(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 15) Chapter 8. Lecture One Hundred and forty-eighth. Zechariah 8:1,2 1 Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying, 2 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury. Some think that at the beginning of this chapter the people are reproved for their unfaithfulness, because they conducted themselves towards God in a way they ought not to have done, as they had violated that sacred marriage which God had been pleased to contract with them; for it is a common mode of speaking for God to compare himself to jealous husbands, when he sees his Church dealing with him unfaithfully. But this meaning is inadmissible: for the verb "kana'", connected as it is here, is to be taken in a good sense, as signifying concern or affection, inasmuch as "lamed" means, "on account of," or "for;" and we have in the first chapter a similar sentence; and it is evident that in many other places the meaning is no other, but that God burned with wrath against all the enemies of his Church, as he regarded his Church with singular love. Emulation then here does not mean jealousy, but is to be taken in a different sense, as signifying that concern which God had for the protection of his Church. The whole then of this chapter proves that God would be the defender of his people, and that such was his care for the safety of all the godly, that he resolved to oppose the whole world, if necessary, for their protection. This is the sum of the whole. He then says, that the word of Jehovah came to him; we hence learn, that this was a distinct prophecy. He adds, I have been zealous for Sion (for as we have said, the letter lamed is to be thus taken) with great zeal. This was indeed an incredible change, for God had for a time restrained himself, while the ungodly at their pleasure harassed the Church, so that they thought that they could do so with impunity. As God then had for some time remained at rest, what the Prophet says here could not have been easily believed, that is, that God would, through a sudden jealousy, undertake the cause of the Church. Hence the indignation, immediately subjoined, must be regarded with reference to enemies, as though he had said, that all the ungodly would now perceive what they had by no means expected, - that God was the protector of Jerusalem. It now follows - Zechariah 8:3 Thus saith the LORD; 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. The Prophet now more clearly explains what he intended; but it was necessary to preserve this order - that enemies were to be by force ejected from their possession, and the Church delivered, before God could dwell in the midst of it; for how could God have proved that Jerusalem was under his guardianship and protection without having first subdued its enemies? It was not then without reason that the Prophet commenced with this promise - that God was prepared for war, and was burning with wrath, that he might deliver his Church from the hands of enemies. Then follows the fruit of the victory; for it would not have been enough for God to avenge the wrongs done to his chosen people, without gathering the dispersed and restoring the Church to its ancient condition. For it often happens that those who have been cruelly treated find an avenger; but no comfort, or very little comfort, comes to them, as they are made nothing better; but the Lord here refers to these two things - that he would take up arms to defend his chosen people, and also that he would become, as the case was, the defender and protector of the holy city. The repetition of the sentence, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts, almost in every verse, was no doubt intended for the purpose of strengthening their faith; for it was, as I have already said a thing incredible. It was then necessary to bring forward often the name of God, that the faithful might more readily give assent to the prophecy which they knew proceeded from God, even the God of hosts, whose power is infinite, and to whom nothing is difficult, as we shall find it presently stated. And he says that he had returned; not that the accomplishment of this prophecy was then visible, but the decree is put for the reality. God had been, as it were, for a long time silent, while his people were exposed as a sport to their enemies; and he seemed then to be far away from Jerusalem, for the place was desolate and waste, yea, it was a scene of dreadful vengeance. God, then, during the whole of that time, seemed to have forsaken the place, according to the testimony of Ezekiel, who says, that God had removed from the temple, and that it was an empty place, and as it were profane. On this account he says now that he had returned; for he intended openly to show that it had not in vain been made the seat of his glory, when he had commanded his name to be there invoked. It is indeed true that mount Sion had never been forsaken by God; but no other opinion could have been formed, when there were there no altar, no sacrifices, and no people to worship God; for this is said with reference to divine worship; and the holiness of the mount was also nothing, except as far as God had consecrated it to himself. Hence these two things were connected - the holiness of the mount and the presence of God. It therefore follows that God, according to the judgement of men, was absent, when no religion appeared there, and the Jews offered there no sacrifices. He further says, that he had returned, that he might dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. It was necessary to add this, that the Jews might be convinced that his return was not in vain; for many said that they foolishly made too much haste, and that though the commencement had been favourable, yet many troubles would come upon them in future, and that their building would be only for a short time, and that though they spent much toil and labour in rebuilding the city, it would yet be only for a season, as their enemies would shortly come and destroy their new edifices. Since then reports of this kind were spreading, it was necessary to support the minds of the godly, that they might be fully persuaded that God had returned to his people, and had become the restorer of his exiles for this end - that he might as before dwell at Jerusalem. We now apprehend the Prophet's object; it was as though he had said, that the people had not returned in vain to their country, but that they had been delivered by the authority of God, and that his dwelling at Jerusalem would be fixed and perpetual, as it had before been his habitation. We indeed know that the stability of the Church is not otherwise secured than by the presence of God, as it is said in Psalm 46:, "God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;" for the Church would not be less exposed to sudden and frequent destruction than other things, were it not that God, her support, dwells in her. And this is what our Prophet means here when he says, that God would dwell there. He adds, And called shall be Jerusalem the city of truth, and the mount of Jehovah the mount of holiness. By the first clause the Prophet reminds us why God had for a time forsaken Jerusalem, even because it was a city given to falsehoods, wicked devices, deceits, and perverse counsels. As then the Jews had wholly degenerated from true religion, the Prophet intimates that the city became destitute of its guardian and protector, even of God himself. And for the same purpose are added the words, the mount of Jehovah shall be called the mount of holiness. For however proudly the Jews boasted that they worshipped God, they yet had profaned both the temple and the altar by their sins, as we have seen it proved by the Prophet Haggai. (Hag. 2: 15.) Here then Zechariah indirectly reproves the Jews for having corrupted all purity by their frauds, and also for having, by the defilements of their sins, polluted Sion and the temple of God. At the same time he teaches us that God dwells in his Church where he sanctifies it. Hence God is never idle while he dwells in his people; for he cleanses away every kind of impurity, every kind of deceit, that where he dwells may ever be a holy place. Therefore the Prophet not only promises here an external blessing to the Jews, but also shows that God performs what is far more excellent - that he cleanses the place where he intends to dwell, and the habitation which he chooses, and casts out every kind of filth. And since God promises to do this, we hence see that it is his own peculiar work and gift to cleanse all our impurities, and also to dissipate everything false and deceitful. The import of the whole is, that when God reconciles his people to himself, he not only brings an outward blessing of an earthly kind, but also something better and far more excellent, even the renewal of the heart and mind, and that when all things are polluted and filthy, he restores true and perfect cleanness and integrity. We must further bear also in mind what I have already stated - that their sins are here intimated to the Jews, that they might be touched with shame, and seek repentance; for we have seen that they were very slow and tardy in this respect. It was then necessary to stimulate them that they might repent. For what the Prophet says clearly intimates that mount Sion had been profaned, though God had consecrated it to himself; for God's worship had been there vitiated, and there was there no integrity; and that the faithful city, such at least as it ought to have been, had become full of falsehood and treachery; for truth is not to be confined to that fidelity which men ought to observe one towards another, but is to be extended to that sincerity which the faithful ought to possess as to the pure and sincere worship of God. This is the sum of the whole. It now follows - Zechariah 8:4 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. He confirms what we have already stated, that the Jews would be safe under the hand and protection of God, as he would dwell among them. The cause of a safe and quiet state he made to be the presence of God. For when we have peace with the whole world, we may yet disturb one another, except the God of peace restrains us; inasmuch as mutual and intestine discord may harass us, though we may be spared by external enemies. It is then necessary in the first place, that the God of peace and salvation should dwell in the midst of us. But when we have the presence of God, then comes full security. Suitably then does the Prophet now say, that yet dwell would old men and old women the midst of Jerusalem: for since the time the Jews had returned, they had been harassed, we know, by continual wars; and it could hardly be expected that they could live long in a state of incessant troubles, while new fears were daily disturbing them. Since then they were thus in incessant and endless dangers, the Prophet gives them relief, and promises that there would be to them yet a quiet habitation, so that both men and women would live to extreme old age. Hence he says, There shall yet dwell, &c. Then he adds, a staff shall be to man for his age, or on account of multitude of days. This seems indeed to have been said with no great propriety; for it would have been much better had vigour been given them, so that men failed not through old age. Hence the weakness mentioned here seems to have been a sign of God's curse rather than of his favour; and on this account the Lord promises by Isaiah, that old men would be vigorous and strong, (Is. 65: 20;) so that they felt not the disadvantage of age. But the design of Zechariah, as we have already reminded you, was here different; for many by their daily complaints depressed the minds of the godly, declaring that they were deceived, and saying that Jerusalem would not long stand, as they were surrounded by so many enemies. Hence Zechariah shows, that the Jews would be in no danger of falling by the hand of enemies, as they would live securely without any external disturbances; for we know that many old men, half alive through age and supporting themselves by a staff, cannot be anywhere seen, except in a state of peace and quietness, undisturbed by enemies. We now then perceive the design of the Prophet, which was to show, that Jerusalem would be tranquil and in peace, and that this would be the fruit of God's presence; for its citizens would die through years, and not through the violence of eternal enemies. To the same purpose is what follows - Zechariah 8:5 And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof. He repeats and confirms the same thing by another representation - that boys and girls would play in the streets and on the public roads, which could not be during the troublous time of war; for when arms clatter, the sound of trumpets is heard, and assaults of enemies are dreaded, every one keeps his children at home, and in public there is sad confusion, and few are found abroad; in short there is no cheerfulness even in children when fear is hanging over them. We hence see, that what is here promised is a state of quietness to Jerusalem; for God would keep off the onsets of enemies - not that Jerusalem was ever exempt from all evils, but that God's defence was so effectual as to render them safe amidst many and various dangers. It is not needful here anxiously to raise the questions - Whether it is lawful to play during times of peace? for the Prophet here took his language from the common habits of men, and even from the very nature of things; for we know that men give way to cheerfulness when no fear lays hold on their minds, and that play and sport are allowed to children. The Prophet meant only this, that though the Jews might then have something to do with various enemies, they would yet be in a state of peace and safety. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 8:6 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. He sharply reproves here the lack of faith in the people; for as men are wont to measure whatever is promised by their own understanding, the door of entrance for these prophecies was nearly closed up when they saw that the fury of their enemies could by no means be pacified. They had indeed tried in various ways to check them, or at least to conciliate them; and we know that many edicts had been proclaimed in favour of the Jews by the kings of Persia; but such was the common hatred to them, that new enemies arose continually. On this account it is that the Prophet now blames their want of faith; and he points out, as by the finger, the source of their unbelief when he says, that they had no faith in God who spoke to them, because he promised more then what they could conceive to be possible. And this deserves notice, for if we wish to pull up unbelief by the roots from our hearts, we must begin at this point - to raise up our thoughts above the world; yea, to bid adieu to our own judgement, and simply to embrace what God promises; for his power ought to carry us up to such a height that we may entertain no doubt but that what seems to us impossible will surely be accomplished. What the Prophet calls "wonderful" is the same as impossible; for men often wonder at God's worlds without believing them, and even under the false pretence of wonder deny his power. Hence when God promises anything, doubts immediately creep in - "Can this be done?" If a reason does not appear, as the thing surpasses our comprehension, we instantly conclude that it cannot be. We thus see how men pretending to wonder at God's power entirely obliterate it. When therefore the Prophet now says, If this be wonderful in your eyes, shall it be so in mine? it is the same as though he had said, "If you reject what I promise to you, because it is not in accordance with your judgement, is it right that my power should be confined to what you can comprehend?" We hence see that nothing is more preposterous than to seek to measure God's power by our own understanding. But he seems to say at the same time, that it is useful for us to raise upwards our minds, and to be so filled with wonder, while contemplating God's infinite power, that nothing afterwards may appear wonderful to us. We now perceive how it behaves us to wonder at God's works, and yet not to regard anything wonderful in them. There is no work of God so minute, but that it contains something wonderful, when it is considered as it ought to be; but yet when raised up by faith we apprehend the infinite power of God, which seems incredible to the understanding of the flesh, we look down as it were on the things below; for our faith ascends far above this world. We now see the true source of unbelief and also of faith. The source of unbelief is this - when men confine God's power to their own understanding; and the source of faith is - when they ascribe to God the praise due to his infinite power, when they regard not what is easy, but being satisfied with his word alone they are fully persuaded that God is true, and that what he promises is certain, because he is able to fulfil it. So Paul teaches us, who says, that Abraham's faith was founded on this assurance - that he doubted not but that he who had spoken was able really to accomplish his word. (Rom. 4: 20.) Hence, that the promises of God may penetrate into our hearts and there strike deep roots, we must bid adieu to our own judgement; for while we are wise in ourselves and rely on earthly means, the power of God vanishes as it were from our sight, and his truth also at the same time disappears. In a word, we must regard, not what is probable, not what nature brings, not what is usual, but what God can do, what his infinite power can effect. We ought then to emerge from the confined compass of our flesh, and by faith, as we have said, ascend above the world. And he says, In the eyes of the remnant of this people, &c. By this sentence he seems to touch the Jews to the quick, who had already in a measure experienced the power of God in their restoration; for thirty years before their freedom had been given them by Cyrus and Darius, they regarded as a fable what God had promised them; they said that they were in a grave from which no exit could have been expected: they had experienced how great and incredible was God's power; and yet as people astonished, they despaired of their future safety. This ingratitude then is what Zechariah now indirectly reproves by calling them the remnant of his people. They were a small number, they had not raised their banner to go forth against the will of their enemies; but a way had been suddenly opened to them beyond all expectation. Since then they had been taught by experience to know that God was able to do more than they could have imagined, the Prophet here justly condemns them for having formed so unworthy an idea of that power of God which had been found by experience to have been more than sufficient. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 8:7,8 7 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country; 8 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. He pursues the same subject, and introduces a preface, very necessary in so confused a state of things; for it was very difficult to raise up desponding minds and to inspire them with confidence, when pressed down with fear and trembling. This is the reason why Zechariah repeats so often, that he declared nothing but God's commands only. Behold, he says, I will save, or deliver my people. As dispersion took away hope, the Prophet restores it, and says, that it would not be difficult to gather the people from all parts of the world, when God stretched forth his hand; and emphatical is the expression, I will deliver my people. God then does here exalt himself, that we may learn to exalt his power, and not to judge of it according to our own comprehension. I will deliver my people, he says, from the rising as well as from the setting of the sun. This sentence then is connected with the preceding, in which the Prophet briefly shows that the Jews erred and acted perversely, when they ascribed no more to God than what the judgement of their own flesh dictated, or what seemed probable according to the course of nature. As then he had taught them that great wrong is done to God except he is separated from men, and shines eminent above the whole world, he now adds, that God, with whom nothing is wonderful or difficult, had resolved to gather his people, and from their dispersion to restore them again to Jerusalem. The Prophet then says here nothing new, but rightly applies what he had just said of God's infinite and incomprehensible power, which men absurdly attempt to inclose in their own brains, and to attach to earthly instrumentalities. He then adds, I will restore them, and they shall dwell, he says, in the midst of Jerusalem. He again confirms what I have already stated, - that their return would not be in vain, though many said, that the Jews had done foolishly in having returned so quickly into their own country; and they condemned their determination, as though they had been suddenly carried away by extreme ardour. Hence the Prophet, in order to show that God had dealt faithfully with his people, promises them here a safe and a perpetual habitation at Jerusalem. They shall dwell, he says; that is, "As you now see that you have been gathered, so expect that God will be your protector, so as to render you safe, and to make Jerusalem to be again inhabited, as it had been formerly." He afterwards adds, They shall be to me for a people, and I shall be to them for a God. By these words the Prophet confirms what he has hitherto taught, when he now speaks of the renewal of the covenant; for the whole hope of the people depended on this one thing, - that God remembered the covenant which he had made with them. This covenant had indeed been broken, according to the usual language of Scripture; for the people, when removed into exile, thought that they were cast away and forsaken by God. As then the memory of this covenant had been buried as to the effect, or as they say, apparently, the Prophet, in order to confirm what he has already said, expressly declares, that they would be God's people, and that he would be their God. We now then understand why he adds, "I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people". In the last place he says, in truths and righteousness; that is, "settled and permanent shall be this felicity": for when God shows that he cares for his people, then follow outward blessings, which are evidences of his favour. The Prophet adds, that this shall be in truth and righteousness; for God will not be propitious and kind to his people only for a short time, but will continue his favour to them to the end. As then God intended to establish the safety of the city, he testifies that he would be its God in righteousness, even in sincerity, in good faith, and without dissimulation, and also without any danger of changing. And how this was to be fulfilled we shall hereafter see. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that though we daily depart from thee by our sins, we may not yet be wholly removed from the foundation on which our salvation depends; but do thou so sustain us, or even raise us up when fallen, that we may ever continue in our degree, and also return to thee in true repentance, and whatever may happen to us, may we learn ever to look to thee, that we may never despair of thy goodness, which thou hast promised to be firm and perpetual, and that especially while relying on thy only-begotten Son our Mediator, we may be able to call on thee as our Father, until we shall at length come to that eternal inheritance, which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 16... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-15.txt .