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SermonIndex.net : Christian Books : Zechariah 8:20-22

Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 8:20-22

20. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; It shall yet come to pass, that there shall come people, and the inhabitants of many cities:

20. Sic dicit Iehova exercituum, Adhuc quando venient populi et incolae urbium magnarum (vel, multarum;)

21. 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.

21. Et venient incolae unius ad alteram, dicendo, Eamus eundo ad deprecandam faciem Iehovae, et quaerendum Iehovam exercituum; ibo etiam ego.

22. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord.

22. Et venient populi magni et gentes robustae ad quaerendum Iehovam exercituum Ierosolymae, et depreceandam faciem Iehovae.

The Prophet here extends his discourse still farther; for he promises not only the complete restoration of his chosen people, but also the propagation of the Church; for God, he says, will gather a Church for himself from many and remote nations, and unite many nations in one body. And this ought to have availed especially to animate the Jews, as they were thus taught that the temple was built, not only that God might be worshipped by one nation, but by all nations. Moreover, as before this time some had come from distant lands to worship God, the Prophet may seem here to have this in view by using vd, oud, the adverb of time. But he not only declares that some would come, as in the time of Solomon, but as I have already said, he promises here something more remarkable -- that the temple would not belong peculiarly to the Jews, but would be common to all nations; for there is to be no language and no nation which is not to unite in the true worship of God. But let us consider the words of the Prophet.

He begins by saying, that God was the author of this prophecy; and this was said to secure credit. There was need, as we have said, of no common authority, since he was here speaking of what was incredible. There was only a handful of people returned to their country, and many dangers surrounded them almost every day; so that many, wearied with their present condition, preferred exile, and regret for their return had now crept into the minds of many, for they thought that they had been deceived. Since then the state of the people was such, there was need of something more than ordinary to confirm what is here said -- that the glory of the second temple would be greater and more eminent than that of the first: It shall yet be, he says. Though a comparison is implied, there is yet no equality expressed, as though some few only would come. But as there had been no temple for seventy years, and as the temple, now begun to be built, was in no high esteem, but mean and insignificant, the Prophet says, that the time would yet come, when nations and inhabitants of great cities would ascend into Jerusalem. We may indeed render rvvt, rebut, many or great, for it means both; but the Prophet, I think, speaks of great cities; and the reason will presently appear.

It follows, Come shall the inhabitants of one to one, that is, the inhabitants of one city to another; saying, going let us go, etc. He means by these words, that there will be a mutual consent among all nations, so that they will stimulate one another, and thus unite together their exertions. We here see that the Prophet's object was to encourage the Jews to entertain good hope, and thus to cause them to persevere, so that they might not doubt but that success would attend their work and labor, because the Lord would have himself worshipped at Jerusalem, not only by themselves but also by all nations. But as the Jews could not believe that nations could by force be drawn there, he teaches them, that their assembling would be voluntary; he says that those who had been before extremely refractory would be disposed to come of their own accord, so that there would be no need of external force to constrain them; for they would willingly come, nay, would excite one another, and by mutual exhortations stimulate themselves so as to come together to worship God at Jerusalem.

The ardor and vehemence of their zeal is to be noticed; for the Prophet says, that they would come of their own accord, and also encourage one another, according to what we have seen in the second chapter Zechariah 2:1, Lay hold will each on the hand of his brother, and say, let us go to the mount of the God of Jacob. But more is expressed in this place, for not only shall each one encourage his brother whenever met and an opportunity be offered, but he says that they will come from all quarters. We now then see the design of the Prophet in these words. And we hence learn, that faith then only produces its legitimate fruit when zeal is kindled, so that every one strives to increase the kingdom of God, and to gather the straying, that the Church may be filled. For when any one consults his own private benefit and has no care for others, he first betrays most clearly his own inhumanity, and where there is no love the Spirit of God does not rule there. Besides, true godliness brings with it a concern for the glory of God. It is no wonder then that the Prophet, when describing true and real conversion, says, that each would be solicitous about his brethren, so as to stimulate one another, and also that the hearts of all would be so kindled with zeal for God, that they would hasten together to celebrate his glory.

Then he adds, Let us go to entreat the face of Jehovah. The phrase is common in Scripture. But we must observe, that the Prophet in speaking of God's worship, sets prayer in the first rank, for prayer to God is the chief part, yea, the main thing in religion. It is, indeed, immediately added, and to seek Jehovah: he explains the particular by the general; and in the next verse he inverts the order, beginning with the general. However, the meaning continues the same, for God seeks nothing else but that we should be teachable and obedient, so as to be prepared to follow wherever he may call us, and at the same time carefully to enquire respecting his will, as we have need of him as our leader and teacher, so that we may not foolishly go astray through winding and circuitous courses; for if we deem it enough to take presumptuously our own way, the endeavor to seek God will be superfluous. It must then be observed, that God is then only really sought when men desire to learn from his word how he is to be worshipped. But, as I have already said, the Prophet adds prayer here, for the design of the whole truth respecting salvation is to teach us, that our life depends on God, and that whatever belongs to eternal life must be hoped for and expected from him. We now then understand the import of the whole.

But we must enquire also why he says, that the nations would come to seek God at Jerusalem, and there to call on him. The Jews foolishly imagine that God cannot be otherwise worshipped than by offering sacrifices still in the temple. But the Prophet had something very different in view, that the light of truth would arise from that city, which would diffuse itself far and wide: and this prophecy ought to be connected with that of Isaiah,

|A law shall go forth from Sion, and the word of Jehovah from Jerusalem.| (Isaiah 2:3.)

As then the doctrine of salvation which has filled the whole world flowed from that city, the Prophet says, that nations would come to Jerusalem, not that it would be necessary for them to assemble there, but because all were to seek there what could not be obtained elsewhere. Since then none could be accounted the children of God except they were brought up in that school and acknowledged that alone to be true religion which had its first habitation at Jerusalem, we hence see why the Prophet expressly mentions that city.

We must further bear in mind, that the temple was built for this end and purpose, -- that the doctrine of salvation might continue there, and have there its seat until the coming of Christ; for then was fulfilled that prophecy in the hundred and tenth Psalm, |The scepter of thy power shall God send forth from Sion.| The Prophet here teaches us, that Christ would not be the king of one people only, whose power was to be confined to narrow limits, but that he would rule through the whole world, for God would extend his scepter to every quarter of the globe. As tell it behaved the Jews to have this end in view, the Prophet, in order to animate them that they might not fail in the middle of their work, says, that that place was sacred to God, so that salvation might thence be sought by the whole world, for all were to be the disciples of that Church who wished to be deemed the children of God.

But we ought carefully to notice what I have already referred to, the two things required in God's worship -- to seek him, and also to pray to him. For the superstitious, though they pretend great ardor in seeking God, yet amuse themselves with many delusions; for they hurry on presumptuously, and as it were at random, so that they seek not God, but leave him, and weary themselves without thought and without any judgment. As then the superstitious have no reason for what they do, they can not be said properly to seek God. But the faithful seek God, for they acknowledge that he is not to be worshipped according to the fancy of any one, but that there is a certain prescript and rule to be observed. To us then this is the beginning of religion -- not to allow to ourselves liberty to attempt anything we please, but humbly and soberly to submit to God's word; for when any one seeks and chooses an unfit teacher, he will not advance as he ought to do. But the Prophet shows, that all the godly succeed when they strive to be approved of God by confining themselves to his word, and by attempting nothing through their own promptings, but when they have such a discernment as not to blend, as it is said, profane with sacred things. The second chief thing is, to pray to God: and the Prophet thus reminds us why it is that God would have us especially to seek him. Nothing indeed results to his advantage and benefit from our efforts, but he would have us to seek him that we may learn to expect from him everything connected with our salvation. This seeking is also defined by the term prayer, and not useless is the word face, for though God is invisible, we yet ought not to wander with uncertainty, as it were through the air, when our purpose is to flee to him, but to go to him with full confidence. Unless then we are fully persuaded of what the Scripture teaches us -- that God is ever nigh those who truly call on him, the door will be closed against our prayers, for God's name will be profaned though we may express what we wish. As then the nearness of God ought to be impressed on our hearts when we prepare ourselves for prayer, the Scripture usually adopts this form, to entreat the face of God. But this is not to be understood of an ocular sight, but, on the contrary, of the conviction of the heart. Let us now proceed -

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