The Biblical Illustrator
Ask ye of the Lord rain in the time of the latter rain
The rainfall in Palestine is normally periodical; occasional showers and even storms of rain may occur at any season, but as a rule it is at the time of the autumnal and that of the vernal equinox that the rain for the year falls.
These two periodic seasons of rain the Hebrews spoke of as the early and the latter ram; and on the occurrence of them the fruitfulness of the field and the return of the harvest depended. In other passages both the former and the latter rain are referred to as indispensable to this. At an early period God promised to Israel that He would give the rain of their land in due season, the first rain and the latter rain, that they might gather in their corn, manifestation of special regard for His people by Jehovah (comp. Hosea 6:3; Joel 2:23; Isaiah 30:23; Jeremiah 5:24). The latter rain only is mentioned here, probably because this was the more important for the fructification of the grain; and possibly also, because, being this, it might be regarded as including or representing temporal blessing generally. This the prophet here exhorts the people to ask of the Lord “at the time of the latter rain,” s.c., at the season when it was due; though God had promised it to His people, it was fitting and needful that they should pray to Him for it at the time when it was required. This “direction to ask” does not “simply express the readiness of God to grant their request”; it does this, for when God enjoins on men the asking for blessing, He implicitly engages to give the blessing asked for; but besides this, and even more than this, there is intimated here that the obtaining of promised blessing is conditioned by its being specially asked of God in the season of need. God’s promises are given not to supersede prayer, but rather to encourage and stimulate to prayer. (W. L. Alexander, D. D.)
The latter rain
The “latter rain” was that which fell in the spring, and which was instrumental in bringing the corn into the ear and filling it; so that if this rain failed, the husbandman would be disappointed of his harvest, notwithstanding all his previous industry, skill, and anxiety. He was indeed dependent also on the “former” rain, that which fell at the seeding time; but there would be a yet more bitter disappointment, for there would be the utter loss of much labour, the fruitless expenditure of much effort and hope, if the “latter rain” were withheld. And, consequently, there was even greater reason for his asking rain in “the time of the latter rain” than in that of “the former.” If the “former rain” were withheld, he might make some other use of his capital and enterprise; but if “the latter,” his disaster scarce admitted of repair. Take it metaphorically, and the “latter rain” is the grace needed for ripening the believer and fitting him for heaven. God may give “the latter rain,” if the husbandman, conscious of his dependence on God for the harvest, continue meekly to supplicate the necessary showers; He may withhold the rain, if the husbandman, calculating on the ordinary course of His dealings, grow remiss in petitioning, and give up his fields to the presumed certainties of the season. There is no point in the life of a Christian at which he can do without the supply of God’s grace; none at which he can expect the supply, if he be not cultivating the spirit and habit of prayer. (H. Melvill, B. D.)
Prayer and promise
We have here expressed the connection between prayer and promise on the one hand, and prayer and the processes of nature on the other. The blessing of rain, which, to an agricultural people, was inclusive of all other temporal blessings, and symbolical of all spiritual ones, was promised; but this promise was dependent on its supplication in prayer. Just so the great blessing of the descent of the Spirit on an individual or a Church, though a free gift, must be obtained by prayer. It is this fact that makes the spirit of prayer in the Church at once an index of her piety, and of the spiritual blessings she may expect from God. When the Church pours out a fulness of prayer, God will pour out a fulness of His Spirit. The inspired writers see no difficulty in the connection between prayer and the processes of nature, such as the mole-eyed philosophy of modern times discovers. The inspired writers think that the God who has created the elements may direct them according to His will. We must not suppose that because God has begun to bless us, we may relax our prayers and efforts. The former rain may be given, but we must also ask for the latter rain. We may have the former rain of conversion, but if we would have the latter rain of ripened sanctification, we must continue to ask of God. So, also, in the revival of religion. The former rain may occur, and souls be converted, but if we would have the ripening seed in active Christians, we must ask of God, and He will give growth, greenness, and maturity. (T. V. Moore, D. D.)
God in relation to the good and the bad
I. God attends to the prayers of good men. The abundance of corn promised in the last clause of the preceding chapter depends upon rain.
1. God gives rain. A pseudo-science would ascribe “rain” and “clouds” and showers to what they call the laws of nature. The Bible directly connects them with the working of God. “He watereth the hills from His chambers: the earth is satisfied with the fruit of Thy works” (Psalms 104:13-15; Psalms 65:9-11).
2. The God who gives rain attends to human prayer. But it is not absurd, because
To cry to the Almighty in distress is an instinct of the soul. Prayer, instead of interfering with the laws of nature, is a law of nature.
II. He abominates the character of religious impostors. “For the idols [the household gods] have spoken vanity,” etc. “Thus, under such misleading guides, such selfish and unprincipled shepherds, the flock was driven about and ‘troubled.’ They had ‘no shepherd,’ no truly faithful shepherd, who took a concern in the well-being of the flock.”--Wardlaw. Now, against such impostors, Jehovah says, “Mine anger was kindled.” “That the shepherds and the goats,” says Hengstenberg, “are the heathen rulers who obtained dominion over Judah when the native government was suppressed, is evident from the contrast so emphatically pointed out in the fourth verse, where particular prominence is given to the fact that the new rulers whom God was about to appoint would be taken from the midst of the nation itself.” Are there no religious impostors now, no false teachers, no blind leading the blind, no shepherds fleecing the flocks?
III. He works in all for His people. From Him comes stability. All stability in moral character, in social order, in political prosperity, is from God. What a sublime view of the Almighty have we here! (Homilist)
Asking of the Lord
1. Mark the importance of cultivating the spirit of dependence and prayer. We are, as creatures and as sinners, dependent for everything we need, whether for the body or the soul,--for this life or the life to come. It is fitting that we should feel this dependence, and that we should give it expression. Prayer is the expression of it; but prayer is something more. It is “asking of the Lord.” It is a precious privilege; it is a sacredly incumbent duty. It is one of the Divinely ordered means for obtaining any desired good. God’s Word ascribes to it an efficacy on His own counsels and doings; its being His inducement to act in one way rather than in another.
2. But we must never be satisfied with praying. We must never separate prayer from action. The two must go together. It will not do for the husbandman to be ever on his knees, pleading that his fields may be productive. All the labour and all the skill of husbandry must be put forth by him. He must work and pray: he must pray and work. It is a mockery of God if he does otherwise. To work without praying is ungodliness and presumption; to pray without working is enthusiasm and hypocrisy. And so it is in the spiritual department. It is not enough that we pray God to “work in us to will and to do of His good pleasure.” We have no right to expect that He will hear us, or bestow upon us any portion of His gracious influences, unless, by the diligent use of the means of spiritual “improvement,” we are fulfilling the injunction, “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” In vain do Christians seek the conversion of Israel, unless they are putting forth efforts for removing the veil of ignorance and prejudice by the communication of the light of instruction. And in vain do they look for “the knowledge of the glory of the Lord” filling the earth, if all they do is praying that it may. They must send it to earth’s utmost bounds. (Ralph Wardlaw, D. D.)
So the Lord shall make bright clouds--
The water that a little while ago lay in yonder sluggish pool, is now raised up into the sky by the sun’s attraction--all its impurities left behind, and itself transformed into a cloud, which glows like emerald or sapphire in the sunlight. Can you imagine two things more utterly unlike than the stagnant pool and the radiant cloud? Yet it is precisely the same substance. It is the same water in yonder cloud, white and fleecy as an angel’s wing, that before made up the turbid pool. And what saith the Scripture? “If the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you.” This body taken, out of the stagnant pool of our fallen humanity--taken out of the corruption of death and the grave, and now filled and completely permeated by the Holy Spirit, so that it is transfigured like Christ Himself. (J. A. Gordon, D. D.)
The idols have spoken vanity
The world’s oracles
There are not many who think for themselves; and even those who are reckoned to do so, depend for the materials of thinking upon what they hear, or see, or touch.
In the things of God this must be so, much more than in others. God’s place is to speak, and ours to listen. He expects us to listen, for He has a right to speak. But it is irksome to be always in the attitude of listeners; at least, of listeners to God. We prefer guessing, or speculating, or reasoning. If we find that we must have recourse to some authority beyond ourselves, we betake ourselves to any pretender to wisdom,--and above all, to any one who professes to be the representative of the invisible God, and to speak in His name. Hence the Gentiles resorted to their “oracles,” and the apostate Jews to their “witchcrafts,” and to the household gods or teraphim. These are the “idols” referred to by Zechariah. They whom you consult as the depositories of Divine wisdom, who pretend to guide you, and to utter truth, have spoken vanity; they have cheated you with lies. Such was Israel’s history. They trusted in faithless oracles. They became the dupes of these to whom they had come for guidance in the day of perplexity. Their teraphim spoke vanity. This has been man’s history too, as well as Israel’s. He has chosen another counsellor, instead, of God; it may be the Church, or reason, or public opinion. The world’s teraphim have not been few; nor has their authority been either weak or transient. There is “public opinion,” that mysterious oracle, whose shrine is nowhere, but the echo of whose voice is everywhere. There is the standard of established custom--schools of literature, and philosophy, or theology. There is what is called the “spirit of the times.” There is the idol of personal friendships, or of admired authors, or of revered teachers. Mark on what points these teraphim mislead us. They misrepresent the real end and aim of life, assuring us that the glory of the God who made us cannot be that end, inasmuch as that is something quite transcendental, something altogether, beyond our reach, or our reason, or our sympathies. Why are men thus misled and befooled? They have no confidence in God Himself; nor have they learned to say, “Let God be tree, and every man a liar.” They seek not the Holy Spirit, nor submit themselves to Him as their teacher. Men do not like the teaching that they get from God and His Word; it does not suit their tastes. Hence they choose the prophets of smooth things, the teraphim that utter lies and vanity. But how do these teraphim speak their vanities? They do not need to do so by uttering gross error. They mingle the true and the false together; so that the true is neutralised by the false, and the false is adorned and recommended by the true. And why do these oracles speak thus? They are fond of speaking, and they like to be listened to. It is a great thing to be consulted as an oracle, and to be quoted as an authority. They have no high and sure standard of their own, and hence they can only speak according to their own foolishness. It is as the angel of light that Satan is now the world’s oracle, or rather, the inspirer of its oracles. He has changed his voice as well as his garb and aspect. He has hidden his grossness, and modified his language to suit the change. There are those who cleverly substitute philosophy for faith, reason for revelation, man’s wisdom for God’s; who prove to us that, though the Bible may contain the thoughts of God, it does not speak His words; who artfully would reason us into the belief that sin is not guilt, but only a disease; a mere moral epidemic; who maintain, with the philosophic Buddhist, that incarnation, not death, is the basis of Divine reconciliation; that the tendencies of creaturehood are all upward, not downward. As an angel of light, all his snares and sophistries partake, more or less, of light. He instructs his oracles to appeal to man’s natural humanity; to our intuitions of virtue and uprightness. The illumination coming from the Sun of Righteousness is one thing, and that proceeding from Satan, as an angel of light, is quite another. Shun the idols that speak vanity. Listen to no voice, however pleasant, save that which is entirely in harmony with God’s. (H. Bonar, D. D.)
Out of Him came forth the comer: out of Him the nail: out of Him the battle bow: out of Him every oppressor together
The duty and dignity of magistrates
Laws are in Scripture called the foundations of the commonwealth.
Magistrates are the pillars. When the Lord returns to a people in mercy, He doth give them righteous laws and gracious rulers. In this chapter you have the Lord returning unto His own people in mercy. There is a double visitation of God: one of His enemies in wrath; the other of His people in mercy. Though the appearances of God in this visitation were glorious, yet He makes themselves to be the instruments of it. God doth it, but He doth it by themselves, The text sets forth a glorious promise that God makes unto His people when they are delivered.
1. “Out of Him shall come forth the comer.” The word employed in the Hebrew is commonly a metaphor used for magistrates and governors. There are three things wherein the analogy doth lie.
2. “Out of Him shall come forth the nail.” This also is a metaphor used for governors. There is a double proposition in this metaphor.
3. “Out of Him shall come forth the battle bow.” The bow was an instrument of war much in use in ancient times, and therefore is here put for all the weapons of war, all their ammunition for, and all their discipline of war. When the Lord returns unto them in mercy, for their deliverance, they should have strength of their own against all the neighbour nations. They should be successful in war, because the Lord is with them.
4. “Out of Him every oppressor, or exactor, which I put both together.” The word means tax gatherer. Some make it signify, to exact a man’s work. An exactor of labour and of tribute are both fitly to be understood here; for God doth not only deliver His people from the power of the enemy, but doth also put the enemies into their power; so that they shall rule over the nations. This shall be the glorious condition of the Church.
You have then, in these words, the state of the people set forth after their deliverance.
1. In reference to their political state. They shall never want a governor, a faithful magistrate.
2. In their polemical state. They shall have all sorts of warlike provisions in themselves, and shall be very successful in war. Doctrine--When the Lord returns to His people in mercy, He will give them governors that shall be for the supporting, uniting, and adorning of the commonwealth.
I. To support the commonwealth.
1. Magistrates are called the foundations of the earth.
2. The breath of your nostrils.
3. The shoulders upon which all the weight is borne.
4. The arms of the people.
But how may magistrates support the commonwealth?
II. To unite the commonwealth. How can rulers aid in uniting a people?
1. Religion is the great bond of union; let it be your great care that there be a unity in religion.
2. Let magistrates take heed to agree among themselves.
3. Labour for union amongst the ministers.
4. Take away all oppression and partiality in judgment. (W. Strong.)
Because the Lord is with them
Jehovah with His people
There is nothing which so emphatically marks and so undoubtedly describes the people of the living God as His own presence with them.
1. The Lord is with His Church relatively. It is only a third part, and perhaps a small third. We might divide our own land into one-third of open enemies, one-third of false professors, and one-third of real Christians. The third part only are really spiritual characters, having the blessing of vital godliness. These shall remain; they shall be “left.” God is with them relatively, that is, He is with them in covenant union eternally.
2. The Lord is with His Church experimentally. God has always been with His Church, as a body, and with the individual members.
3. The Lord is with His Church perpetually. It is His promise, “I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
Consider how this fact that Jehovah is with His people, explains some mysteries. “Because the Lord is with them.”
1. Then they shall fight victoriously and successfully. This explains why their enemies cannot destroy them.
2. For this same reason the truth of God must triumph. Note the distinct character of the Church and their destiny, as set forth in this text. Life Divine is a pledge of life eternal. Ii God be with you, your religion is a thing of life. God’s yea and amen are stamped upon His people. (Joseph Irons.)
Victory, unification, and blessedness far the good
I. Victory. This victory was--
1. Complete. The enemies were trodden down as “mire in the streets.”
2. Divine. “Because the Lord is with them.”
3. Reinvigorating. “I will strengthen the house of Judah.” They would be strengthened by their victory, not only in wealth and security, but in courage.
4. Extensive. “And they of Ephraim shall be like a mighty man, and their heart shall rejoice as through wine: yea, their children shall see it, and be glad; their heart shall rejoice in the Lord.” “The prophet had,” says Hengstenberg, “occupied himself first of an with Judah, the centre of the people of God.” In Zechariah 10:6 he proceeds to speak of Judah and Ephraim together. In this verse, and those which follow, he fixes his attention peculiarly upon Ephraim, which looked in the prophet’s day like a withered branch that had been severed from the vine. He first promises that descendants of the citizens of the former kingdom of the ten tribes will also take part in the glorious conflict, and then announces the return of the ten tribes from their exile, which was to be the condition of their participating in the battle. Now, all these facts connected with this victory apply to that victory the grandest of all,--the victory of all true souls over error and wrong.
II. Unification. “I will hiss for them, and gather them,” etc. Observe--
1. The ease with which the regathering win be effected. “I will hiss [or whistle] for them.” The word is understood as referring to a particular whistle used by the shepherd for calling his scattered flock together, or by those who have the care of bees, to bring them into the hive. “As sheep flock together at the well-known call of the shepherd, as bees follow in swarms the shrill note of the beemaster, so should the Lord, by His own means, gather His scattered people from their dispersions, how widely soever distant, and bring them to Himself and to their heritage.” With what ease God does His work; a mere look, a breath, a word!
2. The regions to which the regathering will extend. “And I will sow them among the people,”--or, as it should be rendered, “though I have scattered them among the nations,”--“and they shall remember Me in far countries [distant regions]; they shall live with their children, and turn again.” They had been scattered, not only through Egypt and Assyria. It does not say that all Jews shall return, but a great multitude is implied.
3. The scene at which the regathering will take place. “I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt,” etc.
4. The national catastrophes which the regathering will involve. “And he shall pass through the sea with affliction, and shall smite the waves in the sea, and all the deeps of the river shall dry up.” There is evidently an allusion here to their first deliverance from Egypt; and it means that something similar to that event will occur in the course of their regathering (see Exodus 24:4-14). “And the pride of Assyria shall be brought down, and the sceptre of Egypt shall depart away.” The idea probably is, that as “the haughty boastings of Sennacherib, and the sceptred power of Pharaoh proved alike feeble and unavailing against the might of Jehovah in former days, so should all the combined opposition of the most inveterate enemies prove in days to come. Before Him,--when He had a purpose to fulfil, or promise to His people to accomplish,--all pride should be abased, all power baffled, all counsel turned to foolishness.” Now there is a unification, of which this is but a faint emblem--the unification of the good of all ages. “They shall come from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south, and shall sit down with Isaac and with Jacob.” What a blessed union is this!
III. Blessedness. Here is the highest strength. “And I will strengthen them in the Lord,”
1. Whether this refers to their national strength, their security in their own country, or moral strength,--strength of faith in Him,--or all, one thing is clear, that to be strengthened in the Lord is the highest strength we can get. The greatest blessing of life is strength: physical strength, to do with ease and to endure with patience. Intellectual strength, strength to master with ease all the great problems of life, and to reach a theory of being in which the understanding can repose free from all disturbing doubt. These strengths are blessings; but moral strength,--strength to resist the wrong, to pursue the right, to serve Almighty God with acceptance, and to bless the race with beneficent influences,--this indeed is the perfection of our blessedness. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might,” says Paul. “He giveth power to the faint, and to them that have no might He increaseth strength.”
2. Here is the highest exercise. “They shall walk up and down in His name, saith the Lord.”
Judah and Joseph
There can be no question that the gradual development of the great principles of the Reformation has led to a corresponding discovery of the duty and obligation of Christians towards God’s ancient people. But our interest in the Jewish question should be based upon sound scriptural principles. If we confine our view exclusively to the hopes which unfulfilled prophecy presents, we shall be in danger of indulging speculations inconsistent with the history of the past, and irreconcilable with present duty. If we confine attention to the present aspect of the Jewish people, to the exclusion of the consideration of prophecy, we descend to the arena of political expediency. The destinies of the world are inseparably bound up with the Jewish people. In making any effort for the evangelisation of the Jew, there are three points demanding attention.
I. The persons to whom we are directing our efforts. In the text we have an address to the two grand divisions of the nation,--Judah, and Joseph or Israel; and a blessing common to both is secured by virtue of the covenant relation in which God stands to them mutually. “I am the Lord their God,” If we can find traces of Judah, and none of Joseph, probably the latter are in reserve, and sooner or later will come into the enjoyment of the promised mercy. It is objected, that the words of the text were fulfilled upon the restoration of the Jews after the captivity in Babylon. But the prophecy of Zechariah was delivered to the remnant which had returned. If Zechariah foretells fuller blessings than any which had been enjoyed up to the period of the restoration from Babylon, when were they enjoyed? If the two divisions or families of Israel returned after the Babylonish captivity, the distinction between Judah and Ephraim was at an end; and the conditions of the national covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, so far as the land, the city, and the possession of the inheritance was concerned, must have been accomplished. But the facts of the case do not correspond with any of the leading provisions of the covenant.
1. Instead of an increase, there was a decrease of population.
2. The extent of territory inhabited by Jews after the captivity was even more limited than that which had been apportioned to the tribes by Joshua, and much less than that which was promised to Abraham.
3. Their civil polity did not correspond to the promise (Ezekiel 37:22-24; Hosea 1:11).
4. If the return from Babylon was a restoration, and only one restoration is spoken of by the prophets, then how can we explain the full declaration in our text, “They shall be as though I had not cast them off”? Where are the myriads of Israelites who in their hiding place have been in existence, and have been multiplying, for all we know, since the days of Shahnaneser until now? The little remnant sojourning in these western portions of the world can only be regarded as emigrants from a vast and populous nation, whose locality is as yet unknown and unvisited by us.
II. The grounds for supposing that any success will attend our efforts. We may assume that the nation of Israel has not lost its place in the Divine purpose. However secretly and obscurely to us, the Jews occupy as important and influential a position in reference to other nations of the world as in the days of old. The fortunes of Israel have ever been bound up with the destinies of nations; and we have no reason to suppose that this universal rule of the Divine administration has been or will be departed from. The Jews have been and are the index to prophecy. We authenticate chronology and balance historical accuracy by reference to this wonderful people. If, under the Old Testament dispensation, the kingdoms of the Gentiles performed their appointed course around the visible centre of Israel, we must also believe that under the New Testament, which is a supplement of the Old, the empires of the world are now revolving round the same centre, although obscured and unseen.
III. The privilege of participating in these efforts.
1. It is a privilege to have the grace of faith and prayer continually exercised. Effort for the good of Israel is a work of faith from first to last. No temporal or international advantage can enter into the consideration of it; no worldly or selfish motive can be charged upon those who engage in it. The friend of Israel walks by faith, not by sight. What encouragement is now presented in the results of work for the Jews! But mercy to Israel is mercy to the world. God has declared His will concerning “the precious sons of Zion.” It is a privilege to know that the truth of God’s Word is tested by His faithfulness to Israel. What is promised to individuals is promised to the nation. If the promises (such as Isaiah 24:1-23; Isaiah 25:1-12; Isaiah 26:1-21.; Hosea 13:14; 1 Corinthians 15:54; Matthew 23:39, etc.) belong not to the nation, they belong not unto us. It would be a strange inconsistency for us as Gentiles to employ these passages as a ground of our hope of a resurrection, and withhold them from the Jewish nation, who read them literally as a promise to their fathers (Acts 23:6; Acts 24:21; Acts 26:6-7). Do we look for the return of Christ? Then let us reconcile the contemporaneous existence of the earthly and heavenly Jerusalem. Jesus, the light of the Gentiles, is the glory of His people Israel. Gentile fulness and Israel’s glory will flow in together. Like the sudden burst of two fountains they will join their living streams, and fill to overflowing the long-prepared channels, and flood the universe with blessing, and the “knowledge of the glory of the Lord will cover the earth as the waters cover the sea.” (W. R. Fremantle, M. A.)
I will hiss for them, and gather them; for I have redeemed them
Gathering the redeemed
The persons. “The redeemed.” Redeemed in consequence of God’s everlasting love towards them; for had they not been loved of the Father, they would never have been given to Christ, in order to be redeemed by Him. Redeemed from the law’s curse; and from all iniquity; from the wrath to come.
II. The promise. “I will gather them.” This implies that the redeemed are by nature in a scattered state, or in a state of alienation from God. How universal is the departure. “We have turned everyone to his own way,” which is a sinful way, a God-dishonouring, and a soul-distressing way. The gathering work is accomplished in regeneration, at which time they are gathered to Christ for life and salvation: they are gathered or folded together in Church fellowship; and shall by and by be gathered as wheat into the garner.
III. The mean to be made use of. I will hiss for them”; i.e., I will call for them; make the peculiar sound which they will heed, as a shepherd does to call his sheep around him. Shepherds used a whistle. The Redeemer called for His people, by the prophets of old; by John the Baptist; He Called them Himself when He was here upon earth. He called them by His apostles; He calls them now by His ministers. (S. Barnard.)
The interposition of mercy
This passage refers to God’s ancient people, who, for their crimes, had been scattered, but whom He here promises shall be gathered and blessed.
I. The interposition of mercy realised. “I have redeemed them.” By this I understand the redemption by the Son of God. The mediation of Jesus Christ is the meritorious cause of all good to sinful man. All the peace and happiness we possess is due to this mediation. It is the medium of all spiritual good to men individually.
II. The interposition of mercy designed. “I will hiss for them, and gather them.”
1. The end proposed. They are to be gathered. This leads us to reflect on their past condition.
2. The place of their assembling. They shall come to the Cross of the Saviour, to receive from Him all the blessings they need. They shall come to the bosom of the Church.
3. The result of their gathering will be their blessedness and the Divine honour.
4. The instrumentality God will employ. “I will hiss for them.” The allusion is to the shepherd’s pipe or whistle. It has pleased the Lord, in all ages of time, to gather men by means of human agency.
III. The church’s future prosperity. The convulsions of nations, the revolutions of empires shall but contribute to the establishment of His kingdom. His signature is inscribed on every part of the earth; all is His, and He shall soon take possession. (W. Lucy.)
And I will sow them among the people
At the end of the seventy years’ captivity the people of God’s ancient choice were distributed through Parthia, Media, Persia, Mesopotamia, Cappadocia, Pontus, Phrygia, Pamphylia, Egypt, Libya and Rome, Crete and Arabia.
Everywhere, throughout the great Roman Empire, they fell into the ground to die. So far as their natural life was concerned, they seemed on the point of being obliterated among the nations of the world; but you might as well talk of the obliteration of the seed which the husbandman casts into the autumn furrows. They built their synagogues, throve in the quarters assigned to them in the great cities, and disseminated new conceptions of God, high ethical standards, a fresh religious speech, destined to be of incalculable service to the early preachers of Christ’s Evangel. It was thus with the first believers. By the rough hand of the persecutor, the rich wheat of Pentecost, which had lain too long in the bin of the mother Church, was scattered abroad throughout the regions of Judaea and Samaria. “They therefore that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the Word.” “They therefore that were scattered abroad, upon the tribulation that arose about Stephen, travelled as far as Phoenicia, and Cyprus, and Antioch.” These spring sewings yielded a marvellous return. How many illustrations have existed, throughout the entire history of the Church, of the effect of God’s sowings! ”My Father is the Husbandman,” said our Lord. With both hands He has prosecuted His work of sowing. There was a grand quality in the corn of the Waldensian Valleys, in the Paulicians, the Hussites, the Lollards, which was sown by the Master in the dungeons of the Inquisition, in mockings and scourgings, in bonds and imprisonment, in the fires of martyrdom, and in the current of swiftly flowing rivers. But what harvests it all yielded! There was, for instance, the harvest of the Reformation in Germany, of the Huguenots in France, and of the Puritans in England. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
And I will strengthen them in the Lord
Further and continuing grace
This prophecy is closed with a promise concerning their way and carriage for whom the Lord doth all this, that they shall be encouraged and strengthened to be a holy people, and to persevere in faith and obedience, which is to be understood of the elect and truly godly among them, who yet at that time will be very many.
1. When the Lord hath done greatest things for Him people, it is yet a new gift to give them the use thereof, to encourage and strengthen them thereby, for it is a new promise. “I will strengthen them.”
2. I As God can easily encourage the most feeble and faint hearted, so their Sure grip of it is to have it laid up in God for them, and by faith and depend once draw it forth as there is need.
3. Encouragement in God is only well improven when it is made use of to strengthen unto holiness and perseverance, which is the only sweet fruit of all mercies, rendering them comfortable to the receiver, when he is led nearer God by them. “They shall walk” in their duty.
4. Holiness is then rightly set about, when we are constantly in it, when we adhere close to the rule, when by faith we drag furniture out of God, and aim at His glory, and give Him the glory of all our performances.
5. The Lord needs not be hindered to show Himself gracious, by the unworthiness and unholiness of His people, but when He is about to do them good, He can be surety to Himself, that the fruit thereof shall be forthcoming to His glory, and can make them He doth much for, to be such a people as His dealing toward them obliges them to be, therefore, after all the former promises, the Lord Himself undertakes to make them holy.
6. The sweet comfort and refreshment of the promises will only be felt by those who dwell much on the study of God the Promise Maker, and consider how all-sufficient He is, and how worthy to be credited for the performance of what He promiseth. Therefore doth He subscribe His name to all this prophecy. “Saith Jehovah.” (George Hutcheson.)
Strong in God
Speaking of “England’s Forgotten Worthies” of the sixteenth century, Mr. Froude says, “Wherever we find them, they are still the same; whether in the courts of Japan or China, fighting Spaniards in the Pacific, or prisoners among the Algerines, founding colonies that were by and by to grow into enormous Transatlantic republics, or exploring in crazy pinnaces the fierce latitude of the Polar seas, they are the same indomitable, God-fearing men, whose life was one great liturgy. ‘The ice was strong, but God was stronger,’ says one of Frobisher’s men after grinding a night and a day among the icebergs; not waiting for God to come sown and split the ice for them but toiling through the long hours, himself and the rest fending off the vessel with poles and planks, with death glaring at them out of the rocks. Icebergs were strong, Spaniards were strong, and storms, and corsairs, and rocks, and reefs, which no chart had then noted--they were all strong, but God was stronger, and that was all which they cared to know.”
Walking in God’s name
The Rev. John McNeil says, “I owe more than I can tell to my father. He had a habit of which he never spoke to us, nor we to him. He was a quarryman, and I used to hear him going downstairs in the dark mornings, and, standing on the threshold before passing out, he would say aloud, ‘I go today in God’s name.’ Then, strong in that strength, would trudge off to the quarry, the blasting and risks of the work. I can never forget the impression this made upon me, and thankfully say today, ‘My father’s God is mine.’” (Christian World Pulpit.)
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Zechariah 10". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 20 / Ordinary 25