Studies in the
BOOK OF ZECHARIAH
4. The Third Night Vision:
THE MAN WITH THE MEASURING LINE
THE RESTORATION OF JERUSALEM
When God made the promise of a New Covenant for Israel (Jer. 31; Isa. 54; and Ezek. 36), he declared that among other things the holy city would be built in great splendor and be the central focus of the theocratic administration. When the Jews returned from captivity in 536 B.C., they immediately set about to rebuilt the temple, which was completed in 516 or 515 B.C. When Nehemiah came in 444 B.C., the walls of the city itself were finally built. And even though there was a rebuilt temple and city, it did not seem to fit the description in the prophets. Like all the other parts of the New Covenant, it was a partial fulfillment, and that partial fulfillment was a preview of the glorious future fulfillment when the Messiah would come in glory.1
This night vision would certainly inspire and encourage the people in the days of Zechariah, for it revealed Godís plan to rebuild the holy city. They then would know that they were in line with Godís will by returning to rebuild Jerusalem. But each vision builds on the preceding messages: the vision of the red-horse rider and the LORDís love for his people and hatred for the enemies of his people springs from the call to repent, for no one can benefit from Godís presence if in rebellion to him. The vision of the destruction of world powers, the four horns, springs from the message that God is with his people and hates the oppressors. Now with the promise of the end of the world powers in mind, God reveals the plans to rebuild the holy city. When the people rebuilt city but found more invaders--Greeks and Romans--they knew that this was not the final re-gathering and rebuilding. That is why old Simeon in the Gospel of Luke was still waiting for the consolation of Israel.
I. The Vision (2:1-3)
A. The Identity of the Surveyor (2:1)
The prophet looked up and immediately there was a man with a measuring line or tape, a surveyor. The central focus is on this man (a man, not a woman, or an angel, or God as such), for the description of the measuring line is circumstantial: "and in his hand was a measuring line." Since there is no direct information about this "man" other than that he is surveying the holy city, there has been much speculation about his identity. But in this vision the "man" is distinct from the interpreting angel as the "other" angel, and distinct from Zechariah who is observing, he is most likely to be identified with the red-horse rider in the first vision as the pre-incarnate Son, that is, Christ in a pre-incarnate appearance in a vision.2
The fact that the "man" is simply called a man is not out of harmony with such appearances and revelations. Recall that in Genesis 32 Jacob wrestled with a "man" whom he later came to understand was the LORD in human form. Moreover, in Zechariah 6:12, a passage that is unquestionably speaking about the Messiah, the text says, "Behold, a man whose name is Branch." Likewise Ezekiel 40:2, 3 refer to this "man" who was surveying the city, clearly the Angel of the LORD, Christ.
B. The Rest of the Vision (2:2,3)
The prophet wanted to know where this "man" was going. He was going to measure Jerusalem, its breadth and width. (Recall that the people had returned to rebuild the temple and the city). The interpreting angel went with the "man." And another angel went with them, an angel who would assist the "man." Zechariah in the scene will be referred to as "the young man" (naĎar); the term designating normally a "youth," but in their way of thinking, easily a young man in his twenties.
II. The Promises from the Vision (2:4-13)
A. Prosperous Expansion (2:4)
The vision is very brief, but the interpretation given is filled with significance, not just for Zechariah and his day, but for the end of the age as well. The other angel told the interpreting angel to run to the young man Zechariah with this meaning: Jerusalem will be inhabited like a town without walls because of the population. It will be inhabited as rural open country. Its growth will spill over its boundaries. The prophecy is of phenomenal growth so that the city will spill over into the surrounding country side. This would have been wonderful news, for only a small number (relatively small) returned to the land. Moreover, to expand in such a way as part of Godís blessing (recall Exodus 1) so that the people lived in un-walled areas would also signify a peaceful occupation.
B. Divine Protection (2:5)
And this promise is explained in the next verse: The LORD will be a wall of fire around Jerusalem and the glory in her midst. This message comes directly and emphatically from the LORD: "I myself will be . . . ." Many interpreters suggest that this promise was fulfilled in the centuries leading up to the time of Jesus. While it is true that these promises were often quoted and thought to apply to the growth of the Jewish population in that period, their full meaning cannot apply to that time only. The rest of the passage, and the night visions in general, expects much more. The application of these words to that time is not the fulfillment. The vision is one of great growth of the population that will expand throughout the land and live in peace.
The image of a wall of fire, like the pillar of fire in Exodus, signifies that God will keep the invading and marauding bands away from his people. But if the LORD is the wall of defense on the outside, he will be the glory within. The glory of the LORD that Ezekiel saw leaving the holy city (Ezek. 11:22, 23) will return and dwell among the people. This will fulfill the prophet Isaiahís words, "The glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together" (40:5). Isaiah also declared that after the cleansing of Israel and the destruction of her enemies the LORD will create a brilliant canopy of his glory over the holy city and over his people (Isa. 4:5, 6). For all these prophecies to be "fulfilled" in the Greek and Hasmonean periods (300-65 B.C.) the language would have to be greatly weakened. And besides, that period was followed by the iron rule of Rome, not the reign of the Messiah in peace and righteousness.
C. Restoration (2:6, 7)
The LORD now declares that while he had scattered his people to the four corners of the earth he was now calling for them to return, especially those who dwelt with the daughter of Babylon. The oracle was an urgent call for people to escape the lands of their oppressors before the judgment of God fell on those cities. The call was answered by a few, some 50,000 folks; but in the end it will be heeded by vast numbers of exiles.
Their being scattered to the four winds is similar imagery to that which we have had before, that of dispersing through war. Isaiah earlier had written the same exhortation for the people to flee Babylon, to seek the LORD while he may be found. There was a great opportunity for them to leave--they should not miss it.3 It was the LORD who scattered them; the LORD then was able to bring them back.
D. Judgment (2:8, 9)
The line is a little confusing, but it is best to read it: "After glory has He [God the Father] sent me [the Servant of the LORD, the Son]." This anticipates the full mission of the Son--the Father sent the Son into the world to glorify him (John 17:4). The sense is that the ministry of Messiah will vindicate and demonstrate the glory of the LORD. This will be especially true when he punishes the enemies of Israel and establishes his promised blessings to his people. The vindication of Godís glorious nature concerns his Word. When all the promises of God are fulfilled, everyone will acknowledge that his Word was true, that he was faithful to his Word, that his love for his people will be made clear, and that his power and justice over the world will be witnessed.
Now people wrongly regard God as uninvolved, or weak and irrelevant--because he works providentially and people need faith to see it! But in the future his glory will be seen by the whole world, and every tongue will have to confess him.
The concern here is Godís love for his people, which demands judgment on the oppressing peoples. "He who touches you is touching the pupil of his [Godís] eye." The people of God are ever in his watchful care--they are the focus of his eye. To harm them is to harm the eye of God itself, ruining what he loves to see. God will not let the mistreatment of Israel go without punishment.
The LORD announces that he will brandish his hand against the wicked peoples. He needs only to shake his hand in a threatening manner against them and they will become weak and terrified. The result will be the destruction of the tyrants, so much so that Israel will have dominion over them (see Isa. 14:1,2). Those who plundered Israel shall be plundered by their servants; those who served them shall become their masters. The result of this ultimate victory in the world--so that they might know that God Almighty sent the Angel of the LORD, the Messiah, Jesus the Christ. People may try to minimize Jesus today; but soon the whole world will have to acknowledge that he is God the Son who will judge all who oppose him and his people.
E. Worldwide Blessings (2:10-13)
The significance of this final vision carries implications for the world. If the time is so peaceful and secure to allow for defenseless living, then it will be a time when the LORD is pouring out all his promised blessings on the earth. The call is for the daughter of Zion, that is, Jerusalem portrayed as a beautiful woman, to sing and rejoice in anticipation of the coming of the LORD.
The blessings, then, will come about (1) by Messiah being in the midst of Jerusalem, v. 10, (2) by the message of salvation being proclaimed to the nations, v. 11, (3) by the divine choice of Jerusalem by the LORD Christ, v. 12, and (4) by judgment on the nations of the world, v. 13.
Verse 10 records the word of the LORD, "I come, and I will dwell in the midst of you." This announcement of his coming is not a reference to the first advent (Psalm 40:7, 8, when a body was prepared), but to the second advent. The Lord will come and personally, physically dwell (shakan) in their midst in the holy city.
Verse 11 explains that the coming blessings will be enjoyed by many nations that have joined themselves to the covenant. The picture is clearly that of Gentiles who have come to faith on the LORD of the covenant. They will join the Jewish people who seek the LORD through the Messiah, and together they make the company of the redeemed (see Isa. 56:3-6; Jer. 50:4, 5).
But the fact that nations will come to faith in the Lord does not remove the Lordís election of Jerusalem and its people as the covenant people. Judah is his inheritance; Jerusalem is his chosen city. In the time of the coming kingdom the land and the city will be made new, and the people will have spiritual renewal. But Gentile nations, meaning masses of people from every tribe and nation in the world, will join them--but Israel is his heritage forever (see Isa. 19:24; Deut. 4:20). "He will yet choose Jerusalem" means that in spite of all appearances that may have suggested the contrary, and in spite of what people have said theologically or politically, God will soon demonstrate that Israel is still his chosen people.4
Note that the word "holy land" is used here--the only place in the Bible that it is used. The present day use of the expression is not suitable--it is not yet a holy land. It will only become holy when the LORD dwells in it, and that means when it is cleansed by the blood of Christ (Zech. 3) and filled with the Spirit of God (Zech. 4).
Finally, verse 13 announces that there will be world wide judgment prior to the establishment of the kingdom of righteousness. The warning begins with "Hush" or as it is translated, "Be silent." The whole world has always raged against the LORD and his anointed, the Messiah (Ps. 2), but at the end of the age God will bring it to a stand still so that he will announce the judgment--"Depart from me." The language of the oracle says that the LORD awakens from his holy habitation. The language is phenomenal--it appears to the world that he is asleep. But he does not sleep (Ps. 121). He is the Keeper of Israel. The silence will be broken, and judgment poured out (see also Rev. 5:1-14).
God reveals his plans through prophecy so that his people will act by faith in accordance with it. The revelation was not given to satisfy our curiosity about what will happen in the future. It brings with it a heavy requirement.
First, we should quicken or strengthen our faith, knowing that the LORD is indeed sovereign over the world, and he will not let any people destroy the faith, or the people of the faith. He has decreed the successive world powers, and their destruction. And all his promises that he has made he will fulfill.
Second, Paul says that we have been grafted into the covenant in order to make Israel jealous. Well, the church has not really been successful in doing that. But we should be proclaiming the truth that Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, the Angel of the LORD, the divine Son who will yet choose Jerusalem and put down all enemies. The church, unfortunately, has too often embraced a replacement or triumphant theology, that Israel is finished as the chosen people, and the church is the new "Israel." That is not what this passage, or the Scripture as a whole, teaches.
This does not mean that believers have to endorse everything that modern Israel does. It need only hold to the truth of Scripture that Godís promises to Israel are not nullified--as Paul says so clearly. But modern Israel has not come to faith in Christ, or sought his righteousness. They may enjoy being in the land--but they will not be in the holy land to come if they continue to reject him. And if they die now, before they have a chance, they will fall short of that inheritance. That is why Paul was so insistent that Israel be saved.
And finally, our message is to the world a warning of judgment, not just based on how they have treated Israel, but for all their sin. We must say to the world as Psalm 2 says, "Submit to the Son . . . lest he be angry and you perish in the way." When the Lord Christ appears in glory, it will be to judge the world. But people do not need to go through the judgment; they may escape by repentance of sin and faith in Christ.