Verses 1–4

Gracious things and glorious ones, very glorious and very gracious, were promised to this poor afflicted people in the foregoing chapter; now here God intimates to them that he will for these things be enquired of by them, and that he expects they should acknowledge him in all their ways and in all his ways towards them—and not idols that were rivals with him for their respects.

I. The prophet directs them to apply to God by prayer for rain in the season thereof. He had promised, in the close of the foregoing chapter, that there should be great plenty of corn and wine, whereas for several years, by reason of unseasonable weather, there had been great scarcity of both; but the earth will not yield its fruits unless the heavens water it, and therefore they must look up to God for the dew of heaven, in order to the fatness and fruitfulness of the earth (Zech. 10:1): “Ask you of the Lord rain. Do not pray to the clouds, nor to the stars, for rain, but to the Lord; for he it is that hears the heavens, when they hear the earth,” Hos. 2:21. Seasonable rain is a great mercy, which we must ask of God, rain in the time of the latter rain, when there is most need of it. The former rain fell at the seed-time, in autumn, the latter fell in the spring, between March and May, which brought the corn to an ear and filled it. If either of these rains failed, it was very bad with that land; for from the end of May to September they never had any rain at all. Jerome, who lived in Judea, says that he never saw any rain there in June or July. They are directed to ask for it in the time when it used to come. Note, We must, in our prayers, dutifully attend the course of Providence; we must ask for mercies in their proper time, and not expect that God should go out of his usual way and method for us. But, since sometimes God denied rain in the usual time as a token of his displeasure, they must pray for it then as a token of his favour, and they shall not pray in vain. Ask and it shall be given you. So the Lord shall make bright clouds (which, though they are without rain themselves, are yet presages of rain)--lightnings (so the margin reads it), for he maketh lightnings for the rain. He will give them showers of rain in great abundance, and so give to every one grass in the field; for God is universally good, and makes his rain to fall upon the just and the unjust.

II. He shows them the folly of making their addresses to idols as their fathers had done (Zech. 10:2): The idols have spoken vanity; the teraphim, which they courted and consulted in their distress, were so far from being able to command rain for them that they could not so much as tell them when they should have rain. They pretended to promise them rain at such a time, but it did not come. The diviners, who were the prophets of those idols, have seen a lie (their visions were all a cheat and a sham); and they have told false dreams, such as the event did not answer, which proved that they were not from God. Thus they comforted in vain those that consulted the lying oracles; all the vanities of the heathen put together could not give rain, Jer. 14:22. Yet this was not the worst of it; they not only got nothing by the false gods, but they lost the favour of the true God, for therefore they went their way into captivity as a flock driven into the fold, and they were troubled with one vexation after another, as scattered sheep are, because there was no shepherd, no prince to rule them, no priest to intercede for them, none to take care of them and keep them together. Those that wandered after strange gods were made to wander, into strange nations.

III. He shows them the hand of God in all the events that concerned them, both those that made against them and those that made for them, Zech. 10:3. Let them consider, 1. When every thing went cross it was God that walked contrary to them (Zech. 10:3): “My anger was kindled against the shepherds that should have fed the flock, but neglected it, and starved it. I was displeased at the wicked magistrates and ministers, the idol-shepherds.” The captivity in Babylon was a token of God’s anger against them; in it likewise he punished the goats, those of the flock that were filthy and mischievous; they were set on the left hand, to go away into punishment. Though the body of the nation suffered in the captivity, yet it was only the goats and the shepherds that God was angry with, and that he punished; the same affliction to others came from the love of God, and was but a fatherly chastisement, which to them came from his wrath, and was a judicial punishment. 2. When things began to change for the better it was God that gave them the happy turn. “He has now visited his flock with favour, to enquire after them, and provides what he finds proper for them, and he has made them as his goodly horse in the battle, has beautified them, taken care of them, managed and made use of them, as a man does the horse he rides on, has made them valuable in themselves and formidable to those about them, as his goodly horse.” It is God that makes us what we are, and it is with us as he appoints.

IV. He shows them that every creature is to them what God makes it to be (Zech. 10:4): Out of him came forth the corner, out of him the nails. 1. All the power that was engaged against them was from God. Out of him came all the combined force of their enemies; every oppressor together (and the oppressors of Israel were not a few) did but what his hand and his counsel determined before to be done; nor could they have had such power against them unless it had been given them from above. 2. All the power likewise that was engaged for them was derived from him and depended on him. Out of him came forth the corner-stone of the building, the power of magistrates, which keeps the several parts of the state together. Princes are often called the corners of the people, as 1 Sam. 14:38; marg. Out of him came forth the nail that fixed the state, the nail in the sure place (Isa. 22:23), the nail in his holy place, Ezra 9:8. Out of him came forth the battle-bow, the military power, and out of him every oppressor, or exactor, that had the civil power in his hand; and therefore to God, the fountain of power, we must always have an eye, and see every man’s judgment proceeding from him.