(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 3)
Lecture One Hundred and Thirty-sixth. 
Zechariah 1:12 
12 Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, 
how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of 
Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and 
ten years? 
   The Prophet now shows that the angel who was his guide and 
teacher, became even a suppliant before God in behalf of the welfare 
of the Church. Hence the probable opinion is, that this angel was 
Christ the Mediator. For they who say that it was the Holy Spirit, 
who forms prayers in our hearts, seem to depart very far from the 
meaning of the Prophet: and it is nothing new, that Christ should 
exercise care over his Church. But if this view be disapproved, we 
may take any one of the angels to be meant. It is certain that it is 
enjoined them all to minister to the salvation of the faithful, 
according to what the Apostle says in the first chapter of the 
Hebrews; and indeed the whole Scripture is full of evidences, which 
prove that angels are guardians to the godly, and watch over them; 
for the Lord, for whose service they are ever ready, thus employs 
them: and in this we also see the singular love of God towards us; 
for he employs his angels especially for this purpose, that he might 
show that our salvation is greatly valued by him. 
   There is then nothing wrong, if we say that any one of the 
angels prayed for the Church. But absurdly, and very foolishly do 
the Papists hence conclude, that dead saints are our advocates 
before God, or that they pray for us; for we never read that it is 
an office committed to the dead to intercede for us; nay, the duties 
of love, we know, are confined to the present life. When, therefore, 
the faithful remove from this world, having finished their course, 
they enter on a blessed life. Though then the case is different, yet 
the Papists foolishly pass from angels to the dead: for as it has 
been stated, the case of the faithful has been committed to angels, 
and they ever watch over the whole body, and over every member of 
it. It is then nothing strange that they offer prayers for the 
faithful; but it does not hence follow, that angels are to be 
invoked by us. Why does Scripture testify, that angels supplicate 
God for us? Is it that each of us may flee to them? By no means; but 
that being assured of God's paternal love, we may entertain more 
hope and confidence; yea, that we may courageously fight, being 
certain of victory, since celestial hosts contend for us, according 
to what appears from many examples. For when the servant of Elisha 
saw not the chariots flying in the air, he became almost lost in 
despair; but his despair was instantly removed, when he saw so many 
angels ready at hand for help, (2 Kings 6: 17;) so whenever God 
declares that angels are ministers for our safety, he means to 
animate our faith; at the same time he does not send us to angels; 
but this one thing is sufficient for us, that when God is propitious 
to us, all the angels have a care for our salvation. And we must 
further notice what is said by Christ, "hereafter ye shall see 
angels ascending and descending," (John 1: 51,) which means, that 
when we are joined to the head, there will thence proceed a sacred 
union between us and angels; for Christ, we know, is equally Lord 
over all. When, therefore, we are united to the body of Christ, it 
is certain that angels are united to us, but only through Christ. 
All this favour then depends on the one true Mediator. Far then is 
it from being the case, that Scripture represents angels as patrons 
to whom we may pray. The meaning then is what we have stated, when 
Zechariah says, that the angel thus prayed, O Jehovah of hosts, how 
long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah? 
   We ought at the same time to notice the special import of the 
words, "how long," "'ad matay". The angel indeed afterwards explains 
himself, when he expressly mentions the term of seventy years. It 
was not then without design, or through a strong impulse of feeling, 
that the angel said, How long? but he had regard to a memorable 
prophecy, which was in the mouth of all the godly; for God had fixed 
seventy years for the exile of the people. Since the people knew 
that a time had been predetermined by God, he does net here 
supplicate God according to his own will, but only alleges the 
promise itself: and it is an usual thing with the saints to plead 
before God what he has promised to them. What indeed can better 
sustain our hope? and what can give us a greater encouragement in 
praying, than when we plead with God according to his promises? For 
God will have our prayers to be founded first on his gratuitous 
goodness, and then on the constancy of his faithfulness and truth. 
When therefore they thus address God, "O Lord, thou art true, and 
thou hast promised this to us; relying on thy word, we dare ask what 
otherwise we could not," - they certainly do not exceed the limits 
as though they prescribed to God a law, but anxiously seek to obtain 
what had been freely offered. We have seen that the angel does not 
here complain of delay, but that he founded his plea on that 
remarkable prophecy, in which God had fixed the term of seventy 
years for his people. 
   The angel seems in this place to have indirectly blamed God for 
having too much delayed to bring help to his Church: but this mode 
of speaking, we know, frequently occurs in the prayers of the 
saints; they in a manner charged God with delay, that is, according 
to the perception of their flesh. But this is not inconsistent with 
the obedience of faith, since the faithful submit at length to the 
counsel of God. Hence, however familiarly they may often expostulate 
with God, when he seems to delay and to withhold his aid, they yet 
restrain themselves, and at length feel assured that what God has 
appointed is best. But they thus pour forth their cares and their 
sorrows into the bosom of God, in order to disburden themselves. The 
angel now adopts this form when he says, "How long wilt thou not 
show mercy?" It is not however the complaint of unreasonable 
fervour, as that of the ungodly, who in praying accuse God, rage 
against him, and quarrel with his judgements. The angel then was not 
moved by any turbulent feeling, nor were the saints, when they 
adopted this mode of praying; but they did what God allows us all to 
do; they thus disburdened their cares and sorrows. 
   I have said, that it is more suitable to the passage to say, 
that the cities had been despised by God: but if any prefers the 
other view, I will not contend; yet whosoever will minutely consider 
the intention of the Prophet, will, I think, readily assent to the 
idea, that the cities had been despised or rejected by God, because 
he gave them no sign of his mercy. It now follows - 
Zechariah 1:13 
13 And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me [with] good 
words [and] comfortable words. 
   The Prophet shows here, that though God did not immediately on 
the first day stretch forth his hand to the miserable Jews, he was 
yet propitious to them. But we must notice, that God speaks only, 
and does not yet manifest his power. The Prophet's design must be 
here observed; for first he reminds the faithful that there was no 
reason for them to despair, or to be cast down with sorrow; for 
celestial angels prayed to God for them, and pleaded for their 
salvation. This is one thing. But a greater and fuller confirmation 
is added; for God testifies that he is ready to deliver the Jews, 
though he does not declare this immediately at first. And here we 
may remark, that it ought to be sufficient to sustain our hope and 
patience, when God testifies and affirms that he favours us, and 
that our salvation is dear to him, however miserable our condition 
may apparently be. God might indeed have immediately given a real 
proof to the Jews that the time had come to restore them to full 
prosperity: this he did not, but only made a promise. He gave words 
only: but his purpose was, by an actual trial, to prove the patience 
and obedience of his people, when he said that he had not forgotten 
his covenant, on which depended all the promises previously made. 
   But the Prophet seems to allude to a prophecy of Isaiah in the 
fortieth chapter, "Comfort ye my people, saith your God." The 
Prophets had been for a long time silent: it was indeed right that 
the Jews should remain long struggling, as they had for so many 
years hardened themselves against all threatening, and even despised 
all God's judgements, according to what is said by Isaiah, "Let us 
eat and drink, tomorrow we shall die." (Is. 22: 13.) As then the 
obstinacy of the people had been so great, it was proper that they 
should long mourn without comfort. But Isaiah says, that the time 
would come when God would command his servants to comfort his people 
again as in former times. Zechariah says now, that God spoke 
consoling words. We hence learn, that the desires of the godly and 
the prayer of the angel had been heard; for redemption was now nigh 
at hand, according to what is said in the hundred and second Psalm, 
"It is time for thee, O God, to have mercy on Sion, for its time is 
come;" that is, "The seventy years are completed, which it has 
pleased thee to assign for our exile." It now follows - 
Zechariah 1:14 
14 So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, 
saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and 
for Zion with a great jealousy. 
   Zechariah now mentions the chief consolation to which he had 
referred; for it would not have been sufficient to say in general, 
and in a few words without explanation, that God gave a kind answer 
to the angel. For we know how strong were those temptations with 
which the faithful had to struggle. It was then needful for them to 
be furnished, not with light weapons, in so arduous a contest. This 
is the reason why Zechariah more fully expressed the words by which 
God then strengthened the faith of his people. 
   He says that the angel had spoken; and he thus intimates that 
the consolation was not given privately to the angel that he might 
keep it in his own bosom, but convey it to the whole people. This 
was not then a secret consolation but what the Lord intended to be 
proclaimed by his Prophets, according to what is said by Isaiah in 
the passage to which we have already referred - "Comfort ye, comfort 
ye my people saith your God." 
   What God says, that he was moved with great zeal for Jerusalem 
and Sion, is according to the common language of Scripture. For as 
God cannot otherwise sufficiently express the ineffable favour which 
he has towards his elect he is pleased to adopt this similitude, 
that he undertakes the defence of his people according to what is 
done by a husband who fights with the greatest zeal for his own 
wife. This is the reason why he says that he was zealous for 
Jerusalem. And we ought especially to notice this mode of speaking, 
that we may not think that God is indifferent when he delays and 
defers his aid: for as we are hasty in our wishes so we would have 
God to be precipitant in the same manner; and we impute to him 
indifference when he does not hasten according to our desires. These 
doubts God checks when he testifies that he is zealous: for he 
intimates that his slowness did not proceed from neglect or because 
he despised or disregarded them; but that there was another reason 
why he held them in suspense. We may therefore be fully persuaded 
that even when God withholds his aid he is not otherwise affected 
towards us than the best of fathers towards his own children; and 
further that the signs of his love do not appear because it is not 
always expedient for us to be delivered soon from our troubles. Let 
this then be our shield against all hasty desires, so that we may 
not indulge our too ardent wishes, or think that our salvation is 
neglected by God, when he hides himself for a time and does not 
immediately stretch forth his hand to help us. It follows - 
Zechariah 1:15 
15 And I am very sore displeased with the heathen [that are] at 
ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the 
   God here obviates the doubt which might have easily crept into 
the minds of the godly. "Why should he then give up the miserable 
Jews to the will of the Gentiles, and suffer these heathens at the 
same time to be in a quiet state and to enjoy their pleasures?" This 
indeed at the first view seemed very strange: if God had such a zeal 
towards Jerusalem, why did he not give some token at least of his 
favour? He therefore gives this answer, - That though the condition 
of the Gentiles was now better, there was yet no reason for the Jews 
to be discontented in their troubles, because they were to look 
forward to the end that was to come. It must further be noticed, 
that God speaks only here, and is not going forth prepared to 
execute his vengeance: and it is a real and just trial of faith, 
when God bids us to depend on his word. 
   The manner of speaking, used here deserves notice, God was angry 
with the quiet nations. It is not a superfluous repetition, when it 
is said, that the nations were quiet. Some render the word wealthy, 
but not so suitably; for as we have said before, the angel 
complained that while the whole world was tranquil, God severely 
chastised his Church alone. God then does here anticipate a 
temptation which would have otherwise distressed and even wholly 
disheartened the faithful; and he in effect says, "It is indeed true 
that the Gentiles all around are quiet, that there are no 
calamities, that there is no enemy, and that they are subject to no 
evils: this is no doubt true; but as I am angry, their happiness, 
while I am opposed to and displeased with them, is a curse." God, 
then, does here elevate the thoughts of the godly, that they might 
know that happiness is to be found in his favour alone, and that 
whenever he is angry or displeased, though men may think themselves 
happy, and flatter themselves and exult in their condition, they are 
yet in a most miserable state; for all happiness is ruinous which 
does not flow from the fountain of God's gratuitous love; in short, 
when God is not our Father, the more we abound in all kinds of 
blessings, the deeper we sink in all kinds of miseries. This then is 
the meaning, when God says that he was angry with the quiet nations. 
   What, then, is the application of this doctrine? That it behaved 
the Jews, though their condition was very hard according to the 
perception of men, to have yet acquiesced in the love of God, for 
they knew that he was their Father, and also, that though they saw 
their enemies happy, they were yet to regard it no otherwise than a 
cursed happiness. so also in the thirty-seventh Psalm, the faithful 
are bid not to envy the unbelieving, while they saw them flourishing 
in wealth and rolling in pleasures; for it behaved them to regard 
their end. Let us hence learn to raise up our thoughts to the 
contemplation of God's hidden love, when he deals severely with us, 
and to be satisfied with his word, as we have there an indubitable 
evidence of his favour: nor let us envy our enemies and the wicked, 
however the whole world may applaud them, and they themselves 
luxuriate in their blessings, for we know that God is adverse to 
   A reason also follows, Because God was a little angry, and they 
helped forward the evil; that is, they exceeded moderation. The 
meaning is, that the reward of cruelty would be repaid to all the 
enemies of the Church, because they had exercised immoderate 
severity, when it was God's purpose to chastise his children in a 
gentle and paternal manner. 
   It may be here first asked, How is it that God declares that he 
had been a little angry with his people, since his judgement, as 
pronounced by his servants, was most severe? "Whosoever shall escape 
the famine, shall fall by the sword; whosoever shall escape the 
sword, shall fall among wild beasts." (Ezek. 14: 14.) And in many 
other places he declares the same, that there would be no hope of 
pardon to the people, but that they were all to perish; that is, the 
whole body: "Though Noah, Daniel, and Job," he says, "were in this 
city, they shall deliver only their lives; but I will not hear their 
prayers for this irreclaimable people." But the particle little, 
"me'at", must be applied to the elect: for though God in his 
dreadful vengeance consumed almost the whole people, yet a remnant, 
as we know, was preserved. This is the reason why God says, that he 
was but little angry with his people; for he speaks not of the 
reprobate and of that impure mass from which he purposed to cleanse 
his own house; but he has respect to his covenant. We now perceive 
for what purpose Zechariah says, that God was but moderately angry 
with his people. 
   But another difficulty meets us - In what sense did the nations 
help on the evil? For it hence follows, that the heathens were not 
restrained from raging immoderately and at their pleasure. And this 
place has been also laid hold of by that miscreant, who has been 
lately writing against God's providence, holding that the wicked 
become wanton by means of God's hand and power, and are not thereby 
restrained. But this is extremely foolish; for the Prophet here does 
not regard what the nations were able to do or had done; but, on the 
contrary, he speaks of their cruelty, that they thought that there 
ought to have been no end until the memory of that people had been 
obliterated. And this is the reason why Isaiah says, "Thou hast not 
seen her end." He therefore upbraids the unbelieving, that they did 
not calculate rightly as to the end of the Church; for the 
unbelieving furiously attempted to destroy it, as though that 
promise could be made void, "My mercy I will not take away." Since 
the unbelieving did not see her end, because it was the Lord's will 
ever to preserve some remnant among his chosen people, the Prophet 
says, that they helped forward the evil. We now then perceive the 
intention of the Prophet, and see that the object is no other but to 
sustain the hope of the faithful, until what they heard from the 
mouth of God really took place. Let us proceed - 
Zechariah 1:16 
16 Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with 
mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and 
a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. 
   This is a confirmation of the last prophecy, - that God purposed 
to put an end to his chastisement, as it is said by Isaiah, "They 
have received at Jehovah's hand double for all their sins." For in 
these words God reminds us that he was satisfied with the punishment 
he had inflicted on his people, like a father, who thinks that he 
had been sufficiently severe and rigid in punishing his son. So now, 
Thus saith Jehovah, I have returned to Jerusalem in mercies: for it 
was necessary to give the people the hope of pardon and 
reconciliation, that they might look forward with confidence. 
Hypocrites very quickly raise up their crests as soon as a kind word 
is addressed to them; but the faithful, being conscious of what is 
wrong, and having their sins before their eyes, do not so easily 
take courage; nor can they do so, until they are convinced that 
their sins are buried, and that they themselves are freed from 
guilt. Hence the Prophet says, that God had turned to Jerusalem, 
that the Jews might know that the punishment with which God had 
visited them was to be only for a time. 
   But in the meantime he exhorts them to humility: for the people 
could not from this prophecy entertain any hope, except they duly 
considered that they had suffered justly, because they had provoked 
God's wrath. Hence the Prophet reminds them that what they had 
hitherto endured was to be imputed to their sins; but that God yet 
intended to treat them in a paternal manner; for, as I have already 
stated, he had promised that his mercy towards his elect and 
faithful would be perpetual. Hence he says, that he had returned in 
mercies to Jerusalem.. 
   He then adds, My house shall be built in it; and over Jerusalem 
shall a line be stretched forth. Line, "kawh" is to be taken for a 
perpendicular line, as in Is. 28: 17, and in other places. There is 
here an addition of "he", for as it has been elsewhere said, the 
language had become somewhat degenerated. The import of the whole 
is, that there was a hope of the temple and of the city being built, 
because God had returned into favour with the people. There are then 
two things to be noticed, - that God was now pacified towards 
Jerusalem, - and that the fruit of reconciliation would be the 
building of the temp]e, the establishment of divine worship and of 
the dignity of the kingdom. The Prophet teaches us at the same time, 
that the building of the temple was not to be expected but as an 
instance of God's gratuitous favour, so that the Jews might know 
that every hope would have been cut off, had not God been pleased to 
abolish their guilt. 
   This doctrine ought also to be extended to the state of the 
Church at all times: for whence comes it that the Church remains 
safe in the world? Nay, how is it that it sometimes increases, 
except that God indulges us according to his infinite goodness? For 
we cease not daily to provoke him, and deserve to be wholly 
exterminated from the world. There would then be no Church, were not 
God to preserve it in a wonderful manner through his goodness and 
mercies, and also to restore it when it seems to have wholly fallen. 
He at length adds - 
Zechariah 1:17 
17 Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through 
prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet 
comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem. 
   I cannot finish to-day. 
   Grant, Almighty God, that though we are continually tossed here 
and there by various trials, and Satan ceases not to shake our 
faith, - O grant, that we may yet stand firm on the promise that 
thou hast once given us, and which thou hast also confirmed through 
thine only-begotten Son, even that thou wilt ever be propitious and 
reconcilable to us, so that we may not despair in our greatest 
troubles, but relying on thy goodness may utter our groans to thee, 
until the ripened time of our deliverance shall come: nor let us in 
the meantime envy the evanescent happiness of thy enemies; but 
patiently wait, while thou showest that the chief object of desire 
is to have thee propitious to us, and that accursed is every good 
thing which the ungodly receive while they provoke thee and make 
thee angry, until Christ shall at length reveal to us the real 
happiness and glory of thy Church, when he shall appear at the last 
day for our salvation - Amen. 

(Calvin... on Zechariah)

Continued in Part 4...

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