Handfuls on Purpose
by James Smith, 1943
THE UNFIT PREPARED. Zechariah 3:1-5
Joshua, the high priest, may be regarded as a symbolic character, representing the degraded priesthood as a whole at that time. We may regard it as a parable of how defiled Christians may be restored, and fitted for the Lord's service.
I. The Cause of His Unfitness.
1. He had Filthy Garments (v. 3). The garments represent the outward and visible expression of his character. When the outward life—our acts and deeds— condemn our profession, then our garments are unclean, and we become unfit for His holy service. Pure religion, and undefiled before God, is to keep himself unspotted from the world (Jas. 1:27).
2. He was like "A Brand in the Fire" (v. 2). Fire, like sin, usually has small beginnings. "By one man sin entered into the world." A brand is a fit subject for the fire. A man whose character has become filthy in the light of God becomes a fit subject for the blackening and consuming power of sin. Like a brand, he is helpless in the fire.
3. He had an Adversary Standing by to Resist (v. 1). Satan, our adversary, is always "standing by," ready to resist any efforts that might be made for our deliverance from impurity, and salvation from our unfitness for the work of our Lord. "Your adversary the Devil" is pleased with your stained garments, and is a standing enemy to the transforming grace of God.
II. The Manner of His Deliverance. "The angel of the Lord stood by" (v. 5). Perhaps the "Angel of the Covenant," the Son of God, to see that Satan was resisted, and that this poor, unclean, and disqualified servant might by the all-sufficient grace of God be cleansed and restored. For here grace reigns.
1. He was Forgiven. "I have caused your iniquity to pass from you" (v. 4). Forgiveness is our first need as sinners and our first need as backsliders. Because all sin is against God. Sin is the transgression of His law and of His love. If we lose out fellowship with God, we lose our power for Him. But we have a God who is ready to pardon (Psalm 86:5).
2. He was Cleansed. "Take away the filthy garments from him" (v. 4). How inconsistent it would be for any one claiming to have received the forgiveness of God and yet continuing to wear garments that are filthy in the eyes of their fellow-men. "Put off the old man with his deeds" (Colossians 3:9). Filthy garments are not to be covered over, but taken away.
3. He was Clothed with Change of Clothing (v. 4). What a change, when we get rid of our soiled and torn garments, and receive that robe of righteousness which Christ alone can bestow. That righteousness which puts us right with God and right for our priestly office in making intercession in His Name for others. Be clothed with humility.
4. He had A Fair Mitre set upon his Head (v. 5). The mitre was the crown of his priesthood, the symbol of Divine authority. All God's cleansed and clothed ones are crowned with honor. The holy anointing oil was put upon the mitered head. "Upon man's flesh shall it not be poured" (Exod. 30:32). We should ever remember that the anointing of the Holy Spirit comes upon what God Himself has given.
III. The Renewed Promise. After the cleansing and crowning comes the new purpose. There must now be:
1. A New Walk. "Walk in My ways " (v. 7). Hitherto the Lord could say, "My ways are not your ways, neither are your ways My ways." Because there was no agreement they could not walk together. But now, cleansed in heart and renewed in mind, the only path to be chosen was the "New and living way," as revealed in His Word: the way of faith and willing obedience to the truth. Jesus Christ said: "I am the Way. Follow Me. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness" (John 14:6; 8:12).
2. New Motives. "You will keep My charge" (v. 7). "You shall be faithful unto Me in the work to which you are called." The new man in Christ Jesus has new motive springs in his soul. His chief desire is to honor his Lord, and to keep true to His charge as revealed in His Word, that God might work in him both to will and to do of His good pleasure (Ephesians 2:13). Paul's one motive was: "To me to live is Christ" (Ephesians 1:21). All who are crowned with the mitre of holiness will be able gladly to say: "Not I, but Christ."
THE SUPREMACY OF THE SPIRITUAL. Zechariah 4:1-7
This vision of the Candlestick, or Lampstand, teaches us that there is in God's purpose a real and vital relationship between spiritual and visible things. We might look at this vision in connection with—
I. The Temple of God as a Witness. The temple was not yet built, but God saw it already as a perfected thing, as the prophet saw the Golden Candlestick—complete with its bowls, and lamps, and pipes; with its oil, and the two olive trees standing by as living, unfailing source of supply for the lamps. This is what the temple of God was to be for His people: a witness for Him. But a lampstand is not all that was needed. There must be lamps and a plentiful supply of oil if light is to shine. Without the oil (emblems of the Holy Spirit) even a golden lampstand might become a stumbling block. So the message of this vision is: "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts" (v. 6). How applicable this truth is to—
II. The Church of God as a Witness. The secret of the Church's power lies in the constant flow of the Holy Spirit. This Spirit, like the oil, comes from the living and abiding Sources, the Father and the Son (John 14:16-18). Let us give heed to Jehovah's warning that this building is not to be reared by mere human might or power, but by His Spirit. In these days there are many substitutes for the power of God's mighty Spirit in doing Christian work. Some trust the power of money, some education, some organization, some legislation, and some the power of numbers. None of these are to be despised, but none of them, nor all of them together, can do the work or take the place of the Holy Spirit. None of these can convict the world of sin, or righteousness, and of judgment. None of these can quicken a dead soul into newness of life and reveal the things of Christ. None of these can clothe the message of the Gospel with power to win souls for Christ. None of these can be a "Comforter" to the troubled spirit or make intercession for us with unutterable groanings. None of these can breathe the breath of life over a valley of dead bones (Ezekiel 37:9). In this great God honoring work it is the Spirit that quickens, the flesh profits nothing. The secret of the Church's power is the operation of the Holy Spirit. What is true of the Church as a whole is true of the individual life. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of Hosts." "You shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you, and you shall be witnesses unto Me" (Acts 1:8). "Have you received the Holy Spirit since you believed?" (Acts 19:2).
BEHOLD THE BRANCH. Zechariah 6:9-15
We believe that there is here—
I. A Symbolic Representation. Joshua is here again brought before us in a symbolic fashion. In chapter 3 we have seen him in filthy garments, then forgiven, cleansed, and adorned with a fair mitre, and so equipped for the holy office as high priest. Now he has golden crowns, or a composite crown, put upon his head, bestowing on him kingly honors', by which he becomes a true type of the Coming Christ, who would be both Priest and King, after the order of Melchizedek (Hebrews 5:6).
II. A Prophetic Announcement. "Behold the Man whose name is The Branch." "The Branch" is one of the most significant of Messiah's Names. A branch bears the fruit and reveals the character of the tree. Christ as Jehovah's Branch, revealed by His words and deeds the true character of His Father. Jesus said, "I am the Vine, you are the branches," the fruit-bearing part of the vine. Just as if God should say: "I am the True Vine, and Jesus Christ is the Branch, from which My fruit is found." All the blessings that hang on this Branch for our present and future life are the outcome of the love of the Eternal Father. As a Son, Christ is a true and fruitful Branch of the Godhead. O the multitudes who have sat under the shadow of this Branch with great delight! Note what is said of the Branch as a Person—
1. "He shall grow up out of His place" (v. 12). His place was a lowly one: one of humility, sorrow, shame, rejection, and crucifixion, and burial in a borrowed grave. But He grew up. "Up from the grave He arose." He grew up, and up, until He vanished out of sight and reached the Throne of the Heavens (Luke 24:51). His cause shall yet grow up.
2. "He shall build the Temple of the Lord" (v. 13). He shall build and see the completion of that great spiritual temple, "the Church of God," which will be a witness in the ages to come to the redemptive power of His own precious Blood (Isaiah 53:11).
3. "He shall bear the Glory." The glory of the new temple shall be all on Himself. He who bore the burden of our sins, and of the Cross, shall bear the glory that was to follow (Hebrews 2:9). The government and the glory shall be upon His shoulder (Isaiah 9:6).
4. He "shall Sit and Rule upon His Throne" (v. 13). He had His Cross, and He will have His Throne. He was cast out by rulers on earth, ,but He will yet rule the nations of the earth. His Kingdom shall be the kingdoms of the world (Rev. 11:15).
5. "He shall be a Priest upon His Throne" (v. 13). What a blessed combination, King and Priest, an Enthroned Priest, a King to govern His people and subdue His enemies; a Priest crowned to bear His people's needs before the Throne of His Almighty Father. The King rules, the Priest intercedes.
6. The Counsel of Peace shall be Between Them Both. What is that which lies between the King and the Priest? Literally, it may be difficult to define, but in a spiritual sense, in connection with the character of our Great High Priest, the meaning is by no means obscure to the spiritually enlightened. Christ, our High Priest, offered Himself a Sacrifice for our sins on the Cross. Christ, our Coming King, will yet make His redeemed ones kings and priests to reign on the earth (Rev. 5:9, 10). The counsel and message of peace and power comes from between, or belonging to both the Cross and the Throne.
FORMAL WORSHIP AND POWERLESS PRAYERS. Zechariah 7:4-14
The Temple at Jerusalem was in process of building, when the question was asked: "Shall I weep and separate myself as I have done these so many years?" (v. 3). Here we have the Lord's answer, which is a charge against them of mere—
I. Formal Worship. Formality in worship, or trusting in the form, is alas, very prevalent.
1. Hypocritical Fasting. The Lord asks: "When you fasted and mourned, did you at all fast unto Me?" (v. 5). When they fasted it was not that they might get into closer fellowship with God, but, like the hypocrites in our Lord's time, that they might appear unto men to fast (Matthew 6:16-18). It is possible in many things to deny ourselves for the glory of ourselves in the eyes of others.
2. Selfishness In Eating and Drinking. "You eat and drink for yourselves" (v. 6). How little do we think that in our ordinary, every-day "eating and drinking" we should do all to the glory of God (1 Corinthians 10:31); thanking Him for such mercies that help to strengthen us for His work. Even at the Lord's table we may eat and drink judgment on our own soul by not discerning the Lord's body (1 Corinthians 11:29). Our worthiness for this is not in our moral goodness, but in our spiritual discernment.
3. Neglect of the Word of the Lord. "Should you not hear the words which the Lord has cried?" (v. 7). The formalist allows no special value for the Word of the Lord, but is very punctilious about outward acts and ceremonies. He or she may carry a Bible or Prayer Book to Church, but they seldom or never seriously read it, or offer up their own desires unto God (1 John 5:15). Such have need to pray the prayer of Duncan Mathieson: "Lord, stamp Eternity on my eyeballs."
II. Powerless Prayers. There are prayers that are powerless, because God will not listen to them (v. 13), and because they come from dishonest and hardened hearts (v. 12). Note some of the causes of failure, as recorded here—
1. There was a Lack of Mercy and Compassion. "Show mercy and compassion every man to his brother" (v. 9). Our attitude to our fellow men has much to do with the helping or hindering of our prayers. "First be reconciled to your brother, then offer your gifts" (Matthew 5:24). We incur God's displeasure if we from the heart forgive not every one his brother (Matthew 18:35). He who loves God must love his brother also (1 John 4:21).
2. They Oppressed the Helpless. "Oppress not the widow, the fatherless, nor the poor" (v. 10). To take advantage of those because of their helplessness is a blatant insult to the God who "delights in mercy." Surely that man's religion is in vain (Jas. 1:27).
3. There was Evil Thinking. Imagining evil against another in your heart (v. 10). Thoughts are naked things before God. Evil thoughts against your brother will poison your prayers. As a man thinks in his heart, so is he before God. "The pure in heart shall see God."
4. They Refused to Hearken to the Words which the Lord has sent (vv. 12, 13). To refuse to hear the voice of His written Word is to close the door of the heart against Heaven's blessing. "If you will not hear My cry, neither will I hear your cry, says the Lord of Hosts" (v. 13).
5. The Final Result of Unanswered Prayers. A grieved God, scattered hopes, bondage and desolation (v. 14). "You ask and receive not because you ask amiss that you may consume what you get upon your own lusts" (Jas. 4:3). The remedy for all this is given us in James 4:8-10.
O JERUSALEM! JERUSALEM! Zechariah 8:20-23
Jesus looked on the city and wept over it, saying: "O Jerusalem, you that kill the prophets... how often would I have gathered your children together: and you would not. Behold your house is left unto you desolate. You shall not see Me henceforth until you shall say, Blessed is He who comes in the Name of the Lord" (Matthew 23:37-39). In this prophecy Zechariah gives us the vision of Jerusalem restored, the Presence of the Lord, and the gathering together of her children.
I. The Center of Attraction. The Holy City (v. 22). Glorious things are spoken of you, O Jerusalem, the city of the Great King. But the attraction was not the city as such, but the fact that "The Lord Himself had suddenly come to dwell among them" (Malachi 3:1). What is the chief attraction in our modern religious assemblies? Is it the gorgeous building, the fine music, or the eloquent preacher? The true aim would be: "Sirs, we would see Jesus."
II. The Gathering of the People. "Many peoples and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord in Jerusalem" (v. 22, R.V. ). What a stirring among the "dry bones" this will be. The Shiloh in Kingly Power has come, and unto Him shall the gathering of the people be (Genesis 49:10). What a holy, Christ-honoring convocation this will be. Sectarianism will have no place in that day. Paul says: "We beseech you, brethren, by the Coming of our Lord, and by our gathering together unto Him, that you be not shaken in mind" (2 Thessalonians 2:1).
III. The Purpose of this Gathering. "Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord" (v. 21). "They shall come to seek the Lord and to pray" (v. 22). In those revival days shall ten men (perhaps Gentiles) take hold of a Jew, saying, "We will go with you for we have heard that God is with you" (v. 23). They heard, they believed and obeyed. No one will be able, sneeringly, to say on that day, that this Gospel is a failure. Great cities, peoples, and nations flocking to Him, like doves to their windows. In our own days we have a glorious message for every creature from the lips of this same Lord: "Come unto Me." But with what indifference the tidings is heard. Oh, how much we need the power of the outpoured Spirit, that many may seek the Lord and pray before Him.
IV. The Blessing to Follow. "He shall speak peace unto the nations, and His dominion shall be from sea to sea, even to the ends of the earth" (chapter 9:10). He shall speak peace to the nations, as He spoke peace to the winds and waves on the Sea of Galilee; and His peace-speaking word shall resound to the uttermost parts of the earth. We pray now, "Your kingdom come." Then His kingdom will have come, and His will being done on earth. Then shall they say: "How great is His goodness," and "How great is His beauty" (chapter 9:17). They shall look upon Him whom they have despised and pierced, and mourn; but also be constrained to say, "How great is His beauty." The Christ we trust is the embodiment of the Divine fullness. May we so trust Him that the "beauty of the Lord" may be upon us. Walk worthy of your high calling, knowing that the happy day is coming when "Your eyes shall see the King in His beauty" (Isaiah 33:17).
A HEART-RENDING DISCOVERY. Zechariah 12:10-14; 13:1
Here are four great realities in connection with the Second Coming of the Lord.
I. A Precious Opportunity. "I will pour upon the house of David... the Spirit of Grace and of Supplications" (v. 10). This Spirit of Grace can only come from the "God of all Grace," and when this Spirit comes He convinces of sin and the need of making supplications unto God, in view of the great revelation that is to follow. Every revival is an evidence of this. We now are living in the days of the poured out Spirit (Acts 2:16). Days of grace and of personal responsibility. "Behold, now is the accepted time." Days of preparation for the appearing of the Lord.
II. A Great Revelation. "They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced" (v. 10). This will be a heartbreaking sight to the house of David, whose rulers, 1900 years ago, despised and rejected, saying, "We will not have this Man to reign over us," and clamored for His crucifixion. And all these long ages they, as a nation, have been the bitter enemies of Jesus. In that day "this same Jesus" (Acts 1:11) shall appear bearing the marks of His Cross in His hands. And one shall say unto Him: "What are these wounds in Your hands?" (chapter 13:6). Ah, these wounds are the marks of His identity with the Man who was nailed to a Cross, of whom their fathers cried, "Let Him be crucified." Shall that be the time "when a nation shall be born in a day?" Something like this happens when a sin-smitten soul gets its first look of Jesus as their sin-bearer. He died for me. My sins were there at the nailing of Christ to the tree. The wounds in His hands, even in His glorified body (John 20:20) will remain through all Eternity, as a witness to the triumphs of His death.
III. A Real Repentance. "They shall mourn and be in bitterness, as one that mourns for his only son. Every family shall mourn apart" (vv. 11-13). Their blindness and unbelief have been great; now they have discovered their awful guilt in murdering their own longed-for Messiah. What a hallowed time this will be in Jerusalem, when in every home there will be the voice of confession, and tears of penitence. While at the same time a deep well of new-found holy joy springing up in their hearts. Their long-looked-for Messiah has come, and brought deliverance (Romans 11:26). Like Joseph's brethren, they sold Him, then saw Him clothed with power and glory, and then were saved by Him (Acts 5:31). True repentance needs no repentance.
IV. A Great Salvation. "In that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David... for sin and impurity" (chapter 13:1). In that day, when "blood and water" flowed from the pierced side of the crucified Christ, a fountain was opened for a whole humanity for sin and impurity. "The dying thief rejoiced to see that fountain in his day," and many a living thief has rejoiced at the same vision. When the "Lord comes and sits upon the throne of His father David, and when His Word shall go forth from Jerusalem (Isaiah 2:3), then shall there be a fountain opened for the nation's sin and impurity. Meanwhile we rejoice in the truth that the grace of God, that brings salvation to all men, has appeared, teaching us to deny ungodliness and to look for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God, our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:11-13).
THE SECOND ADVENT AND SOME OF ITS ACCOMPANIMENTS. Zechariah 14
In this chapter the prophet sees what might be regarded as the final assurance to that prayer taught by our Lord: "Your Kingdom come, Your will be done on earth" (Matthew 6:10).
I. The Manner of His Coming.
1. It will be Personal. "His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem" (v. 4). Some tell us that His feet are not to be taken literally. Might they not as well say that He Himself, or the Mount of Olives, are not to be taken literally? It is "the Lord Himself" that is to descend from Heaven. It is "this same Jesus" that was seen to go up that is "in like manner" coming again (1 Thessalonians 4:16; Acts 1:11). It should be remembered that it was while He was making the descent of the Mount of Olives, riding on an donkey, that the multitude of His disciples began to praise God, saying: "Blessed be the King that comes in the Name of the Lord. Peace in Heaven and glory in the highest" (Luke 19:37-38). What a forecast this is of that day when "His feet shall stand on the Mount of Olives" as King of nations.
2. It will be as King of the Earth. "The Lord shall be King over all the earth" (v. 9). In that day there shall be One Lord, and His Name One. There shall be no room for any other when He comes; for in His times He shall show who is the blessed and only Potentate, King of kings, and Lord of lords. To whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen (1 Timothy 6:15-16). It is worthy of note that the term Potentate occurs nowhere else in the Scriptures. In that day the kingdoms of this world will be compelled to acknowledge no ruler save Jesus only. His Name shall be above every name, and at His Name every knee shall bow (Isaiah 45:23). The nations were never in greater need of leadership than they are just now. But when He comes, who is "the Wisdom and the Power of God," this need will be fully met.
3. It will be with All the Holy Ones. "The Lord my God shall come, and all the holy ones with You" (v. 5, R.V.). While Jesus was teaching on the Mount of Olives, He surely was making reference to this prophecy, when He said: "The Son of Man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him. Then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory" (Matthew 25:31). Jude also says: "Behold the Lord comes with ten thousands of His saints" (v. 14). It is not customary for kings and princes on earth to travel alone when fulfilling a public function. They have a retinue or train of attendants; those who are in perfect accord with them and their mission. So "the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from Heaven with His mighty angels" (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10), when He shall be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe. Glorious as His ten thousand holy and mighty attendants will be, yet He shall still be "the chief among ten thousand, the altogether lovely."
II. Results which Follow His Coming. There will be—
1. Perennial Blessing. "In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem" (v. 8). These living waters are symbolic of something that abundantly satisfies; something ever fresh and abiding. They represent Divine energy in constant activity on behalf of His people. "Everything shall live where this river comes" (Ezekiel 47:9). Here is something for which civilization can offer no substitute. Here is a river that cannot be augmented by any earthly tributary. Like the Gospel of God, man's wisdom and genius can add nothing to its value. The living authoritative Word of the Lord "shall go out from Jerusalem," as streams of blessing from the throne of His glory.
2. Universal Worship. "Every one that is left of all the nations shall worship the King, the Lord of Hosts" (v. 16). "Who shall not fear You, O Lord, and glorify Your Name; for all nations shall come and worship before You, for Your judgments are made manifest" (Rev. 15:4). Satan tempted the Lord by offering Him the kingdoms of this world if He would fall down and worship him (Matthew 4:9). But now we see the kingdoms of this world worshiping Him, who submitted to death, defying the Devil and will yet cast him into the abyss (Rev. 20:10). It is our privilege now to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness (1 Chronicles 16:29). God is a Spirit, they that worship Him must worship Him in spirit and in truth. God is not to be mocked.
3. Consecration of Common Things. "In that day there shall be upon the bells of the horses, and upon every pot in Jerusalem, holiness unto the Lord." Blessed day, when "holiness unto the Lord" shall be stamped upon the bells of the horses and on the pots and pans of the kitchen, and upon our motor cars, city trams, railway trains, and steamboats. When this motto will be read on the gates of our Houses of Commons and places of industry, and on the front door of every Exchange; when every transaction between man and man shall have this holy seal set upon it. Truly these will be "days of Heaven upon earth," when men, because they love the Lord, will love one another, and do all for the honor of His Holy Name. When poor-houses, asylums, law courts, and prisons will be things of the sorrowful past. If this is to be written on bells and pots, how much more should it be inscribed on the lives of those who have been redeemed by His Blood? Holiness unto the Lord.