(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 18) Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-first. Zechariah 8:20-22 20 Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities: 21 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. 22 Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD. The Prophet here extends his discourse still farther; for he promises not only the complete restoration of his chosen people, but also the propagation of the Church; for God, he says, will gather a Church for himself from many and remote nations, and unite many nations in one body. And this ought to have availed especially to animate the Jews, as they were thus taught that the temple was built, not only that God might be worshipped by one nation, but by all nations. Moreover, as before this time some had come from distant lands to worship God, the Prophet may seem here to have this in view by using "'od", the adverb of time. But he not only declares that some would come, as in the time of Solomon, but as I have already said, he promises here something more remarkable - that the temple would not belong peculiarly to the Jews, but would be common to all nations; for there is to be no language and no nation which is not to unite in the true worship of God. But let us consider the words of the Prophet. He begins by saying, that God was the author of this prophecy; and this was said to secure credit. There was need, as we have said, of no common authority, since he was here speaking of what was incredible. There was only a handful of people returned to their country, and many dangers surrounded them almost every day; so that many, wearied with their present condition, preferred exile, and regret for their return had now crept into the minds of many, for they thought that they had been deceived. Since then the state of the people was such, there was need of something more than ordinary to confirm what is here said - that the glory of the second temple would be greater and more eminent than that of the first: It shall yet be, he says. Though a comparison is implied, there is yet no equality expressed, as though some few only would come. But as there had been no temple for seventy years, and as the temple, now begun to be built, was in no high esteem, but mean and insignificant, the Prophet says, that the time would yet come, when nations and inhabitants of great cities would ascend into Jerusalem. We may indeed render "rabot" many or great, for it means both; but the Prophet, I think, speaks of great cities; and the reason will presently appear. It follows, Come shall the inhabitants of one to one, that is, the inhabitants of one city to another; saying, going let us go, &c. He means by these words, that there will be a mutual consent among all nations, so that they will stimulate one another, and thus unite together their exertions. We here see that the Prophet's object was to encourage the Jews to entertain good hope, and thus to cause them to persevere, so that they might not doubt but that success would attend their work and labour, because the Lord would have himself worshipped at Jerusalem, not only by themselves but also by all nations. But as the Jews could not believe that nations could by force be drawn there, he teaches them, that their assembling would be voluntary; he says that those who had been before extremely refractory would be disposed to come of their own accord, so that there would be no need of external force to constrain them; for they would willingly come, nay, would excite one another, and by mutual exhortations stimulate themselves so as to come together to worship God at Jerusalem. The ardour and vehemence of their zeal is to be noticed; for the Prophet says, that they would come of their own accord, and also encourage one another, according to what we have seen in the second chapter, Lay hold will each on the hand of his brother, and say, let us go to the mount of the God of Jacob. But more is expressed in this place, for not only shall each one encourage his brother whenever met and an opportunity be offered, but he says that they will come from all quarters. We now then see the design of the Prophet in these words. And we hence learn, that faith then only produces its legitimate fruit when zeal is kindled, so that every one strives to increase the kingdom of God, and to gather the straying, that the Church may be filled. For when any one consults his own private benefit and has no care for others, he first betrays most clearly his own inhumanity, and where there is no love the Spirit of God does not rule there. Besides, true godliness brings with it a concern for the glory of God. It is no wonder then that the Prophet, when describing true and real conversion, says, that each would be solicitous about his brethren, so as to stimulate one another, and also that the hearts of all would be so kindled with zeal for God, that they would hasten together to celebrate his glory. Then he adds, Let us go to entreat the face of Jehovah. The phrase is common in Scripture. But we must observe, that the Prophet in speaking of God's worship, sets prayer in the first rank, for prayer to God is the chief part, yea, the main thing in religion. It is, indeed, immediately added, and to seek Jehovah: he explains the particular by the general; and in the next verse he inverts the order, beginning with the general. However, the meaning continues the same, for God seeks nothing else but that we should be teachable and obedient, so as to be prepared to follow wherever he may call us, and at the same time carefully to enquire respecting his will, as we have need of him as our leader and teacher, so that we may not foolishly go astray through winding and circuitous courses; for if we deem it enough to take presumptuously our own way, the endeavour to seek God will be superfluous. It must then be observed, that God is then only really sought when men desire to learn from his word how he is to be worshipped. But, as I have already said, the Prophet adds prayer here, for the design of the whole truth respecting salvation is to teach us, that our life depends on God, and that whatever belongs to eternal life must be hoped for and expected from him. We now then understand the import of the whole. But we must enquire also why he says, that the nations would come to seek God at Jerusalem, and there to call on him. The Jews foolishly imagine that God cannot be otherwise worshipped than by offering sacrifices still in the temple. But the Prophet had something very different in view, that the light of truth would arise from that city, which would diffuse itself far and wide: and this prophecy ought to be connected with that of Isaiah, "A law shall go forth from Sion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem." (Is. 2: 3.) As then the doctrine of salvation which has filled the whole world flowed from that city, the Prophet says, that nations would come to Jerusalem, not that it would be necessary for them to assemble there, but because all were to seek there what could not be obtained elsewhere. Since then none could be accounted the children of God except they were brought up in that school and acknowledged that alone to be true religion which had its first habitation at Jerusalem, we hence see why the Prophet expressly mentions that city. We must further bear in mind, that the temple was built for this end and purpose, - that the doctrine of salvation might continue there, and have there its seat until the coming of Christ; for then was fulfilled that prophecy in the hundred and tenth Psalm, "The sceptre of thy power shall God send forth from Sion." The Prophet here teaches us, that Christ would not be the king of one people only, whose power was to be confined to narrow limits, but that he would rule through the whole world, for God would extend his sceptre to every quarter of the globe. As tell it behaved the Jews to have this end in view, the Prophet, in order to animate them that they might not fail in the middle of their work, says, that that place was sacred to God, so that salvation might thence be sought by the whole world, for all were to be the disciples of that Church who wished to be deemed the children of God. But we ought carefully to notice what I have already referred to, the two things required in God's worship - to seek him, and also to pray to him. For the superstitious, though they pretend great ardour in seeking God, yet amuse themselves with many delusions; for they hurry on presumptuously, and as it were at random, so that they seek not God, but leave him, and weary themselves without thought and without any judgement. As then the superstitious have no reason for what they do, they can not be said properly to seek God. But the faithful seek God, for they acknowledge that he is not to be worshipped according to the fancy of any one, but that there is a certain prescript and rule to be observed. To us then this is the beginning of religion - not to allow to ourselves liberty to attempt anything we please, but humbly and soberly to submit to God's word; for when any one seeks and chooses an unfit teacher, he will not advance as he ought to do. But the Prophet shows, that all the godly succeed when they strive to be approved of God by confining themselves to his word, and by attempting nothing through their own promptings, but when they have such a discernment as not to blend, as it is said, profane with sacred things. The second chief thing is, to pray to God: and the Prophet thus reminds us why it is that God would have us especially to seek him. Nothing indeed results to his advantage and benefit from our efforts, but he would have us to seek him that we may learn to expect from him everything connected with our salvation. This seeking is also defined by the term prayer, and not useless is the word face, for though God is invisible, we yet ought not to wander with uncertainty, as it were through the air, when our purpose is to flee to him, but to go to him with full confidence. Unless then we are fully persuaded of what the Scripture teaches us - that God is ever nigh those who truly call on him, the door will be closed against our prayers, for God's name will be profaned though we may express what we wish. As then the nearness of God ought to be impressed on our hearts when we prepare ourselves for prayer, the Scripture usually adopts this form, to entreat the face of God. But this is not to be understood of an ocular sight, but, on the contrary, of the conviction of the heart. Let us now proceed - Zechariah 8:23 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. He pursues the same subject in this verse; for as he had before said, that the nations would willingly come to worship God, and that each would encourage his brother to undertake this pious and holy expedition, so he now adds, that ten men would lay hold on the border of a Jew's garment: Ten men shall then take hold of the skirt of a Jew. He shows here more clearly what I have briefly referred to - that there would be no need of arms, or of any compulsion, in order to draw or compel the nations to engage in God's service; for even ten would of themselves accompany one Jew; and it is a proof of a very great readiness when ten surrender themselves to be ruled by one. As one Jew could not be sufficient to draw so many nations, the Prophet declares that there would be everywhere a union of faith, so that those, before wholly alienated from God, would desire to join themselves as friends, or rather as companions to the Jews. He says, From all languages. By these words he amplifies the miracle; for there cannot be a union between men far distant, especially when they are of different languages, as they are barbarians to one another. When the Prophet then says that they would come frown all languages, and unite together, it more fully appears to be God's work; for there is nothing here to be ascribed to human contrivances. It must then be that the hearts of those who cannot express their minds, and can hardly give a sign, are united together by the hidden power of the Spirit. We now perceive the Prophet's object in this verse. But he uses in the last clause a phrase different from the one he employed before - Let us go with you, for we have heard that with you is God. He had said, "Let us go to seek Jehovah, and to entreat his face;" but now he says "Let us go with you." But yet he handles and confirms the same thing; for the nations could not have sought God without following the Jews going before them. For when any one separates himself from others, it so happens that he is led astray, and feeds on much that is very absurd, as we see to be the case with proud and morose men, who invent strange and monstrous things; for they shun society, and seem not to themselves to be wise, until they put off every feeling of humanity. The character then of faith has also this in it - that the elect, while they themselves obey God, desire to have many associates in this obedience, and many fellow-disciples in true religion. The Prophet thus intended to point out two things: be had said before - "Let us go to seek God;" and now - "We will go with you." What else is this but to seek God? But he expresses more now - that the nations declare that they would come to seek God for this end - that they might learn from others, like rude beginners, who have their fellow-scholars as their teachers; so that every one who had made some progress, was to preside over others, and those as yet commencing, and still in the first elements of knowledge, were humbly to connect themselves with others better informed. Shame prevents many from making in this manner any advancement, and so they ever remain sunk in ignorance. The Prophet at the same time not only commends humility, but also exhorts all God's children to cultivate unity and concord. For whosoever tears asunder the Church of God, disunites himself from Christ, who is the head, and who would have all his members to be united together. We now then understand that God ought to be sought in order to be rightly worshipped by us; and also, that he ought to be thus sought, not that each may have his own peculiar religion, but that we may be united together, and that every one who sees his brethren going before, and excelling in gifts, may be prepared to follow them, and to seek benefit from their labours. It is indeed true that we ought to disregard the whole world; and to embrace only the truth of God; for it is a hundred times better to renounce the society of all mortals, and union with them, then to withdraw ourselves from God; but when God shows himself as our leader, the Prophet teaches us that we ought mutually to stretch forth our hand and unitedly to follow him. We have again to notice at the end of the verse what I have already referred to - that the nations would come, not compelled by force of arms or by violence, but drawn by hearing alone. We have heard. By hearing the Prophet means here the doctrine of salvation everywhere diffused; for there would be no care nor concern for worshipping were we not taught; for faith, as Paul says, is by hearing; and so prayer proceeds from faith. (Rom. 10: 17.) In short, the Prophet means that the knowledge of religion would be through the preaching of the truth, which would rouse all nations to the duty of worshipping God. He now again confirms what we have also mentioned - that the Jews would have the precedence of all nations; for it appears that God would be among them. We hence see that primacy is not ascribed to the Jews in being leaders to others, because they excelled others by their own virtue or dignity, but because God presided over them. Then God is ever to be sought, though we may avail ourselves of the labours of men, and follow them when they show us the right way. We must ever bear this in mind - that those only exhort truly and honestly, who not only do so by word, but who really prove what they feel by their conduct; according to what the Prophet has said - Go will I also; and he says the same now - Let us go, or, we shall go with you. For many there are who are strenuous enough in stimulating others; but their vain garrulity appears evident; for while they bid others to run, they are standing still; and while they vehemently encourage others, they themselves delay and take their rest. Now follows - Chapter 9. Zechariah 9:1 The burden of the word of the LORD in the land of Hadrach, and Damascus shall be the rest thereof: when the eyes of man, as of all the tribes of Israel, shall be toward the LORD. One thing had escaped my notice in the words of the Prophet - that great people and strong nations would come. We have said that "great" rather than "many" ought to be adopted. The latter meaning may indeed be allowed that the worshipers of God would come from various cities; but as the word "'atsumot" properly signifies strong, and as it is certain that the Prophet means the same thing by the two words, it is more probable that he speaks of strong and valiant people, as they are not so easily subdued; for the more any one excels in prowess, the more stiff is his neck to undertake the yoke. As then the strong and the brave, and such as are eminent in the world, are not so easily brought to submit to God, the Prophet expressly says, that they shall become teachable, and be made willing, so that pride, as it is usually the case, shall not be a hindrance to them. I come now to the passage in which the Prophet announces a heavy burden, or a severe and fearful prophecy respecting Syria and other neighbouring nations. I prefer to retain the word "burden," rather than to render it prophecy, as many expositors have done; for though "masa'" is sometimes taken simply for prophecy, yet there is here, as it appears to me, something particular intended; for the Prophet denounces God's judgement both on Syria and on the surrounding countries, and the word prophecy is not suitable; for to say "the prophecy of the word," would be strange and without meaning. But when he says, The burden of the word of God, the sentence is full, and flows well; for he reminds us that his word would not be ineffectual, but full of effect, as it would lie as a burden on Syria and on other countries, which they should not be able to shake off. The burden then of the word of Jehovah; that is, "I have now a prediction which will be grievous and severe to those heathens who now disturb the Jews, the chosen people." But this doctrine contains consolation to the godly; for they may hence know that they are safe under God's protection, as he carries on war with their enemies; nay, his vengeance was now prepared against all those who harassed the Jews. As then he had before promised that incredible favour of God which we have noticed, so now he declares that the Church would be safe under the protection of God, inasmuch as vengeance was in readiness for all the ungodly. But the Prophet mentions here only the cities known to the Jews, for it was enough to refer to them as an example, that the Jews might hence conclude that God would be always the protector of his Church, so that no enemies shall escape unpunished. The Prophet then no doubt mentioned these few cities to the Jews, that they might feel assured that nothing is so strong and impetuous in the world which God cannot easily subdue and lay prostrate. Now as we apprehend the Prophet's object, we shall come to the words. Some think that the word "chadrach" includes the whole of Syria, which seems to me probable. Others suppose that some notable city is meant, as Damascus is immediately subjoined. But as the matter is uncertain, and as there is no doubt but that the Prophet speaks of the kingdom of Syria, I will not contest the point. Be it then the name of a city or of a country, it is all the same, for the Prophet means that the vengeance of God was impending over the Syrians, and impending in such a manner, that it would not depart from them until they were wholly destroyed. For when he adds that its rest would be Damascus, he intimates that God's judgement would not be like a storm, which soon passes away, but that it would be a heavy and burdensome mass, which could not be dissipated, according to what Isaiah says - "The word came on Jacob and fell on Israel;" (Isaiah 8: 9;) that is, what God pronounced against Jacob fell on Israel. He indeed changes the name, but it is the same as though he had said - "When God shall punish Jacob, can the Israelites escape?" for they were the same. The sentence then shall fall, that is, it shall find its own place: in vain will they run here and there to escape. The Jews then will gain nothing by their flight; for the vengeance now denounced by the Lord shall lay hold on them. So also in this place he says, the burden of the word of Jehovah on the land of Chadrak and Damascus, the royal city, the metropolis, shall be its rest, its dwelling; for the Lord's vengeance will fix its station there, and it cannot be thence removed. In vain then will the Syrians try in various ways to escape, for they must be pressed down by God's hand, until they be laid prostrate. We now then understand in what sense the Prophet says that Damascus would be the rest, the habitation, or the abode of God's vengeance. He afterwards adds, For to Jehovah the eye of man. The particle "ki" is to be taken here, I think, as an adverb of time, "When". There is indeed in reality but little difference, except that the common rendering of it greatly obscures the meaning of the Prophet. But if it be taken as an adverb of time, the passage will read better, When the eye of man shall be to Jehovah, and of all the tribes of Israel; that is, when the Jews shall begin to turn to God without any dissimulation, but with real sincerity; then he says, God will in every way bless them, and raise up his hand against their enemies. The Prophet had before exhorted the Jews to repentance; for they had been too much given to sacrifices and fastings, while no integrity existed among them. So also he shows again that their hypocrisy was an hindrance, which prevented God to manifest his favour to them; and thus he reminds them, that the gate would be opened, and the way made plain and even for God's favour and blessings, whenever they raised their eyes to him, that is, whenever they derived their hopes from him, and fixed on him their dependence. For to direct the eyes to God is nothing else than to look to him so as to fix on him all our thoughts. Some understand by "man" all mortals, but of this I approve not; nor do I doubt but that the Prophet refers to the Jews alone; and doubtless it is not consistent with the context to regard any but the Jews. It is indeed true, that the Prophet speaks here of the calling of the Gentiles, but so as to begin with the Jews; for as they were the first-born, so it was necessary for them to have the precedence. The Prophet then here declares that God would be glorious in his chosen people, and would lay prostrate all the bordering enemies. Then the eye of man signifies the same as the eye of the whole people; as though he had said, that after the Jews had begun to lay aside all dissimulation and devoted themselves to God, and cast all their hopes on him, they would then find God sufficiently powerful to lay in the dust all their enemies. But he afterwards adds, by way of explanation, "and of all the tribes of Israel". Some give this rendering, "How much more," as though the Prophet reasoned here from the less to the greater. But, as I have already said, this cannot be maintained. First, this explanation is strained, "The eye of man, and especially of all the tribes of Israel;" for the Jews ought to have had the first place: and secondly, the particle "waw" has no amplifying sense. In short, he intended by a small particle to show that precedence belonged to the Jews. I do not then understand what they mean, who would include all nations in the word "man," and then regard the Prophet as proceeding to mention the tribes of Israel. Now what I have stated, that the true servants of God were then few, is probable enough; hence the Prophet here exhorts the whole people to a union in religion. Whenever then the whole tribes of Israel directed their eyes to God, the burden of his word would then come upon Damascus and all the Syrians. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that as thou kindly and graciously extends thy hand to us, not only to show us once for all the right way, but also to lead us through our whole life, and even to sustain us when wearied, and to raise us up when fallen, - O grant, that we may not be ungrateful for this thy great kindness, but render ourselves obedient to thee; and may we not experience the dreadful power of thy judgement, which thou denounces on all thine enemies, who are to sustain a vengeance that is to sink them in the abyss of endless perdition; but may we suffer ourselves to be ever raised up by thy hand, until we shall at length reach that blessed rest, to which thou invites us, and art ready to lead us, where we shall enjoy the fulness of those blessings which have been obtained for us by thy only-begotten Son - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 19... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-18.txt .