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158

Make Trial of God

[Hag. II.

good opinion of men will make you pleasing in God's sight. The Israelites, who neglected to rebuild God's house, offered service of other kinds, but it was not accepted. Take care lest you approach Christ Jesus with a disobedient heart and so spoil all your appearance of devotion.

15. And now, I pray you, consider from this day and upward, from before a stone was laid upon a stone in the temple of the Lord: 16. Since those days were, when one came to an heap of twenty measures, there were but ten : when one came to the pressfat for to draw out fifty vessels out of the press, there were but twenty. 17. I smote you with blasting and with mildew and with hail in all the labours of your hands; yet ye turned not to me, saith the Lord. 18. Consider now from this day and upward, from the four and twentieth day of the ninth month, even from the day that the foundation of the Lord's temple was laid, consider it. 19. Is the seed yet in the barn? yea, as yet the vine, and the fig tree, and the pomegranate, and the olive tree, hath not brought forth : from this day will I bless you. How poor had been the return of their land ! how disappointing all

their toil! Yet now, says the Prophet, make trial of God, give Him labour and gifts towards building His house, and see what He will do for you to renew your prosperity. This is a word that bids me venture. Let me trust God, obey His Word, and look to Him for a good result. I must cast seed into the ground, must bestow my labour on His harvest-field, and leave the issue wholly

in His Hands. 20. And again the word of the Lord came unto Haggai in the four and twentieth day of the month, saying, 21. Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah, saying, I will shake the heavens and the earth ; 22. And I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms, and I will destroy the strength of the kingdoms of the heathen ; and I will overflow the chariots, and those that ride in them ; and the horses and their riders shall come down, every one by the sword of his brother. Earthly thrones, however glorious, will fall ; earthly armies will

break up and scatter ; earthly alliances will be severed. Where shall I look for peace and security, if all this grandeur, this might, this close comradeship cannot be relied on? I will remember that my God stands sure, and that communion with Him imparts a share of His Divine peace. He cannot be overthrown, nor can His purposes or His love fail.

VER. 23.)

A Signet in God's Hand

159

23. In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, will I take thee, O Zerubbabel, my servant, the son of Shealtiel, saith the Lord, and will make thee as a signet: for I have chosen thee, saith the Lord of hosts. The king's signet-ring is always near him, is his most precious

possession, authenticates all his royal decrees. So should the Prince of Judah be ever with God, dear to God, important in carrying out His Divine plan. His ancestor had lost this grace, this nearness (Jeremiah xxii. 24); but now it is restored again. When God promises to His Saints that He will make them as a seal or signet, He impresses on them His likeness (so far as weak humanity can be transfigured to be like God). They show forth by their humility, their love, their purity, whose they are. This likeness, too, they reproduce in other souls. O God, revive in me these gracious characters which have been too soon effaced !

ZECHARIAH

CHAPTER I

TN the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the 1 word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, 2. The Lord hath been sore displeased with your fathers. 3. Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the Lord of hosts ; Turn ye unto me, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the Lord of hosts. The Jews were stirred up by Prophets not only to rebuild the Temple

and restore the fallen state, but to seek true conversion. The inward and spiritual building needed to be raised again, no less than the material fabric. God's displeasure had indeed been sore, and He had sent dread tokens of it. The destruction of Jerusalem, the cessation of sacred worship, the exile of His people in a foreign land, -these were terrible signs of His wrath. But now comes solemn invitation to repentance. A threefold proclamation of the Most Holy Name confirms it. God bids His people draw nigh to Him, and declares that He will draw nigh to them. Gracious Lord, Who still livest and still bearest with us, make these words of invitation and of promise echo in our ears; withdraw us from paths of sin back to Thy good way.

4. Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts ; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the Lord. The company of God's Prophets in the days before the captivity had with one voice warned and pleaded with Israel. Their office was not merely to foretell things to come, but to reprove iniquity and idolatry, to enforce judgment, mercy, and truth. Christian ministers have to discharge this same office. They are of no use, they are but dumb dogs, if they merely perform sacred rites without

VER. 10.]

God's Word verified

- 161

warning or pleading with sinners. The prophetic office has been laid on them, as well as the priestly. Woe unto them if they do not discharge it faithfully!

5. Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever ? True indeed. Hearers pass, and so do speakers. 'Heaven and earth

pass away.' We live in a changing world. Those who possessed wealth, who ruled the world, who drew all attention but a few years ago, are gone, and other actors have come on the stage ; and in church new preachers are in the pulpit, new voices in the choir. Lord, let me gather some eternal fruit from these swiftly passing moments. Those who were my contemporaries when I was young have entered eternity. Soon I must follow them. When my time comes, let me pass away with steadfast faith and humble repentance. 6. But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers ? and they returned and said, Like as the Lord of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us. God's Word does not fail, nor change. It overtakes evil-doers. It

comes out true in the end. May I experience its truth now while I can profit by the lesson, not in an eternal fruitless regret! O gracious Word of God, living and true, let me study Thee now while day lasts ; let me walk by Thy light and so have no reason to fear the coming of darkness. Be Thou my joy in peaceful days, my support in trouble. I know Thou wilt be justified at last.

7. Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the Lord unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, 8. I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom ; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. 9. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. 10. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the Lord hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. In this wonderful night the Prophet saw a series of visions. It was

ut two months since God had last sent à message of encourage

162

Comfortable Words

[ZEC. I.

ment to the Temple-builders by the Prophet Haggai; now He shows to Zechariah a series of pictures of which the inner meaning is full of comfort. First, the Prophet sees God's messengers speeding throughout the earth, inspecting, surveying, reporting to their Chief. Earth's sovereign has his officers, his posts, his organisation of a vast empire; but my God more thoroughly knows all that goes on, more wisely commands, more mercifully disposes. Let me be an obedient subject of His. Let my life fall into the good order of His holy and happy service.

II. And they answered the angel of the Lord that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. 12. Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years ? This is the report : peace and tranquillity reign throughout the world.

Alas, why should God's people alone be oppressed and desolate ? God's Providence has brought about a time of peace for the world. Glory be to Him for it. But the Angel pleads that the Church too may enjoy this peace, may be crowned with these blessings. Here is the Mediator speaking with God on our behalf, appealing to His mercy, representing that His chastisement has now been accomplished. Christ our Saviour exercises the same office for us that the Angel of God's Presence exercised of old. He pleads the memory of His prevailing Sacrifice to turn away God's wrath from us, and obtain for us pardon and peace. Why does my foolish heart still toss with so many agitations, miss its share in the peace Christ has won ?

13. And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words. These words are not different from those which the Prophet Jeremiah

records in chapters xxx. and xxxi. of his prophecy. Words of comfort after terror, of peace and hope after desolation ; rays of light after Israel's long darkness. Our Divine Master brought better comfort still. He let in the dayspring from on high,' guided our wandering feet into the way of peace.' He is the messenger of peace, and has left peace with us. May the Lord so impart to me His consolations, even amidst this sad world, that I may be a 'son of consolation,' and refresh other souls too.

14. So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the Lord of hosts ; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. 15. And I

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