicted the coming of the true King; this, in figurative language, told of His rejection. The first sentences described the judgment which would result from that rejection. Then the fact of the rejection was foretold. It should be remembered throughout that the Shepherd is always the King, whether false or true. The nation is seen oppressed by false shepherds; then God raised up a good Shepherd, that is, a true King. The method of the prophet here was that of personating this King in his speech. He exercises a double office as the symbols of the staves signify. Beauty speaks of the grace of the King, both in His method and His purpose for His people. Bands tell of His might, also in method and purpose. The hire the people give him is thirty pieces of silver, the price of the slave! Therefore, He breaks His staves, and casts them away. As a result, the people pass under the oppression of another false shepherd. Thus the prophet had vision of the rejection of the Messiah, and of a Roman conquest and oppression, which would result there-from. The remarkable element in this prophecy is that of its exact foretelling, even in detail, of what would happen to the one true Shepherd.
They shall look unto Me, Whom they have pierced.
We come now to the second of the Burdens. This first section of the prophecy has to do with things which are yet unfulfilled. The King Whose rejection was foretold in the previous Burden, in this one is seen coming into His Kingdom. The Burden again has two movements, which are complementary. In the first (12:1-13:6), he shows how the oppressing nations will be dealt with in judgment; and how the people of God will be restored through the acknowledgment of their rejected King, and by their own spiritual cleansing. In the second (13:7-14), he views the same events from the standpoint of the King, going hack first to His rejection, and then describing His coming day, as to its process and administration. How full of suggestiveness are these words: "They shall look unto Me, Whom they have pierced." What a day that will be for God's ancient people when they find that the One Whom they rejected is indeed their Messiah. What sorrow will be theirs; and yet because of His grace, that sorrow will be turned into joy. The national experience had wonderful illustration in the case of Saul of Tarsus. Thig is exactly what happened to him. When we think of that experience in his case, we may have some idea of what it will mean to the world when it is multiplied to a national dimension. This thought was surely in his mind when he wrote: "What shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" (Rom. 11:15)
In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness.
When the people are brought to sorrow by the revelation of their Messiah as the One Whom they had rejected, they will find, in the mystery of the Divine grace, that God wrought, through that very rejection, a way for their cleansing. About this there are two things to be said. First, this is indeed a mystery; that is, something the truth of which is revealed and proven in experience, but which transcends the grasp of the mind of man as to its method. The fact is that of the cleansing of spirit which is provided for men through the Christ, and through Him alone. The second matter is that this is the one and only way by which the Divine purposes for Israel, and for humanity at large, can be realized. Sin and uncleanness must be put away. They cannot be excused, condoned, or compromised with. The foundations of the Throne of God are righteousness and justice; the foundations of human society are those of moral cleanness and spiritual rectitude. These two notes are fundamental in all the messages of the prophets; those of the necessity for cleansing, and of the action of the Divine grace as alone able to provide that cleansing. The Christian Church has taken hold of these words and employed the idea in her hymnology as setting forth a truth concerning humanity and that accurately and appropriately. But let us not forget that their first application is to Israel and to God's way of restoration for her.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth; in that day shall the Lord be one, and His name one.
That is the ultimate victory, the far off Divine event to which the whole creation moves the goal of God's activity for humanity, and the realization of humanity's highest experience of life. That hour will come when the feet of the rejected King stand again upon the Mount of Olives, no longer in the pathway of sorrows, but in recognized and acknowledged authority, "feet like unto burnished brass, as if it had been refined in a furnace" (Rev. 1:15). The earthly centre of His reign will be Jerusalem, that very Jerusalem so long trodden down of the Gentiles, but at last the city of the great King, not only in the intention of God, but in the experience of history. The people through whom the administration of His will will be effective, will be His people Israel, at last cleansed from all sin and uncleanness, and able to fulfil their priestly-kingly function in the world. In Christ Jesus we have had every word of prophecy made more sure; and were there no signs in human affairs which pointed in this direction, we should still be certain of their fulfilment. But today signs multiply. The eyes of the world are already centred on Jerusalem; and men who seek no light from revelation, are looking to see what will transpire concerning her, expecting, as. they say - "interesting developments." We know what they will be presently. The King Himself will be there; and, "Jehovah shall be King over all the earth, in that day shall Jehovah be one, and His Name one."