Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THAT THEY ARE CAPABLE OF PERPETRATING THE GREATEST ENORMITIES ON THEIR FELLOW MEN. "The city of Jerusalem shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished." In the account given by Josephus of the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, we have a record of enormities at which we might well stand aghast. Christ said, concerning this event, "There shall be great tribulation, such as was not from the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be." "The particulars," says Dr. Wardlaw, "here noted, are such as usually, it might be said invariably, attend the besieging, the capture, and the sacking of cities; especially when, as in this case, the assailing army has been exasperated by a long, harassing, and wasting defence. The entrance of the unpitying soldiery, the rifling of houses, the violation of women, the indiscriminate massacre, and the division of the spoil, are just what all expect, and what require no comment. And never were such scenes more frightfully realized than at the destruction of Jerusalem, when God in his providence, in judicial retribution, gathered all nations against the devoted city to battle." "All nations," a correct description of the army of Titus, the empire of Rome embracing a large proportion of the then known world, and this army consisting of soldiers of all the different nations which composed it. And, while such was to be the destruction brought upon the "city," the desolation was to extend, and that in different ways, at short intervals, throughout "the land." The fact that men are capable of perpetrating on their fellow men such enormities, shows:
1. Man's apostasy from the laws of his spiritual nature. To love supremely the supremely good, to do unto others what we would have others do unto us, to love and to be loved, seem to us to be truths inscribed upon the very constitution of the soul. They are instinctive truths. But in all such abominations as here recorded, all these are outraged. Men have fallen away from their own nature. Somehow or other they have become denaturalized.
2. The great work which the gospel has to do in our world. The great mission of the gospel (and admirably adapted it is to its mission), is morally to renew human nature, to bring it back to its true self and its God. It has done so in millions of instances, it is doing so and will continue to do so until the present abominations shall be unknown amongst the race.
II. THAT WHATEVER ENORMITIES THEY PERPETRATE, THEY ARE EVERMORE INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE WORLD'S GREAT RULER. The period in which these abominations were enacted is in the text called the "day of the Lord," and he is represented as calling the Gentile armies to the work. "I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished." If we are to particularize the predicted destruction, and are not satisfied with figurative explanation, we may look to the conquest under Titus, as in some sort fulfilling the announcement. Rome at this time was the mistress of the world, and the army of Titus, who besieged and sacked the holy city, was composed of soldiers of all the nations. These all moved freely, unconscious of any Divine restraint; still they were but the "sword" of justice in his hand - mere instruments. God in his retributive procedure punishes the bad by the bad. In this case:
1. No injustice is done. The men of Jerusalem deserved their fate. They "filled up the measure of their iniquity." So it was of old with the Canaanites, who were exterminated by Joshua and his triumphant hosts - the aborigines deserved what they received. Joshua was but the sword of justice. No injustice therefore is done.
2. There is no infringement of free agency. Good men might revolt from inflicting such enormities upon their fellow creatures, but it is according to the wish of bad men. They go to it freely. It is the gratification of their malign nature. This is God's retributive method, to punish the bad by the bad. Thus he makes the very wrath of bad men to praise him.
III. THAT ALTHOUGH THEY ARE BUT INSTRUMENTS IN THE HANDS OF THE WORLD'S RULER, HE WILL PUNISH THEM FOR ALL THEIR DEEDS OF ENORMITY. "Then shall the Lord go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle." That is, for example, he will fight against Rome, the instrument with which he inflicted just punishment upon the sinners at Jerusalem. By successive irruptions of the barbarous tribes of the north, the glory of Rome was extinguished, and its end hastened. Where is the justice of punishing men whom he employs to execute his own will? Two facts will answer this question.
1. What they did was essentially bad. Murder, plunder, rapine, etc., were all violations of his great moral laws, and repugnant to his holy nature.
2. What they did was in accord with their own wills. He never inspired them nor constrained them. They were free, and because they committed crimes of their own free accord, eternal justice required their punishment. Of the Divine government, the justice cried, "Awake, O sword!"
CONCLUSION. Do not let the abominations of war and the outrages on justice, truth, and humanity, which are rife in this country of ours, shake our faith in God. "The Lord reigneth; let the earth rejoice;" "The Lord sitteth upon the flood." - D.T.
I. HE OBSERVES THEIR TERRIBLE CONDITION. "And his feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east." On this Mount of Olives Jesus often stood, and from it he commanded a view of the holy city; on one occasion, from its brow, he beheld the city, and wept over it on account of its approaching doom. But the idea suggested here is that God observes men in all their calamities and dangers. His eye is on them. He watches them with the interest of a Father. This is especially the case with his people. We are assured that his eye is ever upon the righteous. Job said, "He knoweth the way that I take." Let us remember, in our greatest trials and sufferings, that he stands on the Mount of Olives. In standing there:
1. He sees what we have to endure.
2. He sees how we behave ourselves in our condition, whether under our afflictions we are trustful, patient, and submissive, or otherwise; whether in our perils we are making an effort to escape. How comforting it is to feel that the eye of a tender, compassionate Father is ever on us, in all our sufferings, in this world of sorrow, trial, and dangers! "Thou compassest my path and my lying down, and art acquainted with all my ways."
II. HE MAKES A WAY FOR THEIR DELIVERANCE. "And the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley" "These verses," says Dr. Henderson, "convey in language of the most beautiful poetical imagery, the assurance of the effectual means of escape that should be provided for the truly pious. We accordingly learn from Eusebius that on the breaking out of the Jewish war, the Christian Church at Jerusalem, in obedience to the warning of our Saviour (Matthew 24:16), fled to Pella, a city beyond Jordan, where they lived in safety. As the Mount of Olives lay in their way, it is represented as cleaving into two halves, in order to make a passage for them." it is not necessary to suppose that the Mount of Olives was thus riven asunder. The idea is that the obstruction to their escape, though formidable as a mountain, should be removed. Christ had said, "Let them which be in Judaea flee unto the mountains," etc. It was their duty, therefore, to do so. And here is promised the removal of every obstruction. The Almighty would give them every facility to escape to the refuge. This he does for our suffering race. He makes a way for their escape. He makes the crooked places straight, and the rough places smooth. The way for their escape from guilt, ignorance, and misery, which has been blocked up by mountains of difficulties, he has reade straight. The mountains have been cleft asunder, nay, removed. Christ is the Way.
III. HE PROVIDES A REFUGE FOR THEIR SAFETY. "And ye shall flee to the valley of the mountains; for the valley of the mountains shall reach unto Azal: yea, ye shall flee, like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah King of Judah." Mark here three things.
1. The scene of refuge. "Azal." Where is this "Azal"? No one knows. Its position is a matter of pure conjecture. Nor does it matter. It was some asylum to secure them from danger. God has provided a refuge for sinners. We are exhorted to flee to the Refuge set before us in the gospel.
2. The impulse of flight. "Like as ye fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah King of Judah."
3. The necessity of the flight. "The Lord my God shall come." Providential dispensations are often spoken of in the Scripture as the coming of the Lord. The destruction of Jerusalem is spoken of as his coming, and here it is assured as a certainty, the ruin was inevitable. "There is not a word," says a modern expositor, "concerning this earthquake as spoken of in Scripture history." The only other allusion to it occurs in the Book of Amos, who was amongst the herdmen of Tekoa, "which he saw concerning Israel in the days of Uzziah King of Judah, and in the days of Jeroboam the son of Joash King of Israel, two years before the earthquake." It must have been something extraordinary, unusually extensive and awful, when it is thus used to date a period, and, at the same time, as having occasioned such a flight from the destruction wrought by it as to render it a suitable comparison for the prophet here. Fear was to be their inspiration in flight. As the people fled panic stricken from the presence of the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, they were to flee from the dangers at Jerusalem. "Men and brethren, what shall we do?"
CONCLUSION. How thankful should we be to know that God has not deserted humanity in its sins and sorrows! His eye is on it. He has provided a Way for its escape, and a safe Refuge to which it should flee. Our world, bad as it is, is not a God-deserted world. - D.T.
I. TO IMPRESS US WITH THE GREATNESS OF GOD. There are forces great and terrible. But back of all, and controlling all, is God. So the prophets taught, and so we believe (Psalm 68:8; Psalm 104:32; Jeremiah 25:9-14; Exodus 19:18).
II. TO HUMBLE US UNDER A SENSE OF OUR UTTER HELPLESSNESS. Many things possible to man. Can tame the wild beasts and subdue the earth. Can make fire and air and water his servants. But there are times when he feels his impotence. When the earthquake comes, can only say, "It is the will of the Lord" (Isaiah 2:19-22).
III. TO CONVINCE US OF THE INSTABILITY OF ALL EARTHLY THINGS. The earth seems of all things the most stable. But there comes a crisis, and our old faith is gone forever. "A bad earthquake at once destroys our oldest associations. The earth, the very emblem of solidity, has moved beneath our feet; one second of time has created in the mind a strange idea of insecurity which hours of reflection could not have produced" (Darwin).
IV. TO ADMONISH US OF THE JUDGMENTS THAT ARE COMING UPON THE EARTH. Geologists tell us of internal fires, and the probability of some great catastrophe, sooner or later. "Coming events cast their shadows before." Earthquakes are prophecies. Confirmed by Scripture (2 Peter 3:10-12).
V. TO TEACH US THE PERFECT SECURITY OF GOD'S SAINTS. Come what will, who shall separate us from the love of God? There are things which cannot be moved, and they are the heritage of God's people (Isaiah 54:10; Psalm 46.; Hebrews 12:25-29). We look for a new heaven and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness. - F.
I. THE DAWN. Ordinary light seems withdrawn. Things are seen dimly. Discouragement and fear. Ready to say, "Darkness shall cover us." Call for faith. "God is light." "He will bring the blind by a way that they know not, making darkness light before them" (cf. Isaiah 1:10).
II. PROGRESS. Still uncertainty. Neither wholly day nor night. Alternations. Now the sun seems about to break forth, now the gloom returns. Hopes and fears. But on the whole advance. Faith still finds firm footing. Rope brightens. Love never fails. Amidst all the conflicts with science and philosophy, Christianity abides in its power. There is promise of the "perfect day."
III. THE CLOSE. "Evening." After long waiting and many disappointments, When most needed and least expected. Not in the order of nature, but of grace. When the shadows are lengthening and the sun going down, the light shines forth with a sweet and beautiful radiance. Glorious ending to a dark and cloudy day. The history of the Church, and the experience of individual Christians, afford many illustrations. The promise sometimes finds a tender and comforting fulfilment in the last hours of the dying believer. Bunyan tells us of Mr. Fearing, that, at the entrance of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, he was "ready to die for fear." But to him the valley was quiet from troublers. Then Greatheart notes, as something very remarkable, at the departure of this pilgrim, "The water of that river was lower, at this time, than ever I saw it in all my life; so he went over at last not much above wet shod." - F.
unmitigated distress, the other of uninterrupted prosperity.
I. HERE IS A PERIOD OF UNMITIGATED DISTRESS. "Shall not be clear nor dark," or, as it is rendered, "condensed darkness." Dr. Keil gives the same idea as Dr. Henderson, "And it will come to pass on that day, there will not be light, the glorious ones will melt away." This period of unmitigated calamity primarily refers, we have no doubt, to those long centuries of oppression, cruelty, mockery, and scorn, to which the Jewish people have been subjected ever since the destruction of Jerusalem. In the predictions of Joel (Joel 2:31; Joel 3:15) referring to the destruction of the holy city and the breaking up of the Jewish commonwealth, the period is referred to as a period when "the sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood." The history of the Jews, indeed, for eighteen centuries has been the history of one long starless night. Two remarks are suggested concerning this dark day.
1. Such a day is the hard destiny of some men. It is so with individuals. There are hundreds and thousands of men in every age and country who pass through life from its beginning to its close with scarcely a ray of hope or a beam of joy. Their life is a day of darkness. It is so with some nations. The history of some nations and tribes is little less than a history of crushing oppression, bloody revolutions, and untold cruelties and sufferings. The precious orbs are seldom if ever seen in their political heavens.
2. Such a day is deserved by most men. All men are sinners, and deserve this blackness of darkness forever. The very tendency of sin, in fact, is to quench every light in the firmament of the soul. Thank God, Christ has come a Light to the world, and into that light during our stay here we may all enter.
II. HERE IS A PERIOD OF UNINTERRUPTED JOY. "But it shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord, not day, nor night, but it shall come to pass that at evening time it shall be light." This is indeed a unique day. Even when evening might be anticipated, "it shall be light."
1. Such a day as this is destined to dawn on every good man. Heaven is a scene of light. No clouds of ignorance or suffering obstruct the rays, nor will the sun ever go down: "the Lord God is the Light thereof."
2. Such a day as this is destined to dawn on the world in the future. Some expositors consider that the millennium is here pointed to - that long bright period when "all shall know the Lord from the least to the greatest." This period is promised, and it must come; for "heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one jot or tittle of his word shall fail to be accomplished." When will it come? It is far off, I know. "It shall be known to the Lord;" "It is not for you to know the times and the seasons," etc.
CONCLUSION. Are there not dark and bright days in every good man's life? There are days when he walks in darkness, when neither sun nor star appears; and there are days too when all is cloudless and bright. He needs the dark day to prepare him for the full appreciation and enjoyment of the light. As the earth requires the dark cold days of winter as well as the bright and genial days of summer, in order to prepare it to yield the fruits that man and beast require, so doth the human soul require periods of gloom and tempest as well as periods of brightness and calm. - D.T.
I. SOURCE. "Jerusalem." Centre of supreme authority and law. The place of holy sacrifice. The city of the great King. Here is God's throne (Revelation 22:1). "Salvation is of the Jews." "Of whom as concerning the flesh, Christ came."
II. DIRECTION. There is movement. Not arbitrary, but regulated. Not limited to one land, but for all people. "Beginning at Jerusalem." Such was the law; but from that starting point the messengers of salvation were to go forth to the whole earth. Water seeks the lowest level, and the gospel comes down to the poorest, the most despised, "the chief of sinners."
III. AFFLUENCE. Rich supply - ample to meet the needs of all. In the wilderness the rock waters followed the Israelites in all their wanderings. But this river is sufficient "for the whole world."
IV. PERPETUITY. There are rivers that vary. They run part of the year, and then they fail. But this river never fails. Neither the winter's cold nor the summer's heat can affect its flow. There are rivers that have disappeared - like old peoples and old civilizations - but this river runs on throughout the ages with unchanging life and virtue.
V. BENEFICENCE. Vitality. Life and the power of life. What so sweet and refreshing as the streams of pure water? Carry blessings far and wide. So with the gospel. Converting souls. Purifying society. Advancing the world in the highest forms of civilization. Grand future. Universal subjection. Universal homage. "One Lord." - F.
I. ITS NATURE AND ITS RISE.
1. Its nature. It is "living water." Water is the most precious element in nature; it may be regarded as the source, the substance, and the sustenance of all life. But then it is not so precious as the gospel. The gospel is often referred to in Scripture as the river of life, the pure water of life. It is a living water. Not a dead lake or stagnant pool, but a living stream.
2. Its rise. "It shall go out from Jerusalem." The gospel might be said to have commenced at Jerusalem. The apostles were commanded to commence there: "Beginning at Jerusalem." In Peter's sermon on the Day of Pentecost, the river might be said to have broken forth.
II. ITS DIFFUSION AND CONTINUOUSNESS.
1. Its diffusion. "Half of them toward the former sea, and half of them toward the hinder sea." It is to go from the east and from the west, from the sun's rising to its setting. The gospel is for all climes. It is world wide in its provisions: adaptations, and claims.
2. Continuousness. "Summer and winter." In all seasons of human life, individually and corporately.
(1) It is constant in the fitness of its supplies for human wants. Men, through all changes, in all places, and through all times, want Divine knowledge, moral purity, heavenly forgiveness, fellowship with the Eternal. The man will never be born who will not require these things.
(2) It is constant in the fulness of its supplies for human wants. It is an inexhaustible river. After countless myriads have had their wants supplied, it remains deep and full as ever.
(3) It is constant in the availableness of its supplies for human wants. Faith is the great condition on which its blessings are communicated, and every man can believe. It is just that act of mind that comes within the power of the child and the adult, the learned and the rude, the savage and the sage, the bond and the free, to perform. How obvious, then, our duty and our interest!
CONCLUSION. How profoundly thankful should we be to Almighty Love for opening in our world such a "living" river as this! and how earnest should we be in our endeavours to let its waters flow into every heart and home and land, the world over! - D.T.
Isaiah 2:2; Micah 4:1; Ezekiel 40:2).
I. RAISED ABOVE THE STRIFE OF FACTIONS. Sects. Party spirit. Din and strife of tongues. Confusion and every evil work. But for Zion's children there is a purer atmosphere and serener skies.
II. RAISED ABOVE THE CORRUPTIONS OF THE WORLD. We hear much in our day of germs. The air is everywhere infected. The seeds of disease are on every side. But rise higher, and the danger ceases. So of Zion. Drunkenness, illegitimacy, worldliness, and other sins abound, and lower the tone of society. Need to rise nearer to heaven. "Ye are from beneath: I am from above," said our Lord.
III. RAISED ABOVE THE ASSAULTS OF THE WICKED. Storms. Enemies. Temptations. Cry, "Deliver us from the evil." The higher we rise, the greater our safety. The more we resemble Christ, with the more hope can we say, "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me."
IV. RAISED ABOVE THE VICISSITUDES OF TIME. Dispensations vary. Habits of society alter. Beliefs may change. But eternal truth and righteousness abide. "The true religion is built upon the rock, the rest are tossed upon the waves of time" (Bacon).
"Serene will be our days, and bright
moral, for physically he reigns everywhere. Morally, alas! his reign depends upon the will of men, and that will is hostile. As a moral Monarch, the Almighty has to be chosen by his subjects. Three things are suggested in the text as to his coming moral reign on the earth.
I. IT IS TO BE EXTENSIVE. "And the Lord shall be King over all the earth." Although in the next verse "all the earth" is rendered "all the land," meaning the land of Judaea, we are authorized to believe that he will one day reign over all the earth; that all souls will bow to his influence, as the ripened fields of autumn to the winds of heaven. His kingdom shall come, and his will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
II. IT IS TO BE EXCLUSIVE. "In that day there shall be one Lord, and his name One." He will be regarded as the one King whose laws all study and obey. The great question of all souls will be, "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" No other power will rule the soul where he becomes the moral Monarch.
III. IT WILL BE BENEFICENT. "All the land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon south of Jerusalem." Taking vers. 10 and 11, we gather at least two beneficent results of his moral reign.
1. The removal of all obstructions to the river of truth. "The land shall be turned as a plain from Geba to Rimmon," etc. That is, from the northern to the southern boundary of Judaea. The levelling of this land would not only leave Jerusalem conspicuous, but allow the "living waters" to have free flow.
2. The elevation and establishment of the good. Jerusalem is here represented, not only as being raised and made conspicuous, but as settling down and dwelling securely. "It shall be lifted up, and inhabited in her place." There shall be no more utter destruction; Jerusalem shall be safely inhabited.
CONCLUSION. Who will not pray, "Let thy kingdom come, and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven"? Let God reign on earth, and all obstructions to the progress of truth will be removed, and his people will be exalted and established forever. - D.T.
1. PHYSICAL DISEASES. "And this shall be the plague wherewith the Lord will smite all the people that have fought against Jerusalem; their flesh shall consume away while they stand upon their feet, and their eyes shall consume away in their holes, and their tongue shall consume away in their mouth." "This description of the plague-stricken people," says a modern author, "is shocking, but it is not more than what actually occurs" (see Defoe's 'Plague of London'). Kingsley says, "What so terrible as war? I will tell you what is ten times and ten thousand times more terrible than war, and that is outraged nature. Nature, insidious, inexpensive, silent, sends no roar of cannon, no glitter of arms, to do her work; she gives no warning note of preparation Man has his courtesies of war and his chivalries of war; he does not strike the unarmed man; he spares the woman and the child. But Nature... spares neither woman nor child... silently she strikes the sleeping child with as little remorse as she would strike the strong man with the musket or the pick axe in his hand." One could scarcely imagine a more revolting condition of humanity than is here presented - a living skeleton, nearly all the flesh gone, the eyes all but blotted out, the tongue withered. Physical disease has ever been one of the instruments by which God has punished men in this world - pestilences, plagues, epidemics, and so on. But it is not merely a plague amongst the people, but also amongst the castle, as we see in ver. 15. "And so shall be the plague of the horse, of the mule, of the camel, and of the ass, and of all the beasts that shall be in these tents, as this plague." These words remind us of Byron's description of the destruction of Sennacherib's host. "And there lay the steed with his nostril all wide, But through it there rolled not the breath of his pride; And the foam of his gasping lay white on the turf, And cold as the spray of the rock-beating surf."
II. MUTUAL ANIMOSITY. "And it shall come to pass in that day, that a great tumult from the Lord shall be among them; and they shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour." The idea is, perhaps, that God would permit such circum stances to spring up amongst them as would generate in their minds mutual misunderstandings, malignities, quarrellings, and battlings. "They shall lay hold every one on the hand of his neighbour." "Every man's sword shall be against his brother." All the jealousies, envyings, contentions, that are rife in society may be regarded as the means by which sin is punished. Sin punishes sin, bad passions not only work misery, but are in themselves miseries.
III. TEMPORAL LOSSES. "And Judah also shall fight at Jerusalem." Not against Jerusalem. "And the wealth of all the heathen round about shall be gathered together, gold, and silver, and apparel, in abundance." Earthly property men in their unrenewed state have always valued as the highest good. To attain it they devote all their powers with an unquenchable enthusiasm, and to hold it they are ever on the alert, and their grasp is unrelaxable and firm. To have it snatched from them is among their greatest calamities; and how often this occurs in society! By what we call accidents, by a commercial panic, legal flaws, chicaneries, and frauds, rich men frequently are deprived of their wealth, men who are born in palaces often die in a pauper's hovel. "Riches take to themselves wings, and fly away." This is another way in which Heaven punishes sin.
CONCLUSION. See those elements of retribution working everywhere around us. They have worked through all history. Because they are common we do not note them as we ought. We connect them not with the Justice that reigns over the universe. Albeit they are penal forces. - D.T.
I. UNITY OF WORSHIP. No more many gods, but one. No more hostile sects and parties, but the holy Catholic Church of the living God. At last the old promise is fulfilled (Numbers 14:21).
II. JOYFULNESS OF SERVICE. The Spirit of Christ reigns. Love and joy and peace are in all hearts. From all lands and peoples come the songs of praise and the services of thanksgiving to the Father of lights, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift.
III. SANCTITY OF LIFE. Society is purified. Every life is consecrated to God. There is no need any more for the law of ordinances, for all things are cleansed. "Holiness" is the law everywhere.
1. Common life.
2. Domestic life.
3. Religious life.
"Ah! when shall all men's good
I. IT IS A DUTY BINDING ON ALL PEOPLE. "And it shall come to pass, that every one that is left of. all the nations which came against Jerusalem shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." "Keil thinks the Feast of Tabernacles is mentioned because it was a feast of thanksgiving for the gracious protection of Israel, in its wanderings through the desert, and its introduction into the land flowing with milk and honey, whereby it foreshadows the blessedness to be enjoyed in the kingdom of God. but in rejecting Koehler's observation that there is a reference to the feast as a harvest thanksgiving, he overlooks the fact that, if this harvest reference is not recognized, the punishment threatened in the next verse, the absence of rain, loses its appropriateness. The Feast of Tabernacles was meant to keep them in mind, amidst their abundant harvests, and well cared-for fields and vineyards, that as in the desert so still it was God who gave the increase. It was therefore a festival most suitable for all the nations to join in, by way of acknowledging that Jehovah was the God of nature throughout the earth, however various might be the aspects of nature with which they were familiar. Besides, there can be little doubt that by the time of Zechariah, and probably long before, this feast had become a kind of symbol of the ingathering of the nations (John 4:35) " (Dr. Dods). Whilst the thousands neglect public worship, not a few argue against it, they say it is uncalled for and unnecessary. In reply to this, we state, where there is genuine religion:
1. Public worship is a natural development. The being we love most we crave an opportunity for extolling; we want that all shall know his merits. If we are really religious, we love God supremely, and is it not natural to declare our affection in the presence of our fellow men?
2. Public worship is a happy development. What delights the soul so much as to hear others praise the object we love the most? This at once gratifies the religious instinct and the social love. Every true worshipper in the great congregation can say it is a good thing to give praise - it is a happy thing.
3. Public worship is a beneficent development. There is nothing that tends so much to quicken and ennoble souls as worship, and nothing gives such a vital interest in one soul for another as public worship. In genuine public worship there is a close coming together of souls, an interblending of the deepest thoughts and the purest sympathies, a kind of spiritual amalgamation. "We should, therefore, not forsake the assembling of ourselves together."
II. ITS NEGLECT EXPOSES TO TERRIBLE CALAMITIES. "And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain. And if the family of Egypt go not up, and come not, that have no rain; there shall be the plague, wherewith the Lord will smite the heathen that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles. This shall be the punishment of Egypt, and the punishment of all nations that come not up to keep the Feast of Tabernacles." Two things are to be observed here.
1. The greatness of the punishment. "Upon them shall be no rain." Now, the absence of rain involves every temporal evil you can think of - famine, pestilence, loss of physical enjoyment, loss of health, loss of life.
2. The fitness of the punishment.
(1) To the offence. "The withholding of the rain," says Dr. Dods," was not only one of the ways by which idolatry and apostasy were punished under the theocracy, but it was the appropriate punishment of those who refused to acknowledge Jehovah as the Giver of the harvest. This suiting of punishment to offence is a marked characteristic of God's government, and should probably be more used in education than it is (e.g. by secluding for a time, from all intercourse with his companions, the boy who has told a lie, and so on). Dante has largely utilized the principle in his great poem. In his vision of the realms of punishment he saw tyrants immersed in blood; gluttons exposed in all their pampered softness to a sleety tempest of cold, discoloured, stinking bail; the proud bending forever under heavy burdens; schismatics, who have rent the Church, themselves cleft asunder; those who had pried into the future, and professed prophetic foresight, with faces reversed, unable to see their own way"
(2) To the offender. The idea of not having rain would not, perhaps, terrify the Egyptians, for they had the Nile, which supplied them with abundance of water. Hence a plague is threatened to them, and no word to them was more terrible than the word "plague." They had not forgotten the ten plagues inflicted on them in the time of Moses. It was a land of plagues. Thus God punishes. But mark, the punishment was to come because of the neglect of public worship, and the neglect of public worship is punished:
(a) Now; by the loss of the highest spiritual enjoyments.
(b) Hereafter; by the reproaching of conscience and the banishment from all good. - D.T.
I. IT WILL EMBRACE THE AFFAIRS OF COMMON LIFE. "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses." It was common amongst ancient nations to have bells on horses for use or ornament, or perhaps for both. It is said that in Alexander's funeral procession the horses had gold bells attached to their cheek straps. "Holiness unto the Lord," under the Law of Moses had been inscribed on the frontlet of the high priest, and nowhere else; now it was to be even on the bells of the horses, the commonest things of secular life. In this age no horses will be employed in wars and races, they will only be employed for right purposes and in a right way. The men who ride and drive them in state will be holy men, the men who use them in agriculture will be holy men. Horses, which for ages have been unrighteously treated and unrighteously used, in that day will be properly treated and properly employed.
II. IT WILL EMBRACE ALL DOMESTIC CONCERNS. "Every pot in Jerusalem and in Judah shall be holiness unto the Lord of hosts." The idea is that holiness will extend even to the minutest concerns of domestic life, the members of families will be religious. The very pots in which the priests cooked their food should be as sacred as the bowls that caught the victim's blood. Observe
(1) that the distinction between the sacred and secular is to be abolished; but
(2) not by separation from the world, nor by making all things secular, but by making all things holy, by carrying into all occupations the spirit and delight of God's presence. "'Holiness to the Lord' is not to he obliterated from the high priest's mitre, so that he might feel as little solemnized when putting on his mitre and entering the holiest of all, as if he were going into his stable to put the collar on his horse; but when he puts the collar on his horse and goes to his day's work or recreation, he is to be as truly and lovingly as one with God as when with incense and priestly garments he enters the holy of holies" (Dr. Dods).
III. IT WILL EMBRACE ALL RELIGIOUS CHARACTERS. "In that day there shall be no more the Canaanite in the house of the Lord of hosts." "By 'Canaanite,'" says Dr. Henderson, "is meant 'merchant.' The Phoenicians who inhabited the northern part of Canaan were the most celebrated merchants of antiquity. The word may fairly be regarded as standing for mercenary men - men animated by the mercenary spirit." Such men are ever to be found in connection with religion. The old prophets bewailed this spirit. It was found in the earlier ages of the Christian Church. Men who considered "gain as godliness," the Canaanite or the merchant, do not necessarily belong to mercantile life, but to other avocations as well, and even to the priestly life. Perhaps the mercenary spirit is as rife in priests and ministers now as ever. But in the coming age there will be no more the Canaanite - the mercenary man - in the house of the Lord; all will be holy.
CONCLUSION. Hail, blessed age! May the chariot of time quicken its speed, and bring this blessed age to this world of depravity and sin! Note: This closes our sketches on the prophecy of Zechariah. We confess that going through it seriatim we have found in various passages, expressions and allusions to which we were utterly unable to put any clear and intelligible interpretation. There is a haze more or less over the whole book, and our endeavour has been, wherever we have caught a glimpse of a great, practical truth, to bring it out and work it into the service of soul culture. Though we may have failed to give the true meaning to many passages, we know that we have not intentionally misinterpreted any utterance, or turned a phrase or a word to any theological or ecclesiastical predilection, if indeed any such we have. - D.T.