In the last chapter, we saw how the prophet reproved the people for the mismanagement of their fasts, and how he exhorted them to reform their lives beyond the merely external ceremonies of fasting, and to take heed of those sins which brought upon them the very judgments which they were keeping these fasts in memory of. But now, in this chapter, he binds up the wound that he had opened; and he heals it with gracious assurances of the great mercy which God had in store for them, by which He would turn their sorrowful fasts into happy feasts.
In his third answer to the people’s fasting-question (verses 1-17), Zechariah speaks of the great prosperity which was awaiting the chosen city (verse 3). The Lord had returned to dwell there; He would constitute Jerusalem as the city of truth, and Zion as His holy mountain. The streets would be full of elderly men and women, with staffs in their hands because of their great age (verse 4). The ringing, careless laughter of boys and girls at play in the public places would proclaim the prosperity and security of the times (verse 5). From east and west, exiles would troop back to repopulate the former desolations (verses 7-8). These and other delightful promises of prosperity were accompanied by the reiterated appeals (verses 16-17) that every person should speak the truth with his neighbor, that true judgment should be executed in the gates, and that all things which God hated should be put away. It was as if these golden visions of prosperity and blessedness were described here in order to convince the chosen people that God desired to remember their sins no more, and to urge them that – instead of dwelling mournfully upon the past – they should launch upon the swelling tide of light and love which was creeping up their shores!
This is God’s way still! If we go astray, then we shall feel the fatherly rod of discipline. But when we have profited by His loving correction and returned to Him with all our heart and soul, then we are restored to our former position! God’s hand wipes the tears from our eyes, and He bids us to turn from our bitter repinings over an irretrievable past so that we may accept the unalloyed mercy which remembers our sins no more. Such dealings with His wandering and erring children are very wonderful! They surpass all human thought. It is a great thing to be forgiven; but to be forgiven so utterly, so completely, and so extravagantly, “according to the riches of his grace” – that is a marvel indeed! But there is no marvel with our God. Such grace is no effort to His glorious nature! It is simply the bubbling over of His heart, which is a heart full of true and everlasting Love.
In his fourth and final answer to the question about fasting (verses 18-23), Zechariah gives a delightful anticipation of future days in the history of the restoration of the exiled Jews. We might have expected that God would so blot out the memory of the past, that fateful anniversaries would pass without special recognition; for our memory of dark and disastrous events is commonly short-lived, and bitter recollections soon fade from memory’s tablets. But what was truly remarkable here was that the Jews’ sorrowful anniversaries, which had formerly brought the deepest melancholy, would henceforth be hailed as festal days – as if the seemingly disastrous events which had happened on those days were really full of the choicest blessings. As we inquire as to how such a change of feeling could be brought about, we catch a further glimpse into God’s thoughts. He set Himself to assure His people, in effect, that in the future – when they could view His dealings in their true perspective – they would discover that their darkest days had been the source and origin of their gladdest ones; because through them, they had been weaned from their sins, and had acquired those virtues which attracted the reverence and love of the world.
These predictions have already been marvelously fulfilled! In the midst of the dark night of heathen idolatry, when the foremost and wisest nations of the world were given up to the grossest idolatry and impurity; the synagogues of the dispersed Jews shone like sparks of light, holding forth the great doctrines of Scripture and the hope of the coming Messiah. From the Jewish nation came the Savior of mankind, and the earliest members of His Church. To Jews we owe the New Testament, as well as the Old. And we hope that there shall also be a time in the near future when a large majority of the Jewish people shall be brought to acknowledge the claims of Jesus; and when they shall look on Him with repentance, faith, and love – thereby setting a very great example indeed for the nations of the world.
In our own lives, we have all had our dark, sad days – the days when God said “no” to some eagerly asked-for request, or when our life was overcast by a dreadful announcement. We have put a black mark against those days in our calendar; and as those anniversaries occur, we are inclined to give vent to unrestrained sorrow. It is natural, and God does not reproach us for the tears which we shed. But this will not be our final verdict! In the golden sunset of our life – when we can see its true meaning and perspective, and when its various parts are fitted together like the variously-shaped pieces of a jigsaw puzzle – we shall see reason to thank God most for our darkest days. We shall then realize that out of the darkness, light was born; out of the anguish, joy was brought forth; and out of the trial, we entered into God’s blessed peace!
Thank You, Lord, that young men, maidens, the elderly, and children may all find their true happiness in You, even when life sometimes seems dark around us! Amen.
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