In this chapter, God’s Providences concerning His Church and people are represented as strangely changing and being strangely mixed. Sometimes the tide runs high and strong against them; but presently it turns and comes to be in favor of them.
Verse 1 shows us a view of God appearing against Jerusalem, for judgment begins at the house of God. When the Day of the Lord comes, Jerusalem must pass through the fire to be refined. God Himself gathers all nations against Jerusalem for battle (verse 2); He gives them a charge to take the spoil and the prey, for the people of Jerusalem had become the people of His wrath. But He presently changes His way, and manifests Himself as supporting and favoring Jerusalem; for although judgment begins at the house of God, yet it shall not make a full end there. Despite His people’s rebellions and backslidings, He will mercifully preserve and spare a remnant – the third part that was spoken of in chapter 13:8. We trust that the day will soon come when many of the Jews shall receive the Gospel of Jesus the Messiah, and then they shall be spared from being cut off from the people of God!
When the Lord shall stand up in defense of His people, He shall plead their cause against their enemies (verse 3). When God has made use of the heathen nations to chastise and refine His erring children, He shall go forth and fight against those enemies with His terrible judgments.
Although the physical Temple that was being built in Zechariah’s day would later be destroyed by the Romans, yet God promises that His Church will always continue to exist in this world; and into this Church, both Gentiles and believing Jews are incorporated together (verses 4-5). His feet, He says, shall stand upon the Mount of Olives – from which vantage point, one could take a full view of the city of Jerusalem and the Temple (Mark 13:3). When the refiner puts his gold into the furnace, he stands by it and keeps his eye upon it in order to ensure that it receives no damage; so also, when the children of God (who are more precious than gold to Him) are to be refined, He maintains careful oversight of the process. But that is not all! The partition-wall that formerly divided between the Jews and the Gentiles would be taken away. The mountain is spoken of as being divided with one-half toward the north, and the other half toward the south, resulting in a very great valley – that is, a broad way of entrance which would allow the people of God, both Jewish and Gentiles, to have free admission to Christ and into the refuge of the Church, the spiritual Jerusalem.
In verses 6-7, God’s Providences are depicted as being very strangely mixed: “In that day of the Lord, the light shall not be clear nor dark, not day nor night; but at evening time it shall be light!” This is a picture of the method that God usually employs in the administration of His Kingdom of Providence and His Kingdom of grace. The day of His grace and the day of His Providence are neither clear nor dark; they are neither day nor night. This is how it is with the Church in this world. In all places where the Sun of righteousness has risen, it cannot be dark night; and yet until our entrance into heaven, it will not be clear day, either. But a very joyful outcome is promised to the Lord’s sons and daughters: “At evening time it shall be light!” At evening-time, when our hopes are spent, and when things are at their worst – then it shall be light! Unto the upright, light arises out of darkness (Ps. 112:4).
The physical city of Jerusalem was made a spring of living waters to the world when the Holy Spirit was poured out in that place upon the Apostles, and when the Word of the Lord began to be diffused from that place to all the surrounding nations (verse 8). And now, living waters go out to the world from the spiritual Jerusalem, which is the Church; for from thence, repentance and remission of sins is preached and proclaimed unto all nations (Luke 24:47). Wherever the Gospel and the graces of the Holy Spirit go, living waters flow and make it like the well-watered Garden of the Lord.
It is said that the Kingdom of God among men shall be a universal and united Kingdom (verse 9). There shall be one Lord. All shall worship one God alone, and not idols; and they shall be unanimous in their worship of Him. Wherever the Gospel of Jesus is preached and believed, false gods shall be abandoned, and all false ways of worship shall be abolished.
The land of Judea and its mother-city Jerusalem shall be repaired, replenished, and taken under the special protection of heaven (verses 10-11). This is to be understood figuratively of the Gospel-Church, typified by Judah and Jerusalem; and it signifies the abundant graces with which the Church shall be crowned, and the fruitfulness of its members, and the vast numbers of them. When the Church of Christ in all places is replenished with great numbers of holy, humble, serious Christians; and when many such persons are daily added to it – then this promise is fulfilled. Those who dwell in this Gospel-city shall dwell securely, and there shall be none to make them afraid; the gates of hell shall not prevail against the Church, and believers enjoy holy security and serenity of mind as they rely upon the Divine protection. On the other hand, judgments are threatened against the enemies of the Church (verses 12-14). Those who fight against the city of God will be found to be fighting against God; and against Him, none ever hardened his heart and prospered.
The last portion of this chapter (verses 16-21) tell us that a Gospel-way of worship shall be set up in the Church, and that there shall be a great and general attendance upon it. Those who were left of the enemies of religion would be so sensible of the mercy of God to them in their narrow escape, that they would apply themselves to the worship of the God of Israel (verse 16). They would no longer worship the Molochs and Baals of their own imagination, but they would pay homage to the King – the Lord of hosts, the everlasting King, the King of kings, and the sovereign Lord of all. Gospel-worship is here represented by the keeping of the Feast of Tabernacles, which was one of the brightest and gladdest of all the Hebrew festivals in the Old Testament. To the quickened eye of the prophet Zechariah, scenes were to take place again which were similar to the glad days which were recorded in the books of Ezra and Nehemiah (Ezra 3:4; Neh. 8:16). But in the glad days which he saw, it would not be Jews alone who were acknowledging the Divine King; but rather, representatives of the nations of the world would be gathered out of every land to come and worship during these happy festal days (verse 16). Of course, these verses do not mean that the literal feasts of the old covenant shall be restored; but rather, we understand that the gladness, restfulness, and festal array which pervaded Jerusalem during the Feast of Tabernacles in the olden days shall characterize the religious life of all God’s people in the “beloved city” of His Church.
But alas! Even under these favorable circumstances, the evil of the human heart will break out into obstinate rebellion; and there will still be some who will refuse to submit to Israel’s God (verses 17-18). And toward those who refuse the mercy offered to them by the Savior, God leaves no sin unchastised.
At this juncture, a shaft of light breaks over these glorious Gospel-days, which stand revealed in all the beauties of holiness. Under the Levitical worship system, the high priest wore on his forehead a golden plate; and upon it were engraved the words, “Holiness to the Lord.” And here the prophet sees that same inscription upon the bells of the horses, and the common household vessels used by the people (verses 20-21).
If we are a son or daughter of the Lord, there must be an abolition of the distinction between sacred and secular things in our lives. Let me clarify what I mean by that statement. I do not mean that we are free to engage in whatever we choose, whether it is a Godly activity or a Godless one. Rather, I am referring to how certain people’s religion is kept carefully apart from the ordinary interests and pursuits of their everyday life. For instance, they go religiously to their place of worship on Sunday; but they would almost be horrified if you were to mention the name of God in their living room or at their dinner-table. With such persons, “Holiness unto the Lord” is good enough for the sanctuary; but it has no place on the common things of our daily life. Certainly the common laborer in the stable, or the ordinary homemaker going about her home duties, has no right to speak of such reverend topics – do they? Yes indeed, they do have a right to speak thus! We often classify our lives into various categories which we somehow feel ought never to be mixed or overlapped. We place our “religious life” into a box, which we only take out on Sundays; then we put our “work life” into a briefcase that we carry around with us Monday through Friday; and then there is our “family life” that we take out in the evenings before bedtime – and we must not forget our “friends life” and our “social life” and a hundred other categories that we divide our time into, and behave as if we can seamlessly switch back and forth between them at our convenience. Yes, it is true that certain activities and engagements require certain blocks of time and attention to be set aside expressly for them. But we must never imagine that any one of these particular “categories” do not have an impact on our lifestyle or behavior in other realms of life. And above all the rest, our relationship with God – our “religious life,” so to speak – ought to have the most influence on how we live the rest of our lives. The condition of our relationship of love with the Lord will affect how we love our spouse, how we disciple our children, how we speak to our church family, how we behave toward our friends and neighbors, how we interact with our co-workers, and even how we treat the average person on the street.
Yes, there are right and wrong things in this world. The wrong ones, of course, are to be fenced out of our lives; but all right ones are sacred. Everything that may be done at all must be done to Christ; and by being done to Him, it is rendered holy. The farmer with his horses, the wife and mother with the vessels of her household service, the student with her pen and textbook, the mechanic with his tools, the secretary with his record-book, and the photographer with her camera may all realize that those wonderful words – “Holiness to the Lord” – are engraved upon their foreheads, and upon the instruments of their labor. As each of us go about our lawful callings and responsibilities, we may feel that we are serving God as much as if we were entering the sanctuary and ministering at the Lord’s altar. Let us pray to the Lord and look to Him for grace and strength to do whatever He desires us to do; and no matter what activity we may find ourselves engaged in, let us pray that this inscription may be engraved upon it: “Holiness to the Lord!”
Lord, help our relationship with You to equally express itself during the six weekdays as well as on the Lord’s Day; and as much in the kitchen, the office, or the workshop as in the Church! Amen.
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sunrise photo by Christian Horstmann, 2016
homemaker painting by Franz Skarbina, circa 1907 | Wikimedia Commons