I Am Coming, And I Will Live Among You by Teddy Hembekides
Key Verse 2:11
“Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.”
We’re looking at the visions of the prophet Zechariah, one of the four prophets of the Bible who had apocalyptic visions and recorded them for us Before him Daniel saw similar visions, and recorded them, as did Ezekiel. Ezekiel’s visions are among the most enigmatic and terrifying visions one can experience. But they reveal so much about the spiritual world and what is happening behind the scenes in the spiritual realm— things that have stolen the hearts and minds of God’s people— the very things that have incurred God’s great anger against them and made him decide to destroy their city and temple and send them into exile. These prophets of the apocalypse do not enjoy bringing such doomsday messages to their people. But they did just maybe the people would listen to God’s word, repent and turn from their sin. Of course, they didn’t. And their messages continued to be bitingly harsh. At least Daniel’s messages came while they were already in exile and his messages spoke of some better times. But Ezekiel’s messages, although they spoke of some hope, they exposed some of the deepest darkness that lurked within the hearts of God’s people— that hypocrisy that pretended to be a worshiper of God on the outside, yet behind the walls of the temple worshiped demons of power and of greed and of lust— until [as the Bible says] their sins caught up with them [Numbers 32:23]. When God incited foreign nations to invade and to destroy Israel, the Babylonians were cruel and merciless. They left no trace of the city or of its walls. They left no trace of the once magnificent Solomon’s Temple. They turned the jeweled city of Jerusalem into rubbled wasteland. And they herded the people northward settling them in makeshift ghettos to start a new life in misery.
So what happened seventy years later? Well, let’s see because it’s worth knowing how the sovereign God works these things out. Read Jeremiah 29:10. “This is what the Lord says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my gracious promise to bring you back to this place.’” Read Ezra 1:1-5. “In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: ‘This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: “The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you— may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem. And the people of any place where survivors may now be living are to provide him with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem. Then the family heads of Judah and Benjamin, and the priests and Levites— everyone whose heart God had moved— prepared to go up and build the house of the Lord in Jerusalem.”
So in a nutshell, this is basically what happened. The seventy years of Exile were over. The Lord now called them to return home to the land they were exiled from. Seventy years ago he had exiled them from this land in order to discipline them for their sins of abandoning him. They were his people, like you and I are his people. But they were tempted by the world and its gods to worship the corrupt and filthy gods of the people and nations around them. And soon they had began to worship these gods— gods of prosperity; gods of greed and of lust; gods of success and of affluence and of wanton desire; gods of gluttony and of everything carnal and lewd and unholy; until they lost their identity as God’s people and until they lost their calling as God’s representatives to the nations around them [because that’s what God had created and set them apart and blessed them to be in the first place]. But after this long seventy year disciplinary period spent in terrible suffering under a cruel Babylonia master, it was time for God to call them home to rebuild their home— the city of the ages— Jerusalem and the Temple of God. And so God did. Many had returned at the decree of Cyrus, and the prophet Zechariah was among the young men who returned with the exiles. God gave him visions, the third of which was this amazing vision regarding Jerusalem, which has always been symbolic of God’s eternal city and his Eternal Kingdom. So what does the vision convey? Let’s see!
Read verses 1-5. “Then I looked up— and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand! I asked, ‘Where are you going?’ He answered me, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.’ Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: ‘Run, tell that young man, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’” Zechariah looks up and he sees a man— but not just any man, and certainly not any angel either— for he sees whom he’s seen before, the Rider, the Angel of the Lord, the Pre-Incarnate Christ— and it seems he’s on his way to Jerusalem to measure the city. There may be many symbolic reasons why the Angel of the Lord might want to measure the city, and they may all be hidden from us. But there is one thing that remains clear. As much as Israel is God’s own people, so is Jerusalem God’s own city (Isaiah 45:13). Strangers may have occupied it for a while and run it aground, and done anything they wanted with it— but only by the Owner’s will. And the Angel of the Lord on his way to measure city signifies that the Owner is now ready to reclaim the city for Himself. He is also ready to do something else as well. He’s also ready to reveal his Divine Design to the prophet, who is God’s messenger to the people.
Why was this vision so important and urgent? Because Zechariah knew that the people who were already in Jerusalem were struggling to rebuild the city and its temple. They were fearful and troubled because they faced so many hardships. Enemies without and uncertainties within! Perhaps many had a hard time believing this once great city which once stood as the beacon of hope and the symbol of God’s landscape could actually be rebuilt from the ashes that now see (Haggai 2:3). Maybe many had doubts that the temple which actually symbolized the very presence of God could ever bring the hope and stability necessary to a weak and beaten down people. Zechariah knew that these people needed God’s word of hope as well as God’s vision. And so did the Lord their God. More than anything else, the Lord knew these people needed repentance; but they also needed vision and hope. So the vision of the Angel of God reclaiming the city with a measuring line was just the beginning of a glorious message. But the rest of the vision was equally as stunning. Look what happens next. In verses 4-5 the Angel of the Lord shows Zechariah His Divine Design for the city of Jerusalem. It’s beautiful, and good to reflect on again. “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’”
There are more signs in these words that we can attempt to interpret. But fundamentally, we can say that the “Chosen City” and its surrounding towns which were once deserted and laid waste, will not only once again “overflow with prosperity”, as the Lord has already promised in the first vision (1:17), but the eternal city will certainly enjoy future expansion in a way it has never done before. In Zechariah’s time, there were few scattered people here and there, but a time will come when the people will be spilling over the walls. Actually, a time is coming when there will be no need for walls at all, because God himself will be a “Wall of fire” around the whole city and all around his own people. And this had been the Lord’s very own great desire that He Himself be that holy wall that encompasses the city he loves, surrounding all the people who call on his name, those who trust in his name and who put all their hopes in his word of promise. (Isaiah 49:13-21; 54:1-3) He had wanted to do so for generations! But there was always the problem of sin in the way. They would depart from the Lord, repent and return, and the cycle would repeat itself. This time, the city and the people were once again in a place where hope and promise stood knocking at the door. But what would prevent the same thing from happening yet again if they were to build up the city and pray for God’s restoration and for his promise to be finally realized? Nothing! Nothing but God’s word of promise— that he himself would be that “Wall of fire” without, and that he himself would be its “Glory” within. It was the glorious vision of the Lord Himself— Their Messiah— The Savior— who Himself would abide with them; Who Himself would be among them; Who Himself would surround; The Lord Himself who would defend them from within and from without. And what a glorious Savior-God he is.
It was the vision of the Messiah and of his coming Kingdom that gave these people the strength to stand in the middle of that rubble and to withstand all the hostilities that followed throughout the centuries that followed. Zechariah’s words here came true in many ways and in many other ways, they are still coming true, and will some day reach full maturity. The city expanded over time and prospered greatly. By the time, our Lord Jesus the True Messiah arrived according to the promise of God, the city did have walls and the Temple was enormous and glamorous, yet the population was indeed spilling over the walls, for they came from all corners of the earth to worship, even while under Roman occupation. Even though many Jews misunderstood so much of the prophesies regarding their Messiah and his Kingdom, many others listened to Jesus’ words and opened their hearts to his message of good news. Luke makes a appropriate bracketed comment distinguishing those who accepted the Messiah from those who didn’t. He says: “[All the people, even the tax collectors, when they heard Jesus’ words, acknowledged that God’s way was right, because they had been baptized by John. But the Pharisees and experts in the law rejected God’s purpose for themselves, because they had not been baptized by John.]” (Luke 7:30) The powerful and prosperous, those who cared much for the offerings of this world and its glitter couldn’t see God or his ways of working. They refused to humble themselves before the madman John who shouted “repent and make straight the way for the Lord”. On the other hand, the meek and lowly, those who cared little for what this world’s offerings and hoped in the higher nobler things of God, understood that God’s way was the way of humility and suffering. These were able to see that the Messiah came not to call people to take up arms against each other; nor did he come to raise one people as superior above another people; nor did he come to replace one worldly system with another worldly system; but they were able to see with their meek and lowly eyes that the Messiah came to call people to repentance and to the washing away of their sins; he had come to open their hearts to the word of God; And he had come to usher them in to the new city of God, “The city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God.” (Hebrews 11:10)
And it is people like these who have the eyesight and vision to still look “forward to that city.” Those whose hearts are in this world could not in any generation see God’s heart’s desire for his people. God wanted his people of every generation to hope in his Christ, and to make that eternal city of whom he is the builder the only city where our hearts go. Abraham our ancestor of faith believed and hoped in the Christ, and hoped in that city. That is why he lived a simple life of faith and made no attempts to live in this world forever. He taught his children to hope in the Messiah and his Kingdom. He helped them live for the glory of God. He struggled here and there. But God taught him how to overcome the pettiness of life and hope only in God. “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your very great reward.” (Genesis 15:1) God helped him to trust in God his Shield, that God would be his wall of fire when his life was in danger from enemies roundabout. God also helped him not to be concerned with petty rewards and offerings that this world has to give. Paul said that compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing the Lord, he considers everything else rubbish. (Philippians 3:8) The offerings that this world has to give are rubbish compared to the best reward the Lord gives— who is Himself. “I am— your very great reward” he tells Abram. He tells you and me the same thing. But are you listening! God is a treasure beyond description. The Lord our reward is wealth unequalled to anything else in our lives— if you have him! To not be satisfied with just having the Lord, or to want more than just having the Lord, is to despise the Lord. It’s like saying: “You’re not enough for me Lord.” But rather, “You are my shield, you are my very great reward Lord.” This is the foundation of our faith, which our father Abram passed down to the Jews, through whom, our Lord came to bring us the living hope into an eternal inheritance— kept in heaven. Zechariah’s vision was meant to help them have a vision and hope kept in their hearts, something that goes beyond the pettiness of this world and its petty offerings. Yet, it is strange how people never learn, and what they do not learn in basic elementary school, they also pass on to their children who suffer for their parents mistakes and sins.
Read verses 6-9. “’Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,’ declares the Lord, for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord. ‘Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!’ For this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you— for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye— I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me.’” Remember the edict that king Cyrus passed regarding that open door for the Jews to return home to rebuild the temple of God? Especially to rebuild the Temple of God! That edict should have been a cause of great celebration since the temple of God was the one place on earth where God said he would dwell. And Jerusalem the one city he calls his own. How is it that only a few people returned to rebuild? And how is that the majority of people chose to remain behind in the land of their captivity? The question is, why did the majority of God’s people remain in the comfort and security of the godless culture of Babylon when they were so desperately needed in their own homeland, when the few back home desperately needed them to come and help them build the walls, and the temple of God, and defend the territory, and labor together? In other words, why didn’t they leave the comfort of their own homes, and their good paying jobs, to take up the cross of mission for less than nothing? Well, there’s your answer! Selfishness is a fetid disease that eats at the soul till it rots. And self sacrifice and self denial are virtues uncommon even among God’s people; qualities of spirit one can only inherit from the Lord. During the seventy years in exile, they may have learned their lesson or two. But very few truly learned what it means to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deuteronomy 6:5) And to “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Leviticus 19:18) These people who stayed behind cared little about God and what concerns him, and they only care if it’s about their own son or daughter. They said, “We’re praying for you, we’ll also send a donation.”
Amazing isn’t it, how they stayed behind enjoying the luxuries of Babylon while their country people labored to rebuild the broken nation and temple. Yet, God almighty loved them and cared deeply for them, although they cared little for anyone but themselves. How gracious is our God and how great is his incredible love for his people, sick as they are, God loves them beyond words. “Flee”, “Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon” he tells them. Instead of letting them reap the wages of their complacency; instead of letting them chew on the bitter cud of their own contentment; instead of thinking like we do: “It serves you right”; Look at how urgently and graciously the Lord would have them escape the land of their former exile and return to their true home! Why is the Lord so eager for these people to leave the sheltered lives they have built up north and flee to the ruins of Jerusalem? Actually he would have them do so for many reason. First and foremost, I would say because it is their God-given mandate to do so; that is, to obey the voice of the Lord and go wherever he may call them to go, and to do whatever he may tell them to do; wouldn’t you say? They should have done so from the start when the mandate came through the king’s edict! It is the same with us. Why must we obey the Lord? Because he’s the Lord and it is our most basic obligation as the Lord’s people to obey his voice— out of love— out of concern for his will— out of deep longing and desire of heart to please him! But we do so mostly because he’s the Lord and I’m his child. But, the Lord still gives them a good reason escape. Look at verses 8-9 again. Because He is bringing disaster upon these nations who plundered them and who caused them misery in their exile. And when God’s wrath finally comes pouring upon these people— and it will come— it will be so horrendous that God wants his own people to be no where near this judgment is bound to come.
Many have a question in their hearts that they never ask; but some do ask like Habakkuk the prophet did when the burden on his heart became too heavy. So he said to God: “Why then do you tolerate the treacherous? Why are you silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?” (Habakkuk 1:13) Even unholy people seem to ask this question. Indeed why does God allow so much evil in the world? How can he let his people suffer so much while the world goes on unpunished? Even the arrogant Psalmist had the gall go so far as to give the Lord advice: “It is time for you to act O Lord, your law is being broken.” (Psalm 119:126) As our world slips into more and more evil and the time of God’s final judgment draws near, the evil put many questions of doubt into people’s minds. For the unbelieving world, as Saint Peter tells us, the questions will be tainted with contempt for what God and his word. “They will say, ‘Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:4) Indeed, even the faithful will begin to ask such questions. But the faithful must always remember why the Lord withholds his judgment. As the apostle also tells us that the Lord is “Patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9) and to faith in Christ Jesus so as to escape the judgment and to find salvation.
In the time of Zechariah, God warned his people to flee the Babylonian nations and return home to engage in service to God and to rebuild the temple with their brothers. God wanted his people to deny themselves the comforts of Babylon and return to Jerusalem to serve God’s purpose. It was there that God would protect them from the judgment that was coming on the wicked nations of the world. It was his love for his people that caused him to issue that warning to leave their own comfortable lives and the securities of their worldly homes and engage in a journey of faith to Jerusalem to begin a new life of faith. God knew that it was not easy to do so. But he promised he would be a wall of fire without and the glory within. But they needed faith to do so. What about the nations who were about to be judged and destroyed by God’s wrath? They had as much chance to escape with the lazy Jews as those comfortable lazy Jews who remained attached to the glittering world of Babylon where life seemed so nice and easy. They all heard the same message. They all received the same warning. They all were welcome to go and rest in the shelter of arms of the Angel of the Lord who invited to share Christ’s victory. All they needed was faith to leave their old lives behind and begin a new life trusting in the Lord.
Paul gave a similar warning when he said: “Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you.” (2 Corinthians 6:17) It’s not easy to leave the comforts and securities of one’s own life and begin a new life of faith trusting in the Lord. But it’s separation from the Babylons of this world that God calls us from. And such separations often require repentance [cutting off something— pruning]. And repentance often accompanies a new life direction. And a new life direction requires faith and trust in the Lord. That holy door is now open since the time Zechariah called for God’s people to escape Babylon. Christ had already come, and had been honored according to God’s promise (2 Peter 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). He became the Lord Protector and that “wall of fire” round-about the people he purchased with his blood shed on the cross, as well as “the glory” within the Church and Bride he redeemed and on whom he had poured his Holy Spirit, and for whom He intercedes from his lofty place in heaven at the right hand of the Almighty God and Father. And his people are still until this very day being called out of the Babylons of this world to Jerusalem. And at the end of the Age, a similar warning will also go out to all people living in the figurative Babylon, and it will say these final words as written in the Book of Revelation: “Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues” (18:4) The warning is a reflection of the Love of God for all men and a call to repentance and to faith in Christ. But when that Day comes, and the door closes, people will have to bear the responsibility for their own responses to God’s word and warning.
Read verses 10-12. “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the Lord. ‘Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
There is so much to say here and so many promises that it is hard to know where to begin. The Lord Messiah, Emmanuel-God with us, will come to dwell with his people. This was God’s promise to the Jews, to those who believe and take to heart the words of God. Surely the Lord here is talking about a time far into the future when the Lord will inherit his people as his own portion in what he calls “The Holy Land”, which is the only place in Scripture where Israel is actually called the Holy Land. But it is holy when the Lord himself is there in it as the Lord ruling his people and sovereign over the Land. It will be the time when he once again chooses Jerusalem, his holy city to be the place where all nations gather as the Lord’s people to call on the Lord and to receive his blessing. So God is gathering his people even today under his wing for that great day when he will forever be with them. But until that day comes, we can be sure that we have a God who loves us like the apple of his eye, whether we are Jews or Gentiles, a God who surrounds us like fire, and who dwells within to bless us with his word. We hear a lot of thing on the news about what’s going on in the world, and it seems as if it is peoples and nations who have designs over lives and over the future. But we know that only our Lord Jesus the Victor of Calvary, the Lord of the Resurrection, the Man-God at the right hand of God alone is he who directs History and our lives. And he says: “I am coming.” He also says: “Be still before the Lord.” It means that we can only be at peace in a world of anxiety and insecurity. We ought live by faith, be at peace, and have our hearts and eyes filled with God’s vision. Amen.