God’s providences concerning his church are here represented as strangely changing and strangely mixed.
I. As strangely changing. Sometimes the tide runs high and strong against them, but presently it turns, and comes to be in favour of them; and God has, for wise and holy ends, set the one over against the other.
1. God here appears against Jerusalem; judgment begins at the house of God. When the day of the Lord comes (Zech. 14:1) Jerusalem must pass through the fire to be refined. God himself gathers all nations against Jerusalem to battle (Zech. 14:2); he gives them a charge, as he did Sennacherib, to take the spoil and to take the prey (Isa. 10:6), for the people of Jerusalem have now become the people of his wrath. And who can stand before him or before nations gathered by him? Where he gives commission he will give success. The city shall be taken by the Romans, who have nations at command; the houses shall be rifled, and all the riches of them taken away, by the enemy; and, to gratify an insatiable lust of uncleanness as well as avarice, the women shall be ravished, as if victory were a license to the worst of villanies, jusque datum sceleri—and crimes were sanctioned by law. One-half of the city shall then be carried into captivity, to be sold or enslaved, and shall not be able to help itself, such is the destruction that shall be made in the great and terrible day of the Lord.
2. He presently changes his way, and appears for Jerusalem; for, though judgment begin at the house of God, yet, as it shall not end there, so it shall not make a full end there, Jer. 4:27; 30:11.
(1.) A remnant shall be spared, the same with that third part spoken of, Zech. 13:8. One-half shall go into captivity, whence they may hereafter be fetched back, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off, as one would have feared, from the city. Many of the Jews shall receive the gospel, and so shall prevent their being cut off from the city of God, his church upon earth. In it shall be a tenth, Isa. 6:13; See Ezek. 5:3.
(2.) Their cause shall be pleaded against their enemies (Zech. 14:3): Then, when God has made use of these nations as a scourge to his people, he shall go forth and fight against them by his judgments, as when he fought against the enemies of his church formerly in the day of battle, with the Egyptians, Canaanites, and others. Note, The instruments of God’s wrath will themselves be made the objects of it; for it will come to their turn to drink of the cup of trembling; and whom God fights against he will be sure to overcome and be too hard for. And every former day of battle, which God has made to his people a day of triumph, as it is an engagement to God to appear for his people, because he is the same, so it is an encouragement to them to trust in him. It is observable that the Roman empire never flourished, after the destruction of Jerusalem as it had done before, but in many instances God fought against it.
(3.) Though Jerusalem and the temple be destroyed, yet God will have a church in the world, into which Gentiles shall be admitted, and with whom the believing Jews shall be incorporated, Zech. 14:4, 5. These verses are dark and hard to be understood; but divers good expositors take this to be the meaning of them. [1.] God will carefully inspect Jerusalem, even then when the enemies of it are laying it waste: His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, whence he may take a full view of the city and temple, Mark 13:3. When the refiner puts his gold into the furnace he stands by it, and has his eye upon it, to see that it receive no damage; so when Jerusalem, God’s gold, is to be refined, he will have the oversight of it. He will stand by upon the mount of Olives; this was literally fulfilled when our Lord Jesus was often upon this mountain, especially when thence he ascended up into heaven, Acts 1:12. It was the last place on which his feet stood on this earth, the place from which he took rise. [2.] The partition-wall between Jews and Gentiles shall be taken away. The mountains about Jerusalem, and particularly this, signified it to be an enclosure, and that it stood in the way of those who would approach to it. Between the Gentiles and Jerusalem this mountain of Bether, of division, stood, Song 2:17. But by the destruction of Jerusalem this mountain shall be made to cleave in the midst, and so the Jewish pale shall be taken down, and the church laid in common with the Gentiles, who were made one with the Jews by the breaking down of this middle wall of partition, Eph. 2:14. Who art thou, O great mountain? And a great mountain the ceremonial law was in the way of the Jews’ conversion, which, one would think, could never have been got over; yet before Christ and his gospel it was made plain. This mountain departs, this hill removes, but the covenant of peace cannot be broken; for peace is still preached to him that is afar off and to those that are nigh. [3.] A new and living way shall be opened to the new Jerusalem, both to see it and to come into it. The mountain being divided, one-half towards the north and the other half towards the south, there shall be a very great valley, that is, a broad way of communication opened between Jerusalem and the Gentile world, by which the Gentiles shall have free admission into the gospel-Jerusalem, and the word of the Lord, that goes forth from Jerusalem, shall have a free course into the Gentile world. Thus the way of the Lord is prepared, for every mountain and hill shall be brought low, and plain and pleasant valleys shall come in the room of them, Isa. 40:4. [4.] Those of the Jews that believe shall come in, and join themselves to the Gentiles, and incorporate with them in the gospel-church: You shall flee to the valley of the mountains, that valley that is opened between the divided halves of the mount of Olives; they shall hasten into the church with the Gentiles, as formerly the Gentiles with them, Zech. 8:23. The valley of the mountains is the gospel-church, to which there were added of the Jews daily such as should be saved, who fled to that valley as to their refuge. This valley of the mountains is said to reach unto Azal, or to the separate place, that is, to all those whom God has set apart for himself. When God makes his mountains a way (Isa. 49:11), by making them a valley, the way shall be opened to all the way-faring men (Isa. 35:8), and, though fools, they shall not err therein. Or, to those that are now separated from God this valley shall reach; for the Gentiles, who are afar off, shall be made nigh, with the Jews, who are a people near unto him, and both have an access, a mutual access to each other and a joint access to God as a Father by one Spirit, Eph. 2:18. [5.] They shall flee to the valley of the mountains, to the gospel-church, under dreadful apprehensions of their danger from the curse of the law. They shall flee from the wrath to come, from the avenger of blood, who is in pursuit of them, to the church as to a city of refuge, or as doves to their windows, as they fled from before the earthquake in the days of Uzziah, Amos 1:1. Therefore the gospel reveals the wrath of God from heaven (Rom. 1:18) that we might be awakened to escape for our lives, to flee as from an earthquake, for we feel the earth ready to sink under us, and we can find no firm footing in it, and therefore must flee to Christ, in whom alone we can stand fast and be easy.
(4.) God shall appear in his glory for the accomplishing of all this: The Lord my God shall come, and all the saints with thee, which may refer to his coming to destroy Jerusalem, or to destroy the enemies of Jerusalem, or his coming to set up his kingdom in the world, which is called the coming of the Son of man (Matt. 24:37), or to his last coming, at the end of time; however, it teaches us, [1.] That the Lord will come; it has been the faith of all the saints, Behold, the Lord comes to fulfil every word that he has spoken in its season. [2.] When he comes all his saints come with him; they attend his motions and are ready to serve his interests. Christ will come at the end of time with ten thousands of his saints, as when he came to give the law upon Mount Sinai. [3.] Every particular believer, being related to God as his God, may triumph in the expectation of his coming and speak of it with pleasure, The Lord my God shall come, shall come to the comfort of all that are his; for, “Blessed Lord, all the saints shall be with thee, and it shall be their everlasting happiness to dwell in thy presence; and therefore come, Lord Jesus.” And some think that this may be read as a prayer, Yet, O Lord my God! come, and bring all the saints with thee.
II. God’s providences appear here strangely mixed (Zech. 14:6, 7): In that day of the Lord the light shall not be clear nor dark, not day nor night; but at evening time it shall be light. Some refer this to all the time from hence to the coming of the Messiah; the Jewish church had neither perfect peace nor constant trouble, but a cloudy day, neither rain nor sunshine. But it may be taken more generally, as designed to represent the method God usually takes in the administration of the kingdom both of providence and grace. Here is, 1. An idea of the usual course and tenour of God’s dispensations; the day of his grace and the day of his providence are neither clear nor dark, not day nor night. It is so with the church of God in this world; where the Sun of righteousness has risen it cannot be dark night, and yet short of heaven it will not be clear day. It is so with particular saints; they are not darkness, but light in the Lord, and yet, while there is so much error and corruption remaining in them, it is not perfect day. So it is as to the providences of God that relate to his church; in general the affairs of the church are neither good nor bad in any extremity, but there is a mixture of both; we are singing both of mercy and judgment, and are uncertain which will prevail, whether it be an evening or a morning twilight. We are between hope and fear, not knowing what to make of things. 2. An intimation of comfort with reference hereunto: It shall be one day which shall be known to the Lord. This intimates, (1.) The beauty and harmony of such mixed events; there is one and the same design and tendency in all; all the wheels make but one wheel, all the revolutions but one day. (2.) The brevity of them; it is, as it were, but for one day, for a little moment; the cloud that darkens the light will soon blow over. (3.) The eye God has upon all these events, and the hand he has in them all; they are known to the Lord; he takes notice of them, and orders and disposes of all for the best, according to the counsel of his will. 3. An issue very joyful secured at last: At evening-time it shall be light: it shall be clear light, and no longer dark; we are sure of it in the other world, and we hope for it in this world—at evening-time, when our hopes are quite spent with waiting all day to no purpose, nay, when we fear it will be quite dark, when things are at the worst and the case of the church is most deplorable. As to the church’s enemies the sun goes down at noon, so to the church it rises at night; unto the upright springs light out of darkness (Ps. 112:4); deliverance comes when the tale of bricks is doubled, and when God’s people have done looking for it, and so it comes with a pleasing surprise.