Zechariah 2 - A Promise of People, Protection, and Presence (Rev. Erik Veerman)
A Promise of People, Protection, and Presence
Our sermon text this morning is Zechariah chapter 2. You’ll find that on page 943.
This is the third vision given to Zechariah. The first vision was the rider on the red horse among the myrtle trees… and the other horses patrolling the earth. That vision was about God’s all-knowing and all-present nature. Even though the situation in Jerusalem was discouraging, God was still in control. He would again prosper Jerusalem.
The second vision was about four horns. They signified the kingdoms of the world opposed to God. But if you remember, God raised up four of his own horns that defeated these enemies. Even though it appeared hopeless to his people in Jerusalem, God will prevail.
This third vision is about Jerusalem. And it answers the question, how will Jerusalem and God’s people prosper once again? The answer is surprising. The answer is actually right behind me on our Zechariah banner.
Let’s now turn our attention to God’s Word.
Reading of Zechariah 2
Some of you will know of John Piper. He’s a well-known pastor and author. He’s a great Gospel witness. He’s also unmatched in his passion and seemingly endless energy. He’s written over 60 books. He speaks at countless conferences. His emphasis on missions and the Scriptures and God’s sovereignty and the Gospel has impacted so many - myself included.
You would think that pastor Piper jumps out of bed at 5am every morning, ready to take on what God has for him that day.
Well, he wrote this: “There are mornings when I wake up feeling fragile. Vulnerable. It’s often vague. No single threat. No one weakness. Just an amorphous sense that something is going to go wrong and I will be responsible.” He writes that this has been a common occurrence for him over his 50 years of ministry. Sometimes it’s fear, or expectations, or criticism. He wrote this about one particular morning. “I woke up feeling emotionally fragile. Weak. Vulnerable. I prayed: ‘Lord help me. I’m not even sure how to pray.’” We feel the same at times – not sure how to pray. Piper continued, “An hour later I was reading in Zechariah, seeking the help I had cried out for. It came.” What did Piper read in Zechariah? He read from Zechariah 2. That “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls” and that “the Lord will be a wall of fire all around,” and that “He will be the glory in her midst.” He read our text this morning.
You see, Zechariah 2 is a soothing balm to our troubled souls. In a way, when we read Zechariah 2, it’s like God transports us from our difficult situations and places us in a heavenly city, with God’s people, in his protection. And he’s there with us. We feel his glory and presence.
That’s what I want you to take away this morning. The promise of Zechariah 2 for you. God’s promise is this: The promise of his people, his protection, and his presence. And my hope is that you’ll be able to go back to this chapter when you need a reminder of these promises.
Really, these three promises here are intermixed throughout this chapter. On the back of your bulletin, I included the verses that relate to each, so you can see how they overlap. We’ll take them in that order. People, protection, and presence. That’s the order that they are introduced to us. Verse 4 “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people” Then verse 5, “I will be to her a wall of fire.” That’s the protection. And the second part of verse 5: “I will be the glory in her midst.” Presence. Great promises for us.
The promise of people (Zechariah 2:4, 6, 7, 11a, 12)
So first, the promise of people.
Let me begin by describing the vision. Zechariah saw this man. And he had a measuring line. That’s something an architect would use to plan out something to be built. And Zechariah called out to him, “where are you going?” “I’m going to measure Jerusalem” He was saying to Zechariah, Jerusalem needs to be rebuilt.
And remember from chapter 1. God promised that Jerusalem would be rebuilt. In a sense, this chapter tells us what that means.
But right when this architect was going to measure the city, something happened! Two angels appear. And the second angel said to the first. “Run, say to that young man.” Something was so urgent that the young man mentioned needed to hear it. Now, who was the young man? Well, there are 2 possibilities. He’s either the man measuring Jerusalem… or he’s Zechariah himself. I’m not sure, which but I lean toward the young man being Zechariah. For one, the word for “young man” in Hebrew is different than the word for “man” used earlier. And we know that Zechariah was young at this point. But also, the angel who was told to run to the young man… he’s the same angel who talked to Zechariah in the first vision. In other words, that’s the angel’s role – talk to Zechariah.
But either way, I don’t think it changes the message. It’s a corrective message. Really, it’s a radical message.
It’s like the angel was saying… “Wait, wait, wait… young man, you think that God’s is promising Jerusalem to be physically rebuilt. No, no, no! You’ve missed the promise. The promise is a spiritual rebuilding of Jerusalem. Yes, the physical walls of the city need rebuilding, but the promise goes way beyond that. It’s a promise of people.”
Let’s take a step back for a moment. A couple of weeks ago we talked about these kind of visions in the Bible. One thing I mentioned was this: these visions have a near term fulfillment but also a spiritual or heavenly fulfillment. And this is where we need to understand the significance of Jerusalem.
Of course, our natural tendency is to understand Jerusalem as the earthly city. That’s how Zechariah and his generation saw it. Jerusalem was the physical place in Judah, situated next to Mount Zion. They returned from the city of Babylon to the city Jerusalem. And Jerusalem was in shambles. The wall were a wreck - huge boulders strewn about. The temple was half built. The land was unfertile.
Deep down they wanted the physical city and temple rebuilt to its glory days. That’s what they thought they needed.
I’m guilty. I dream about us having our own property and a beautiful new church building and sanctuary. With real rooms. A roof that doesn’t leak. A place that we can call ours. I probably shouldn’t tell you this. When we were raising funds to start, one day I bought a lottery ticket. I thought, “wouldn’t it be great to start a church with a nice new building.” But I’ve been convicted this week. That’s not what the church is. Yes, facilities help facilitate, but the church is the people of living Lord. That’s who we are.
That’s what Jerusalem signifies. It’s pointing to both a spiritual and a heavenly promise. A spiritual promise of people and a heavenly promise of people. Our call to worship this morning from Hebrews 12 and our New Testament reading from Revelation 21 – they both point to that spiritual and heavenly promise. “You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem.” That’s Hebrews 12. And in Revelation 21. All the measurements of the heavenly Jerusalem relate to the number 12 - a number indicting God’s people. 12 tribes of Israel, 12 disciples. 144 is mentioned… which is 12 times 12.
You see, the promise of verses 4 and 5 is a promise of a people. And this is fulfilled first in the church here on earth. Us, here and now. We’re spiritual Jerusalem. And it’s also fulfilled, second, in heaven. Heavenly Jerusalem – the new Jerusalem. When all God’s people will be gathered together.
And the wonderful thing is how Jerusalem will be inhabited. Verse 4. “villages without walls because of the multitude of people.” In other words, physical walls will not be able to contain the people. There would be too many - an abundance of God’s people.
And where will these people come from? Well, for one, God was calling the Israelites back. Verses 6 and 7 explicitly call them back. “Up, up, flee from the land of the north…” and verse 7, “Up! Escape to Zion, you who dwell with the daughter of Babylon.” God had scattered his people Judah, because of their sin. But now he was calling them to return from Babylon. He was calling his people back.
But this call for them to return was not primarily a call to return to Jerusalem the city or Mount Zion the hill. No, think back to Chapter 1 – God said to them… “Return to….” What? “Return to me!” God did not say to them “return to Jerusalem or return to Zion.” No, “return to me.” It’s a spiritual call for his people to return.
But the other thing is this… the Jewish people were not the only people God was calling to be a part of spiritual Jerusalem. This is the amazing thing about this first promise. Verse 11, “And many nations shall join themselves to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people.” This would have been staggering to hear. The nations. The very people who overthrew Israel and Judah. Many of them would be included in this city without walls.
Beloved, that us. Or most of us. There may be some here who have Jewish heritage, but for the rest of us, we’re the nations. We’ve been called to God. We are the ones who are identified as “my people” there in verse 11. Do you see how this city can’t have walls? There’s no room! This is the church. People from all over. From every tribe and language and people group.
What a remarkable picture given to Zechariah and his generation. They had reached a low point – a hopeless discouragement. They had put their hope in earthly places and physical walls. But God blew all that up in this third vision. A city of spiritual flourishing, abounding in people who the Lord calls his own.
As the church, we’re part of the fulfillment of this vision. And we also have that future heavenly fulfillment to look forward to. Where we’ll be united with all of God’s people from all generations from all over the world.
The promise of people.
The promise of protection (Zechariah 2:5a, 8, 9)
Next, the promise of protection.
The message of the angel continued, verse 5: “I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the Lord”
The walls of a city represented protection from enemies. The walls were their line of defense. There were no rockets or planes or drones that could attack from above. Of course not. No, the walls defended them from enemy attacks.
For Zechariah’s generation in Jerusalem, the ruin of Jerusalem’s walls weighed heavy on them. Even if they did rebuild the temple and other buildings, what could stop another kingdom from destroying it all again? But even if the walls of Jerusalem could be rebuilt, which they would be in Nehemiah’s day, even that wouldn’t stop enemies from conquering the city. Physical walls didn’t stop Babylon.
They had an overwhelming sense of vulnerability. Not unlike our feeling of vulnerability – personally and as the church.
But God says, “I will be to her a wall of fire all around.” What a vision! Picture in your mind what that would look like. A huge wall of fire circling God’s people. It’s like the WandaVision wall around the city of Westview. Some of you will know what I’m talking about.
This wall of fire is a wall that could not be toppled. A wall that could expand as more people arrived. A wall that could not be overcome by the enemies of faith. The idea of fire as a protection is not a new theme in the Bible. Think of the Israelites. When they fled from slavery in Egypt, a pillar of smoke and fire followed and protected them. This promise of protection was what they needed to hear.
If you jump down to verses 8 and 9, you’ll see that part of the Lord’s protection is defeating the enemies of God’s people. Those who plundered them, will themselves be plundered. That’s what those verses basically say. But remember, the enemies were not the nations in general. No, remember, many of the nations will become God’s people. Babylon here represents spiritual enemies. Just like Jerusalem, Babylon has a physical and spiritual representation in the Bible. Babylon represents the worldly city and all that is in it opposed to God. God will defeat Babylon.
That’s why God’s called them to flee from Babylon. Why? God was going to destroy it. And if you were in Babylon, you too would be destroyed. But here was the problem. The city of Babylon was comfortable. The Israelites who remained in Babylon probably heard about the troubles in Jerusalem. They didn’t want to go. They had their own houses, a beautiful river with gardens, plenty of shelter and food. Their kids were integrated into the culture.
It’s easy to be pulled into the worldly comforts and philosophies and morality of the world. It’s easy to think about the things you are called to give up – your earthly idols, like maybe your reputation or your possessions if your love for them is above God. It’s easy to think of Christianity as a “crutch” as some people have called it – something only for needy people. Well, there’s a warning here as much as there is a promise. God calls you back to him. If you don’t, you will be part of the verse 9 destruction. But God calls you. He says, “escape” and “flee” …and if you do, God will receive you into his city. You will be protected by the heavenly wall of fire. That is God’s promise for you.
The promise of protection.
The promise of presence (Zechariah 2:5b, 10, 11b)
Next, the third promise here. The promise of presence.
“I will be the glory in her midst.” It’s not that God will just gather his people together in spiritual Jerusalem, his church. It’s not that God will also protect his people, no, he will also be with them.
Or as it says in Revelation 21 of heavenly Jerusalem. “And I saw no temple in the city, for its temple is the Lord God the Almighty and the Lamb. And the city has no need of sun or moon to shine on it, for the glory of God gives it light.”
God’s presence. What more could we ask for than his glory in our midst?
The overwhelming presence of God in all his splendor and honor… the fullness of his being with his truth and mercy and power and greatness and His holiness and righteousness and grace. That is his resplendent glory. There’s no need for light, for he will be our light. He is our light.
Three times in this chapter, we’re promised that God will dwell in our midst. Verses 5, 10 and 11. In verse 10, “sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion, for behold, I come and I will dwell in your midst.” “Sing and rejoice.” That is, of course, what we do in our worship as spiritual Jerusalem – his church on earth, now. But it’s also what we will be doing in heavenly Jerusalem – worshiping and praising him all day and night. All in the presence of his resplendent glory.
One year before Babylon destroyed Jerusalem, God’s glory left the temple. Zechariah’s parent’s generation had defiled the temple. They had defiled themselves, had broken God’s commands over and over. The shepherds of Israel had failed… The prophet Ezekiel recorded God’s glory and presence leaving the temple. It was a sight to behold… a sad one.
The temple was filled with the cloud of God’s presence. The court of the temple with the brightness of the glory of God. And we’re told, these glorious cherubim – angels with wings, and these wheels… like globes of precious gems and metals and with faces. Multiple cherubs and wheels all moving in coordination and all ascending away from the temple and Jerusalem. The cherubim with their wings, and the glory of God above them all, they ascended. First above the city… then the mountains. God’s presence sadly departed.
Zechariah generation not only wanted the city and temple rebuilt, but they wanted God’s glory to return. So this promise that God would return with his glory would have been a deep encouragement to them. What they learned, though, is that this promise is for the new Jerusalem, not the old city. It’s for the Jerusalem with walls of fire and people from all over. It’s a promise for them, yes, that he would be present with them as his people, but not in the way they had thought.
That promise has been and will be fulfilled for us. God is with us. We have his presence here and now. We experience his glory in our worship and we look forward at the same time to that future unveiled glory in eternity.
The promise of presence.
At this point, you’re probably wondering, “when is he going to talk about Jesus.”
Well, now’s a good time. You see, what brings all of these promises together is Christ. They all point towards him.
Look one more time at Zechariah 2. Just glance down at the chapter. The second half of the chapter starting in verse 6 is given by the Lord himself. All throughout, it’s clear that the Lord is speaking and declaring these truths. Notice, multiple times it says, “declares the Lord” or “Thus says the Lord”
But there’s something you may have missed. Three times, the Lord also speaks as the sent one. In other words, he’s speaking as the Lord but also as the sent one from the Lord. Verses 8, 9 and 11. These words given here in the second half of Zechariah 2 are the words of Christ. It’s the “[Lord’s] glory who sent me” verse 8. And in verse 9, after God’s enemies are defeated it says, “then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me.” And finally verse 11, after the nations are described as joined to the Lord, it says, “I will dwell in your midst and you shall know that the Lord of hosts as sent me to you.” These promises of people, and protection, and presence are captured here by the sent one himself, Jesus, our Lord.
And isn’t that true?
•The promise of people is fulfilled in Christ – salvation is for all people. It’s no longer about a nation – Israel – It’s a call to all nations.
•And the promise of protection is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus defeated the world – Babylon, and he defeated death and the devil – all on the cross. So the wall of fire is the protection and assurance that the Gospel brings us.
•And last, the promise of presence is fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is “Immanuel, God with us.” He’s come down from heaven to us and for us. He’s ever present with his people by faith. We are in him. And as it says in Revelation – the lamp of the new Jerusalem is the Lamb of God. That is Jesus – the sacrificial lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. You see, it’s the glory of God in Christ who fulfills the promise of God’s presence for us.
What great promises for Zechariah’s day and for us in our day.
John Piper wrote this to explain how Zechariah 2 encourages his soul: “…if [the promise] is true for the vulnerable villages of Jerusalem, it is true for me a child of God… All the promises are yes to me in Christ… God will be a ‘wall of fire all around’ me. Yes. He will. He has been. And he will be.”
And where does this amazing imagery and the promises leave us? It leaves us with verse 13. “Be silent, all flesh, before the Lord, for he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”
May we draw strength and be silent before the Lord for his amazing presence and protection for his people.