Take a moment to pray. Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.
Setting the Scene
And if you can believe this, then in time of great fear and trouble you will be able to say: Even though I suffer long, very well then, what is that compared with that great treasure which my God has given to me, that I shall live eternally with him?
When we face discouragement and difficulty, fear usually isn’t far behind. What we fear dictates how we go about our business. Fear often prevents us from walking by faith and glorifying God in our daily lives.
As God sent the exiled Israelites home to Judah and Jerusalem in the late 6th century BC, those who chose to go were met with a difficult task. As they were trying to rebuild, they faced opposition from those who had taken over the land, they faced political adversity, and they faced a major economic depression. After the ministry of the prophet Haggai they had begun to rebuild God’s temple, but it was slow going and difficult.
Fear, in the meantime, had kept many from going home at all. They had stayed home, betting that staying in exile was better than returning to the promised land in disarray.
But is this really the best strategy? Stay home? Stay in your comfort zone? Is this what God calls us to? God gave the prophet Zechariah a third vision to deal specifically with the main threats Israelites would have been afraid of. It turns out, our safe zone is wherever God had called us to be.
Zech. 2:1-2 I looked up and saw a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem to determine its width and length.”
As with the other visions, Zechariah interacts with his vision. Zechariah asks a man where he is going, and he answers that he is going to measure Jerusalem. Given the circumstances of Zechariah’s audience, this is encouraging. The rebuilding of Jerusalem isn’t futile!
Zech. 2:3-4 Then the angel who was speaking with me went out, and another angel went out to meet him. He said to him, “Run and tell this young man: Jerusalem will be inhabited without walls because of the number of people and livestock in it.”
The angel who has been Zechariah’s guide, the angel of the Lord, “went out”, and another angel “went out” to meet him. The angel of the Lord thus commands the second angel to run to the young man. He is to tell him essentially to not bother measuring because Jerusalem will be too big for walls.
“Dwelling” is the key concept in this vision: the idea is that God will bless Jerusalem with prosperity, God’s people will live there in peace, and it will be such a sprawling city it will be too big for walls.
Zech. 2:5 The declaration of the LORD: “I myself will be a wall of fire around it, and I will be the glory within it.”
The Lord declares emphatically that he alone is the protection for his people. The wall of fire image vividly expresses God as the impenetrable protection for Jerusalem. How will they be safe without walls? The Lord will be her defense.
So often we turn to man-made sources of protection from our fears, like home security systems, relational isolation, or overly-cautious paranoia. But our hope for safety isn’t our solution, it must be God himself.
The immeasurable blessing of God’s presence leads to immediate encouragement. It also leads to some other immediate blessings. Look to verse 2:6…
Zech. 2:6 ¶ “Listen! Listen! Flee from the land of the north”—this is the LORD’s declaration—“for I have scattered you like the four winds of heaven”—this is the LORD’s declaration.
The “north” is a reference to the direction from which both Babylon and Assyrian conquered the people of Israel. Any people remaining in exile (represented here by “the north”) should flee.
They must flee the lands of exile because those nations will face judgement from God. The spreading out as the four winds of the earth refers to geographical totality, like the four points of the compass.
Zech. 2:7 “Listen, Zion! Escape, you who are living with Daughter Babylon.”
Those Israelites (referred to here with old name for Jerusalem, Zion) living in Babylon should head home to Jerusalem. The phrase “daughter of Babylon” simply means “Babylon.” Many of the exiles still living in conquering nations are in view.
Zech. 2:8 For the LORD of Armies says this: “In pursuit of his glory, he sent me against the nations plundering you, for whoever touches you touches the pupil of my eye.
God’s motivation for sending the angel is to glorify God by the rescue, preservation, and blessing of his people. The sending is sending of the angel of the Lord for judgement. Those who have attacked Israel have attacked the “gate of God’s eye.” The word used here does not mean “apple.” The point is that touching Israel is touching a highly sensitive area. To mess with God’s people is to mess with God.
Zech. 2:9 For look, I am raising my hand against them, and they will become plunder for their own servants. Then you will know that the LORD of Armies has sent me.
The idea of raising his hand against them is like the modern English phrase “shaking a fist” at them. Rather than take plunder, they will be plundered by their slaves. Conquered people were almost always slave classes when they were taken into exile. This aspect of the vision had already occurred as Assyrian and especially Babylon had given way to the Medo-Persian empire.
This warning of those still in exile to flee is a caution against being too comfortable living in a culture where the majority of people don’t love God. Again, our safety zone may be inhibiting our capacity to make decisions by faith in God. But once we flee the world and return home, we will find amazing peace and joy.
Zech. 2:10 “Daughter Zion, shout for joy and be glad, for I am coming to dwell among you”—this is the LORD’s declaration.
“Daughter of Zion” is a reference to the people of Israel. They should rejoice, because God will dwell with them. Not only are the people who dwelled in exile coming home, the Lord is coming home too.
The verb “dwell” brings to mind the tabernacle and temple. This alone is reason for Israel to celebrate. God’s presence with his people in right relationship to him is the cause of their joy.
Zech. 2:11 “Many nations will join themselves to the LORD on that day and become my people. I will dwell among you, and you will know that the LORD of Armies has sent me to you.
The vision of Jerusalem restored and prosperous, however, pushes beyond their expectation. Many nations will “join themselves” to Yahweh. Moreover, these Gentiles will be to him a people, a distinction normally excluding Gentiles.
The repetition that God will dwell in the midst of this people seems to push beyond the idea of the temple. There may be a hint here that the temple will not be necessary, as God will dwell with his people without the need for sacrifice.
In this vision, God encourages his people with a magnificent view of the ultimate future of Jerusalem. This is meant to encourage them to worship and trust him in the meantime.
Zech. 2:12 The LORD will take possession of Judah as his portion in the Holy Land, and he will once again choose Jerusalem.
With the highly covenantal concept of inheritance of the land, God once again assures his people he has not forgotten them. Zechariah may be alluding to the Song of Moses with “inheritance,” “portion,” and “pupil of the eye” (check out Deut. 32:8-10).
The exile had temporarily given the perception that God had rejected his people. But once again they are his portion. They are his inheritance in the land set apart.
Zech. 2:13 Let all people be silent before the LORD, for from his holy dwelling he has roused himself.”
Zechariah calls for silence from all living things before God because he has been aroused from his holy abode. Specifically, the Lord has been stirred to action due to the exile of his people. Thus all living things should show silent respect for God because of his glory seen when he redeems his people.
The Big Picture
The idea of God dwelling with his people in the Old Testament is made clear in the New Testament. John tells us that Jesus, the Word, became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). He offers forgiveness from sins for both Jews and Gentiles.
This vision of Zechariah looks to the new Jerusalem, where God dwells in the midst of his people without a temple building because of the redemptive work of Jesus. The author of Hebrews talks about believers’ ultimate home as “Mount Zion,” “the city of the living God,” and “the heavenly Jerusalem” (Heb. 12:22). In Revelation 21 we see a vision of the new Jerusalem, full of Jews and Gentiles dwelling with God.
Consider this: if you are a believer in Jesus, then your future is literally dwelling with God in the New Jerusalem. He will satisfy you. He will protect you from every evil. He will be your glory. This is the result of the gospel.
Taking It Home
God’s presence brings immeasurable blessings for immediate encouragement. Why fear? God is our protection and our satisfaction. We have no need for a missile shield when Yahweh is our wall of fire.
We look so many other places for satisfaction: money, relationships, achievement, popularity; we seek it through grades, careers, kids, athletics, and retirement; we buy phones and cars and tvs. Our culture tells us we are valuable in and of ourselves. But deep down we know that we need more. We need God’s glory to satisfy us.
It is entirely plausible that people in Persia did not want to come home because it meant uprooting their families, financial hardship, and danger. So God makes the command twice. Don’t get too comfortable, it’s time to come home.
Sometimes we can look at what God is calling us to and think, “No way, that is way too hard.” But we must realize that God’s presence not only brings blessing to believers, but judgement for unbelievers. If we are his, then we must be distinct, and flee from godlessness to God’s grace.
Perhaps you are too comfortable in Babylon. Perhaps you see what God is calling you to, but you just don’t want to commit. Let me encourage you, the blessings are immeasurable and the judgement is fierce. God is calling his own to come home. Maybe that’s you.
In light of this glorious vision, two worship responses are appropriate: jubilant rejoicing and awe-filled silence. First, rejoice! Sing! Be glad! God will dwell with his people! We are not separated from God due to sin. Rather, we can enjoy intimacy with God. Are you happy? Do you have joy? Are you rejoicing? Singing? Proclaiming?
Second, let us be silent. When we step back and consider God’s plan of redemption, let us be in awe. The eternal second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, became flesh and dwelt among us. He died for our sins and rose from the dead. God has acted on our behalf: be stunned at the saving work of God, He is still at it today.
- Confess your fears to the Lord in prayer. Ask him to strengthen your faith in him, and to help you walk in bold obedience.
- Pray for the courage to stand apart from the world. Ask God to clarify ways that you need to be distinct in your workplace, school, neighborhood, etc.
- Praise God for salvation in Jesus Christ and your secure future in the New Jerusalem! Spend a few minutes in silent awe of the glory of God.