3. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle.
3. Et egredietur Iehova, pugnabit contra gentes istas, sicut die quo proeliatus est in die proeli.
Zechariah here amplifies the favor of God, -- that he will go forth openly, and avowedly carry on war against all the enemies of Jerusalem. It was not indeed a small mitigation of their evils, that a part of the Church would be saved. But the Prophet declares here what is still far better, -- that when God afflicted his Church, and suffered it to be violently assailed by enemies, he would become at length the avenger of all the wrongs they might have done. We know how we are wounded and tried, when God gives loose reins to the ungodly, and when they grow wanton in their wickedness and triumph, insult God, and almost spit as it were at the very clouds. When therefore the ungodly thus petulantly exult, and God in the meantime hides himself and is still, it is difficult to wait patiently for the issue. Hence the Prophet promises that God will become the avenger, after having allowed his Church to be for a time chastised by ungodly and wicked enemies.
Go forth, he says, shall Jehovah. We know the meaning of this metaphorical expression. The Prophets sometimes extend the phrase, |Go forth shall God from his holy place,| as though they said -- that the Jews would find by experience that God's name is not invoked in vain in his temple, and that it has not been said in vain, that God is seated between the cherubim. But the Prophet seems here to speak of God generally, as going forth armed from his recesses to resist the enemies of his Church. Go forth then shall God; for he had for a time concealed his power. In a like manner, we know that God hides his face from us when he brings us no help, and when we also think that we are neglected by him. As then God, as long as he hides his power, seems to be without power, hence the Prophet says here, Go forth shall Jehovah, and he will fight against these nations
By these words he intimates, that there is no reason for the faithful to envy their enemies, even when all things go on prosperously with them; for they will at length find that they cannot injure the Church without God undertaking its cause, according to what he has promised,
|I will be an enemy to thine enemies.| (Exodus 23:22.)
But as this is a thing difficult to be believed, he calls to mind ancient history, --
As in the day, he says, in which he fought in the day of battle. Some confine this part to the passage through the Red Sea; but I think that Zechariah includes all the instances which God had given to the Jews to prove that they were the objects of his care. God then, not only once, not at one time, nor in one manner, had put forth his power, that the Jews might plainly see that they became conquerors through his aid. This is what Zechariah means. He in effect says, |Both you and your fathers have long ago found that God is wont to fight for his Church; for he has honored you with innumerable victories; you have been often overwhelmed with despair, and his favor unexpectedly shone upon you, and delivered you beyond all that you hoped for: you had often to contend with the strongest enemies; they were put to flight, even when ye were wholly unequal to them in number, and yet God bestowed upon you easy victories. Since then God has so often and in such divers ways cast down your enemies, why should you not hope for the same aid still from him?|
We hence see why the Prophet now refers to the ancient battles of God, even that he might by facts confirm the Jews in their hope, and that they might not doubt but that God was endued with power sufficiently strong to subdue all the ungodly, for he loses none.
And he adds, in the day of battle, even when there is need of help from heaven. He indeed calls it the day of engagement or contest, for so the word qrv, koreb, properly means. When therefore it was necessary for God to engage with enemies, then his power appeared: |There is hence no reason for you hereafter to doubt, but that he will still prevail against your enemies.| We know that this mode of speaking is frequently and commonly used by the Prophets, that is, when they adduce examples of God's favor and power, by which he has proved that there is in him alone sufficient help for the deliverance of his Church.
It behaves us now to apply to ourselves what is here said, for Zechariah did not only speak for the men of his age, or for those of the next generation, but he intended to furnish the Church with confidence till the end of the world, so that the faithful might not faint under any trials. Whenever then the ungodly prevail, and no hope shines on us, let us remember how often and by what various means God has wonderfully delivered his Church as it were from death; for it was not his purpose only once to help and aid his own people, but also to animate us, that we at this day may not despond, when we endure evils with which the fathers formerly struggled. He then adds --