"The Lord Almighty Says…" — II

1Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 2This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I am very jealous for Zion; I am burning with jealousy for her."

3This is what the Lord says: "I will return to Zion and dwell in Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord Almighty will be called the Holy Mountain."

4This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Once again men and women of ripe old age will sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with cane in hand because of his age. 5The city streets will be filled with boys and girls playing there."

6This is what the Lord Almighty says: "It may seem marvelous to the remnant of this people at that time, but will it seem marvelous to me?" declares the Lord Almighty.

7This is what the Lord Almighty says: "I will save my people from the countries of the east and the west. 8I will bring them back to live in Jerusalem; they will be my people, and I will be faithful and righteous to them as their God."

9This is what the Lord Almighty says: "You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built. 10Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor. 11But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past," declares the Lord Almighty. 12"The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. 13As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong."

14This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me," says the Lord Almighty, 15"so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. 16These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; 17do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this," declares the Lord.

18Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. 19This is what the Lord Almighty says: "The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace."

20This is what the Lord Almighty says: "Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, 21and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, ‘Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going.’ 22And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him."

23This is what the Lord Almighty says: "In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, ‘Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you.’"

We continue here looking at the ten messages that the Lord gave to the people of Israel, as part of His answer to the Bethelites to their question concerning observing their commemorative fasts. These ten messages were positive reenforcements to the Israelites, encouraging them to continue in their service to Him as they rebuilt the Temple. Many of these ten messages looked forward to the great things that the Lord had in store for Israel. In the previous issue, we looked at the first five messages (vss. 1–8), which we titled: Concerning God’s jealousy, Concerning the Lord’s return to Jerusalem, Concerning future prosperity in Jerusalem, Concerning the veracity of what the Lord was saying, and Concerning the return of the children of Israel to the promised land. Now let’s look at the last five messages from the Lord:

Encouraging their work on the Temple: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘You who now hear these words spoken by the prophets who were there when the foundation was laid for the house of the Lord Almighty, let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built. Before that time there were no wages for man or beast. No one could go about his business safely because of his enemy, for I had turned every man against his neighbor. But now I will not deal with the remnant of this people as I did in the past,’ declares the Lord Almighty. ‘The seed will grow well, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew. I will give all these things as an inheritance to the remnant of this people. As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing. Do not be afraid, but let your hands be strong’" (vss. 9–13). The Lord uses the hope of future promises to directly encourage the people in their continuing work on the Temple. They who "hear these words spoken by the prophets", that is, the marvelous promises concerning Israel’s future, are told by the Lord: "Let your hands be strong so that the temple may be built." The Lord again speaks to the people concerning the future prosperity of the remnant of Israel: "The seed will grow, the vine will yield its fruit, the ground will produce its crops, and the heavens will drop their dew." These things will be "the inheritance" of the children of those that are working so hard to build the Temple for the Lord. Not only will the children of Israel be prosperous, but they will be honored among the other nations: "As you have been an object of cursing among the nations, O Judah and Israel, so will I save you, and you will be a blessing." Indeed, this last promise has been partially fulfilled. Even we, who study this Book of Zechariah, are honoring the children of Israel by studying their history. We are blessed by their heritage, and the many examples of faithful, godly men and women from Israel. We are blessed by the writings of the prophets and historians of Israel. We live our lives according to the words that God spoke through them.

What they are to do: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Just as I had determined to bring disaster upon you and showed no pity when your fathers angered me,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘so now I have determined to do good again to Jerusalem and Judah. Do not be afraid. These are the things you are to do: Speak the truth to each other, and render true and sound judgment in your courts; do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this,’ declares the Lord" (vss. 14–17). T. V. Moore summarizes the Lord’s exhortation to do good: "The argument is, that as the threatened punishment has been so faithfully inflicted, so the promised blessing will with equal fidelity be bestowed, and the argument is a fortiori: If the work of severity, so alien to God’s character, has been inflicted with such inflexible determination, how much more shall that of goodness, which is so much more consonant to His nature?" [Moore, 119]. Recall that all of the Lord’s words in chapters 7 and 8 comprise the answer to the Bethelites’ question concerning whether they should continue their commemorative fasts. The Lord is, in effect, here telling them not to worry about the fasts, rather, "These are the things you are to do…" Keeping the fasts is not as important as to "speak the truth to each other", to "render true and sound judgment", etc. At the end of this statement, the Lord gives the crowning reason why the people should follow these exhortations: "I hate all this." Since He is our Lord, we should love what He loves, and hate what He hates. This is true religion: not fasting and rituals, but to be conformed to His character.

Concerning the fasts: "Again the word of the Lord Almighty came to me. This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘The fasts of the fourth, fifth, seventh and tenth months will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah. Therefore love truth and peace’" (vss. 18–19). Now, finally, the Lord addresses specifically the question that the Bethelites asked in Zech. 7:3 (and the Bethelites probably thought their question would never get answered). The Bethelites asked about "the fast in the fifth month". Here the Lord speaks not only about the fast in the fifth month, but also those in the fourth, seventh and tenth. All these fasts commemorated sorrowful events that happened during the fall of Jerusalem, and during the exile of the children of Israel to Babylon. The Lord here, in effect, tells them, in light of all the great promises, that He is giving concerning the future of Israel, the times of mourning and fasting are finished. The fasts will become feasts. They "will become joyful and glad occasions and happy festivals for Judah." Given this, the Lord exhorts: "Therefore love truth and peace." Given the wonderful blessings that come from obedience to God’s truth, then "love truth."

Concerning Jerusalem as the future center of worship: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Many peoples and the inhabitants of many cities will yet come, and the inhabitants of one city will go to another and say, "Let us go at once to entreat the Lord and seek the Lord Almighty. I myself am going." And many peoples and powerful nations will come to Jerusalem to seek the Lord Almighty and to entreat him’" (vss. 20–22). This prophecy not only shows Jerusalem as the center of worship, it also points ahead to the future when people will be excited to go and worship the Lord. These people will be "inhabitants of many cities", "many peoples" from "powerful nations", all coming to Jerusalem "to seek the Lord Almighty." The fact that people from all nations will revere Jerusalem and worship the true God is not that astounding to us. We, since the time of Christ, have seen this prophecy partially fulfilled, and so we take this prophecy for granted. However, this was an amazing, hard-to-believe, prophecy at the time it was made. "When this prediction was uttered nothing seemed more hopelessly improbable than its fulfillment. The Jews were a poor, despised, obscure tribe in the heart of Syria, whose existence was only known to the mighty world by their furnishing a trophy to the victorious arms of Babylon" [Moore, 123]. But now, since the time of Christ, many people from "powerful nations" visit the Holy Land to walk in the steps of their Jewish Messiah.

Concerning Jesus Christ: "This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘In those days ten men from all languages and nations will take firm hold of one Jew by the hem of his robe and say, "Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you"’" (vs. 23). The final message in this chapter from the Lord concerns the Messiah, Jesus Christ, and His effect on "men from all languages and nations." For who else could the Lord be referring to by the "one Jew" in this passage? Is there any other whom "men from all languages and nations" take "firm hold of", and say, "Let us go with you, because we have heard that God is with you"? "Greece with her polished dialectics, Rome with her mailed mightiness, Asia with her soft voluptuousness, all submitted to the authority of a Saviour who was a Jew; all rested their hopes for eternity upon a Jew; and so received as divinely inspired the words and writings of men who were Jews. And for nearly two thousand years the mightiest intellects and largest hearts of the race have breathed the spirit and studied the words of men who were Jews, and have sought as the most precious boon of existence the privilege of being covered with a robe of righteousness that was wrought by the divinely incarnated hands of one who is of the seed of Abraham after the flesh though as to His higher nature, God over all blessed forever. And at this day there are literally men of all nations, and kindreds, and tribes, and people, who are laying hold of the skirt of Him that is a Jew, and casting in their lot with those whom God chose to be a people for Himself, and resting their hopes on that crucified and risen Jew, who is the Saviour of the world." [Moore, 125]

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