“I Will Save My People!”
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; 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.” (Zechariah 8:7-8)
How often we need encouragement to believe God! We are so easily discouraged by the things we see around us and by the evil that rages within us. How often we need encouragement to serve him! We seek to do well, but very quickly grow weary in well-doing. Our hands hang down. Our knees are feeble. And we are easily turned aside from the path of duty. How often we need encouragement in the work of the Gospel! The Church of God is, in this world, the pillar and ground of the truth. It is our privilege and responsibility to hold forth the light of the Gospel in this dark world. It is our privilege and responsibility to preach the Gospel of Christ to this generation. Our God has put the treasure of the Gospel of his grace and glory in Christ Jesus in earthen vessels; and we are to carry it into all the world. But there is so much opposition. There seems to be so little interest, so little response, so little fruit, so little success. It is ours to evangelize the world, to preach the gospel by every means available to us to as many people as possible in the days allotted to us. What a great privilege! What a great responsibility! What a great honor! Yet, like the children of Israel, who were sent back to Jerusalem to build the house of God, we soon grow weary and are easily turned aside from our work by many things.
How excited those Jews were when they began to clear away the rubbish! Can you imagine how they must have rejoiced when they saw the foundation stone laid for the temple, or when they saw the walls beginning to go up? Then, they began to meet with some opposition. Some among them began to murmur. Soon, the whole band of laborers, so zealous in the beginning, became faint-hearted, doubting that the work would ever amount to much, even if they finished it. They finally decided that the work of building God’s house was just impossible. So they gave it up. They quit their work and devoted themselves to other things. No doubt, they intended to return to the building of the temple; but other things kept coming up.
How often we have seen once zealous, devoted pastors, men who were addicted to the study of the Word of God and the preaching of the Gospel, become half-hearted in their labors, addicting themselves to other things: A Career! Golf! Hunting! Fishing! Social Work! Politics! How often we have seen once zealous missionaries quit the field, as though God had changed his mind and really intended for them to do something else. How often we have seen once zealous churches, churches once known for their determination to spread the Gospel, become isolated, indifferent, and so self-absorbed that they do nothing and give nothing for the cause of Christ, but simply meet together to debate doctrine, defend their creed, and congratulate themselves for their greatness. How often we have seen once devoted believers, once anxious to worship God, hear his Word, and do everything they could to publish it, become lethargic and indifferent to Christ, his glory, and the building of his house.
Zechariah 8 was written in the Book of God specifically to encourage us to go on, to run with patience the race that is set before us, to endure hardness as good soldiers of Christ, to lift up the hands that hang down, and to strengthen the feeble knees. Zechariah’s message in this chapter is all encouragement. In these twenty-three verses Zechariah is saying, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”
In verses 1-8 the prophet of God tells us that the salvation of God’s elect is sure, a matter of unquestionable certainty. The Lord God declares, “Behold, I will save my people!”
I readily concede that the passage before us refers, literally and historically, to the great prosperity of Jerusalem after the people were delivered from their Babylonian captivity, when the city and the temple were rebuilt. But if that is all that we see in these verses, we have missed the message of God the Holy Spirit. That which is written here was written to us and for us. The whole chapter declares and assures us of God’s great grace determined upon his elect in Christ (1 Cor. 10:11; Rom. 15:4).
Eighteen times in this one chapter God our Savior is called, “The Lord of hosts,” assuring us that everything here promised is sure, because it is all his work. Everything depends entirely upon his power and goodness. Let’s just take a brief look at the things our God promises us here.
“Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury” (vv. 1-2). As a loving husband is jealous for (not of, but for) his wife, the object of his ardent love, determined to allow nothing and no one to come between them, so our blessed Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, declares that he is jealous for us, his Bride, the Church he ardently loves. He will allow nothing and no one to separate us from him.
“Thus saith the Lord.” Don’t you love to read those words? Zechariah uses them again and again, to assure us that he is conveying God’s message to his people. Because of his loving jealousy for us, our God and Savior declares, “I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain” (v. 3; Joel 2:18).
Because of his love for us, our Savior has come to Zion and Jerusalem, his Church, his espoused Bride, his holy city, his holy nation, in mercy and grace, “to dwell in the midst” of her, taking up permanent abode with us and in us. He came to us (to dwell with us in human flesh, and to redeem us) in the incarnation (John 1:14; Matt. 1:21). He came to dwell in us in the mighty operations of his saving grace in regeneration (Isa. 25:9). And he comes to us, manifestly dwelling with us, reviving our hearts with grace (Song. 5:1).
He who is the Truth, abiding in his people, makes his Church “a city of truth.” The presence of Christ makes his Church, “the house of the living God,” “the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.” It shall be exalted in the last days upon the tops of the mountains, and all nations shall flow to it (Isa. 2:2-4; Mic. 4:1-4; Rev. 14:1).
Verses 4 and 5 speak of the blessed peace of God’s people. “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; there shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.”
Without question, Zechariah’s words here are not to be limited to the Jews’ return from Babylon. He is not here talking about the mere merriment of carnal things, promising joy and peace to old men and women and little children who are lost. The prophet’s words are a promise of spiritual, Gospel blessedness to sinners to whom Christ has come in saving mercy (Jer. 31:11-17). Matthew 2:17-18 tells us that Jeremiah’s prophecy finds its fulfillment in this Gospel day, by the coming of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ to our souls, to dwell in us.
Yes, there is a day coming when our joy and peace will be perfect and without interruption; but even now chosen, redeemed sinners, trusting Christ, walking through this world, have “the joy of faith” and “peace that passeth understanding.” Old saints, stooped with age, still have their Staff, the Lord Jesus, in their hands, and lean heavily upon him. The Church of God is his family, and his quiver is always full, full of boys and girls, the children of God, “playing and dancing,” singing and praising. Children playing in the streets of Zion are representatives of fearless peace. There is no war or danger where children play in the streets. If that is what it is like now, just imagine what it will be like when our God makes all things new!
“With God all things are possible,” even the salvation of our souls! “Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts” (v. 6). It seemed impossible to Israel that the temple and the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt, just as it often seems impossible to us today that our God is building and will build his kingdom and complete it. It seems impossible to carnal reason. So the Lord graciously assures us here that there are no difficulties with him. If you will look at the marginal translation, you will see that he word “marvellous” is really “difficult.” The Lord is saying, “Just because you think this is difficult, do not imagine that I do.”
We must not judge God by our own measure. Though many things may be difficult (even impossible) for us, there are no difficulties with God. We should never think of “difficulty” and “Deity” at the same time. “With God all things are possible.” Are you in trouble? Do you fear that it is impossible for you to be delivered? It is easy for God to deliver you. Do you feel the weight of your sin, and imagine that it is impossible for you to be pardoned? Would you look upon it as a miracle, because it seems so marvelous to you? “My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, saith the Lord.” Between God and man there is infinite difference. Let us never look at our God through the smudged, cloudy glasses of our own feebleness!
God Will Save
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; 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” (vv. 7-8). Yes, God will save his people. Again, these verses cannot be limited merely to the restoration of Jerusalem and the regathering of Israel after the Babylonian captivity. In the days of Zechariah, none of the children of Israel were in the Western world. Here, the Lord God assures us that by his great power, because of his great love, according to his great covenant, he will gather his elect “from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same” out of every nation, kindred, tribe, and tongue (Mal. 1:11; Luke 13:29; Hos. 2:23).
To The Work
With such promises and assurances, in verses 9-15 the Lord commands us to get back to the work of preaching the Gospel, gathering his elect, building his house.
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built. For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour. But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts. For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things. And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong. For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not: So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.” (vv. 9-15)
We have heard his Word by the mouth of his prophets. Our mighty Zerubbabel, who laid the foundation, will build his Temple. He will finish his work with shoutings of, “Grace! Grace unto it!” Everything in these verses speaks of the mercy, love, and grace of God toward his people in Christ, assuring us that he will accomplish his purpose of grace in the salvation of all his elect.
So “Let your hands be strong” (vv. 9 and 13). God will make the work prosperous. He declares, “I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things”(v. 12), all the blessings of grace and glory. Robert Hawker wrote…
“The peace here promised is peace in the blood of the cross. Before the soul is brought savingly acquainted with this, there can be no real peace to him that goes out, or to him that cometh in. But, when the curse of the fall is taken away by the redemption in Christ Jesus, then is the believer blessed, both in basket and in store. Then, to use the figurative language of this scripture in a spiritual sense, the vine of ordinances, and the increase of bread, even the bread of life, and the dew of heaven, in all the covenant blessings of the promises, will be poured out.”
And our God and Savior declares, “Ye shall be a blessing” (v. 13). He is determined to do well to Jerusalem and to Judah, the people of his choice. In the light of all his promises, all his grace, and all his being he says, “Fear ye not” (v. 15).
Fruit of the Spirit
“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: and let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD” (vv. 16-17). When God pours out his grace upon sinners, making those who were a curse a blessing, working in them to will and to do of his good pleasure, good works of mercy and love are sure to follow (Eph. 2:8-10).
“Then all the fruits of the Spirit will be manifest in the life and conversation of the redeemed; and all the blessed effects here spoken of, speaking truth to his neighbour, and executing judgment, will follow. Oh! the glorious consequences of the coming of the Lord Jesus, in the hearts of those who live under his gracious influences!” (Robert Hawker)
Joy and Gladness
“And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace” (vv. 18-19). The Jews had kept their own fasts of sorrow all the time they were in Babylon, commemorating their captivity. What a sad picture! Every form of religion invented by men is a celebration of sorrow and bondage! Christ sets the captive free, and when he does, everything is “joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts,” celebrating and rejoicing in him who is Truth and Peace.
Faith in Christ gives a perpetual feast (Isa. 25:6-9). When we are most troubled with difficulties, afflictions and trials, the consolations of Christ most abound, turning our sorrows into laughter. “They that sow in tears shall reap joy.” Every tear of grace is a tear of holy joy (Ps. 126:1-6; Rom. 14:17).
In verses 20-23 the Lord God tells us that many people, from many cities and strong nations, shall come, and come “speedily,” into his house of his grace, “out of all languages and nations,” seeking the Lord of hosts and worshipping him, taking hold of the skirt of one Jew, saying, “We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.”
“Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you” (vv. 20-23).
You know who that one Jew is. Don’t you? He is the Lord Jesus Christ our Savior, the Son of God, who became the Son of Man that he might redeem and save his people! When the Lord Jesus sends his Spirit to give sinners life in his regenerating grace, he spreads his skirt over his chosen, and says, “Live;” and the sinner, dead in trespasses and sins, lives (Ezek. 16:8). And when he causes the dead to hear his voice, the regenerate soul takes hold of the skirt of his righteousness by faith, and says, “I will go with you, because I have heard that God in all his fulness and in all the fulness of his grace and glory is in you.” With God’s prophet, my heart cries, “I will go also!”