Again the word of the LORD of hosts came to me, saying,
I. Learn from the text that God thinks about boys and girls, and notices what they do.
II. Learn that God allows boys and girls to play. (1) Play suits the age of boys and girls. (2) Play helps children to grow strong and healthy. (3) Play teaches children to bear and forbear, and to put up with disappointments. (4) Play makes boys and girls learn better when it is over. (5) Play of any kind is better than idleness.
III. Remember these four bits of advice: (1) In all your play remember the eye and ear of God. (2) In all your play keep your temper. (3) Do not neglect work because of play. (4) Never forget that all true happiness comes from Christ.
Bishop Ryle, Boys and Girls Playing, p. 9.
References: Zechariah 8:5.—F. W. Farrar, In the Days of Thy Youth, p. 367; J. N. Norton, Every Sunday, p. 335.
Zechariah 8:6Our age is wonderful, not merely in the number of strange and unprecedented things happening in it, and in the strange and unprecedented character that belongs to it as a whole, but also in the prominence of wonder as an element in the view which it takes of itself. It is wonderful because it is an age of wonder. The comfort of the text is comprehended under two words: the first "safety," and the second "enlargement." These describe the two needs of every man's life, and these two needs both find a supply in the assurance that what are wonders and mysteries to us are perfectly clear to God, within whose life our lives are hid.
I. Remember where so much of the sense of danger and the sense of unsafety in life comes from. It is not from the things that we see and that we have known all along; it is from the half-seen forms that hover upon the borders of reality and unreality—from things which evidently are something, but of which we cannot perfectly make out just what they are. At sea it is not the ship whose shape you can perfectly discern, all whose movements you can follow; it is the ship that hovers like a dim ghost in the fog, moving by an unseen hand, evidently there, but all bathed in mystery—that is the ship you fear may strike you. It is not clear, sound, well-proved, certain truths that frighten men for the stability of their faith; it is the ghostly speculations, the vaguely-outlined, faint suggestions that hover in the misty light of dim hypotheses; it is the forms of truth that peer out of just opened but not explored chambers of new sciences—these are the things that make the dim, uneasy sense of danger that besets the minds of so many believers. If any so-called discovery which men are teaching me today is really true, God has known it all along. "Do not be frightened," He says. "I cannot be taken by surprise." "If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people, should it also be marvellous in Mine eyes?" He who believes truth only as the way to God—he who regards opinions as valueless, except as they agree with the infallible judgments of God—is the man for whom all life is safe, and whose faith faces the changing thoughts and destinies of the world, however astounding they may seem, without a thought of fear.
II. Such a man is also free. If He who sits at the centre of everything, and sees the visions of the universe with the perfect clearness of its Maker—if God can really speak so that we can hear Him, and say, "It is impossible to you, but it is not impossible to Me; it is marvellous in your eyes, but it is not in Mine"—if He can say that of any task which is overwhelming men with its immensity—that word of His must snap our fetters, that word of His must set free the little strength of all of us to strike our little blows, must enlarge our lives, and send them out to bolder ventures with earnestness and hope.
Phillips Brooks, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxiii., p. 361.
References: Zechariah 8:6.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxix., No. 1747; S. Macnaughten, Real Religion and Real Life, p. 147. Zechariah 8:13.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. ix., No. 543. Zechariah 8:16, Zechariah 8:17.—A. H. Jones, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xi., p. 310.
Zechariah 8:19When we reflect upon the present state of the Holy Church throughout the world, so different from that which was promised to her in prophecy, the doubt is apt to suggest itself to us, whether it is right to rejoice when there is so much to mourn over and to fear. When men discern duly the forlorn state in which the spouse of Christ at present lies, how can they have the heart to rejoice? The desponding soul falls back when it makes the effort; it is not equal to the ceremonial which comes natural to light hearts, and at best but coldly obeys what they anticipate without being bidden. "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" Yet since there is some danger of over-sensitiveness in this matter, it may be useful to make some remarks upon it.
I. This then must be ever kept in mind when such thoughts arise within us—that cheerfulness and lightness of heart are not only privileges but duties. Cheerfulness is a great Christian duty. That sorrow, that solicitude, that fear, that repentance, is not Christian which has not its portion of Christian joy. For "God is greater than our hearts," and no evil, past or future, within or without, is equal to this saying—that Christ has died and reconciled the world unto Himself. We are ever in His presence, be we cast down or be we exalted, and "in His presence is the fulness of joy."
II. Even the Jews attempted to rejoice in captivity, though it was prophesied against them, "I will turn your feasts into mourning, and all your songs into lamentation;" whereas the very reverse is graciously assured in the text to the Gospel Church, that her times of humiliation should be times of rejoicing. We have a still more remarkable and solemn instance of the duty of keeping festival and rejoicing, even in the darkest day, in our Lord's own history. If there was a season in which gloom was allowable, it was on the days and hours before His Passion; but He who came to bring joy on earth and not sorrow, even in that awful time kept the feast—nay, anticipated it, as if though He Himself was to be the very Paschal Lamb, still He was not thereby excused from sharing in the typical rite. And a few days before it He took part in a public and, as it were, triumphant pageant, as though the bitterness of death had been already past.
J. H. Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day, p 381.
References: Zechariah 8:19.—A. Mursell, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xx., p. 93; Plain Sermons by Contributors to "Tracts for the Times," vol. x., p. 239. Zechariah 8:21.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xix., No. 1107; A. F. Barfield, Christian World Pulpit, vol. iv., p. 215. Zechariah 8:23.—W. Jay, Thursday Penny Pulpit, vol. iii., p. 37. Zech 8—W. Lindsay Alexander, Homiletic Magazine, vol. vii., p. 309. Zechariah 9:1-8.—Ibid., vol. viii., p. 42. Zechariah 9:9.—Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. xxxi., No. 1861; J. E. Vaux, Sermon Notes, 3rd series, p. 78. Zechariah 9:9, Zechariah 9:10.—W. Lindsay Alexander, Homiletic Magazine, vol. viii., p. 109. Zechariah 9:11, Zechariah 9:12.—Spurgeon, My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 371. Zechariah 9:11-17.—Ibid., p. 216.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I was jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I was jealous for her with great fury.
Thus saith the LORD; I am returned unto Zion, and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth; and the mountain of the LORD of hosts the holy mountain.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; There shall yet old men and old women dwell in the streets of Jerusalem, and every man with his staff in his hand for very age.
And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets thereof.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If it be marvellous in the eyes of the remnant of this people in these days, should it also be marvellous in mine eyes? saith the LORD of hosts.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Behold, I will save my people from the east country, and from the west country;
And I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Let your hands be strong, ye that hear in these days these words by the mouth of the prophets, which were in the day that the foundation of the house of the LORD of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built.
For before these days there was no hire for man, nor any hire for beast; neither was there any peace to him that went out or came in because of the affliction: for I set all men every one against his neighbour.
But now I will not be unto the residue of this people as in the former days, saith the LORD of hosts.
For the seed shall be prosperous; the vine shall give her fruit, and the ground shall give her increase, and the heavens shall give their dew; and I will cause the remnant of this people to possess all these things.
And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing: fear not, but let your hands be strong.
For thus saith the LORD of hosts; As I thought to punish you, when your fathers provoked me to wrath, saith the LORD of hosts, and I repented not:
So again have I thought in these days to do well unto Jerusalem and to the house of Judah: fear ye not.
These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates:
And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the LORD.
And the word of the LORD of hosts came unto me, saying,
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; The fast of the fourth month, and the fast of the fifth, and the fast of the seventh, and the fast of the tenth, shall be to the house of Judah joy and gladness, and cheerful feasts; therefore love the truth and peace.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:
And the inhabitants of one city shall go to another, saying, Let us go speedily to pray before the LORD, and to seek the LORD of hosts: I will go also.
Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the LORD of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the LORD.
Thus saith the LORD of hosts; In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you.