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CRITICAL NOTES.] This chapter begins the first half of the second prophecy concerning Israel’s future and the nations of the world. The conflict against Jerusalem and Judah will issue in the destruction of the enemies (Zechariah 12:1-4). Burden] Implying distress to Israel and destruction to their foes; explained by reference to God’s creative power, which removes all doubt concerning the thing predicted.
Zechariah 12:2. Cup] Causing those who drink to reel; a symbol of Divine judgments, which intoxicate and cause nations to fall and perish (Isaiah 51:17; Jeremiah 25:15). Against] Lit. “also with Judah it shall be thus in the siege of Jerusalem,” i.e. Judah with Jerusalem will be a cup of wrath; the country and capital will be involved in the same conflict.
Zechariah 12:3. Burden.] Another figure, borrowed from the custom of young men lifting up stones to test their strength. Nations will fail and suffer. Cut] They will wound themselves by the sharp edges of the stones.
Zechariah 12:4. Horses] and riders represent warlike forces, confused and injuring one another; but God exercises great care over his people. Madness] (cf. Judges 7:22; 1 Samuel 14:20). Open] i.e. to protect (1 Kings 8:29; Nehemiah 1:6; Psalms 32:8).
THE OMNIPOTENT SUPREMACY OF GOD.—Zechariah 12:1
To remove doubt concerning the promises in this chapter, God prefixes his name, proves his omnipotence, and declares his supremacy over matter and mind.
I. God is supreme in the physical world. Power is displayed in its creation and constant government.
1. He formed the earth. He “layeth the foundation of the earth,” fixed it on its basis, and revolves it on its axis. He not only made, but rules and judges in it, and those mistake who say, “The Lord hath forsaken the earth.”
2. He stretched out the heavens. Like “a curtain” he can stretch them out or draw them together. God not only created at first, but continually sustains all things. But the power which created the world must be unlimited and ever present to uphold it. Without him the earth would wander from its orbit, and the universe fall into ruin. “Upholding all things by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3).
II. God is supreme in the spirit world. He “formeth the spirit of man within him.” God is the Creator and sustainer of man’s spirit. “The Father of spirits.” The human soul is the breath of the Almighty (Job 33:4); and spiritually we are of Divine parentage (Acts 17:28). “Behold, all souls are mine.” He created them all, endowed them with powers and faculties necessary to constitute them subjects of moral government (cf. Hend., Ezekiel 18:4). He controls men’s hearts and purposes “as rivers of water,” encourages his people and dispirits their enemies, and will save his chosen by quickening grace and eternal life. Thus in creation and human experience we have proofs of God’s power, refutations of doubt to perform his promise, and hope in seasons of trial and difficult enterprise. “I am the Lord that maketh all things; that stretcheth forth the heavens alone; that spreadeth abroad the earth by myself; … that confirmeth the word of his servant, and performeth the counsel of his messengers” (Isaiah 44:24; Isaiah 44:26).
GOD’S PEOPLE RUINOUS TO THEIR ENEMIES.—Zechariah 12:2-4
Here we have promise of security to the Church of God. Nations may attack Jerusalem, but will fail, whatever be their forces and fervour. Three figures are used to indicate this failure. They will be intoxicated by the “cup of trembling,” wounded by the “burdensome stone,” and consumed by the “hearth of fire” (Zechariah 12:6).
I. The enemies of God’s people will be rendered powerless in their efforts. They will gather together and besiege Jerusalem—thirst for spoil and blood, and be doomed to destruction. As the gods infatuated those whom they destroyed, so God will intoxicate them with the wine-cup of wrath, administer a potion to make them helpless and reel on the ground. Sennacherib’s army were stupefied and helpless in their assault. Persecutors may be excited to rage, but will be deprived of their precaution and power, made drunk in their fury, and exhausted in their efforts. “The stout-hearted (valiant) are spoiled, they have slept their sleep (of death), and none of the men of might have found their hands (were able to fight)” (Psalms 76:5).
“For the Angel of Death spread his wings on the blast,
And breathed in the face of the foe as he passed;
And the eyes of the sleepers waxed deadly and chill,
And their hearts but once heaved, and for ever were still” [Byron].
II. The enemies of God’s people will be wounded in their efforts. This stone will be burdensome to all who seek to remove or carry it away. God’s Church is founded on the rock, and persecutors dash against it in vain. It is a rock of offence by virtue of its charter and power, a stone of stumbling to many. In times of persecution kings and rulers have tried to upset or remove this stone, but it has torn, lacerated, or ground to powder those upon whom it has fallen. Israel escaped, but Pharaoh was drowned in the sea. The Philistines captured the ark, but Dagon was broken to pieces. Diocletian built a monument to commemorate the extinction of Christianity, but he perished, and it survives. In a conference with Andrew Rivet, the King of France threatened severe measures against the cause of truth, but the Reformer answered, “May it please your Majesty, the Church of God is an anvil which hath broken a great many hammers” [cf. Lange].
III. The enemies of God’s people will destroy themselves by their efforts. Zechariah revives the words concentrated by Moses to express the stupefaction at their ills which God would accumulate upon the people if they perseveringly rebelled against him. Each expresses the intensity of the visitation [cf. Pusey].
1. They are smitten with blindness. Then they rush to their own ruin (Zechariah 14:12-13).
2. They are smitten with terror. The horses of the enemy were unmanageable by their riders, got entangled one with another, and became injurious only to themselves.
3. They are smitten with madness. “I will smite every horse with astonishment, and his rider with madness.” The riders were deprived of self-possession and forethought. Thus all attempts will fail, and bring shame and discomfort upon those who are guilty of them. “I will sing unto the Lord; for he hath triumphed gloriously; the horse and his rider hath he cast into the sea.”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Zechariah 12:1. Learn—
1. That the promises of God often seem incredible.
2. That doubt concerning these promises will hinder our comforts.
3. That the visible effects of God’s power should remove our doubt and strengthen our hope. Nothing can fail for lack of power and love. The Church, therefore, is perfectly safe, the enemies are in great danger. Pledges of Divine faithfulness:—The power of God, by which he stretched forth the heavens. The wisdom of God, by which he founded the earth. The goodness of God, by which he formed the spirit of man [cf. Trapp].
Zechariah 12:2. A cup of trembling. What it is, and who brings it, and who drinks it. “The cup is all bitter and full of sorrow,” saith Augustine: “the godly do often taste the top, and feel the bitterness, but then it is suddenly snatched from them; but the ungodly shall drink the very grounds and extremest poison” [J. Adams].
Zechariah 12:3. A stone. It is not a rock, or anything in its own nature immovable, but a stone—a thing rolled up and down, moved, lifted, displaced, piled on others, in every way at the service and command of men, to do with it what they willed [Pusey]. But notice its tremendous weight and injurious effects when abused!
Zechariah 12:4. The self-destruction of the enemy, and the perfect security of the Church; or the madness of men, and the special providence of God. I will open mine eyes, in contrast to the blindness with which God smote those arrayed against them—in pity, love, and guidance, in contrast to the cruelty and self-injury of the foes [cf. Pusey]. God seems to close his eyes sometimes, and leave his people in darkness and distress. The enemy thinks that God disregards them; but eventually he will notice the trials of the Church, and splendidly interfere to destroy her foes.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Zechariah 12:1. Heavens. Creation in all its length and breadth, in all its depth height, is the manifestation of his Spirit, and without him the world were dead and dark. The universe is to us as and burning bush which the Hebrew leader saw. God is ever present in it; for it the burns with his glory, and the ground on which we stand is always holy [Francis]. Spirit of man. The soul, immortal as its sire, shall never die [Montgomery].
Zechariah 12:2-4. A cup. There is no greater punishment than that of being abandoned to one’s self [Pasquier Quesnel]. Madness. There is no future pang can deal that justice on the self-condemned he deals on his own soul [Byron]. O, that way madness lies; let me shun that [Shakespeare].
Zechariah 12:5. Judah] Chiefs of Judah will see the foe smitten with madness, and recognize in the repulse of the enemy by the metropolis Divine security for the country.
Zechariah 12:6. Sheaf] In consequence of this trust in God the leaders consume their foes on every hand, as a basin of fire devours faggots, or a torch consumes sheaves. Jerusalem] i.e. the inhabitants. Again] After complete rout of the enemy shall dwell in (Jerusalem) peace.
Zechariah 12:7. Tents], shifting and insecure, and spread over the country, first saved; to prevent pride and self-exaltation in the inhabitants of the fortified and well-defended metropolis.
Zechariah 12:8. Defend] God’s people will be exalted to a degree of strength and glory surpassing anything in their experience. Even the stumbler, one who can scarce hold himself up, much less attack a foe, the feeble, shall be heroes like David; David’s house shall exceed its ancient fame, become like God; yea, like the angel] that guarded Israel in the wilderness; the highest type of glory and strength (Exodus 23:20; Exodus 32:34). This climax proves the beautiful style of the prophet, and contains stimulating consolation as a promise.
Zechariah 12:9. Seek] expresses the energetic purpose of the speaker, more humano [cf. Lange].
THE ENERGY OF ZION’S LEADERS.—Zechariah 12:5-7
God will not only preserve Israel, but raise up and qualify rulers to manage their affairs—holy men, putting confidence in the people, and rejoicing in the welfare of the country. Notice the energy of spiritual leaders.
I. Its elements are the unity and affection of the people. “The princes of Judah shall say in their heart, (lit.) ‘The inhabitants of Jerusalem strength to me.’ The princes recognize in the unity and love to God found in the people their strength to endure and defend. The poor and weak are held in highest estimation, and confessed to be the hope of the nation, not as a matter of expediency nor policy, but from deep conviction.” In their heart the rulers confess this. God’s people may be ignored by worldly rulers, but they are the defence and glory of an empire.
II. Its origin is found in Divine grace. “In the Lord of Hosts, their God.” Few or many, holy or unholy people have no inherent worth. Rulers have no energy without God. Jehovah makes Jerusalem “a cup and a stone.” “On human principles, or according to the ordinary operation of cause and effect, the world would prevail. Often every advantage is on its side—arms, wealth, influence, state-craft, learning, prestige, and numbers. Yet the few, the weak, the unlettered, the lowly, the things that are not, brought to nought the things that are. The excellency of the power is not in man, but of God. The Lord will not give his glory to another. ‘Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubians a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet because thou didst rely upon the Lord, He delivered thee’ ” [Lange]. This should—
1. Aid the weak. “The Lord shall save the tents of Judah first.”
2. Humble the strong. That “the glory of the inhabitants do not magnify themselves against Judah.”
THE DANGER AND THE DEFENCE OF ZION.—Zechariah 12:6-7
The Church is looked upon by many as troublesome. They have spared no effort to destroy it. God has defended Zion, the city of our solemnities.
I. The danger of Zion. A mighty confederacy is formed against it. “All the people of the earth” (Zechariah 12:3) gathered to besiege Zion. “They shall be in the siege” (Zechariah 12:2). “To cut off the name of Israel, that it should be no more in remembrance.” Gathered against a defenceless people. In Zechariah 9:13 we have the bow, the sword, and the valour of the Maccabees under the direction of God; but here we have tents shifting and insecure.
II. The defence of Zion. The people and the princes make common cause, become one-minded, and each exalt the strength which the other was to him in Jehovah.
1. God helps them to defend themselves. Self-help first, and then help from others. “For they can conquer who believe they can,” says Virgil. “Our remedies oft in ourselves do lie which we ascribe to heaven” [Shakspeare].
2. God helps them by his own power. “The Lord shall save.” The defenceless first. The country people were more exposed, and needed greater protection. They might be forgotten or despised by the citizens of Jerusalem; but God specially protected them. This was to teach the great men—men of influence and position—“not to magnify themselves against Judah.” None must assume anything to himself. All, the meanest and mightiest are equal in the sight of God, and saved by grace Divine. Hence in every civil and religious community there should be no ill-feeling in the low towards the high, and no disrespect in the rich towards the poor. “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
“Praise is only praise when well addressed” [Gay].
SPIRITUAL HEROISM.—Zechariah 12:8-9
As a consequence of Divine protection, the weak would be strengthened, the mighty endowed with supernatural vigour, and all their enemies would be scattered.
I. Spiritual heroism is Divine in its source. The strength is “as the Angel of the Lord before them.” “The Angel of Jehovah,” known as the manifestation of Deity in their history. The might of God in Christ Jesus. “I can do all things through Christ, who strengtheneth me.”
II. Spiritual heroism is different in its degrees. We have two classes mentioned—
1. The feeble become powerful. “He that is feeble among them at that day shall be as David.” He that stumbles and is ready to fall shall become a hero, a mighty man of valour. His feebleness and unskilfulness shall merge into strength, and God shall teach his hands to war and his fingers to fight. “Let the weak say, I am strong.”
2. The strong shall be more powerful. David’s house shall eclipse its former splendour, and be “as God.” He shall possess a superhuman courage and decision, perform exploits, and resemble God, seen marching in the front of his conquering hosts.
III. Spiritual heroism is gradual in its growth. “From strength to strength,” by strenuous effort and perseverance. Faith is gained by experience, and courage strengthened by trial. “Tried grace is growing grace.” The sapling once bending before the blast has become the sturdy oak by the tossing storm No degree of strength is impossible, but the steps to attain it are gradual. “The righteous also shall hold (take firm hold) on his way, and he that hath clean hands be stronger and stronger (add strength)” (Job 17:9).
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Zechariah 12:5. Strength to me.
1. The piety and unity of a people the strength of the leaders.
2. The confidence of the leaders in the people a necessity to success. Without concurrent aid, skill and valour of little avail. In times of danger there should be full co-operation, reliance one upon another, and hope in God. “This union and valour would be the ‘strength’ of their leaders; without which they must find themselves utterly powerless. A divided, dispirited, heartless, dastardly soldiery or populace is weakness, disappointment, and discomfiture to the best-conceived plans of the most bold, prudent, and experienced leaders” [Wardlaw].
Zechariah 12:6. The pot of fire. The governors of a united and brave people, when trusting to God, are—
1. Destructive. “Like a hearth of fire (a fire-pot) among wood, or like a torch of fire in a sheaf.”
2. Very destructive. “They shall devour all the people round about, on the right hand and on the left.” The idea conveyed is destruction most terrible and complete—most easily and most certainly accomplished.
3. Very destructive only through God. “I will make,” &c. Jehovah speaks, infatuates and exposes the enemy, and makes the chiefs of Judah a consuming fire. “The fire could not kindle the wood or the sheaf of itself, unless applied to it. All is of the agency of God: I will make” [Pusey].
Notice—First, the destruction of the enemy; second, the restoration of the city. “Jerusalem shall be inhabited again.” The people shall yet dwell in their own city. “It shall not be a new city in some new territory; but Jerusalem, the city of their fathers, the city of their God; On the same spot, hallowed by all the ancient associations of their history and religion. The language pointedly and strongly expresses reoccupancy and permanent possession” [Wardlaw]. Literally, Jerusalem shall dwell still under herself, i.e. the Church will not rely on earthly powers, which will be opposed to her, but she will dwell in continual stability, dependent upon herself (cf. Zechariah 6:12, out of his place; lit. from under himself), and on her own spiritual strength, derived from her Divine Head, Christ [Wordsw.].
1. The certainty of salvation. “The Lord also shall save.”
2. The method of salvation. “Judah first.”
3. The design in the salvation “That the glory of the house of David … do not magnify themselves.” No local or personal supremacy then. In the Christian Church all are equal; nothing is due to learning, wealth, or merit, and none should domineer over the rest.
Zechariah 12:8-9. Zion’s conquest over her enemies—all of God, yet achieved through human agency.
1. By defending the helpless;
2. Aiding the stumbler; and
3. Elevating the mighty. The strongest have need of more strength, and this strength is only found in Jehovah. Hence the promise of defence added to that of strength.
1. God’s people have many enemies. “All the nations that come against Jerusalem.”
2. These enemies will be discovered. “I will seek.” Secret plotters and open enemies will be found, however distant their dwelling or daring their enterprise.
3. These enemies will be destroyed. “I will seek to destroy.” This the end of all persecutors, the issue of all opposition to God. “God will seek to destroy them, not as if at a loss for ways and means (infinite wisdom was never nonplussed), but his seeking intimates earnestness and intent upon it, and that he overrules means and instruments, all motions and second causes, to accomplish it.”
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Zechariah 12:5. My strength. The multitude which does not reduce itself to unity is confusion; the unity which does not depend upon the multitude is tyranny [Pascal].
Zechariah 12:6-7. Fire came down from heaven, therefore restlessly works itself through all combustibles till it returns thither again [W. Seker]. The wrath of man is the rage of man, but the wrath of God is the reason of God [Bishop Reynolds].
Zechariah 12:8-9. Heroism, the Divine relation which in all times unites a great man to other men [Carlyle].
“Tis not enough to help the feeble up,
But to support him after” [Shakespeare].
Zechariah 12:10.] This a complete contrast to preceding; nothing warlike, but all subdued and spiritual, “a clear and definite prophecy of the future conversion of the Jews, in consequence of a special and extraordinary outpouring of the influences of the Holy Spirit” [Henderson], Jerusalem] The whole covenant nation. Spirit] which brings grace, and which results in supplication. Look] Applied to bodily and mental vision (cf. Numbers 21:9; Isaiah 32:11), with the idea of confidence in thing looked at. Me] Jehovah (Zechariah 12:1). Mourn] The consequence of looking. Him] Jehovah—Messiah speaking in his own person first, then the prophet speaking of him [Fausset]. Pierced] Thrust through, to slay by any kind of death (cf. Lamentations 4:9). Mourning most bitter and deep, as for an only son].
Zechariah 12:11.] An illustration given, the greatest recorded, mourning for Josiah in Hadadrimmon], a city in the valley of Megiddon (2 Chronicles 35:22).
Zechariah 12:12.] It is universal mourning. “All the families and households of the nation mourn, and not the men only, but also the women. To this end the prophet mentions four distinct leading and secondary families, and then adds in conclusion, ‘all the rest of the families, with their wives’ ” [Keil].
ISRAEL’S SIN AND ISRAEL’S SORROW.—Zechariah 12:10-14
As the former portion of the chapter sets forth the outward protection of providence shown toward the New Testament Israel, by means of which it emerged victor from all trials and conflicts, and saw its enemies utterly discomfited, this portion turns to the other side of Israel’s experience, and deals with its outward character, showing how the covenant people become such, how the Church in its new form commences the Christian life, and obtains a title to the Divine protection. It is by the bitter herbs of repentance, leading to pardon and renovation through a believing sight of the pierced Saviour—the whole preceded and induced by a copious shower of spiritual influences of the same kind as those predicted by Joel (Joel 2:28) and Isaiah (Isaiah 44:3; Isaiah 32:15). In this view the two parts of the chapter correspond to each other, and make one complete whole [Lange].
Israel’s sin. “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced.” Indignities and insults offered to the Son of God. “Upon me.” By wicked hands they crucified and slew the Messiah. “From that day to this the impenitent and unbelieving Jews have given their hearts’ consent to the judgment and deeds of their fathers; have reiterated the cry, ‘His blood be on us and on our children;’ have through many successive generations continued to ‘crucify to themselves the Son of God afresh.’ On this account it is here said, even of the Jews who shall repent and believe in a yet future generation, ‘They shall look upon him whom they have pierced,’—an expression which signifies not merely that their sins, like ‘the sins of the whole world,’ contributed to bring sufferings upon the Saviour, but which describes the state of mind and heart toward Jesus; their being, though not in act, yet in spirit, his murderers, as their fathers were” [Wardlaw].
II. Israel’s mourning. The sorrow described by comparisons “was a repentance unto salvation which needs not to be repented of.”
1. It was universal. Not confined to Jerusalem, but “the land,” the whole nation, “shall mourn.” Four leading classes are mentioned. The priesthood or “family of the house of Levi;” the royal lineage or “family of the house of David;” the prophets or “family of the house of Nathan;” the scribes or “family of the house of Shimei.”
2. It was intense. Like the sorrow of loving parents bereft of the only object of their affection, a sorrow most deep and bitter, the death-wail of the Egyptians (Exodus 11:1). A mourning like the national distress at the loss of Josiah.
3. It was personal, each family apart. Our relations to God are personal, and our grief must be solitary. There is a sorrow as well as a joy with which strangers intermeddle not. The power of God came down upon the Indians when David Brainerd was preaching. “Their concern was so great, each for himself, that none seemed to take any notice of those about him. They were, to their own apprehension, as much retired as if they had been alone in the thickest desert. Every one was praying apart and yet all together” [cf. Lange]. “I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.”
“The deeper the sorrow, the less tongue hath it” [Talmud].
THE SPIRIT OF SUPPLICATION.—Zechariah 12:10
Not in vain did Moses and others long for a copious outpouring of the Holy Ghost. God answered their appeals, and one of His promises lies before us. Addressed towards the close of the Babylonish captivity to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, it must not be limited to these alone. In contrast to the fearful judgment of God upon their enemies, they were promised the rich gifts of the Spirit “of grace and of prayer,” that is, according to the most probable interpretation, the influence of the Spirit which imparts grace through which he teaches to pray in truth; and in consequence of this benefit, says the Lord, “they shall look on me whom they have pierced.” The complete fulfilment of this promise must be looked for in the future. Looking at the Holy Ghost in the special character here represented, as the best instructor of the prayer which is well-pleasing to God, in the first place, it is through him that a sense of the necessity of prayer is awakened. The necessity exists for all, but experienced by comparatively few. Who must not often confess, “We can scarcely urge sluggish flesh and blood to pray”? Who then teaches men to seek and inquire after God earnestly? Who permits the sinner no rest until his broken heart is fashioned to pray? The Holy Spirit teaches man to cry after God, convinces the sinner of sin, and constantly fans the flame, and lo, it blazes bright and high! It is through him that boldness in supplication is heightened. We lack courage to approach, but he banishes fear, begets confidence, and enables us to go joyfully to the Father in the Son’s name; places hallelujahs on the lips which recently uttered with trembling, “If thou, Lord, shouldest mark iniquity, O Lord, who shall stand?” It is the Holy Ghost through whom the tendency of prayer is so directed that it glorifies God and is abundantly blessed to ourselves. If more disposed to what is pleasant than necessary, and we allow ourselves to be deceived by appearances, he shows us our folly, and induces us to ask the best gifts with the most pressing urgency. Do there come moments—what Christian knows them not?—in which we scarce can tell what we ought to pray for—the Spirit helps our infirmities, &c. (Romans 8:26); so that all the varying, conflicting desires of the restless heart are subservient to one object, that God’s name should be glorified, and his will in and through us be perfectly accomplished. Even as regards frustrated wishes, the desires are not in vain. “He that searcheth the heart knoweth what is the mind of the Spirit;” and through the same Spirit again is the hearing of prayer assured to us. The amen of faith so heedlessly taken on the lips he places in the heart, and instructs God’s children to trust that the answer, whatever its form, will not fail to be sent. The infallible promise associated with prayer in the name of Jesus he aids us to comprehend in all its depth, and to adapt to our wants; but preserves from the folly of unreasonably ascribing to God a course of action, as if we might extort that which had not been determined in his counsel for our happiness. Thus it is he through whom, finally, the fellowship of prayer is perfected; because where he lives, there have all whom he guides to the throne of grace an actual fellowship with one another—with the Son, with the Father. Thus he forms and trains a constantly increasing number of worshippers in spirit and in truth; and those whom he here teaches to pray he teaches on high to praise. O, ye who have felt something of this, should ye not pray for the Holy Ghost? Ye who know him, should ye not pray more fervently in the Holy Ghost, without whom our defective speaking to God shall never be true prayer? [J. J. Van Oosterzee].
EVANGELICAL REPENTANCE.—Zechariah 12:10
These words clearly describe the chief characteristics and the chief means of kindling evangelical repentance.
I. It is mourning for sin. Not feeling great terror nor shedding many tears. Natural conscience may inflame remorse and sudden judgments overcome, but sorrow from shame may work death. Godly sorrow is a bitter thing, but not mixed with despair. It is a personal practical mourning for sin; it pierces (pricks) the heart (Acts 2:37) and leads to amendment of life.
II. It springs from looking to the Lord Jesus. It is a common mistake to think that we must first mourn and then look to Jesus. The mourning springs from the looking. “They shall look upon me and mourn.” We may be convinced of sin in various ways, but sorrow for sin springs from a look at the cross. In a crucified Saviour we see the malignity, guilt, and vileness of sin. All excuses are given up, and we are humbled in the dust. “A quick returning pang shoots through the conscious heart.” But the arrow that wounds brings the balm that makes alive. Peter saw his master, went out and wept bitterly, and was restored.
III. It is the work of the Holy Spirit in the heart. There is neither mourning nor looking without the outpouring of the Spirit. All holy affections, desires, principles, and states of mind are the result of the Spirit. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” Hence the precise influence conceived by the prophet is overcoming evil, imparting grace, and developing this grace in supplication. Prayer is the first result of a converted soul. “Behold, he prayeth.” “The gift of prayer is not always in our power,” says Lessing.
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Zechariah 12:10. Learn—
1. That a great change will take place in the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem—in both princes and people. On the first preaching of the gospel many of people believed, but scarcely any of the rulers; now all descriptions of men are to bow to the Redeemer’s sceptre.
2. The cause to which this change is ascribed is the pouring upon them of a spirit of grace and supplication. The spirit of true religion is an emanation of the grace of God, which necessarily leads to importunate prayer. The present state of the unbelieving Jews would seem to render their conversion hopeless; but when the influences of the Holy Spirit shall descend upon them, the heart of stone shall become a heart of flesh.
3. The great medium of effecting this change will be the remembrance of him whom their fathers crucified, and whom they themselves have pierced by persecuting his followers and continuing so long in enmity and unbelief. A realizing view of Jesus on the cross, as slain for us, will dissolve the most obdurate spirit into contrition and godly sorrow [Sutcliffe].
Zechariah 12:10. The predictions. The repentance and mourning of the Jews is immediately foretold, but the fact implied is his having been pierced. There are in truth two predictions: the one, that Messiah should be pierced; the other, that the penitent Jews should look on him whom they had pierced. They relate to widely distant periods. Since the first was fulfilled eighteen centuries have passed away. But it was fulfilled, and this gives ground of assurance that the other will be fulfilled in its time [Wardlaw].
1. The gracious blessing given.
(1) Look at the promise itself. The Holy Spirit. First, as a Spirit of grace. “The gift of God’s free favour, testifying to grace alone in the sinner’s salvation; the author of gracious dispositions and affections in the human soul, bringing men in harmony with God’s methods of grace in the gospel, and teaching them to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts. Then the Spirit of supplications, because coming from God. He draws immediately to God. He teaches all under his agency, not merely convincing them of the duty, but inclining them to avail themselves of the privilege of prayer. Wherever the Divine Spirit dwells, communion with God will be the characteristic feature of the favoured individual in whom he abides. When his influences come largely upon families, churches, and communities, the result will be a concert of prayer—a union of hearts, and a united outpouring of those hearts at the footstool of God” [Wardlaw].
(2) Look at the extent of the promise. The effusion is not fitful nor scanty, but generous and abundant—a pouring rain upon all classes, highest and lowest, individually and socially.
2. The wonderful result. First, “they shall look” with a simple, earnest, attentive, and personal look, “with trustful hope and longing, on me” [Pusey]. Then “they shall mourn,” most deeply and universally, the whole land, family by family. As males and females sat and worshipped separately, so “every family apart and their wives apart.”
“I was a stricken deer that left the herd” [Cowper].
Every family apart. Apply this to ministers. The priestly tribe had its own special in the day of national mourning. “The chief priests moved the people,” and thus shared their guilt. Are ministers not reminded of their shame? Is not grief becoming them when reviewing their treatment of God’s people? “Who can estimate the criminality of the clergy,” asks one, “during ages of corrupt and persistent oppression of the truth?” Let the guilt of our neglect and contempt of God and his word ever abase and cause us to mourn apart.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 12
Zechariah 12:10. Look. Their eye shall affect their heart (Revelation 1:7; Lamentations 3:51); for the eye is the instrument both of sight and of sorrow; and what the eye never sees the heart never rues. The sun looketh upon the earth, draweth up vapours thence, and distilleth them down again; so doth the sun of understanding; which, till it be convinced, the heart cannot be compuncted. Sight of sin must precede sorrow for sin [Trapp].
Zechariah 12:11-14. Mourning. The prophet uses the strongest metaphors known to human experience. No pang which death can inflict is so severe as that which wrings the heart of parents following to the tomb the remains of a first-born or an only son. It seems as all hope and glory were interred in the same grave. When President Lincoln was assassinated in 1865, a shuddering horror seized every heart throughout the land, and multitudes who had never seen the kindly leader were as deeply moved as if the blow had fallen on their own kindred. A gloomy pall settled down over all hearts and all households [Lange].
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Zechariah 12". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany