Zechariah 8: 1 – 23
Zechariah’s answer to the question the delegation from Bethel asked about continuing or discontinuing the public fasts was in the form of reproof. In this chapter, there is a change; he speaks words of encouragement to the obedient priests and people.
Zechariah is told to tell the priests and the people the Lord of hosts says, “I am exceedingly jealous for Zion, yes, with great wrath I am jealous for Her. I will return to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will be called the City of Truth, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts will be called the Holy Mountain.”
The great wrath that was against Jerusalem (7:12) will be turned against her adversaries. The sins of Zion that were her worst enemies, and had done her the most harm the Lord in His jealousy for her honor and comfort will take them away and He will dwell in Zion. There will be a great reformation in Jerusalem, and the religion of Israel. The power of it will prevail and flourish throughout the land. Jerusalem will once more become famous for her fidelity and honesty and called “the City of Truth.” The faithful city that had become a harlot (Isaiah 1:21) shall become the dwelling place of the Lord. What had been the “Mount of corruption” (2 Kings 23:13), will become the mountain of the Lord of hosts. There shall be in Jerusalem a great increase of people. It will become a peaceable and prosperous city. When Jerusalem becomes “the City of Truth,” the Lord of hosts says:
“Old men and old women will again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each man with his staff in his hand because of age. And the streets of the city will be filled with boys and girls playing in the streets.”
The streets that had been filled with the bodies of the slain, or deserted and left desolate men and women who have not been cut off by untimely deaths, either through their own intemperance or God’s vengeance, will have their days lengthened. They shall have their staffs to support them as Jacob worshipped the Lord leaning on his staff (Hebrews 11:21). Because the city has become the “City of Truth”, a multitude of children will dwell in the city. They will increase and replenish the city. The children will be healthful, strong, and active. They shall be hearty, cheerful, and play in the streets, a dangerous place in this 21st century. They will enjoy perfect security. Playing in the streets is a sign that there is little fear there. Their will be love and peace among them. There will be no fighting in the streets, as it is in cities divided into factions and parties and the children express their resentments of the parents and the law. When Jerusalem becomes the “City of Truth”, the children shall play in the streets and not devour one another. The games they play shall be harmless and inoffensive.
The childish youthful games played in the streets will be confined to the age of childhood and youth. While it is a pleasing sight to see boys and girls, playing in the streets it is not a pleasing sight to see men and women who should be spending their time with work and business loitering in the streets. It is a good thing, which we see very little of in this 21st century, to see children sitting with the elderly asking questions, but it is no fit way for men and women, who are able to work stand all day in the streets doing nothing worthwhile.
The Lord of hosts will bring back from all parts of the land the scattered Israelites.
Verses seven and eight – “I am going to save My people from the land of the east and from the land of the west; and I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they will be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.”
The Lord of hosts will save His people from being lost, or losing themselves, in Babylon, or in Egypt, or in any other country where they were driven, held captive by the nations or incorporated into them. The Lord of hosts will separate His people from the nations and bring them to their own land. He will renew His covenant with His people. He will be faithful to them and make them faithful to Him. They will be His people and He will be their God. They will obey His laws and He will secure their future. He will never leave nor forsake them and they shall never leave nor forsake Him as they have done in the past.
Between the captivity and Christ’s time on earth, the fulfillment of these promises did not occur, they will in the age to come.
At this point and time, it seemed unlikely Jerusalem would be restored to her former glory. The people were few and feeble. Everything the Lord of hosts has said is good news in these troubled days. Considering how bad the times are how can these things happen? We do both God and ourselves a great deal of wrong when we think what is impossible to us is impossible to the Lord. This is what these people were doing. They were looking at the promises through the eyes of the week and feeble and not through the strong and powerful eyes of the Lord. We need to remember “with God all things possible.”
In the following verses the Lord of hosts, through Zechariah, gives further assurances of the mercy He has in store for Judah and Jerusalem. These verses contain strong encouragements for those who, in obedience to the call of God by his prophets, applied in good earnest their hands to the building of the temple.
Verse nine – “Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Let your hands be strong, you who are listening in these days to these words from the mouth of the prophets, those who spoke in the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, to the end that the temple might be built.’”
Those who have obeyed the words of the Lord of hosts in the day when they continue the work of restoring the temple need their hands strengthened and their hearts comforted. They will find comfort in the promises and reap the harvest of their labor. It is the obedient to the words of the Lord may expect to be encouraged by Him. Those who lay their hands to the plough of duty shall have them strengthened with the promises of mercy; and those who avoid their fathers’ faults will have the curse turned into blessing.
Verse ten and eleven – “For before those days there was no wage for man or any wage for animal; and for him who went out or came in there was no peace because of his enemies, and I set all men one against another. But now I will not treat the remnant of this people as in the former days, declares the Lord of hosts.”
The Lord of hosts is going to bestow blessings upon those who have been faithful in the restoring of the temple. Before the days of the restoring of the temple and Jerusalem, the times had been very bad, and the calamities and difficulties of them were many and great. Trade was dead; there was nothing done and therefore nothing to be got, the fruits of the earth were thin and poor, so that the farmer had no need to hire people to harvest his corn, nor teams to carry it and put it in his barns and storehouses. Merchants did not need to hire men or beasts because they had no goods to import or export. The men, who lived by their labor, had no way of getting bread for themselves and their families.
Traveling was dangerous, so that all commerce by both sea and land was impossible. The people did not travel abroad to visit their families and friends. The Samaritans, and Ammonites, and their other evil neighbors through small raiding parties seized all they could lay their hands on. The roads infested with highwaymen, and homes broken into both in the city and country. Neither men’s persons nor their goods were safe at home or abroad. What encouragement shall they now have to proceed in the good work they are doing and to hope that it shall yet be well with them?
Verse twelve: The seed they sow will yield a great increase. The vine will yield its fruit and the ground its produce. The heavens will give them dew and rain without which the earth would not yield her increase. This will be a constant reminder of the beneficence of the Lord of heaven to men on earth and of their dependence on him, a sweeping rain leaves no food (Proverbs 28:3) but the gentile dew waters the earth that it may give seed to the sower and bread to the eater.
The Lord of hosts will cause the remnant of His people to possess all these things. He will take care of them and they shall want nothing that is fit for them. This confirms what the prophet Haggai said (Haggai 2:16, 19). The Lord’s people that serve him faithfully, have great possessions. They shall also recover their credit among their neighbors.
Verse thirteen – “It will come about that just as you were a curse among the nations, O house of Judah and house of Israel, so I will save you that you may become a blessing. Do not fear, let your hands be strong.”
Every one censured, condemned and spoke ill of the Israelites and wished ill to them because of the great disgrace that they were under, but the Lord of hosts will save them and they will be a blessing. Their enemies will see the honor the Lord of hosts will bestow on His people. They will be applauded and admired as much as when they were vilified, slighted and abandoned. The promises were made to Israel, the Northern Kingdom and Judah, the Southern Kingdom. God Himself will determine to do them good.
Verses fourteen and fifteen – “For thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘Just as I purposed to do harm to you when your fathers provoked Me to wrath,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I have not relented, so I have again purposed in these days to do good to Jerusalem and to the house of David. Do not fear!’”
When the fathers provoked the Lord of hosts, He said He would punish them and He did. He will do them good now that they are obeying Him. He will be as true to His promises as He was to His judgments. All their comforts will rise from the thoughts of the love that God has towards them (Jeremiah 29:11). The difficulties they will encounter in their work must not drive them from it because their reward will be great. The dangers from their enemies must not terrify them. Those that have God for them need not fear what man can do against them. Let them do the duty that those promises call for from them.
Verses sixteen and seventeen – “These are the things which you should do; so speak the truth to one another; judge with truth and judgment for peace in your gates. Also let none of you devise evil in your heart against another, and do not love perjury; for all these are what I hate, declares the Lord.”
The very same duties which the former prophets commanded the fathers to do to avoid the wrath threatened Zechariah commanded the children to do to receive mercy. To do this was their part of the covenant. They must never tell a lie, but always speak the truth both in their business dealings and in common conversation. Those entrusted with the administration of public justice must see to it that no one is falsely accused and those falsely accused exonerated. Let the judges that sit in the gates in all their judicial proceedings have regard both to truth and to peace; let them take care to do justice, to accommodate differences, and to prevent unnecessary lawsuits. They are to make a judgment of truth in order to make peace, and making those friends that were at variance, and a judgment of peace as far as is consistent with truth, and no further.
No man must bear malice against his neighbor. Every-one must not only keep their hands from doing evil, but must watch over their hearts so that they do not imagine any evil against their neighbors. Injury and mischief must be crushed in the bud. Great reverence must be had for an oath, and conscience made of it. Never make a false oath. Do not impose oaths upon others, lest they swear falsely and make a false oath. All of these things the Lord hates, therefore His people must hate them if they expect to have God their friend.
Verses 18-23 contain two promises, for the further encouragement of those that were gladly involved in building the temple.
Verse 19 is a direct answer to the enquiry concerning the fasts (chapter 7:3). Those who fasted in hypocrisy their doom spelled out. However, those who in sincerity humbled themselves before God, and sought His face are assured they will be given a large share of the happy times approaching. The four yearly fasts that they had religiously observed will be to the house of Judah a joyful time.
Joyous times come to the church after troublous times. If weeping endures for a night, joy comes in the morning. When God comes towards us in ways of mercy, we must meet Him with joy and thankfulness. When God turns judgments into mercies, we must turn fasts into festivals and walk after the Lord. Those who sow tears with Zion will reap the joy promised Zion. Those who submit to the restraints of her solemn fasts will share in the triumphs of her cheerful feasts when they come (Isaiah 66:10). The entire Lord’s people are to be faithful and honest in all their dealings. However, they do not profit as those who are dishonest. Live peaceably with all men. Let the truths of God rule in your heads, and let the peace of God rule in your hearts.
Great numbers will be added to the religion of Israel (v.v. 20-23). This was fulfilled in part through a large number of proselytes from all the countries around Israel and some that were in the remote parts of the known world. They came yearly to worship at Jerusalem, which added very much both to the grandeur and wealth of Jerusalem. But it will be accomplished much more fully in the conversion of the Gentiles to the faith of Christ, and the incorporating of them with the believing Jews in one great body, under Christ the head, a mystery which is made manifest by the words of the prophets (Romans 16:26).
Who will be added to the church? Those added to the church were not a few ignorant country people that may be easily imposed upon, or some idle people that have nothing else to do, but intelligent inquisitive citizens, men of business and acquaintance with the world, shall embrace the gospel of Christ (v.v. 22-23). By this, it appears that they who will be brought into the church will not be through persuasion, for they are of different languages. It will not be by external force, for they are strong nations, able to hold their ground if they are attacked. It will be purely by the effectual working of divine truth and grace. They will come to pray before the Lord and to seek the Lord of hosts (v.v. 21-22). No mention is made of their offering sacrifices, because these were not expected from the proselytes but because when the Gentiles will be brought in, sacrifice and offering will be abolished.
Those who are brought into a fellowship with Christ should do all they can to bring others to Him, as Andrew invited Peter to Christ and Philip invited Nathanael. True grace hates monopolies. Those who are duly sensible of their need of Christ, and of the favor of God through Him, will stir up themselves and others without delay to come to Him and find rest for their weary soul. It is for our lives and the lives of our souls that we do not delay in a matter as important as the welfare of our souls and the souls of others.