4. A City without Walls

Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 4. A City without Walls

Zech 2:1 Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand.

Recap: I believe it is important that each day we recap and build the overall picture that Zechariah presents to us. We saw the call to return to God, a call to all who for whatever reason are not close (1:1-6).Then came the vision of the riders who reported a world at peace (1:7-17) with the implication that although the rest of the world appears at peace and concerned only with their own things, God is there for His people. Then, yesterday, in v.18 to 21 we saw four horns, four powers or authorities, being those who had brought Israel to their present state, and then four craftsmen sent by God to deal with them, and we reflected on a God who holds people accountable, even when He has used them for His purposes. So, a need to draw close, a need to realize the Lord sees our state, and a need to recognize that even though the world seems at peace and inactive, God will be moving behind the scenes to work out His sovereign, holy purposes.

A Man With a Measuring Line: And so the next part of the vision comes (remember it is all coming on the same day): “Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand.” (2:1) Notice first that phrase, “Then I looked up,” that we have seen before in 1:18, that signifies a new vision. I said yesterday it is like he, after pausing and reflecting on the previous word or vision, realizes there is more and so looks up to see what else is coming. But ‘up’ is also the word that we use when we are speaking about heaven and so there is a sense that each new revelation comes when he refocuses his looking upwards to the Lord and to heaven. A lesson for us there.

A Divine Purpose: The man with the measuring line is obviously on his way somewhere and so it is natural for Zechariah to question him: “I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.” (2:2) Now of course God knows all things and so we have this indication here of God drawing our attention to the size and state of Jerusalem. God’s purpose in sending this angel on this task (for it has to be an angel) is surely for our benefit. He wants to draw our minds away from the state of the world and the disciplinary judgment God is going to bring and focus us back on the city where the remnant had been rebuilding the temple.

Angelic Roles: What follows seems to have an element of humor to it because the angel he has seen with the measuring rod is so intent on his task of going and measuring Jerusalem that he really doesn’t bother to give Zechariah any further information. It needs another angel to come and intercept him and send him back to give Zechariah further information: “While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him and said to him: “Run, tell that young man…”  It is as if there are different levels or service and different levels of revelation even in the angelic hierarchy even as there are generally in the kingdom of God.  

The Future of the City: ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’” (2:3-5) Now different translations come up with slightly different wording here. The above is the NIV but the NKJV says, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls,” and the ESV says, “Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls,” and the NLT says, “Jerusalem will someday be so full of people and livestock that there won’t be room enough for everyone! Many will live outside the city walls.” Perhaps the paraphrase of the Message version puts it most simply: “Run! Tell the Surveyor, ‘Jerusalem will burst its walls— bursting with people, bursting with animals.”

Whichever version we lean on (and my own preference is the NIV) the picture is of a city that has been blessed. It isn’t just a city without walls but it is that because of the abundant blessing of God that has repopulated it with both people and animals. They may feel down about their present state and so they need lifting in the understanding of what God has on His heart for this city. Walls always signify strength and security and no more or less so for Jerusalem that had had its fair share of attacks and more recently, destruction!

Now to catch something of the heavenly meaning, we have to observe what has happened to Jerusalem. Yes, the walls were eventually rebuilt under the direction of Nehemiah but the population never naturally grew, they actually had to cast lots in the nation to encourage people to come and live there (see Neh 11:1,2) and there were still few people there and Neh 7:4 had recorded, “Now the city was large and spacious, but there were few people in it, and the houses had not yet been rebuilt,” after the walls had been rebuilt, so house building was the next item on the rebuilding agenda. Yet it never seemed to give this feeling of overflowing until Jesus’ time when crowds came for the Feasts. And then of course, in AD70, because of the Jewish rebellion the Romans destroyed the city again. Perhaps, therefore, we are to take this prophecy in more general terms, that this is God’s intent decreed in these picture terms. His intent is to bless them.

Security: But there is yet something more to note before we move on to consider the remaining verses of the chapter which we will do in the next study. Talk of a city without walls, a city without protection, can be scary. Jerusalem, as we’ve already observed had had its share of marauders through the centuries so what is to stop that happening again? The answer is in the word, “I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” The Lord will be its protection. Now there is more to say about that statement but we’ll leave it until the next study.

Summary: The main thing that comes through in this next extension of the visions that Zechariah is receiving on this day (night), is the Lord’s intent for good for Jerusalem. For this people who had been through the Exile in Babylon, their personal identity must have felt shaky. So all right they are back in the land but everything seems to have come to a standstill. Have they a future? Has Jerusalem a future? Yes they do, yes it does. In the wider picture God always intends good for His people, always seeks to enlarge the number of that people as He seeks to redeem more and more of mankind after the Fall. It has been a slow business with many stages in the divine plan but what we can say about ‘the Plan’ is that it is perfectly constructed before the foundation of the world and is being worked out under the watchful and directing eye of Jesus seated at his Father’s right hand, and it will be fulfilled in the fullness of time (see 1 Cor 15:24,25).

Jesus taught this same thing when he taught about the mustard seed and the yeast (Mt 13:31-33). Our danger is that we forget that Jesus is working in different places in the world with different levels of fruit and so maybe in your ‘backyard’ you may see limited fruit but elsewhere much fruit is being harvested.

And Us? In the previous studies I have said some challenging things about the Church in the West but we must hold on to the fact that God’s intent is to bring blessing and growth to His people, both numerically and spiritually. When David wrote, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,”  (Psa 23:6a) he knew this was God’s good intention for him and it should be ours. There are conditions to it as we will see but the intent is there.

On a bigger scale, the word that seems to be arising in a number of God’s people around the world is that the Lord is planning to come in power, not the Second Coming (though it could be) but in either Revival or Renewal. In Revival, it has been seen historically, He comes in sovereign power both within the Church and also in the world outside to bring a great harvest of souls. In Renewal He comes to reinvigorate the Church to equip and renew it to become a powerful instrument in His hand to bring much fruit. How He is coming, time alone will tell. Perhaps the 2020 Pandemic is Him allowing this man-produced (‘accidentally’ or intentionally) virus to soften the hearts of mankind and make them ready to receive His word that brings mighty salvation. Perhaps it is again the outworking of the call to “in the wilderness, prepare the way of the Lord.”  His intent is to bless and enlarge His people and His means and ways are many varied. Be alert.

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