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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 12:10

10. And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.

10. Et effundam supe domum Davidis, et super habitatorem Ierosolymae Spiritum gratiae et miserationum; (vel, precationum, vertunt alii;) et respicient ad me quem confixerunt; et lugebunt super ipsum tanquam luctu super inigenitum; et amarulenti erunt super eum, quasi amarulentia quae est super primogenitum.

At the beginning of this verse the Prophet intimates, that though the Jews were then miserable and would be so in future, yet God would be merciful to them: and thus he exhorts them to patience, that they might not faint through a long-continued weariness. For it was not enough to promise to them what we have noticed respecting God's aid, except Zechariah had added, that God would at length be merciful and gracious to them after they had endured so many evils, that the world would regard them as almost consumed.

As to the effusion of the spirit, the expression at the first view seems hard to be understood; for what is it to pour forth the spirit of grace? He ought rather to have said thus, |I will pour my grace upon you.| But what he means is, that God would be merciful, for his spirit would be moved to deliver the Jews; for he compares the spirit of God here to the mind of man, and we know that Scripture often uses language of this kind. The phrase then, I will pour forth the spirit of grace, may be thus suitably expressed -- |I will pour forth my bowels of mercy,| or, |I will open my whole heart to show mercy to this people,| or, |My Spirit shall be like the spirit of man, which is wont to move him to give help to the miserable.|

We now then understand the sense in which God may be fitly said to pour forth the spirit of grace. It may yet be taken in a more refined manner, as meaning that God would not only show mercy to his people, but also make them sensible of his mercy; and this view I am inclined to take, especially on account of what follows, the spirit of commiserations, or, of lamentations, for the word, tchnvnym, tachnunim, commonly means lamentations in Hebrew. Some render it |prayers,| but improperly, for they express not the force of the word. It is always put in the plural number, at least with this termination: and there is but one place where we can render it commiserations, that is, in Jeremiah 31:9 --

|In commiserations will I restore them.|

But even there it may be rendered lamentations consistently with the whole verse; for the Prophet says, |They shall weep,| and afterwards adds, |In lamentations will I restore them.| The greater part indeed of interpreters render it here, prayers; but the Hebrews prefer to translate it commiserations, and for this reason, because they consider that the spirit of grace is nothing else but simply grace itself. The spirit of grace is indeed grace itself united with faith: for God often hears the miserable, extends his hand to them, and brings them a most effectual deliverance, while they still continue blind and remain unconcerned. It is then far better that the spirit of grace should be poured forth on us, than grace itself: for except the spirit of God penetrate into our hearts and instils into us a feeling need of grace, it will not only be useless, but even injurious; for God at length will take vengeance on our ingratitude when he sees his grace perishing through our indifference. What then the Prophet, in my opinion, means is, that God will at length be so propitious to the Jews as to pour forth on them the spirit of grace, and then the spirit of lamentations, in order to obtain grace.

They who render the word prayers, do not, as I have already said, convey the full import of the term. But we may also take commiserations in a passive sense and consistently with its common meaning: I will pour forth the spirit of grace, that they themselves may perceive my grace; and then, the spirit of commiserations, that having deplored their evils, they may understand that they have been delivered by a power from above. Hence Zechariah promises here more than before; for he speaks not here of God's external aid, by which they were to be defended, but of inward grace, by which God would pour hidden joy into their hearts, that they might know and find by a sure experience that he was propitious to them.

But if the word tchnvnvm, tachnunim, be rendered commiserations, the meaning would be, as I have already stated, that the Jews, through the dictation and the suggestions of the Holy Spirit, would find God merciful to them; but if we render it lamentations, then the Prophet must be viewed as saying something more -- that the Jews, previously so hardened in their evils, as not to flee to God for help, would become at length suppliants, because the Spirit would inwardly so touch their hearts as to lead them to deplore their state before God, and thus to express their complaints to Him: and this view is more fully confirmed by what follows.

They shall look to me, he says, whom they have pierced. We then see here that not only an external grace or favor was promised to the Jews, but an internal light of faith, the author of which is the Spirit; for he it is who illuminates our minds to see the goodness of God, and it is he also who turns our hearts: and for this reason he adds, They shall look to me For God, as I have already reminded you, deals very bountifully with the unbelieving, but they are blind; and hence he pours forth his grace without any benefit, as though he rained on flint or on and rocks. However bountifully then God may bestow his grace on the unbelieving, they yet render his favor useless, for they are like stones.

Now, as Zechariah declares that the Jews would at length look to God, it follows, that the spirit of repentance and the light of faith are promised to them, so that they may know God as the author of their salvation, and feel so assured that they are already saved, as in future to devote themselves entirely to him: they shall then look to me whom they have pierced. Here also the Prophet indirectly reproves the Jews for their great obstinacy, for God had restored them, and they had been as untameable as wild beasts; for this piercing is to be taken metaphorically for continual provocation, as though he had said, that the Jews in their perverseness were prepared as it were for war, that they goaded and pierced God by their wickedness or by the weapons of their rebellion. As then they had been such, he says now, that such a change would be wrought by God that they would become quite different, for they would learn to look to him whom they had previously pierced. We cannot finish today.

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