ISRAEL'S REPUDIATION OF THE NATIONAL SIN
In Chapter II of this book, Israel's confession of his national sin is discussed. The prophets foretelling this epochal event are Moses, Hosea, Isaiahand the Lord Jesus Christ. In several other passages, one hears a faint echo of this confession, but they have not been examined because of lack of space. In the present chapter the repudiation by Israel of the national sin and his return to God are discussed, as it is presented in Jeremiah, chapter 3; Zechariah, chapters 12-14; and Acts, chapter 3.
I. PENITENT ISRAEL'S RETURN TO GOD ACCORDING TO JEREMIAH
Jeremiah, chapter 3, is a single oracle, a literary unit. Like a gently flowing brook, the major theme of this oracle quietly, but steadily, flows onward to the end.A. The Corruption Of The People And Their Punishment
The chapter falls into the following divisions:
The corruption of the people and their punishment (vv. 1-5).
Judah more corrupt than Israel (vv. 6-10).
First invitation for Israel to return to God (vv. 11-13).
Second invitation for Israel to return to God (vv. 14, 15).
A vision of Jerusalem the Golden (vv. 16, 17).
Israel restored to the land of the fathers (v. 18).
Israel on the march back to God (vv. 19-25).
3 They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him, and become another man's, will he return unto her again? will not that land be greatly polluted? But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith Jehovah. 2 Lift up thine eyes unto the bare heights, and see; where hast thou not been lain with? By the ways hast thou sat for them, as an Arabian in the wilderness; and thou hast polluted the land with thy whoredoms and with thy wickedness. 3 Therefore the showers have been withholden, and there hath been no latter rain; yet thou hast a harlot's forehead, thou refusedst to be ashamed. 4 Wilt thou not from this time cry unto me, My Father, thou art the guide of my youth? 5 Will he retain his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end? Behold, thou hast spoken and hast done evil things, and hast had thy way (vv.1-5).B. Judah More Corrupt Than Israel
Jeremiah begins his oracle by asking the following question, which was a common saying among the people: "They say, If a man put away his wife, and she go from him and become another man's, will he return unto her again?" The answer expected is "No, he will not." Matrimony is holy in the sight of God. Men and women must not tamper with it (Matt. 19:3-12). Marriage, separation, and remarriage very frequently open the doors for various and sundry evils. The inspired Prophet gives the divine answer to the question by asking another one: "Will not that land be greatly polluted?" "Yes, it will," affirms Jeremiah.
Like those who lightheartedly and, one might say, flippantly deal with the marriage relationship, Israel had dealt lightheartedly with her spiritual marital relationship, with Jehovah. "But thou hast played the harlot with many lovers; yet return again to me, saith Jehovah." A perusal of the history of Israel from the Exodus out of Egypt to Jeremiah's day corroborates the Prophet's indictment of the nation relative to spiritual adultery. In order to prove this point, the Prophet lifts his eyes and calls attention to the high places throughout the land where the people had engaged in spiritual adulteryworshiping foreign gods (v. 2).
Because of this unfaithfulness to God, the Lord had withholden the showers and the latter rain (v. 3). Then the Prophet urges the people from that time onward to cry to the Lord, saying, "My Father, thou art the guide of my youth? 5 Will he retain his anger for ever? will he keep it to the end?" (v. 4, 5a). God had been the guide of the people of Israel from their youth. He will not keep His anger for ever.
6 Moreover Jehovah said unto me in the days of Josiah the king, Hast thou seen that which backsliding Israel hath done? she is gone up upon every high mountain and under every green tree, and there hath played the harlot. 7 And I said after she had done all these things, She will return unto me; but she returned not: and her treacherous sister Judah saw it. 8 And I saw, when, for this very cause that backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement, yet treacherous Judah her sister feared not; but she also went and played the harlot. 9 and it came to pass through the lightness of her whoredom, that the land was polluted, and she committed adultery with stones and with stocks. 10 And yet for all this her treacherous sister Judah hath not returned unto me with her whole heart, but feignedly, saith Jehovah (vv. 6-10).C. First Invitation For Israel To Return To God
According to verses 6-10, the northern kingdom had been very sinful. But her treacherous sister, Judah, had done worse things than the people of the northern kingdom had done in that Judah had enjoyed more light and greater opportunities than Israel. Increased light brings added responsibility. According to this principle, God deals with His people.
11 And Jehovah said unto me, Backsliding Israel hath showed herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. 12 Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, Return, thou backsliding Israel, saith Jehovah; I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful, saith Jehovah, I will not keep anger for ever. 13 Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against Jehovah thy God, and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers under every green tree, and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith Jehovah. (vv. 11-13).D. Second Invitation For Israel To Return To God
As noted above, God gives an urgent invitation for backsliding Israel to return to Him. As the Lord had instructed Jeremiah, He looks toward the north saying, "Return ... I will not look in anger upon you; for I am merciful ... I will not keep anger for ever. Only acknowledge thine iniquity, that thou hast transgressed against Jehovah ... and hast scattered thy ways to the strangers ... and ye have not obeyed my voice, saith Jehovah." Notwithstanding Israel's having played the harlot with foreign gods, the Lord urgently invites the sinful people to return. He states their guilt and pleads with them to return without any coercion on His part. God never forces the will of any man, but uses moral suasion, always stopping short of stepping over the threshold of the individuality of His creatures.
As has been seen, the word return of verse 12 was an invitation to the people of Jeremiah's day to lay aside their idolatrous practices and return to God. In verse 14 the word return is again used. Does this word repeat the invitation of verse 12? or does it refer to something else? When the people of Israel heed this admonition and accept the invitation, God promises that He will take them, one of a city, and two of a family, and will bring them to Zion. Moreover, when they accept this invitation, He will give them shepherds who will feed them with true knowledge and understanding. Then the Prophet connects these promises with a vision of Jerusalem when it is the praise of the whole earth. These facts prove that, when the Prophet uses the word return the second time, he is looking out into the future and speaking of the Kingdom Age. Following the law of double reference, Jeremiah blends the two invitations into a single picturea principle which the prophets often follow. In Isaiah 11:1,2, for instance, the Prophet speaks of the first coming of the Messiah; in verses 3-5 he speaks of events that will occur in connection with His Second Coming. Another example of this principle is found in Zechariah 9:9,10. As the facts show, verse 9 deals with the first coming of the Messiah; verse 10, on the contrary, foretells His Second Coming and the events connected therewith. The centuries separating these two events are in these verses passed over without mention, and the two comings of the one Messiah are here blended into a single picture.
"Return, 0 backsliding children, saith Jehovah; for I am a husband unto you: and I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion. 15 And I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer. 3:14,15).E. A Vision Of Jerusalem The Golden
Frequently, the prophets were carried forward in vision from their day across the centuries to a time in the future and described what they saw and heard. Speaking for God, Jeremiah with tenderness and gentleness, calls upon backsliding Israel to return. Like Jeremiah, Micah presents God as ready to forgive sins and to blot out all iniquities.
18 Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth over the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? he retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in lovingkindness. 19 He will again have compassion upon us; he will tread our iniquities under foot; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. 20 Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the lovingkindness to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old (Micah 7:18-20).
Notwithstanding the fact that backsliding Israel has played the harlot, engaging in idolatrous worship from time to time, the Lord affirms, "I am a husband unto you." To the same effect Isaiah speaks to Israel:
4 Fear not; for thou shalt not be ashamed: neither be thou confounded; for thou shalt not be put to shame: for thou shalt forget the shame of thy youth; and the reproach of thy widowhood shalt thou remember no more. 5 For thy Maker is thy husband; Jehovah of hosts is his name: and the Holy One of Israel is thy Redeemer; the God of the whole earth shall he be called. 6 For Jehovah hath called thee as a wife forsaken and grieved in spirit, even a wife of youth, when she is cast off, saith thy God. 7 For a small moment have I forsaken thee; but with great mercies will I gather thee. 8 In overflowing wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting lovingkindness will I have mercy on thee, saith Jehovah thy Redeemer (Isa. 54:4-8).
God cannot arbitrarily overlook and pass by sin and iniquity, for He is righteous and His holiness cannot countenance sin in any form. When, however, the sinner repents and forsakes his evil ways and throws himself, figuratively speaking, at the feet of the God against whom he has sinned, pleading for mercy, God will accept and receive him. The thief who was executed along with Jesus on the cross cried out in faith, "42 And he said, Jesus, remember me when thou comest in thy kingdom. 43 And he said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, Today shalt thou be with me in Paradise" (Luke 23:42,43). Of all the Jews living at the time foreseen in this passage by Jeremiah, only those who heed the warning and accept the salvation which God provides will be admitted into the Kingdom. "I will take you one of a city, and two of a family, and I will bring you to Zion." Those not heeding the warning or not accepting the salvation full and free will be purged from the nation and cast into outer darkness.
The leaders of Israel are often spoken of as shepherds. The prophets frequently denounce them for dereliction of duties. The implication of Jeremiah 3:15 is that the shepherds of Israel of the end time are unfaithful in the discharge of their duties; responsibilities; and service to the flock, the great masses of the Jewish people. God, therefore, through the Prophet, promises to give them the proper kind of shepherds. "And I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding" (Jer. 3:15). God is going to hold the leaders of the peopleboth Jew and Gentileto a strict account for the way in which they discharge the duties of their positions. The inspired Apostle Paul urges Timothy to preach God's Word faithfully to the people and charges him before God saying, "I charge thee in the sight of God, and of Christ Jesus, who shall judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be urgent in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with all long-suffering and teaching" (II Tim. 4:1,2).
Isaiah speaks of the regathering of Israel and thinks of the people as a flock of sheep in a forest that is exposed to the attack of the wild beasts. The watchmen are not interested in the welfare and the protection of the sheep. On the contrary, they are interested in satisfying the carnal desires of their own depraved nature.
9 All ye beasts of the field, come to devour, yea, all ye beasts in the forest. 10 His watchmen are blind, they are all without knowledge; they are all dumb dogs, they cannot bark; dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. 11 Yea, the dogs are greedy, they can never have enough; and these are shepherds that cannot understand: they have all turned to their own way, each one to his gain, from every quarter. 12 Come ye, say they, I will fetch wine, and we will fill ourselves with strong drink; and to-morrow shall be as this day, a day great beyond measure. (Isa. 56:9-12).
Beasts, when used symbolically as in this passage, always refer to civil governments. Thus the governments, according to verse 9, are permitted to devour the flock of Israel because the watchmen are not protecting their sheep. What Isaiah said about the leaders of his own countrymen can be truthfully said about many preachers and ministers in the Christian world. A man who assumes the position of proclaiming God's Word will have to give a strict account to the Lord for what he preaches, does, and fails to do: "The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the straw to the wheat? saith Jehovah. 29 Is not my word like fire? saith Jehovah; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?" (Jer. 23:28,29).
Ezekiel also condemns the unfaithful and unworthy leaders of his people (Ezekiel, chapter 34). These shepherds, concerning whom the Prophet is speaking, are probably both the political and religious leaders of the nation.
34 And the word of Jehovah came unto me, saying, 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, even to the shepherds, Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Woe unto the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the sheep? 3 Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill the fatlings; but ye feed not the sheep. 4 The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought back that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with rigor have ye ruled over them. 5 And they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and they became food to all the beasts of the field, and were scattered. 6 My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my sheep were scattered upon all the face of the earth; and there was none that did search or seek after them.
7 Therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: 8 As I live, saith the Lord Jehovah, surely forasmuch as my sheep became a prey, and my sheep became food to all the beasts of the field, because there was no shepherd, neither did my shepherds search for my sheep, but the shepherds fed themselves, and fed not my sheep; 9 therefore, ye shepherds, hear the word of Jehovah: 10 Thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I am against the shepherds; and I will require my sheep at their hand, and cause them to cease from feeding the sheep; neither shall the shepherds feed themselves any more; and I will deliver my sheep from their mouth, that they may not be food for them. (Ezek. 34:1-10).
Since these shepherds are so very unfaithful in caring for the flock entrusted to them, the Lord promises to become a shepherd in order to care for His flock. "For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out" (Ezek. 34:11). This language is specific and forceful. It must be interpreted in the light of the facts presented in the chapter. The shepherds whom the Prophet condemns are men, and as men they bear a certain relationship to the people of Israel whom they are supposed to guide and protect. Since as men they fail utterly in the discharge of their duties, the Lord God says in substance, "I will take upon myself the form of a man and as a man I will perform faithfully the duties which the shepherds have failed to fulfill."
In order to emphasize Ezekiel's thought and logic, I wish to use this illustration. A stock raiser has a large flock of sheep that has been cared for by a shepherd, or a sheepherder as shepherds are called in Texaswho has quit his job. This stockman has to get someone or something to take care of his flock. Would he purchase a horse to care for the sheep? No. A cow? No. A dog? No. He will procure the services of a man who can attend to the sheep as a sheepherder does. In like manner, since the shepherds of Israel were unfaithful in the discharge of their duties, God declares that He Himself, is going to dismiss them and perform the duties of a shepherd. In order to do so, the Lord will have to take on the form of a man. This promise, therefore, assumes that one of the divine personalities constituting the Triune God will lay aside temporarily His eternal glory and will take the form of a man, in order to shepherd Israel, His flock. Isaiah foretells how God can take the form of a man, "Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (Isa. 7:14). The gospel records prove that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity did enter the world by miraculous conception and virgin birth. When He came the first time, He preached redemption by the sacrifice of Himself. Not knowing the Scriptures nor the power of God, the Hebrews as a nation rejected Him. When He returns at the invitation of penitent Israel, He will shepherd the Chosen People, in fulfillment of the following passage,
11 For thus saith the Lord Jehovah: Behold, I myself, even I, will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. 12 As a shepherd seeketh out his flock in the day that he is among his sheep that are scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will deliver them out of all places whither they have been scattered in the cloudy and dark day. 13 And I will bring them out from the peoples, and gather them from the countries, and will bring them into their own land; and I will feed them upon the mountains of Israel, by the watercourses, and in all the inhabited places of the country. 14 I will feed them with good pasture; and upon the mountains of the height of Israel shall their fold be: there shall they lie down in a good fold; and on fat pasture shall they feed upon the mountains of Israel. 15 I myself will be the shepherd of my sheep, and I will cause them to lie down, saith the Lord Jehovah. 16 I will seek that which was lost, and will bring back that which was driven away, and will bind up that which was broken, and will strengthen that which was sick: but the fat and the strong I will destroy; I will feed them in justice. (Ezek. 34:11-16).
According to the promise made by Jesus to His apostles, they will assist in shepherding the Chosen People, "... Verily I say unto you, that ye who have followed me, in the regeneration when the Son of man shall sit on the throne of his glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt. 19:28).
It is probable that Jeremiah 3:15 refers to the apostles who assist in shepherding Israel: "And I will give you shepherds according to my heart, who shall feed you with knowledge and understanding." Other saved, glorified people may also assist in shepherding the Chosen People.
16 And it shall come to pass, when ye are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith Jehovah, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of Jehovah; neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more. 17 At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart (Jer. 3:16,17).F. Israel Restored To The Land Of The Fathers
One of the most important pieces of furniture belonging either to the tabernacle or to the temple was the ark of the covenant, the top of which was called the mercy seat. On it the Shekinah glory rested. On the mercy seat the blood of atonement was sprinkled on the Day of Atonement. Thus the ark of the covenant was practically the center and circumference of the thinking of the average Hebrew.
But in the future when Israel is restored to favor with God, the ark of the covenant will not be thought of, neither will it be made any more; "And it shall come to pass, when ye are multiplied and increased in the land, in those days, saith Jehovah, they shall say no more, The ark of the covenant of Jehovah; neither shall it come to mind; neither shall they remember it; neither shall they miss it; neither shall it be made any more" (Jer. 3:16). The Jerusalem that has existed for centuries will have passed away. The Jerusalem of the future may be thought of as "Jerusalem the Golden," for it will be built on a gloriously magnificent scale: "11 0 thou afflicted, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will set thy stones in fair colors, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. 12 And I will make thy pinnacles of rubies, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy border of precious stones. 13 And all thy children shall be taught of Jehovah; and great shall be the peace of thy children" (Isa. 54:11-13). The reason for this splendor and glory is stated in the following passage, "At that time they shall call Jerusalem the throne of Jehovah; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it, to the name of Jehovah, to Jerusalem: neither shall they walk any more after the stubbornness of their evil heart" (Jer. 3:17).
Why will Jerusalem be called the "throne of Jehovah"? There can be but one answer. Messiah Jehovah will be there. Isaiah had a clear vision of Messiah Jehovah as He will reign in Zion.
17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold a land that reacheth afar ... 20 Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tent that shall not be removed, the stakes whereof shall never be plucked up, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken. 21 But there Jehovah will be with us in majesty, a place of broad rivers and streams, wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby. 22 For Jehovah is our judge, Jehovah is our lawgiver, Jehovah is our king; he will save us (Isa. 33:17, 20-22). According to verse 21, "Jehovah will be with us [the Hebrew people] in majesty." Jehovah will be present in Jerusalem as king, according to verse 22. Jehovah, King Messiah, will be the judge, the lawgiver, and the king.
Zephaniah the prophet likewise portrays the vision of Jehovah, King Messiah, reigning in Jerusalem.
14 Sing, 0 daughter of Zion; shout, 0 Israel; be glad and rejoice with all the heart, 0 daughter of Jerusalem. 15 Jehovah hath taken away thy judgments, he hath cast out thine enemy: the King of Israel, even Jehovah, is in the midst of thee; thou shalt not fear evil any more. 16 In that day it shall be said to Jerusalem, Fear thou not; 0 Zion, let not thy hands be slack. 17 Jehovah thy God is in the midst of thee, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over thee with joy; he will rest in his love; he will joy over thee with singing (Zeph. 3:14-17).
The united testimony of Moses and the prophets is to the effect that, when Israel accepts her rejected Messiah, He will return, lift the curse from the earth, establish His throne in Jerusalem, and reign over all the nations.
"In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I gave for an inheritance unto your fathers" (Jer. 3:18). Upon the death of King Solomon the ten northern tribes of the Children of Israel revolted against the house of David and set up a rival kingdom known as the Kingdom of Israel, Ephraim, or Jacob. The tribes of Judah and Benjamin remained faithful to the Davidic dynasty. There was continual enmity, which broke out in wars at times, between the two kingdoms, that is, the Kingdom of Israel and the Kingdom of Judah. This rivalry and enmity continued until the overthrow of the northern kingdom. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, so far as individuals were concerned, but this enmity by the rival tribes will vanish, and the twelve tribes will lay aside all enmity and jealousy, and as one people will return to Godas Jeremiah 3:18 foretells.G. Israel On The March Back To God
Isaiah the Prophet foretells the restoration of Israel, which will occur at the end of this age.
11 And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord will set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, that shall remain, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. 12 And he will set up an ensign for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth (Isa. 11:11,12).
At that time the enmity and jealousy that marred the lives of all the Israelites of the time will vanish. "The envy also of Ephraim shall depart, and they that vex Judah shall be cut off: Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not vex Ephraim" (v. 13).
The restoration of Israel to the land of the fathers is set forth in Ezekiel, chapter 37, under the symbolism of the vision of the valley of dry bones. An examination of this passage shows that the return to the land of the fathers is set forth as a process, an advancing movement. In this connection, the Prophet was commanded to take two sticks. On the first one, he was to write upon it, "For Judah, and for the children of Israel his companions," and another he was to write "For Joseph [the northern kingdom] the stick of Ephraim, and for all the house of Israel his companions" (v. 16). Then the Prophet was commanded to tie them together into a single bundle. These sticks become a rod setting forth the passing away of the enmity and jealousy between the tribes, and the reunion of the nation. At that time the thought, "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity" (Ps. 133:1) so far as the Children of Israel are concerned, will become a reality.
God's first call to Israel to return to Him (Jer. 3:12,13) went unheeded. The strokes of judgment, therefore, had to fall on them. The second call to return (v. 14) will not go unheeded.
After giving a vision of Jerusalem in the great Kingdom Age of the future, the Lord calls the attention of the people of Israel to the promised blessings which they would have received if they had followed Him implicitly. "But I said, How I will put thee among the children, and give thee a pleasant land, a goodly heritage of the hosts of the nations! and I said, Ye shall call me My Father, and shall not turn away from following me. 20 Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, 0 house of Israel, saith Jehovah" (Jer. 3:19,20). According to Leviticus 26:1-13 and Deuteronomy 28:1-14, the land of Israel would have been Paradise regained, practically speaking, if the people of Israel had followed the Lord, trusting and obeying.
In vision, however, Jeremiah sees a host of Israel marching penitentially back to God.
21 A voice is heard upon the bare heights, the weeping and the supplications of the children of Israel; because they have perverted their way, they have forgotten Jehovah their God. 22 Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings. Behold, we are come unto thee; for thou art Jehovah our God. 23 Truly in vain is the help that is looked for from the hills, the tumult on the mountains: truly in Jehovah our God is the salvation of Israel. 24 But the shameful thing hath devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our confusion cover us; for we have sinned against Jehovah our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah our God (Jer. 3:21-25).
In this vision the Prophet sees the land of Israel as a desolate waste and the remnant of Israel "marching to Zion," weeping, and pouring their heart out to God, "because they have perverted their way; they have forgotten Jehovah their God."
God, who knows the hearts of all men, will realize that the remnant of Israel of the end time is dead in earnestthat the people have genuinely repented of their sinfulness, and sincerely crave His blessings. God, therefore, responds to this situation, saying, "Return, ye backsliding children, I will heal your backslidings." By this invitation God assures the penitent ones that He will accept them.
To this divine response the penitential ones, by faith, look up into the face of God, confessing, "Behold, we are come unto thee; for thou art Jehovah our God. 23 Truly in vain is the help that is looked for from the hills, the tumult on the mountains: truly in Jehovah our God is the salvation of Israel. 24 But the shameful thing hath devoured the labor of our fathers from our youth, their flocks and their herds, their sons and their daughters. 25 Let us lie down in our shame, and let our confusion cover us; for we have sinned against Jehovah our God, we and our fathers, from our youth even unto this day; and we have not obeyed the voice of Jehovah our God."
According to this quotation, the returning remnant vows that the God of Israel is their God. Then, according to verse 23, they will confess that idolatrous worship is vain, "Truly in vain is the help that is looked for from the hills." Moreover, no help or assistance can be expected from the masses"the tumult on the mountains." They will realize that, "truly in Jehovah our God is the salvation of Israel." They close their confession of sin and wickedness by calling attention to the fact that the nation, from time to time, has engaged in idolatry from the beginning of its existence.
When the remnant penitentially returns to God, He will lovingly receive them and bless them in order that they may be a blessing to the world.
II. PENITENT ISRAEL LOOKING UNTO HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED
ACCORDING TO ZECHARIAH
Zechariah, one of the three post-exilic prophets, with his older contemporary, Haggai, stirred the discouraged and disheartened exiles to new hope. When the captives returned to the land of their fathers under the leadership of Zerubbabel, they began to lay the foundation for the Temple of God. The enemies of the Jews in the land caused the work to cease. For fifteen years the returned exiles made no other attempt to rebuild the Temple. At this time, however, God raised up Haggai, an old prophet, and Zechariah, a young man, whose prophesying and preaching fired the discouraged people with a holy zeal for God and for divine services. Notwithstanding the persistent opposition of the enemy, the work of rebuilding the Temple continued, and after six years was completed.
The Book of Zechariah, with its visions and prophecies, has been pronounced one of the most vital books of prophecy. Someone has spoken of the messages of Zechariah as the cream of prophecy which he skimmed from the writings of the pre-exilic prophets. This young Prophet, guided by the Spirit of God, touched upon the major themes of prophetic utterance. The last prophecy of the Book of Zechariah (chapters 12-14) towers above all the other prophecies of the Book. These three chapters fall into eight natural divisions:
The War of the Great Day of God the Almighty (12:1-6).
Divine Assistance Given to the Remnant (12:7-9).
Penitent Israel Mourning Because of His Sin (12:10-14).
The Fountain for Sin and Uncleanness (13:1).
Israel Purged of Idolatry and Evil Spirits (13:2-6).
The Cross of Jesus "Tow'ring o'er the Wrecks of Time" (13:7-9).
The Return of Messiah Jesus (14:1-8).
The World-wide Reign of King Messiah (14:9-21).
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