Zechariah: A New Manhood
We are again in Jerusalem with the people who had come back from captivity in Babylon and were trying to build again the city and the temple which were in ruins. People of the country hindered them and the work was not getting on. The people also were doing other things, building their own houses and neglecting the Lord's house. The walls of Jerusalem were still in ruins when Nehemiah came to Jerusalem and rode out at night to see the walls. There were good leaders in the work, Nehemiah among them, but the real courage and patience to rebuild came from the Lord in messages spoken by Haggai and Zechariah. Here is the Book of Haggai. It is short; only two chapters. Zechariah comes next to Haggai in the Bible. How many chapters does it have? This prophecy also made the people feel that in building the city and the temple they were doing the Lord's work, and they would succeed. "Not by might nor by power, but by My spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." (Zech. 4:6) What they could build seemed poor, but the Lord would make it glorious.
Hear from Zechariah this beautiful description of Jerusalem made glorious by the Lord. Read chapter 8. The Lord will dwell with His people in Jerusalem and in Mount Zion, His holy mountain. It is no ruined city, which the prophet describes, but a city full of life. In it are old men and old women, every man with his staff in his hand, and many boys and girls playing in the streets and open squares. Let the people be brave to go on with the building of the temple as they were who laid the foundation years before. "Let your hands be strong."
But the city could not be beautiful unless the people would do right, speaking truth to their neighbors, dealing truthfully and in peace, not even in their hearts thinking evil or speaking evil of each other, "for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord." The worship of the Lord would be joyful. Strangers would feel how good it was to live so with the Lord, and would want to live with His people and be like them. As we read, the Jerusalem with ruined temple and ruined walls is forgotten, the beautiful city seems so real. The people who heard it from the prophet were encouraged to go forward with the work of building.
We think of Haggai and Zechariah together. They were at the same time in Jerusalem, giving from the Lord the encouragement needed by the people to go forward with the building of the city and the temple. The place and historical background are the same for both these prophets. Last week I told you; this week you can tell me about it. Where were these two prophets? Was it the beautiful Jerusalem that we used to know? Why was it in ruins? Who are these few discouraged people to whom the prophets are speaking? What difficulties have they had in trying to rebuild? What good leaders have they had? Who is now the governor, and who the chief priest? (Hag. 1:1) They were good leaders, but the people needed encouragement from the Lord, and it came by the two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah. We have read Haggai's prophecy. What was his message? Zechariah's prophecy is longer and not so easy to read. But its first eight chapters have the same purpose as Haggai, to encourage the people in rebuilding. In the first eight chapters, Zechariah describes visions which were shown him and explained to him by an angel. The visions were of horsemen, of lamps and olive trees, of a flying roll, of chariots, and of other things. They all meant encouragement and led up to the description of Jerusalem made glorious, which we read today in the eighth chapter.
The thoughts that I have given to the younger children about this chapter may help you in the reading. As the people heard the words of Zechariah, they had the earthly Jerusalem in mind, and they thought of earthly glory. But the prophecy almost tells us to look for a spiritual fulfillment when it calls Jerusalem a "city of truth" (verse 3), and when it tells so plainly the things that we must do, not natural building but the doing of Christian works and thinking Christian thoughts which the Lord can love and bless. (Verses 16, 17) Does the picture of Jerusalem given by Zechariah remind you of another Scripture picture of a holy Jerusalem? In the later chapters of Zechariah, one verse stands out, Zech. 9:9. When did this prophecy have fulfillment? The people of those days did not know it, or knew it only very dimly, but all the bright prophecies were pointing forward to the coming of the Lord and to the blessing of His coming. "The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." (Rev. 19:10)
The prophecies had fulfillment in the coming of the Lord, yet not a complete fulfillment in the Lordís birth and earthly presence. They are eternal promises and will be more and more fulfilled as the church develops and becomes more spiritual and heavenly. We say truly that the prophecies looked to the coming of the Lord ("As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began," Luke 1:70), and also we find Swedenborg interpreting them in relation to the Christian Church. Jerusalem as a type of the church did not have complete fulfillment in the Jewish Church nor in the first Christian Church, but is to find fuller realization in a New Church which the Lord is now working to establish in the world. The ideal moves on before the church, unfolding more and more its meaning. The picture of the glorious Jerusalem given by the Lord to inspire the Jews to the rebuilding of the city and the temple was given to inspire for all time those who are working with the Lord to build the city and temple of Christian character and of the church.
I comment on the eighth chapter as we read. The Lord will renew the consciousness of His presence with His church, making it as real and as full of power and blessing as it was with the first Christians. The old men and women in the city are types of the wisdom which will be with the people of the church. Age leaning upon the staff is the type of wisdom made more perfect by a sense of its own weakness and of dependence upon the Lord. The children are types of ever new developments of innocent affection and thought, and the playing is their joyful activity. The lack of hire and the destitution which had been before these days describe the poverty and unsatisfactoriness of natural life when unprotected from the attacks of evil, and lacking the inspiration from inward touch with the Lord. From this source even natural life will be blessed. (A. 2348; E. 652, 863)
"These are the things that ye shall do." It seems at first like a sudden transition to another plane of thought. As so often in the Scriptures, the truth seems to grow impatient with types and figures and comes plainly out with its message to spiritual life. It is what all this lesson of building is about.
That the fasts shall be feasts of joy declares that even the repentance and self-sacrifice in the Christian life will be made glad by the sense that it is in the service of the Lord. Compare the words of Isaiah in Isa. 58:5-8 and the Lord's words in Matt. 6:16-18.
The chapter closes with the inspiring picture of the inhabitants of many cities encouraging one another to seek the Lord in Jerusalem. Many people of the world will feel the goodness of those who live in love of the Lord, who are meant by Jews, and will wish to share that life with them. (E. 433)
"We will go with you, for we have heard [have felt] that God is with you." Read the interpretation of the chapter in Prophets and Psalms.