Zec_10:12. I will strengthen them in the Lord; and they shall walk up and down in His name, saith the Lord.
IF we were to judge of Christianity from what we behold around us, we should give it a preference, perhaps, to all other religions; but we should be far from thinking very highly of its nature and effects. The generality of those who profess it, are but little elevated above the better orders of the heathen world; and, in some respects perhaps, have a lower standard of morals than they. If it were asked of the great mass of nominal Christians, What has Christianity done for you? in what respect are you either a better or a happier man, than you would have been if Christ had never come into the world? it would be difficult for them to give any satisfactory answer, consistent with truth. Even those who do feel somewhat of its influence are far from manifesting its full power. In order to judge of its real excellence, we must go back to former days, and see how it wrought in the apostolic age; or must look forward to that glorious period, when it shall prevail over the face of the globe, and exercise a more complete sway over the hearts of men. It is to this period that my text refers; a period, when, in comparison of the present, “the light of the moon shall be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun sevenfold, as the light of seven days [Note: Isa_30:26.].”
In opening the passage to your view, I shall be led to speak of,
The state to which the Jews shall, in due season, be restored—
The Jews will, at a future season, be restored to God—
[Of this, no man who believes the Scriptures can entertain a doubt. The passage before us, even if it stood alone, would be amply sufficient to warrant our expectation of this event. But it is one of many: for the prophets all, with one voice, agree in declaring that God has not finally cast off his people; but that they shall return to him, and enjoy under their Messiah a state of prosperity far exceeding any thing that they ever experienced since they became a nation. That that event is spoken of in the passage before us, will be evident to any one who will consult the context. Read it from the sixth verse. The persons spoken of are both Judah and Israel: “I will strengthen the House of Judah, and I will save the House of Joseph.” It was the former only that were brought from Babylon: and therefore the prophecy must relate to a period yet future, even to the return of the whole nation from their present dispersion. “The Lord will hiss for them,” as men in Eastern countries are wont to do when they would collect their bees [Note: Isa_5:26; Isa_7:18.with ver. 8.]; and “they shall come from Egypt and Assyria,” and from all countries whither they have been driven, “unto the land of Gilead and Lebanon,” where they shall increase as rapidly as they did in former times; insomuch that “place shall not be found for them to dwell in [Note: ver. 10.].” This circumstance, which is considered by many as an objection to the literal interpretation of those prophecies which speak of their return to their own land, instead of being an objection to such an interpretation, is actually contemplated in the prophecy, and specifically predicted. In their present dispersion, they seem as if they were cast off: but, though scattered over the face of the globe, they are only “sown” there, as seed which the husbandman casts over his field, with a view to reap, and gather it to greater advantage at a future period [Note: ver. 9.]. Their return will be a season of most sublime joy, both to them and their children [Note: ver. 7.]: and the interpositions of God in their behalf will be as visible and as effectual as those which were vouchsafed at the Red Sea, on their departure from Egypt; or at the river Jordan, on their entrance into Canaan. Every obstacle shall be removed from before them, and every opposing enemy be destroyed [Note: ver. 11.].
Persons who are adverse to the idea of a literal restoration of the Jews to their own land, will satisfy themselves with saying, that the whole of this description is figurative: but if this be figurative, where, I would ask, shall any thing be found that is to be taken in a literal sense? or, supposing God to have ordained to accomplish any thing literally, by what plainer terms could he possibly declare it? There must, I think, be an end of all certainty in language, if the event here predicted be not to be understood in its literal and most obvious sense.]
Their restoration, however, will be, not literal only, but spiritual also—
[At their triumphant entrance into Canaan, they were strong in the Lord Jehovah, in whose name they took possession of the land, and in dependence upon whom they walked through its length and breadth. At their future restoration to God, such also will be their confidence in their Messiah; whom they will then acknowledge as their Lord, and their God. The Prophet Hosea plainly declares this: “Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their King; and shall fear the Lord, and his goodness, in the latter days [Note: Hos_3:5.].” In his name, and in his strength, will they then go forth against their spiritual, no less than against their temporal, enemies: and their victories over both the one and the other will be complete. It cannot be doubted, but that, in that day, they will be as much distinguished for righteousness as for prowess in arms [Note: Isa_60:1-2.]: for “they shall be all righteous [Note: Isa_60:21.]:” their penitence will be exceeding deep [Note: Zec_12:10.], their piety most refined [Note: Zec_13:9.], their devotion to God universal and entire [Note: Zec_14:20-21.].]
Christianity being already embraced by us, we may see in this passage,
The state which it is our privilege to enjoy at this day—
We have been redeemed, if not by the power of divine grace, at least by the price once paid for us on Calvary. As the Lord’s people, therefore, we are privileged to live by faith on Christ, and to possess in him,
[In ourselves, we remain as weak as ever: but in Christ we are strong: for in him there is all fulness treasured up for us [Note: Col_1:19.]; and out of that fulness we are privileged to receive even grace corresponding with all the grace that is in him [Note: Joh_1:16.]. He is appointed “Head over all things to the Church,” for that very end [Note: Eph_1:22-23.]; that we, as members, may be “strengthened with all might, by his Spirit in the inner man [Note: Eph_3:16.], and have all our “enemies bruised under our feet.” We are commanded to “be strong, not in ourselves, but in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Eph_6:10.]:” and to regard our own weakness rather as an encouragement, than as any ground of despondency; because he will delight to “perfect his own strength in our weakness [Note: 2Co_12:9.].”
Without hesitation, then, do I say to every believing soul, “Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus [Note: 2Ti_2:1.]:” and never contemplate the strength of your adversaries, but the power of your heavenly Lord. Never doubt, for a moment, but that “his grace shall be sufficient for you:” and let your daily consolation be, “that you can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth you [Note: Php_4:13.].]
[St. Paul’s direction, probably in allusion to this very passage, is, “As ye have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in him [Note: Col_2:6.].” Never for a moment forget “in whom you have believed, or how able he is to keep that which you have committed to him.” Wherever you turn your steps, you will doubtless meet with many adversaries: but “in him” you may “walk up and down” with confidence, defying every enemy, and saying, “If God be for me, who can be against me?” See how the Messiah himself exulted in the days of his flesh; and what an example he has therein afforded you! “The Lord God will help me; therefore shall I not be confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint; and I know that I shall not be ashamed. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me? let us stand together. Who is mine adversary? let him come near to me. Behold, the Lord God will help me; who is he that shall condemn me? To, they all shall wax old as a garment; the moth shall eat them up [Note: Isa_50:7-9.].” Indeed, this very language is adopted by the Apostle Paul, who proceeds yet further to challenge every created being: “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord [Note: Rom_8:33-39.].” Here we have a perfect comment on the words of our text: here we see what that confidence is which every Christian should feel, when he says, “In the Lord have I righteousness and strength [Note: Isa_45:24-25.].” Thus it is, that “in the Lord shall all the seed of Israel be justified; and thus it is, that they should glory.” To all of you, then, I say, “Walk in Christ, rooted and built up in him, and established in the faith as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanks-giving.”]
Is this, then, the state to which the whole world shall in due time be brought?
Contemplate it in reference to the Jews—
[Does it not rejoice you to reflect on the mercy which is in reserve for them;—for them, to whose ancestors you yourselves are so greatly indebted? As far as relates to their restoration to their own land, it is no otherwise of importance, than as fulfilling the Divine promises, and magnifying the grace of God towards them. But their believing in Christ, and experiencing the blessedness of his salvation, how ardently is it to be desired! and how should the prospect of it fill every soul with joy! Be not indifferent to it, beloved brethren. The Scriptures are full of this glorious subject; and universal nature is called upon to exult and glory in it. If you had no concern but for the benighted Gentiles, you should take an interest in the welfare of the Jews; seeing that the “receiving them into the Christian fold will be as life from the dead to the whole world [Note: Rom_11:15.].”
But put aside all consideration, except for the honour of your Lord and Saviour. Shall it be no joy to you that his kingdom shall be extended throughout all the earth; and that upon the whole face of the globe there shall be but “one Lord, and his name one?” Verily, if you have the smallest measure of love to his name, you will strive, and pray that this blessed period may be hastened, and that he may speedily be the “King over all the earth.”]
Seek to enjoy it in your own souls—
[Hear the determination of the Church of old: “All people will walk every one in the name of his God: and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever [Note: Mic_4:5.].” And is not this the proper resolution for us to adopt? Adopt it then, my brethren; and may Almighty “God strengthen you” to fulfil it! and may your whole “walk” and conversation, to your latest hour, illustrate and confirm it! — — —]