(Calvin. Commentaries on the Prophet Zechariah. Part 22) Chapter 10. Lecture One Hundred and Fifty-fifth. Zechariah 10:1 Ask ye of the LORD rain in the time of the latter rain; so the LORD shall make bright clouds, and give them showers of rain, to every one grass in the field. Zechariah, after having shown that God would be bountiful towards the Jews, so that nothing necessary to render life happy and blessed should be wanting, now reproves them for their unbelief, because they did not expect from the Lord what he was ready fully to bestow on them. As then it depended on them only, that they did not enjoy abundance of all blessings, he charges them with ingratitude: for though he exhorts them to prayer, there is yet an implied reproof. One by merely reading over the words may think that a new subject is here introduced, that the Jews are directed to ask of the Lord what he had previously promised them; but he who will more minutely consider the whole context, will easily find that what I have stated is true - that the Jews are here condemned, and on this account, because they closed the door against God's favour; for they were straitened in themselves, as all the unbelieving are, who cannot embrace the promises of God; nor is it at all doubtful but that many made great complaints, when they found themselves disappointed of their wishes. They had indeed hoped for a most abundant supply of corn and wine, and had also promised to themselves all kinds of blessings, yet the Lord, as we have seen in the book of Haggai, had begun to withdraw his hand, so that they laboured under want of provisions; and when mine and thirst oppressed them, they thought that they had been in a manlier deceived by God. On this ground the Prophet expostulates with them; they thrust from themselves, by their want of faith, the favour which had been prepared for them. We now then understand the Prophet's meaning. He bids them to ask rain of Jehovah. They ought indeed to have done this of themselves without being reminded; for though Christ has delivered to his Church a form of prayer, it ought yet to be as it were the dictate of nature to seek of God our daily bread; and it is not without reason that he claims to himself the name of a Father. The Prophet then does here reprove the Jews for their brutal stupidity - that they did not ask rain of the Lord. He adds, at the late seasons, that is, at spring time; for rains at two seasons were necessary for the corn, after sowing and before harvest, and whenever Scripture speaks of fruitfulness or of a large produce, it mentions rain at these two seasons. Zechariah in this place only refers to the vernal before harvest; for in that hot country the earth wanted new moisture, Ask, he says, rain at the beginning of summer. Jehovah, he adds, will give it; he will make clouds, or storms, or boisterous winds, as some read; but it is evident from other passages that "chazizim" means clouds, which are as it were preparations for rain. He then says, that a shower would come with the rain; for some take "geshem" for a shower, that is, heavy rain; but the Prophet introduces here the two words, as though he had said, that the rains would be continued until the ground was saturated and the dryness removed. Some translate, "the rain of a shower," but this would be too strained. I prefer then this rendering, He will give rain, a shower, that is, abundant rain; to every one grass in the field, that is, so that there may be moisture enough for the ground. In short, he promises a plentiful irrigation, that drought might not deprive them of the hope of food and support. What I have stated will appear more clear from the following verse, for he adds - Zechariah 10:2 For the idols have spoken vanity, and the diviners have seen a lie, and have told false dreams; they comfort in vain: therefore they went their way as a flock, they were troubled, because there was no shepherd. Here the Prophet, as I have said, confirms the truth, that the blame justly belonged to the Jews that God did not deal more liberally with them; for he shows that they had fallen into superstitions, and had thus turned away the favour of God, which was already certain and nigh to them. Zechariah does not here condemn foreign nations given to superstitions; but, on the contrary, he reproves the Jews themselves for leaving the true God, and for retaking themselves to idols, to soothsayers, and diviners, and for having thus preferred to feed on their own delusions, rather than to open the door to the favour of God, who had freely promised that he would suffer them to want nothing. As then God had kindly invited the Jews to himself, as he had showed himself ready to do them good, was it not the basest ingratitude in them to turn away to idols and to attend to magical delusions? for they might have safely acquiesced in God's word. They would not have been deprived of their hope, had they been firmly persuaded that God had spoken the truth to them. As then they had done so grievous a wrong to God, as to run after idols, and after the crafts and impostures of Satan, the Prophet here deservedly condemns them for this wickedness. Images, he says, have spoken vanity, and diviners have seen falsehood, and have told dreams of vanity. He means, in short, that whatever means unbelieving men may try, they can attain nothing, and they will at length find that they have been miserably deceived by Satan. They have recourse to various expedients, for unbelief is full of bustle and fervour: "O! this will not succeed, I will try something else." Thus the unbelieving wander, and resort to many and various expedients. But the Prophet teaches this general truth - that when men turn away from God, they have recourse to vain things; for there is no truth without God. He afterwards adds, that on account of idols, as well as of diviners and magicians, consolation was given in vain; and this he confirms by the event, and says, that they had wandered as sheep, that they had been distressed, because there was no shepherd. The Prophet no doubt refers here to the time of exile, that the Jews might learn to be wise, at least by the teaching of experience; for they had known to their great loss, that without God there is no real and solid comfort: nor does he without reason upbraid them with the punishment which their fathers had suffered, for he saw that they were walking in their steps. Since then the Jews were imitating the depraved inquisitiveness of their fathers, the Prophet justly charges them, that they did not acknowledge what, by the event itself, was well known to all; for the common proverb is, that experience is the teacher of fools. Since they did not become wise even when smitten, their stupidity was more than proved. We now then perceive what the Prophet means. But we must first notice, that when he bids them to ask rain of the Lord, he speaks of the kingdom of Christ, as all the Prophets are wont to do; for since the Redeemer, promised to the Jews, was to be the author of all blessings, whenever the Prophets speak of his coming, they also promise abundance of corn, and plentiful provisions, and peace, and everything necessary for the well-being of the present life. And Zechariah now follows the same course, when he declares that it was not owing to anything in God that he did not kindly supply the Jews with whatever they might have wished, but that the fault was with themselves; for they had by their unbelief, as it has been said, closed the door against his favour. We must yet ever remember what we stated yesterday - that whatever the Prophets have said concerning a blessed life, ought to be judged of according to the nature of the kingdom of Christ. It is a strained interpretation to say that rain is heavenly doctrine; and I do not say that Zechariah spoke allegorically, but he describes under this common figure the kingdom of Christ - even that God will fill his elect with all good things, so that they shall not thirst, nor labour under any want. But at the same time we must bear in mind the exhortation of Christ - "Seek ye first the kingdom of God; other things," he says, "shall afterwards be added." (Matt. 6: 33.) He then is strangely wrong who thinks that abundance of food was alone promised to the Jews; for God intended to lead them by degrees to things higher. The Prophet then no doubt includes here, under one kind, all things necessary for a happy life; for it is not the will of God to fill his faithful people in this world as though they were swine; but his design is to give them, by means of earthly things, a taste of the spiritual life. Hence the happiness of which Zechariah now speaks is really spiritual; for as godliness has the promises of the present as well as of the future life, (1 Tim. 4: 8,) so the purpose of God was to consult the weakness of his ancient people, and to set forth the felicity of the spiritual life by means of earthly blessings. It ought further to be carefully noticed, that the Jews are here exposed to derision, because they wandered after their own devices, when God was yet not far from them, and ready to aid them. Since God then showed himself inclined to kindness, it was a double wickedness in them that they chose to run after idols, magical arts, and the illusions of Satan, rather than to acquiesce in God's word. And similar is the upbraiding we meet with in Jeremiah, when God complains that he was forsaken, while yet he was the fountain of living water, and that the people dug out for themselves cisterns, dry and full of holes. (Jer. 2: 13.) But as this evil is very common, let us know that we are here warned to plant our foot firm on God's word, where he promises that he will take care of us, provided we be satisfied with his favour; nor let us thoughtlessly run after our own imaginations; for however our own counsels may delight us, and though some success may sometimes appear, yet the end will ever show us that most true is what Zechariah teaches us here - that whatever we may attempt will be useless and injurious too, for God will take vengeance on our ingratitude. We must now also observe, that since Zechariah adduces an example of God's vengeance, by which the Jews had found that they had foolishly sought vain consolations, we ought to take heed, lest we forget those punishments with which God may have visited us in order to restore us to himself: let us remember what we ourselves have experienced, and what has happened to our fathers, even before we were born. Thus then ought the faithful to apply their minds so as to recount the judgements of God, that they may derive profit from his scourges. He afterwards adds - Zechariah 10:3 Mine anger was kindled against the shepherds, and I punished the goats: for the LORD of hosts hath visited his flock the house of Judah, and hath made them as his goodly horse in the battle. He had said that the Jews had been driven into exile, and had been oppressed by their enemies, because they had no shepherd; not indeed to lessen their fault, for they were wholly inexcusable, since they had wilful]y renounced God, who would have been otherwise their perpetual shepherd: but he now turns his discourse to the false teachers, to the false prophets and to the wicked priests. Though then they were all unworthy of pardon, yet God here justly summons the shepherds first before his tribunal, who had been the cause of making others to go astray: as when a blind man leads the blind into a ditch, so ungodly pastors become the cause of ruin to others. We have elsewhere observed similar passages, in which God threatened priests and prophets with special punishment, because they had unfaithfully discharged their office; but yet he did not absolve the common people, for from the least to the greatest they were guilty; and it is also certain that men are punished for their obstinacy and wickedness, whenever God gives loose reins to the devil, and deceives them by ungodly teachers. We now then see the order observed by the Prophet: At the beginning of the chapter he declares that the Jews were without excuse, because they had turned aside again to their own superstitions, though God had severely punished the sins of their fathers, and that thus they had profited nothing; he also shows that they were acting perversely, if they clamoured against God, that he scantily or badly supported them, for they did not look for any thing from him, nor solicited by prayer what he was prepared willingly to grant them. Having thus reproved generally the wickedness of the whole people, the Prophet now assails the ungodly priests, and says that judgement was nigh both the shepherd and the he-goats. He gives the name of pastors to wolves, which is a common thing. And here the Papists betray their folly, laying hold of words only, and claiming to themselves all power, because they are called pastors in the Church, and as though Antichrist was not to reign in the temple of God. Does not Zechariah give an honourable name to these wicked men who destroyed the Church of God? Yea, he brings a most heavy charge against them, that they scattered and trampled under their feet the whole kingdom of God, and yet he calls them pastors, even because they held the office of pastors, though they were very far from being faithful, and in no respect attended to their duties. He then concedes the name of pastors to those who had been called to rule the people, and to whom this office had been divinely committed; and yet God declares that he would visit them, because they had elicited his just displeasure. The same is said of the he-goats, by which metaphorical name he means all those who were governors, or were in rank above the common people. Those who injured and cruelly treated the sheep had been called he-goats by other Prophets, and especially by Ezekiel (Ezek. 34: 17.) So then he adds the he-goats to the pastors, because the poor and the lower orders had been led to ruin through their misconduct. And it hence appears how dear to God is the salvation of men; for he denounces vengeance on pastors, though they had not exercised tyranny except on men worthy of such punishment; for it was the just wages of their sins, that the Lord gave them wolves instead of shepherds. But though the Jews had merited such a judgement, yet God was angry with the pastors on account of his constant solicitude for his Church. And the reason is also added, For visit will God his flock, the house of Judah; as though he had said, that he would not regard what the Jews were, but would regard his own election; for greatly valued by God is his own adoption; and as he had been pleased to choose that people, he could not have allowed them to be destroyed. When therefore he saw that his Church had been so much exposed to destruction through the fault of the pastors, he alleges here as a reason for his future vengeance, that he could not endure his favour to be brought to nothing; nor is it to be doubted but that he mentions here the house of Judah, because he had restored and consecrated that people to himself, that he might be served by them. He then takes away from the false pastors every pretence for an excuse, when he brings forward his own election, as though he had said, "Though this people had provoked me a hundred times, and deserved a hundred deaths, yet I intended you to be pastors, because the house of Judah has been made sacred to me." But the visitation of the flock is different from that of the shepherds; for God visits the reprobate, being armed with vengeance, and he visits his own people by aiding them. Now the visitation of the flock refers to the whole house of Judah: and this was owing, as we have said, to their gratuitous adoption; yet the Lord suffered many to rush headlong into ruin, because he delivered only his own elect. It is indeed a mode of speaking that often occurs in the Prophets - that God would help the children of Abraham, when he means only those who were Israelites indeed, and not the degenerated. He adds that they would be as a splendid horse in war. A contrast is here no doubt implied between splendid horses and asses or oxen; for these shepherds who had tyrannically oppressed God's people, are said to be like violent riders who ride on asses and shamefully abuse them, or like herdsman, who treat their own oxen inhumanely. God then says that he would ride his people in another manner, even as the horseman, who sits splendidly on his horse when going to battle: for even kings, after having ridden a horse in battle, do afterwards wish it to be well taken care of; and they show much solicitude for their horses, and even go to the stable that they may see, if possible, with their own eyes, that they are properly attended to. God then thus intimates, that he indeed required obedience from his people, and intended to retain his own right, to ride as it were on his own people; but yet that he would not oppress them, and that on the contrary he would make them like a splendid horse. We now then perceive why the Prophet turns his discourse here especially to the false shepherds, not indeed to extenuate the fault of the whole people, for none among them was worthy of pardon. It follows - Zechariah 10:4 Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nail, out of him the battle bow, out of him every oppressor together. There is here a confirmation of the last verse, but the metaphors are different; for he says, that the Jews would be fortified by every defence necessary for their security; nor is he inconsistent with himself. In the last chapter he indeed taught us, that though exposed to all kinds of wrongs, they would yet be safe through aid from heaven; but now he promises that there would come from them the corner-stone, the nail, the bow, and the exactor; and this seems a different doctrine; but it is the same as though he had promised, that though they stood in need of many helps, they would yet be sufficiently furnished, as God would be ready to aid them whenever there was need. By the corner-stone he means the firmness of the building; from the Jews then shall be the corner-stone; that is, there shall ever be among that people those capable of carrying on the public government: then, from thee the nail; beams, we know, and other parts of the building, are fastened by nails, and we know also, that the ceiling is thereby made secure. Zechariah then mentions here all the supports which sustain a building from its very foundation. He afterwards adds, the bow of war, that is, what is necessary to overcome enemies; and, lastly, the exactor, one who has power over bordering nations, and demands tribute or tax from them, as conquerors are wont to do from their subjects. We now see what the Prophet means - that when God would manifest his care for his people and openly show his favour, the Jews would be fortified by all kinds of help, so as to be well established, and that they would possess so much public authority as to have strength enough to resist all enemies; in short, that they would gain the fruit of conquest, and constrain all nations to be tributaries to them. If any one asks when has this been fulfilled, my answer is, that some preludes of this were given when God raised up the Maccabees, and made the Jews again to live according to their own laws, and to enjoy their own rights; but no doubt the Prophet includes the whole course of redemption. As then God redeemed his people only to a small extent until Christ appeared, it is no wonder that Zechariah, in speaking of full and complete redemption, extends his words to the kingdom of Christ, and this was necessary. We hence learn, that the Church stands abundantly firm, and is also furnished with all needful things, while it continues under the protection of God, and that it is endued with sufficient power to resist all its enemies. It follows - Zechariah 10:5 And they shall be as mighty men, which tread down their enemies in the mire of the streets in the battle: and they shall fight, because the LORD is with them, and the riders on horses shall be confounded. He confirms what I have already said - that the Jews would be victorious over all nations. Though the Church is fighting under the cross, she yet triumphs over all the wicked, partly by hope and partly by present success; for God wonderfully sustains it, and makes the faithful to possess their souls in patience; and he also protects them by his own power, and renders them safe amidst all the roarings and insatiable rage of their enemies. Since then God thus strengthens the minds of his people, and cherishes in them the hope of salvation, and also defends them against raging assaults, it is no wonder that the Prophet testifies that the church would be victorious, treading down, as a giant or a strong man, her enemies in the mire. He gives the reason, For Jehovah will be with them; and this he said, that they might know that nothing in this case would be their own, but that they might, on the contrary, learn to depend on God's aid alone. And he explains this still more clearly at the end of the verse, by saying, Ashamed shall be the riders on horses; that is, their strength and velour, their use of arms and their skill in handling them, shall avail them nothing, for the Lord will lay prostrate, notwithstanding their arrogance and pride, all those wicked men who in their cruelty devour the faithful, and think that they have strength more than enough to destroy the Church: the Lord will cause all these things to pass away like mist. Prayer. Grant, Almighty God, that since constant fightings await us here, and our infirmities are so great that without thy power supporting us we cannot but fall every moment, - O grant, that we may learn to recomb on that help which thou hast promised, and which thou hast also offered to us, and dost daily offer through the Gospel in thine only-begotten Son; and may we distrust our own strength, yea, may we be overwhelmed with despair as to ourselves, not indeed that we may despond, but that we may look upward and seek the aid of thy Spirit, so that we may not doubt but that we shall be equal to our enemies, and even be victorious over them, until having at length finished our warfare, we shall reach that blessed rest which has been obtained for us by the blood of thine only Son. - Amen. (Calvin... on Zechariah) Continued in Part 23... ---------------------------------------------------- file: /pub/resources/text/ipb-e/epl-09: cvzec-22.txt .