Click to donate today!
The burden of the Word of the Lord for Israel
The burden and glory of God’s Word to Israel
God presents Himself here as creating and speaking.
It is to Israel that His Word is primarily addressed, for it is Israel that recognises His Word, and by Israel His Word is carried to the world, which thus becomes also Israel. Remember the meaning of the name, and its origin. Prince of God was the name which Jacob got from that long wrestling in the dark--Israel, prince of God, because he had power with God. The name denotes the fact and the power of communion. Israel is composed of those who seek God and cling to Him, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
I. The Creator of the heavens and earth and the spirit of man has an Israel. The idea of Israel is fellowship with God and power with God, gained in and by that fellowship. Is such an idea reasonable? We think it a poor conception of God which represents Him as so mighty and rich that He does not care for fellowship with souls. Do you think to convince me that God is wanting in sympathies and affections by showing that He is Almighty? The argument is all in the opposite direction. Should I have more ground to believe in His heart if He were less than all-powerful and all-wise! There is in man a longing after relation to the Infinite. All his history proves this. Something in him cries out after God, and the heavens and the earth have tended to intensify this cry. Man is haunted by a something issuing from heaven and earth that will not let him rest. It would have been sad if man had craved an infinite friend, had yearned after nearness to a perfect and eternal living One, and felt no hope, countenance, or stimulus in the world around him. But man stands in no such barren and dead world. A living world is round him, material, but full of spiritual suggestion, inviting him to seek God, and waking him up again when he grows dull and hard. Will it be said that this does not make probable the idea of an Israel--men that have power with God, it gives support to the idea of communion with God, but not to that of prayer, an asking that influences the Divine will? The answer is obvious. Communion with God, in the case of a being like man, an imperfect, sin-laden being, must take largely the form of prayer. Such a being, coming near to God, cannot but ask from Him. And this asking, so inevitable, cannot be a futile thing. If asking be a necessity with the spirit that has communion with God, there must be room and need for it on the side of God. What is true on the human side is true on the Divine side. The whole doctrine of prayer is found in the spirit of man, in the longings and necessities, and there can be nothing in real contradiction to these. They who seek God have a peculiar affinity with Him. God as a moral being has moral affinities. It is not a lowering or limiting of God to believe that He has an Israel.
II. God has a word for His Israel. Neither the heavens nor the earth nor the spirit of man take the place of a word. They are each a revelation. But they are fuller of questions than of answers. The heart of man needs a word. It is only in words that there is definiteness. One of the distinguishing peculiarities of man is that he employs words. By these he reaches the fulness of his being. He makes his thought clear to himself, and gives it an outward existence by words. He makes all shadowy and vague things firm and abiding by words. And shall not God meet him on this highest platform? A Word of God is a necessity to the human soul God has a word to Israel which makes fellowship close and confiding. The word gives man the necessary clue to the interpretation of the universe and himself. It is God’s Word to Israel as the ideal man Israel is the ideal and complete man, and it is in proportion as any man approaches the ideal that he fully comprehends and embraces the message of God’s Word to Israel.
III. God’s Word to Israel is a burden. This expression is often used by the prophets. No doubt it expresses, in the first instance, the weight of obligation and responsibility in the declaring of God’s message, but this rests on the fact that the Word of God is a weighty matter for all men.
1. God’s Word is a burden by reason of the weight of its ideas. Thoughts that may be put into words are of all degrees of weight--some light as a feather, some heavy as a world. Thoughts weigh upon the mind, even though they are felt to be precious. The ideas in God’s Word are the weightiest of all--God, soul, sin, salvation, renewal, eternity. Men are never right till they try to lift these thoughts and weigh them. They are no judges of the weight of things till they try these.
2. God’s Word is a burden of momentousness and obligation. There are many weighty thoughts that have little or no practical moment. But the thoughts in God’s Word are of pressing and supreme importance. They are light, food, shelter, life. To reject them is ruin. Everything must depend on how we stand to these words.
3. God’s Word is a burden which is easier to bear in whole than in part. The half or quarter, or some little fraction of God’s Word is worse to bear, harder and heavier than the whole. A single truth taken out of the whole may be quite oppressive and intolerable. It may crush all joy and courage out of life. The truth about sin needs the truth about grace and redemption in order to be borne. The truth about duty needs the Divine promises. Relief is to be found not by throwing off any truth, but by taking up more. The hardest truths become pleasant in proper company. Every truth has relations to all the rest, and is not properly itself without them. Let the effort be to take the whole truth, and to take it as a whole. Then it will no more oppress than the vast load of atmosphere which every man carries.
4. The Word of God is a burden which removes every other load. Thought, conviction, and feeling bring their inevitable burden. And if a man rejects burdens he is but making up a heavier burden. If a man will not have the burden of God’s Word, then the whole riddle of the universe becomes his burden. But if I take up God’s Word, and actually carry it as God’s Word, I have no further care. There is provision for driving away every fear and every care in that Word. (J. Leckie, D. D.)
Which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth--
I. That the universe includes the existence of matter and of mind. The phrase “heavens” and “earth” is used here and elsewhere to represent the whole creation.
1. It includes matter. Of the essence of matter we know nothing; but by the word we mean all that comes within the cognisance of our senses, all that can be felt, heard, seen, tasted. How extensive is this material domain!
2. It includes mind. Indeed, mind is here specified. “And formeth the spirit of man within man.” Man has a spirit. Of this he has stronger evidence than he has of the existence of matter. He is conscious of the phenomena of mind, but not conscious of the phenomena of matter.
II. That the universe originated with one personal being. It had an origin. It is not eternal. The idea of its eternity involves contradictions. It had an origin; its origin is not fortuitous, it is not the production of chance. Its origin is not that of a plurality of creators; it has one, and one only, “the Lord.”
III. This one personal Creator has purposes concerning the human race. The “burden” may mean the sentence of the Word of the Lord concerning Israel.
1. No events in human history are accidental.
2. The grand purpose of our life should be the fulfilment of God’s will.
IV. His purpose towards mankind He is fully able to accomplish. His creative achievements are here mentioned as a pledge of the purposes hereafter announced. Every purpose of the Lord shall be performed. Has He purposed that all mankind shall be converted to His Son? It shall be done. (Homilist.)
All that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces
There is in this passage a principle by which the governor of the world punishes malicious men.
That principle is this, in the reaction of their efforts to injure others to injury of themselves. Jerusalem would become confusion and destruction to the men who sought its ruin.
1. Jerusalem would become a “cup of trembling,” or “intoxication.”
2. Jerusalem would become to them a “burdensome stone.”
The idea is, that in their endeavours to injure Jerusalem they would crush themselves.
I. It is well attested. It is attested by every man’s consciousness. Every man who attempts to injure another feels sooner or later that he has injured himself. There is a recoil and a regret. In truth, the malign passion itself is its own punishment. In every malign emotion there is misery.
2. It is attested by universal history. The conduct of Joseph’s brethren, and of Haman, may be cited as illustrations; but the conduct of the Jews towards the Messiah is an example for all times, most mighty and impressive.
II. It is manifestly just. What man thus punished can complain of the righteousness of his sufferings? He must feel, and feel deeply, that he has deserved all, and even more than he endures.
III. It is essentially beneficent. It serves--
1. To guard men from the injuries of others.
2. To restrain the angry passions of men. (Homilist.)
In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment
A good time for good people
It is a time when their enemies shall be vanquished. “In that day, saith the Lord, I will smite every horse with astonishment,” etc.
II. It is a time when their power shall be augmented. The power here promised is--
1. The power of unity. “The governors of Judah shall say in their heart, The inhabitants of Jerusalem shall be my strength in the Lord of hosts their God.”
III. It is a time when they shall be settled in their home. “And Jerusalem shall be inhabited again in her own place, even in Jerusalem.” Here they are “strangers and pilgrims,” and have “no abiding city.”
IV. It is a time when they shall be blessed with equal privileges.
1. They were to have equal honour. “The Lord also shall save the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem do not magnify themselves against Judah.”
2. They were to have equal protection. “In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” etc. Now, there is a good time coming, when all good people shall have distinguished honour and complete protection. They shall settle down in the heavenly Jerusalem, and what a city is that! (Homilist.)
In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem
The security of the Church in the midst of dangers
There is not a greater miracle of preservation and security than that which is exhibited in the salvation of the Church in her present condition as surrounded by spiritual enemies.
I. The promise. “In that day shall the Lord defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem.”
1. The defended. Jerusalem denotes the whole Church of Christ. It signifies the Christian.
2. The time of their defence. “In that day.” This may relate to the dispensation of the Gospel of Christ, when the Lord Jesus should accomplish His work for the defence and salvation of our souls. It may refer to the time of our conversion.
3. The person defending. “The Lord.” The defence is not put into the hands of an angel, or archangel; it is in the hands of the Lord.
II. The pledge given. “He that is feeble among them, at that day, shall be as David,” The word “feeble” means that he cannot save himself from sin, Satan, or the world. “As David.” Look at the character of brave, strong, successful, beloved, elevated, hated, yet saved David.
III. The simile drawn. “As God.” Like unto God in spotlessness, in spiritual resemblance, in general disposition, in immoveableness.
IV. The example given. “As the angel of the Lord.” This can only mean Christ. We are beloved as Christ by the Father. Perfect as Christ--in Christ--before God. Powerful as Christ, since it is in the power of Christ we overcome. (T. Bagnall-Baker, M. A.)
And I will pour upon the house of David
The future outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Jerusalem
The text informs us that Jesus of Nazareth, whom the Jews crucified, and whom for hundreds of years they have blasphemed, will yet upon these Jews pour His Holy Spirit, lead them to repentance, forgive their sin, and restore them to His favour.
I. Ascertain the meaning of this prophecy. The Jews themselves allow that the passage refers to the Messiah; and in the Gospel by St. John the words “they shall look on me, whom they have pierced,” are applied to Jesus Christ. The work He promises to accomplish is beyond the power of any created being. God is the only dispenser of His Holy Spirit. The prophet Ezekiel tells us that it is the very and eternal God who shall put His Spirit upon Israel. Joel tells us it is the Lord who will pour out His Spirit upon all flesh. The effect of the outpouring of the Spirit of grace and supplications is here described as true repentance, and sorrow for sin; He, therefore, who can bestow it must be the true and eternal God. Then how can He be pierced and wounded by the house of David? To be pierced He must have a body. Thus the prophet clearly announces the mystery of the incarnation. Consider the persons upon whom He will pour out the spirit of grace and supplications. They are Jews; and characterised as the authors of the violent death of Christ. The place mentioned is the literal Jerusalem. Another question concerns the time of which the prophet speaks. The day of Pentecost cannot be regarded as fulfilling this prediction. No other time can be referred to. Therefore the text informs us that there is a time still coming, when the Lord Jesus Christ will pour out His Spirit on the Jews, and do that for which He has been exalted a Prince and a Saviour; He will give repentance unto Israel, and remission of sins.
II. Trace out some important inferences which the subject suggests.
1. The restoration of the Jews to the land of their forefathers.
2. The national conversion of Israel is not to be by miracle, without the use of means.
This prophecy of Zechariah, then, assures us that the day is coming when the lost sheep of the house of Israel shall be gathered to the land of their fathers, restored to the favour of their God, and be the monuments of His grace, as they have long been the victims of His wrath and righteous indignation. (A. McCaul, D. D.)
The promise of the Spirit
In the preceding verses God declares what He will do in the way of defending His Church. In the text He declares what He will do in the way of reviving and humbling and purifying His Church.
I. The promise. The Divine purpose in giving a promise is, that we may be led to ask for its fulfilment. The promise is, the Holy Spirit personally, and in His offices in the economy of grace and salvation. The promise of the Spirit is co-extensive with the earlier promise of Christ. What Christ was for purchasing, the Spirit is for applying--salvation. All other promises resolve themselves into this one--the Holy Spirit--as they did in Christ. In this instance the Spirit is not promised generally, but in certain of His offices or operations. He is promised--
1. As a Spirit of grace. By grace we understand those combined excellencies which go to form a perfect moral character. The Spirit of grace is the Spirit originating, nurturing, and maturing these. To have the Spirit of grace is to have the Holy Ghost producing these in us--grace itself.
2. As a Spirit of supplications. Supplications and prayers are the immediate fruit of the Holy Spirit. He leads, or shows, the way to the Divine throne. Reveals the blessings of grace. Implants the eager desire. Gives prevailing strength to faith. Causes unwearying importunity. As the author of prayer, the Spirit is here promised. Prayer is a proof of the Spirit’s presence the want of prayer is His absence. The promise of the Spirit was originally made and fulfilled to Christ Himself. Through Him it belongs to all His people. This promise was fulfilled at Pentecost. It is still on record, and its fulfiment is also on record. Why is His presence not felt and recognised? He has moved on congregations of late, and still, occasionally, individuals feel His quickening power. But the instances are few. Let us plead with God for His Spirit’s presence.
II. The effects which flow from the outpouring of the Spirit. It follows necessarily from the terms of the promise that grace and prayer will follow upon the fulfilment of this promise. But the text particularly describes certain results of the Spirit’s presence which call for special attention.
1. Those on whom He descends shall look on Christ. It is the office of the Spirit to glorify Christ, as it was Christ’s to glorify the Father. The Spirit makes the heart and eyes to turn to Christ, as the flower to the sun. The attention is then riveted on Christ.
2. It is on a pierced Saviour that the Spirit-anointed sinner looks. His body pierced with the scourge, thorns, nails, and spear. His heart pierced with many sorrows. His soul pierced with the arrows of the Almighty, which drank up His Spirit. His reputation pierced by calumny. His humanity pierced with the mortal shaft of death.
3. He on whom the Spirit rests looks on Christ as pierced by himself. His sins pierced Him in all these senses. He was represented by Christ’s crucifiers. He has, by his conduct, crucified Him afresh, and put Him to an open shame. He has pierced Him in His people and cause.
4. When the Spirit has shown to a man Christ pierced by his sins, that man mourns. The sight of Christ pierced gives him a new view of sin. Each sin has been an arrow shot at God, and has penetrated the heart of Christ. This sight involves a new view of Christ’s love--mercy--compassion. He sees what kind of Redeemer he has been thus treating. The sight of Christ pierced gives him a sense of pardon. His sins met their punishment in Christ. A pardoned sinner mourns. Lessons--
1. The sympathy of the Spirit with the Son. He reveals Him pierced, and produces mourning.
2. Seek the Spirit as here described.
3. Try yourselves by these fruits of His presence. (James Stewart.)
The promise to the Church
I. The promise here made to the Church, both in her collective form and every individual member.
1. The person who makes the promise. Jehovah Himself, the everlasting Father, who created all things by His power. What could induce Him thus to look upon such a miserable and guilty creature as man? He was under no obligations to do so; there was no necessity on His part; there was nothing amiable in man to invite Him. It was His own free, sovereign, unmerited love.
2. The persons to whom the promise was made. By the “house of David” is here meant the seed royal, and by the “inhabitants of Jerusalem” is meant the common people. So the phrases include the whole Jewish nation. They were typical of all the people of God in future ages.
3. Their state prior to the application of the promise. It is a state of most deplorable ignorance; ignorance of God in His character, His works and requirements; and of the Lord Jesus Christ and His mediation; and of themselves, their sin, misery, and need.
4. The promise itself. “I will pour the Spirit of grace and supplications.” He is called the Spirit of grace, because He is a gracious Spirit; because He is the author and worker of every grace in the hearts of believers; because He indites our supplications; and because He assists us in the offering up of our supplications. The promise is made good in the experience of every real believer, without respect to names, or parties, or denominations.
II. Two leading effects involved. “They shall look on Him,” etc. Who is this? None other than Christ and Him crucified. “They shall mourn” i.e., they shall possess evangelical sorrow for and repentance of sin. Three things in real repentance--
1. Hearty sorrow for sin.
2. Genuine confession of sin.
3. Entire forsaking of it as a principle of action. (Griffith Williams.)
Faith and repentance produced by the Spirit being poured forth
This language refers in the first instance to the Jews. The time is coming when, in consequence of God pouring out His Spirit on that people, they shall look on Him whom they have pierced, and mourn. “Whom they have pierced.” This language was literally fulfilled. The text admits of a legitimate application to others besides the Jews.
I. The need of the outpouring of the Spirit order to faith repentance. The sinner is described in the Word as being dead in trespasses and sins. Not only does the sinner yet in his sins need to be quickened, the very people of God require again and again the living power of the same Spirit who st first regenerated their souls. For even after he has been raised from his natural deadness, he is apt shew to fall into spiritual slumber. I need not dwell on the necessity of repentance. It all men have sinned, it needs no argument to prove that all men should repent. Those who would repent need to be told that in order to repent they need power from on high. It is when the Spirit is poured out that sinners are brought to genuine repentance,--that is, repentance unto life. Without this, there will always be a shying, an avoiding of the humiliation implied,--always an obstacle in the way--and the heart will turn aside like a deceitful bow. As long as the heart is untouched by the Spirit of grace, it either remains in a state of utter insensibility in reference to God and sin on the one hand, or, on the other band, it is troubled with feelings of reproach and fear, but without being persuaded or changed. Mere natural reproaches of conscience and alarms of coming judgments may stun the heart for a time, but they cannot break or melt it. The very people of God have reason at times to mourn over a narrowness of heart, over unfitness for the service of God, and an aversion to spiritual things. But while they are straitened the Spirit of the Lord is not straitened.
II. The effects produced when the Spirit of God is poured out--
1. By looking unto a pierced Lord, we are to understand faith in one of its liveliest exercises. The believer looks to Christ and His wounds with the eye of the mind, just as the serpent-bitten Israelites looked to the serpent of brass which Moses raised by the command of God. Whenever the Spirit is poured out from on high, the instant effect is the production of faith. Faith, indeed, seems to be the first--always along with repentance--saving or spiritual grace of the Christian character. It must be so, from the very nature of things. Our attention is called in this passage to two features of saving faith--
(1) You perceive that it looks to a “pierced Lord.” Many have enlightened views of the nature and character of Jehovah, who, alas! have none of that faith which appropriates salvation. Nor is it sufficient that we look to God through the medium of the operations of His hands in the work of creation. Faith looks specially to God the Mediator. The faith that saves is a faith in Jesus the appointed Saviour. Nor is it enough that we look to the Son of God as enthroned in heaven. If we would obtain that saving power which flows from Him, we must look to the wounds by which He was pierced, and the blood that flows from them. Never till we look to a pierced, a suffering, a bleeding Saviour, will we find our spiritual diseases healed, and our soul filled with light and comfort.
(2) Another characteristic of saving faith is that it leads those who possess it to look to Jesus as pierced by them. But what share had we in the sufferings of Jesus? Every sinner has had, in a sense, a part in inflicting the sufferings to which our Lord was subjected. You must learn to connect your sins with the Saviour’s sufferings, Our sins are the true enemies and murderers of our Lord. It was the accumulated sins of all and each of His people which weighed Him down to the ground in the garden, and bowed His head on the Cross. This is a distinguishing feature of saving faith. The sinner connects his sin with the sufferings of the Redeemer. When he thinks of Christ’s sufferings, he thinks how his sins were the cause of their infliction, and he thinks that if Christ had not borne them he himself must have borne them. He thus looks upon Jesus, not so much in the light of a Saviour for others as one suitable to himself. His faith thus becomes a faith in Jesus as his Saviour; it embraces Christ, and appropriates the blessings which He purchased.
2. Another effect is mourning or repentance. When Paul was at Ephesus, he preached repentance toward God and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a sense of sin that drives us to the Saviour, and we come to the Saviour by faith. The sinner looks to Christ by the eye of faith, and as he does so he mourns and repents. A believing view of God is necessary to full repentance. How should sorrow be the effect of a saving view of Christ? We are called to mourn over the sufferings of our Lord because of our connection with them. Note some of the characteristics of evangelical sorrow. The penitent has a deep view of the evil of sin. The penitent mourns over his sin as deeply as over his greatest earthly loss. But this sorrow for sin is not a sorrow apart from Christ, or independent of Him; neither is it a sorrow without hope. If the wounds of Jesus cannot but open lap wounds in our breast, they also supply the balm that heals the wounds. (J. M’Cosh.)
Effects of an outpouring of the Spirit
The immediate effects of this outpouring of the Spirit are strikingly set forth. They are indicated by a spirit of grace and supplication excited among the people; by their looking upon Him whom they have pierced, and mourning for their treatment of Him in deep repentance and bitterness of spirit. And when they shall thus be humbled for their sins, and shall look with an eye of faith to Him who is the only Saviour of lost men, God will show Himself their reconciled Father and Friend, receive them into His favour, and seal them heirs of His kingdom. In directing attention to the work of the Holy Spirit I shall assume two facts--
1. That the influence of the Holy Spirit is exerted in every case of true conversion.
2. That there are times when this influence is granted in greater copiousness and power than at others.
1. One effect of such a visitation of mercy is to impart to the people of God a spirit of grace and supplication. Whenever God comes near to a people, and is about to display His power in the conversion of sinners, He always awakens a spirit of prayer among His friends; causes them to feel their dependence and need of His help. At such times there is wont to be felt, in the hearts of God’s people, a deep and tender concern for the salvation of souls perishing in sin. They awake from their slumbers. They mourn over their past unfaithfulness in duty. They cast off the spirit of worldliness and unbelief, and realise in some measure, as they ought, the powers of the world to come.
2. Another effect is to arrest the attention of the impenitent, and turn their thoughts directly upon the things of their eternal Peace.
3. Another effect is to produce in the impenitent a painful conviction of sin and danger. When God pours out His Spirit, an invariable effect is to convince men of sin, and to give them an abiding sense of its great evil, as a violation of His holy law.
4. Another effect is to cut off self-confidence, and produce a sense of entire dependence on God for pardoning mercy and renewing grace.
5. One other effect is to renew the heart and bring the sinner to repentance and cordial reconciliation to God. So it is plain that the effects of the outpouring of the Spirit are all of the most desirable and happy character. (J. Hawes, D. D.)
A revival of religion
1. There shall be a revival of religion in the future history of the Church that shall gather in the Jews.
2. This revival shall be characterised by the invariable marks of an outpouring of the Spirit, namely, a spirit of prayer and penitence.
3. Prayer is the barometer of the Church. When the spirit of supplication is low, there is but little of the Spirit of God, and as soon as the prayer meeting begins to fill up with earnest suppliants, the Christian may hope for a blessing.
4. All true repentance arises from a sight of a dying Saviour, one who has died for us. Terror may produce remorse, only a sense of forgiven sin will ever produce true repentance. True repentance is after all only love weeping at the foot of the Cross, the soul sorrowing for sins that have been so freely forgiven.
5. True religion is a personal thing, and when it takes strong hold of the heart, will lead the soul apart to solitary wrestling with God, and acts of personal humbling before Him; confession of sins past, and resolutions of obedience for time to come. Grace needs solitary meditation in which to grow, just as much as the plant needs the repose and darkness of night. (T. V. Moore, D. D.)
The Spirit of grace and supplications
In studying prophecy, with a view to personal edification, two things should be borne in mind. Spiritual religion is ever and invariably the same, notwithstanding the different degrees of light which have marked different and successive dispensations. And, whatever promises of a purely spiritual nature are made to the Jewish nation may, and ought to be, generally and individually applied by those who constitute the true household of faith in all ages. The words of the text refer ultimately to the ingathering of the Jews, and their conversion to Christianity; but they receive an intermediate fulfilment in the case of every wandering sinner, Jew or Gentile, who is effectually brought home to God. They form a promise which applies to the believer’s experience at all times; a promise to which he may advert, to his inexpressible consolation, until the language of prayer dies on his lips, and is superseded by songs of never-ceasing praise. By the “Spirit of grace and supplications” we are to understand that Divine Agent who helpeth the infirmities of the saints; whose influences are elsewhere predicted under the metaphor of an effusion of grace; and whose coming was to give its full effect to the sacrifice of the Redeemer, and to assign its prominent character to the Gospel dispensation.
I. Of prayer as an exercise of the renewed soul. Prayer is the language of the heart addressing itself to God, either in habitual spirituality of desire, in the way of silent ejaculation, or by means of words immediately suited to convey a sense of its wants to the throne of the heavenly mercy. It is founded in a strong conviction of internal poverty, weakness, and dependence, and is drawn forth by a humble persuasion that it reaches the ear of the Lord God of Sabaoth. Spiritual prayer is an eager and determined effort of the soul to possess itself of the purchased blessings of salvation. Spiritual prayer is the fragrant incense which burns on the consecrated altar of the believer’s heart. A renovating process must pass upon the moral system ere the spark of true devotion is lighted up. The man who is in willing league with sin and Satan cannot pray; nor can he who is absorbed in the cares of this passing world; nor he who addresses the Almighty under the impulse of sudden alarm, excessive grief, or occasional anxiety of mind. The exercise of spiritual prayer is habitual to him that engages in it. It may not always be the same delightful and refreshing employment. Too frequently, when the spirit is willing, the flesh is weak. In every age and period of the Church the people of God have been a praying people. Then we have here a very close touchstone of self-examination. Are you in the habit of flying to a throne of grace for the purpose of obtaining relief of your burdened souls?
II. The collateral influence of spiritual prayer upon the experience.
1. If the fervency of holy feeling in some measure subsides when the Christian withdraws from the presence chamber of his Lord, still a hallowed glow remains in his breast, which tells him that the Spirit of grace and of supplications has not departed from him. It is the tendency of prayer, by exciting a continual apprehension of the nearness of God, to produce a feeling of sacred awe, a habit of solemnity, not indeed opposed to cheerfulness, but at variance with unhallowed levity.
2. Prayer keeps the mind alive to the important realities of an eternal state. It loosens that associating tie which enslaves the immortal spirit, and would confine its everlasting solicitudes to the vanities of time and sense. The praying Christian bears away his spirituality from the throne of mercy, and blends it with the pursuits of his temporal vocation.
3. Spiritual prayer tends to purify and sweeten our intercourse with each other. By deepening the channel of humility, it causes peace, with all its attendant: virtues, to flow on in a gentle and even course. Prayer is health to all who move in its genial atmosphere. It stifles the feelings of envy, hatred, and uncharitableness.
III. The direct results of prayer as an appointed means of grace. Prayer, like the rod of Moses, is intended to strike the rock, that the waters may gush out. It is the sinner’s application for blessings that cannot be denied or withholden. True it is that the people of God are a waiting as well as a praying people; they are often kept in suspense, because there is a suitable time for prayer to be answered, and because spiritual blessings are never sent prematurely. It is likewise true that the prayer of faith itself is sometimes offered up ignorantly, or under erroneous impressions, and consequently fails in that particular point in which infinite wisdom saw it to be faulty. One piece of advice let me offer--Be not satisfied with the mere act of prayer, even as a spiritual exercise. Be thankful for enlargement of heart to prayer, and for a heavenly frame of mind, while you are prostrate before God. But still look beyond the effort itself. Watch the result of your petitions. Infer--
1. The importance of the Holy Spirit’s office in the economy of grace.
2. The necessity of attributing salvation wholly and solely to God.
3. The value of a prayerful disposition viewed as an earnest or pledge of salvation. He who is drawn to the Cross shall eventually be drawn to the throne. Continue to wait upon God, and you shall not be forsaken. (W. Knight, M. A.)
The Spirit of grace and of supplications
I. The promise of the text. By the “house of David” is meant his descendants after the flesh, or the princes and rulers of the Jews; and by the “inhabitants of Jerusalem,” the rest of the people. On these the Lord promises to pour out His Spirit for their conviction, conversion, and salvation.
1. The Holy Spirit is here promised as a “Spirit of grace.” He is the author and giver of all grace, of all goodness. The Holy Spirit is the author of all preventing grace. We never really forsake sin, we never truly turn to God by any strength or goodness of our own. It is God who begins, as well as perfects, the good work in our hearts. The Holy Spirit is the author of all renewing and sanctifying grace. Every attempt to renew and sanctify our heart and conduct must, if we depend solely upon ourselves, be altogether in vain. The Spirit can renew us in righteousness and true holiness after the image of Him that created us, and make us new creatures in Christ Jesus unto good works. The Holy Spirit is the author of all quickening and reviving grace. Our souls too often cleave unto the dust; our hearts become cold and dead. Where are we to find a remedy for this distressing state of things? In the same Fountain of living waters. The Spirit must send us those refreshing showers which He sends on God’s inheritance when it is weary. And the Holy Spirit is the author of all comforting and supporting grace. And do we not often need comfort and support in such a world as this?
2. The Holy Spirit is here promised as a “Spirit of supplications.” We know not what we should pray for as we ought; but the Spirit helpeth our infirmities. This He does in Various ways.
(1) He shows us our need of supplications, by making us acquainted with our spiritual poverty and wants. Naturally, we are not at all conscious of our spiritual necessities. Though dead in trespasses and sins, we imagine we are living unto God. Though guilty of innumerable transgressions, we feel not our need of pardon. We think we are rich and have need of nothing. But the Spirit convinces us of our mistake. He leads us to feel our need of Divine mercy and grace, as well as our need of prayer and supplication for them.
(2) He shows us the encouragement we have to use supplications. He takes of the things of Christ and shows them unto us. He shows God in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. He thus encourages us to approach the throne of grace, and to use supplications for the blessings we need.
(3) He further inclines us, or makes us willing to do this, by exciting in us an earnest desire to obtain such blessings. He removes that apathy and indifference which we naturally feel, and creates in us that hungering and thirsting after righteousness, that ardent longing after spiritual benefits, which nothing can satisfy short of an actual participation in them. Prayer, fervent and persevering, becomes our constant employment.
(4) And the Spirit assists us in this holy and delightful exercise. He removes that coldness, deadness, and formality we are so apt to feel. He gives us boldness and access with confidence by the faith of Jesus.
II. The effects attending the fulfilment of this promise. “Shall mourn,” etc. The speaker here is evidently the Lord Jesus Christ. This application of the passage to Christ proves at once both His humanity and His Divinity. It proves His humanity, for He Was pierced. It proves His Divinity; for who can communicate the Spirit but God alone? It is here pretold by the Lord, that when He would pour out His Holy Spirit, as the Spirit of grace and supplications, sinners would be led to look upon Him whom they had pierced, and to mourn bitterly for their sins, and especially their great sin in rejecting Him. This prophecy was fulfilled in part on the day of Pentecost. It will also be more fully accomplished whenever the conversion of the Jews, as a nation, shall take place. But this prophecy is also accomplished whenever sinners, Jews or Gentiles, are now turned to the Lord. Notice the nature of the sorrow which they feel on such an occasion.
1. It is a godly sorrow. Produced in their hearts under the operations of the Spirit of God. What are its effects? It humbles them in the dust before God; it softens their hard and unfeeling heart. It is also a bitter sorrow, for it is said, “They shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son.” We can scarcely conceive of any sorrow of an earthly nature more bitter than that of a father when mourning for his only son. The feelings of some are quicker and more susceptible than those of others. But whatever differences there may be, all who are really taught by the Spirit are made so to see and feel the evil and bitterness of sin, as to learn in all sincerity to hate and forsake it. It is a secret sorrow. “The land shall mourn, every family apart, and their wives apart.” And is not this always characteristic of deep and real sorrow? Then let us ask ourselves, What know we of the effects attending the fulfilment of the promise in the text? How important it is that we should have the Spirit! And how earnestly and perseveringly should we pray for His gracious and saving influences! (D. Rees.)
They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him--
Gospel mourning a fruit of saving faith
Here we have a glorious privilege mentioned, namely, a view or manifestation of a crucified Redeemer; and the gracious exercise that is consequential to this distinguishing and glorious privilege. “They shall mourn for Him.” From the words we observe that all whose privilege it is to get a supernatural discovery of a crucified Redeemer will mourn for Him, as wounded and pierced for their sins.
I. The glorious privilege.
1. Though Christ is not now visible to the bodily eyes, yet such a sight of Him as is necessary in order to the exercise of faith upon Him, and a real participation of the benefits of His purchase is attainable by persons in this world.
2. A spiritual and saving sight of Christ as crucified is what all should be concerned to obtain when they are attending upon the ordinances of the Gospel, upon the dispensation of the Word and sacraments.
3. Such a sight of Christ as is necessary in order to the exercise of faith and repentance is an effect of the gracious operation of the Holy Spirit upon the heart of a sinner.
4. A spiritual manifestation of Christ is in a special manner necessary on a day of fasting and humiliation.
5. A saving manifestation of Christ is a rare and distinguishing privilege.
6. A saving manifestation is ever accompanied with godly sorrow for sin.
II. The gracious exercise.
1. Godly sorrow for sin supposes an inward and thorough change of heart, and mind, and nature.
2. It is real sorrow.
3. Such a sorrow as flows from a particular conviction of sin.
4. It is great sorrow.
5. It is evangelical sorrow. Application--
(1) Both faith and repentance are fruits of the Spirit.
(2) True repentance is a fruit of saving faith.
(3) True faith is rare.
(4) Formality in religion easily explained. (D. Wilson, M. A.)
Repentance is the first duty of a sinner under a dispensation of mercy; prepares for a right reception of Christ as a Saviour; and is a part of that new and holy course of life which every true Christian leads. It accompanies every other exercise f piety, and terminates only when we arrive at heaven. The text contains o prediction of the repentance and conversion of the Jewish nation. In part fulfilled at Pentecost, in part to be yet fulfilled.
I. The source from which true repentance flows. If true repentance imply an entire change of heart, comprehending a genuine sorrow for sin as committed against God, a hearty forsaking of it, and an acceptance of God’s mercy as revealed in Jesus Christ, then it is obvious that it must spring from the influences of Divine grace. Accordingly the source of it is thus spoken of, “I will pour upon the house of David, and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplications.” The allusion is to the pouring out of water, which is the usual emblem for the bestowing of the influences of the Holy Ghost. Refreshing as water to the thirsty, is the grace of the Holy Spirit to the Church of God. The peculiar effect of the Spirit of God in His operations on the heart, is described in the titles here given to the Holy Ghost--“the Spirit of grace and supplications,”--that is, the Spirit by whose influence grace is implanted in the mind, and supplications are addressed to the throne of mercy. The Holy Ghost is promised as the Spirit of grace, because all grace and holiness proceed from Him. As the “Spirit of supplications,” because one of the earliest effects of Divine influences is prayer. We pray in the Holy Ghost. It is by His sacred instruction that we discover our ignorance, poverty, defilement, misery, and danger. It is by His teaching we receive with faith the truths and promises of the Gospel. The Spirit produces a return to God, and a thorough conversion of heart and life.
II. The chief means by which repentance is produced. “They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced.” Repentance, generally speaking, springs from a view of a crucified Saviour. The view of the crucified Redeemer which is spoken of in the text, cannot be understood as a bodily sight by the eye of sense. It is a spiritual and rational contemplation of Him by the eye of penitence and faith. Surely there is no object which in itself should so powerfully attract our notice. If the very circumstances of the spectacle should fix our attention, still more should we be moved when we reflect on the Divine dignity of the sufferer. But this is not all. You and I have had a share in this death. God had “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” But what if all this woe and suffering should be for our salvation! Should not this lead us to regard the scene with still more intense earnestness?
III. The effects of the Spirit of grace thus leading the sinner to look by faith to Him whom he has pierced. The returning Jews, when they shall view by faith their crucified Messiah, will mourn for their national sins in piercing Him, and for all their personal transgressions. See Zechariah 12:11-14. The spiritual import of this prediction is accomplished in every true penitent. Mourning for sin will arise from that view of its malignity and hatefulness which the Cross of Christ displays. The genuine sorrow of a penitent flows from the believing sight of a pierced Saviour. The law convinces of sin, but the Cross teaches us to abhor it.
1. Apply to the sincere Christian--that he may learn the important place which true penitence occupies in a Christian life: the connection of repentance with the hopes and privileges of the Gospel: and that the exercise of evangelical repentance is connected with a holy and circumspect conduct.
2. To the ungodly and impenitent. If any subject can show them their obligation to repent, and affect their hearts with a desire to do so, it is the one we have been reviewing. (D. Wilson, M. A.)
Looking to the pierced One
Not only an external grace and favour 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. 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. “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 as 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. John says that this prophecy was fulfilled in Christ, when His side was pierced with a spear (John 19:37). And this is most true; for it was necessary that the visible symbol should be exhibited in the person of Christ, in order that the Jews might know that He was the God who had spoken by the prophets. The Jews then had crucified their God when they grieved His Spirit; but Christ also was, as to His flesh, pierced by them. And this is what John meant--that God by that visible symbol made it evident that He had not only been formerly provoked in a disgraceful manner by the Jews, but that at length, in the person of His only begotten Son, this great sin was added to their disgraceful impiety, that they pierced even the side of Christ. (John Calvin.)
Looking to Christ as pierced, and mourning for Him
May we not reckon the passage in which our text occurs, as one of those of which the prophets themselves, by whom they were uttered, did not at first understand the full import? How should we be affected by the contemplation of the sufferings and death of the Lord Jesus?
1. We should mourn to think of what He had to endure. A tale of woe may touch our hearts with sadness although we may have no personal concern with the individual of whom it is told. If we saw an innocent man led forth to execution, our hearts would be greatly moved. We wonder not then that when Jesus was delivered up to the will of His enemies, when one so holy, so meek, so beneficent, was led forth to be crucified, the spectacle could not be seen unmoved.
2. We should mourn to think of the wickedness of the men by whom He was so treated. Were the men of that generation which lived when Jesus was crucified, wicked above all others before them, or after them? No! Though temptation and opportunity combined to involve them in a crime, probably the greatest ever perpetrated on earth, they afford but a specimen of that depravity, it may be less fully developed, which we all have inherited.
3. We should mourn for our own sins, as we see in what was inflicted on our surety the exceeding sinfulness and deep demerit of sin. How hateful must sin have been in the sight of a holy God, when for it He hid His face from His Son, and gave Him up to the pains of an accursed death! Notice some of the happy effects of penitent grief.
(1) To yield to it may give even present relief to the troubled mind.
(2) This sorrow may have a beneficial influence on all our tempers and affections.
(3) This sorrow may give evidence of our interest in the promises of pardon and of peace with God. Sorrow for sin cannot be accepted as a price for forgiveness; yet we may find in the sense of it some proof that the change is begun which must be wrought by the Spirit of Christ in all to whom He applies the redemption which is through His blood. (James Henderson, D. D.)
Sinners mourning for their pierced Lord
What is true of a converted Jew, is true also of a converted Gentile.
I. The character of godly sorrow. It is like a parent’s sorrow for the death of a child. This is a real, not a pretended sorrow. If we look into our hearts many of us will see that our sorrow for sin is all pretence. This is a deep, not a superficial or slight sorrow. We may really mourn for a friend, and yet mourn for him very little. Not so when our children die. Our grief then is pungent and bitter. It is not only in the heart, but do, as very low in it. It is a secret sorrow. Most of us, when our hearts are full, wish to be alone. Deep emotions of any kind send us to our chambers.
II. Once of the causes that excite godly sorrow. “Look on Me whom they have pierced.” Who is the speaker here? God Himself, but God in Christ. What is meant by “looking” on Him? Outward bodily actions are made use of to describe inward operations, the actings of the mind. These penitents look on Him as “pierced.” Some say the reason why the Jews are not converted is that we do not sufficiently exhibit the Lord Jesus to them in His exaltation and glory. Others say if we want to prize the Lord Jesus more, we must think of Him more as enthroned in heaven. We must not suffer men to mislead us. If we want life for our perishing souls, if we wish to have our hard hearts broken to pieces, it is on His Cross, not on His throne, that we must contemplate our Lord. And these contrite sinners look on Jesus as pierced by them. “The chastisement of our peace was on Him,” so we wounded Him.
III. How is it that godly sorrow arises from this source? Why does looking on the crucified Lord make the believer mourn? How, I would ask, can it be other wise, as we think of our dying Lord, dying for us? Learn the high place that we ought to give sorrow for sin among the Christian graces. (C. Bradley, M. A.)
I. The object or spectacle propounded. Certain it is that Christ is here meant.
1. Specify and particularise the person of Christ, by the kind and most peculiar circumstances of His death. Not a natural but a violent death. The Psalmist says, “They pierced my hands and my feet,” which is only proper to the death of the Cross. The prophet intimates that his heart was pierced, and this was peculiar to Christ.
2. Sever Christ from the rest of His doings and sufferings, to see what that is which we specially are to look to--Christ pierced. The perfection of our knowledge in or touching Christ, is the knowledge of Christ pierced. Know this, you know all. In the object, two things offer themselves.
(1) The passion, or suffering itself. Consider the degree; for transfixerunt is a word of gradation; expressing the piercing, not of whips and scourges, or of nails and thorns, but of the spear point, which went through the very heart itself. May a soul be pierced? It is not a spear head of iron that entereth the soul, but a metal of another temper, the dint whereof no less goreth and woundeth the soul in proportion than those do the body. Soul-piercing includes sorrow and reproach.
II. The persons. When one is found slain, it is usual to inquire by whom he came by his death. We incline to lay the sin of Christ’s death on the soldiers, the executioners; on Pilate the judge; on the people who urged Pilate; or on the elders of the Jews who animated the people. The prophet here says that they who are willed to “look upon Him,” are they who “pierced Him.” In every case of condemnation to death, sin, and sin only is the murderer. It was not Christ’s own sin that He died for. It must have been for the sin of others that Christ Jesus was pierced. God laid on Him the “transgressions of us all.” It was the sin of our polluted hands that pierced His hands; the swiftness of our feet to do evil that nailed His feet; the wicked devices of our heads that gored His head; and the wretched desires of our hearts that pierced His heart. If we feel that we were the cause of this His piercing, we ought to have remorse, to be pierced with it.
III. The act or duty enjoined. To look upon Him. A request most natural and reasonable. To this look Christ invites us. “Upon Me.” Our own profit inviteth us. Our danger may move us to look. In the act itself are three things.
1. That we do it with attention.
2. That we do it oft, again and again; with iteration.
3. That we cause our nature to do it, as it were, by virtue of an injunction.
In the original it is a commanding injunction. Look upon Him, and be pierced. Look upon Him, and pierce that in thee that was the cause of Christ’s piercing, sin and the lusts thereof. As it was sin that gave Christ these wounds, so it was love to us that made Him receive them, being otherwise liable enough to have avoided them all. So that He was pierced with love, no less than with grid. And it was that wound of love made Him so constantly endure all the other. Which sight ought to pierce us with love too, no less than before it did with sorrow. We should join looking with believing. And believing, what is there that the eye of our hope shall not look for from Him? What would He not do for us, that for us would suffer all this? Our expectation may be reduced to these two things,--the deliverance from the evil of our present misery; and the restoring to the good of our primitive felicity Shall we always receive grace, even streams of grace, issuing from Him that is pierced, and shall there not from us issue something back again, that He may look for and receive from us, that from Him have and do daily receive so many good things? No doubt there shall; if love which pierced Him, have pierced us aright. (Bishop Launcelot Andrewes.)
Looking to Christ crucified
The words have reference, in their primary sense, to the house of David, and inhabitants of Jerusalem; and received their first fulfilment on the day of Pentecost. But the text invites us also to look on Him who was pierced for us, and mourn. We are to look long and earnestly on Him whom we have pierced, that by long looking we may learn to mourn, and mourning much may love much, and loving much, may have much forgiven. How shall we look on Him whom we have pierced? Not with our fleshly, eyes, but with the eye of faith. We are to look to Him, in order to see that the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” It was our polluted hands that pierced His hands; the swiftness of our feet to do evil that nailed His feet; the wicked devices of our hearts that pierced His heart. Yet we must not look wholly to His bodily sufferings, the wounds we have given Him have gone deeper, even to His soul, yea, pierced Him through and through with many sorrows. The pangs which He suffered on His spiritual Cross were infinitely more than those He suffered on the natural. Great as were His bodily sufferings, from the prospect of them He never shrank. He ever views and speaks calmly of them. Not so does He announce His spiritual Cross, it was the internal Cross which caused His bitterest passion. Shall we not then look on Him, and “remember and be confounded, and never open our mouths any more, because of our shame,” as we look upward to that Cross to which our sins have nailed Him? He was lifted up on that Cross that all from the ends of the world might look unto Him and be saved. It is by looking on Him whom we have pierced that we alone can learn somewhat of the deadly bitterness of our sins, which might not be forgiven, but by that awful blood shedding. It is at the foot of the Cross alone that the mystery of the Cross is learnt, and a true estimate of our sins gained. (R. A. Suckling, M. A.)
Jesus’ pierced side
Out of the pierced heart of Jesus proceeds a stream of tears, of grace, and of prayer. For us, also, as we look at the pierced side of the Saviour, there opens--
I. A flood of tears. The prophet foretells the time when Israel at the sight of the Man of Sorrows shall break forth into deep lamentation, when the water which flows from the pierced side of the Saviour shall be turned into a stream of tears, flowing from the hearts of the children of Israel. It is the simplest but certainly also the most painful truth, that your sins and mine have brought Jesus to the Cross. Therefore a glance at Him must become a crystal glass which reflects our sins more distinctly, and which represents us in our sins blacker than the whole law from Sinai, with its thunder and lightning, its curse and judgment, can do.
II. A stream of grace. In ancient Athens, mercy was represented with eyes streaming with tears, holding in her hand a torn and bleeding heart. By God’s grace we have free access to the Father. We have a Saviour who opens the Father’s heart for us, and we need no other Mediator.
III. A fount of prayer. In these prophetic words the Lord declares that He will pour out the Spirit of prayer and of grace. The stream of grace from the wounds of the Saviour, which He causes to be poured over us, is to become a fount of prayer, flowing from our heart to God’s heart. There has scarcely ever been a time in which the streams of Divine grace were so abundantly poured forth in the preached Word, as well as in works of mercy, and in zeal for the Lord’s house, as in our days. But how long will it last, if the Spirit of supplication does not join the spirit of grace? And that is wanting. Ours is a prayerless time. (A. Schroter.)
Christ pierced by us
(to children):--There can be no doubt about the reference of these words. St. John quotes them in his Gospel, and refers them to Christ. “They” are the Jews, and more particularly the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And the prophet informs us that a time is coming when the people of Jerusalem shall look upon Jesus, and bitterly repent of having refused to accept Him as their Messiah and their King.
1. The Jews were, and still are, God’s people, though now they are God’s people in disgrace. He chose them out of all the nations of the earth, and drew them close to Himself, and gave them the Scriptures, and the temple, and the sacrifices, and thus prepared them for the coming of the Messiah, or Christ, who was promised in the prophets. But when the Messiah did come they rejected Him. Their great and terrible crime brought down God’s wrath upon them. About forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus the Romans came and laid siege to Jerusalem, killed many Jews, and burnt the beautiful temple. We are expressly told that this destruction of Jerusalem was a punishment for the murder of Christ. From that time the Jews have been driven out of their own land, and scattered abroad amongst the nations of the earth. There are Jews almost everywhere. But the Bible says that one day they will be gathered together into their own land again. But will they be Christians when they return? I think not. They will still reject the Lord Jesus Christ. But I believe that, when assaulted by enemies, the Lord Jesus Christ will come down from Heaven, and appear for the rescue of His people, to deliver them. At that moment they shall look on “Him whom they pierced,” and the effect of their looking will be that they will mourn over their sin, and repent of it, and become true followers and disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. And then they will become the most successful preachers of the Gospel that the world has ever seen.
2. Now turn to ourselves. It is possible to look on Jesus, who was pierced, and to say, “Well, He was pierced, and I am glad of it, for He deserved His fate. He pretended to be what He was not.” That is what the Jews nowadays think, and what many of them do not hesitate to say. And many of us are inclined to say, “I had nothing to do with the piercing of Jesus. I was not there at the time. It was a fearful deed, and I am sorry for the sufferings of Jesus, but I really do not think it true in any sense that I pierced Him!” Let us pause a moment, and think. The Lord Jesus, who was the Son of God and Son of Man, bore upon the cross the whole dark load of human sin. All the sins of all mankind were gathered, as it were, into one vast horrible mass, and laid upon Him, the Sin-bearer; and He could not get rid of it, or “put it away” except by dying. By dying on the cross He took it away from us, and shook it off Himself. Now your Sin and mine were in that load, and because our sin formed part of the burden which was laid upon Christ we had something to do with His death. We helped to pierce Him. Our sin made it necessary that Christ should die, and therefore you and I had something to do really with “piercing” Christ, and nailing Him to His cross. But unless we have the teaching of God’s Holy Spirit, we shall never think rightly or feel rightly in this matter. It was when “the Spirit of grace and supplication” was poured out upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem that they looked on Him whom they pierced, and repented of their sin. What a deep feeling we have when a thing is brought home to ourselves, and we are made to feel that we did it. If we feel that we pierced Christ two things will happen.
(1) We shall have a horror of sin.
(2) We shall come to understand the wonderful love of God.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Jesus, the Son of God, gave up His life for us; He died upon the cross for us; for there was no other way of saving us from our sins. Surely, if we have not got hearts of stone, we shall feel thankful, most thankful, for what He has done, and love Him because He first loved us. (Gordon Calthrop, M. A.)
Looking to Jesus in penitential sorrow
The legend of Camille, the artist who sold his soul to the devil in order to gain power to paint to the life whatever subject he chose, is full of suggestion. After a long life of sin, Camillo painted a picture of the Christ, the Man of Sorrows. The tender, searching eyes were such a source of annoyance to him and to his sinful friends that he veiled the picture and went to a priest with his story. Following the priest’s advice, he unveiled the picture and let the eyes of the Christ search his soul. Then he went out and made such reparation as he was able to the lives he had wronged. But he had no peace. The priest sent him back to the unveiled Christ. Again he went out, and ordered a dealer to buy up and destroy every inch of canvas he had painted that would suggest evil thoughts. Still he had no peace. Again and yet again he was led to realise and to renounce and to undo sin after sin. But the peace he longed for was withheld. At length, as he knelt in prayer before the Christ, came the realisation that he had sinned, not only against his fellow men, but against Christ, and he yielded his life to Him. Then as the eyes of Christ looked into the sorrow and anguish of his soul, there came also joy and peace.
Looking at Him who was pierced
When the late Dr. Andrew Bonar was sitting in his study one day, a man and woman entered, to see him about joining the church. When they had told their errand the doctor said to them, “When any one comes to me and wishes to join the church, I generally ask them a few questions. Now, first, how did you come to think of joining the church? Ah! “said the woman,” it was all through our little son. One night I was telling him about the Jews killing my Lord Jesus, and how they nailed Him to the cross on Calvary, and, looking up into my face, he asked, ‘Mother, was it your sins that nailed Him to the cross?’ Ah, sir, I could not answer him. There was a big lump in my throat; and when he saw that I did not reply he turned to his father and said, ‘Father, was it your sins that nailed Jesus to the cross?’ I stole a look at my husband, and I saw a tear glisten in his eye--he could not answer either. Then the little boy clasped his hands and said, ‘O Lord Jesus, it must have been my sins which nailed Thee to the cross.’ From that time, sir, he has been a changed boy, and it was that which made us think of joining the church.” (W. Thompson.)
Looking at Christ
Passing through a graveyard with her parents, a little girl drew them after her to look at a beautiful stone figure of the Christ, with a face full of suffering and yet of tenderest pity, leaning upon a massive marble cross. As they paused to look she held her head down and said in a low voice, “I have done so many wrong things, I can hardly lift up my eyes to look at Him.” It is just those who have done “so many wrong things” that have need to lift up their eyes and look at Him. (Quiver.)
I. The subjects. Jews, not Gentiles. The Jewish people had often been reduced to this state of sorrow. When in Babylonian exile, they wept when they remembered “Zion.”
II. The cause of this penitential sorrow. “I will pour.” The prophet Joel (Joel 2:28) refers to this outpouring of Divine influence.
III. The occasion of this penitential sorrow. A believing sight of Christ produces this penitential sorrow.
IV. The poignancy of this penitential sorrow. “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 first-born.” “There are few states of deeper and acuter sorrow than this--that which is felt by affectionate parents when bereft of those objects of their fondest affections.” As to the poignancy of this grief, it is further said, “In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the valley of Megiddon,” etc. Perhaps me greatest sorrow ever known amongst the Jews was the sorrow in the valley of Megiddon, occasioned by the death of King Josiah (2 Chronicles 35:24). Jeremiah composed a funeral dirge on the occasion; and other odes and lamentations were composed, and were sung by males and females. But true penitential sorrow is far more poignant than that occasioned by the death of an only son or a noble king. It is tinctured with moral remorse.
V. The universality of this poignant sorrow. “The land shall mourn,” etc. All the families of the land shall mourn, and mourn “apart.” Deep sorrow craves loneliness. (Homilist.)
True mourning for Christ
Though this prophecy is fulfilling there is not complete fulfilment. There was, among the Jews, no such general grief as Zechariah pictures. They showed no signs of heart-broken sorrow. We must seek further for the mourners looking on the pierced One. There is no doubt where they are to be found. Christians have succeeded to the place, and occupy more than the place, of the Jews; it is ourselves who are to be “looking upon Him whom we have pierced.” Some great divines hold that Zechariah’s words describe the special mourning of Lent and Holy Week and Good Friday. In any case we have a picture of the effect which a real spiritual view of the cross must produce upon faithful Christians, and one which supplies us with a test of our Good Friday reality and sincerity. It is a hard test, but we must not flinch from it. It is of God’s own proposing; nay, rather, it occurs in the announcement of His most gracious purpose. Compare our recollections of earthly bereavements with our memory of Christ’s death. Can we say that we feel for Christ at all as we feel at the death of husband or wife, father or mother? Yet God expects us to feel very deeply. We know that Christ’s passion ought to excite in us the deepest imaginable sorrow. As there was never sorrow like unto His sorrow; as there was never death like unto His death; as there was never love like unto His love, so we cannot wonder if we are expected to feel a grief for Him as great as that which springs from the severest trial of our human affections. Yet it may safely be said that, generally, it is not so. We fall far short of that which is to be the state of the citizens of the true city of David, and of the inhabitants of Christian Jerusalem. (M. H. Ricketts.)
England’s rejection of Christ
Let me set in order before you the greater sin that we have committed in rejecting Jesus than did the Jews. We have rejected Jesus as the Head of the Church. What is the Church? It is the fulness of Him that filleth all in all. The Church is the body of Christ, of which He is the head, to pour into it continually the glory of His own power and the excellency of His own beauty and the perfectness of His own holiness. It is a Church embodied, that is the mystery, and not a Church disembodied. A Church disembodied is only a fraction of the mystery of godliness; the mystery of godliness is God manifest in the flesh. And the Church was intended to reveal the whole excellency and power of Jesus seated on the throne of God. What were the Church’s gifts? The word of wisdom, to search all the deep things of God. The word of knowledge, to tell all that was passing in all parts of His dominions; the gift of faith, never to doubt that whatever she desired she would receive. The gift of healing, to go forth and show the power of Jesus over all flesh, to forgive sin in the soul, and to heal disease in the body. The power of miracles, to order in the things of creation, to get all disorder into order, and to command the various powers of nature. To this the Church was called; deny it who dare! This is the dignity of the Church, but we reject it. The Jews rejected a man of flesh,--we have rejected a Man in the power of the Spirit.
II. Jesus has been rejected as the King of kings and Lord of lords. This is a title which He maketh great account of. It is written on His raiment, and on His thigh. But it has been denied; it is denied round the whole world. In the papacy the pope has taken the supremacy. In the Greek Church it is denied; the Czar is the head of the Church. In Britain it is denied. Who is King of kings?--Their majesties the people. “All power is from the people.” That is the baser denial--the basest of all denial. Power is no longer held as from Jesus, nor is it any longer held to be responsible to Him.
III. Another great sin has been the rejection of Jesus as the owner of all: as the merchantman, as the householder, the head of the house, whose is all the goods and chattels, and all the furniture, and all the provision, and all the treasure of the house. There is not one man in a hundred to whom the idea has once occurred, everything in his house is Christ’s; everything in the banker’s hands is Christ’s; everything in the funds is Christ’s. There is not aught that hath not the stamp of His name.
IV. We have rejected Christ as the poor man’s friend. Who was first the preacher of good tidings to the poor? Who blessed and honoured the estate of poverty? Who said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”? We have forgotten to preach Him as the Bringer of glad tidings to the poor. We have rejected Him who was the Redeemer of poverty,--who is its friend; and we have chosen for Him demagogues who are not worthy to be trusted with the lowest of the goods of creation. (Edward Irving, A. M.)
Consider the language of the prophet as denoting a state of mind which in its great lineaments is becoming to all men in all ages, and which must be felt in order to secure the enjoyment of spiritual blessing.
I. The sorrow here embodied is to be regarded in its cause. Here sorrow is traced to one cause. It is sorrow on account of sin. The sense of its being, its guilt and consequence, is pungently pressed upon the consciences. Observe--
1. The particular order of the sin. Although, in their relationship to the death of the Lord Jesus, the Jews were of course peculiar, there is an important sense in which all men must be regarded as participating in the guilt of “piercing Him.” His death was an atoning sacrifice; the sins of men being the cause of what He endured, in order to expiate wrath and to secure salvation. “He is the propitiation for our sins,” and thus it is that every sinner becomes an accomplice in the crucifixion of the Lord of glory. Set forth as Christ has been to men in the institutes and by the ministry of the Gospel, each thought and each deed of sin, cherished and loved, has been but striking at Christ another and another blow--rearing the Cross again, fastening the nails again.
2. This being the precise nature of the sin, we must notice the influence by which the guilt of it is recognised and felt. The sinner admits no guilt; his heart is a heart of stone. The consciousness of guilt is ascribed directly to Divine influence, the influence of the Holy Spirit.
II. The characteristics of this sorrow. The conviction of sin, arising from the influence of the Spirit of grave, leads men to that mourning which constitutes the theme of these verses. That mourning of sorrow will be found suggested to us in its three great characteristics of intensity, solitude, and prayerfulness.
III. The results. One is pardon: connected with pardon is sanctification. And the third result of this sorrow for sin is joy: nothing can compare with the joy arising from the hope of pardon for sin. (James Parsons.)
And the land shall mourn, every family apart
Personal and family fasting
On the pouring out of the Spirit the land is to mourn, every family apart, and their wives apart.
The duties of fasting consist of--
I. An external and circumstantial part.
1. A proper time must be set apart for these duties. And this is to be regulated by Christian prudence, as best suits the circumstance of the person or family. As to the quantity of time to be spent in personal or family fasting and humiliation, the duty, I judge, is to regulate it, and not it to regulate the duty. None need be solicitous as to what quantity of time, more or less, they spend in these exercises, so that the work of the time be done.
2. A proper place is to be chosen where the person or family may perform the duty without disturbance from others (see Matthew 6:18).
3. Abstinence is included in the nature of the thing; abstinence from meat and drink, and all bodily pleasures whatsoever, as well as ceasing from worldly business. The rule for abstinence from meat and drink Cannot be the same for all. These, however, are but the outward shell of these duties.
II. The internal any spiritual part.
1. Serious meditation and consideration of our ways. Such times are to be set apart from conversing with the world, that we may the more solemnly Commune with our own hearts as to the state of matters between God and us. In them we are diligently to review our past life.
2. Deep humiliation of soul before the Lord; the which was signified by the sackcloth and ashes used, under the law, on such occasions.
3. Free and open confession of sin before God, without reserve.
4. The exercise of repentance in turning from sin unto God, both in heart and life, the native result of deep humiliation and sincere confession. The true way to deal with a hard heart is to believe the Gospel. “Without faith it is impossible to please God,” and therefore impossible to reach true humiliation, right confession, and sincere repentance, which are very pleasing to Him.
5. Solemn covenanting with God, entering into or renewing covenant with Him in express words.
6. Extraordinary prayer, in importunate addresses and petitions unto oar covenanted God, for that which is the particular occasion of our fast. Now consider personal fasting and humiliation in particular.
III. The Divine warrant for it.
1. God requires it in His Word, and that both directly and indirectly.
2. It is promised that the saints shall perform this duty.
3. It is recommended unto us by the practice of the saints mentioned in Scripture.
4. The duty of personal fasting and humiliation may be thus evinced.
(1) There is nothing in the nature of religious fasting and humiliation that of itself is public, or necessarily requiring a plurality of persons to join therein. The preaching of the Word and celebration of the sacraments do, in their own nature, require society, and therefore are not to be used by a single person alone in his closet. But one may keep a fast alone.
(2) Extraordinary duties are called for on extraordinary emergents and occasions. If, then, a church or congregation is called to fasting and humiliation on such occasions, is not a particular person called to the same, or such occasions in his cave?
(3) Extraordinary duties to be performed by a whole nation, church, or congregation cannot soon be overtaken, because all bodies are slow in their operations. What should particular persons do in such cases? Should they not keep personal and family fasts? Now consider a providential call to personal fasting and humiliation.
1. When there is any special evil actually lying upon us, the Church, or our neighbour, in whom we have a special concern; whether it be a sinful or a penal evil. And when the tokens of God’s high displeasure are gone out in afflicting providences, it is time for us to roll ourselves in the dust, and so to accommodate our spirit and way to the dispensation, humbling ourselves before Him with fasting.
2. When there is any special stroke threatening or impending.
3. When there is some special mercy or favour to be desired of the Lord. Take a variety of these particular cases--
(1) When through a long track of sinning and careless walking, the case of one’s soul is left quite in disorder and confusion.
(2) when one is under convictions, entertaining some thoughts to reform.
(3) when the conscience is defiled with the guilt of some atrocious sin.
(4) when one would fain get over a snare he is often caught in, and have victory over a lust that hath often mastered him.
(5) When one is under a dead desertion.
(6) When one is under a felt and smarting desertion.
(7) When one is pressed with some outward affliction, whether in his body, relations, name, substance, or otherwise.
(8) When, by the aspect of providence, one is threatened with some such affliction.
(9) When one would have light and direction in some matter of special weight.
(10) When duty being cleared in a matter of special weight, it comes to the setting to.
(11) When one, having some unordinary difficulty to encounter, is in hazard of being ensnared either into sin or danger.
(12) When one hath in view some solemn approach unto God; in which case a special preparation is requisite . . .
Now consider some directions anent personal fasting and humiliation.
1. Make choice of a fit time and place.
2. Make some preparation for it the night before
3. Rise early in the morning, even sooner than ordinary.
4. Let holy thoughts at once have access to your soul.
5. Let your ordinary duties of prayer and reading of the Word be first performed; for extraordinary duties are not to jostle out the ordinary.
6. Begin with a solemn review of your sins--the sins of your nature, of your childhood, of your youth, of your middle age
To recommend the practice of these duties to persons and families, these five things are offered in favour thereof; namely, that the practice of them is a proper means--
1. To bring strangers to religion acquainted with it.
2. To recover backsliders.
3. To prevent relapses.
4. To prepare for a time of trial.
5. To get matters clear for eternity. (T. Boston.)
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Zechariah 12". The Biblical Illustrator. https://studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany