6. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, because it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people, shall it be marvelous in mine eyes also? saith the Lord of hosts. 7. Thus saith the Lord of hosts; Behold, I will saw my people from the east country, and from the west country; and they shall be to me for a people, and I will be to them for a God in truth and in righteousness.
Remnant of the people—In this Scripture passage the expression denotes what was left of the tribe of Judah after it had filled up its measure of iniquity and in consequence, thereof was overtaken by the judgments of God. Many Jews perished by the sword of the Babylonian world-power and what was left of the tribe, the remnant, was exiled to Babylon. After the seventy years some thousands of them returned to the land of Judah. The rest of them remained in Babylon where they lived out their lives as voluntary exiles. “The remnant of this people” of this passage included both these voluntary exiles in Babylon and the Jews in the land of Judah arid in Jerusalem.
However also in that day the remnant proper was the remnant according to the election of grace and could, therefore, not include all that was left of the tribe of Judah, but only the true believers among them. This was properly the remnant. It was always and only the true church at any one time in Israel’s history, the seven thousand that did not bow the knee before Baal, the remnant that, the Lord preserved for Himself in the midst of apostasy and all the troubles besetting the nation. There was always this remnant. And it was the remnant according to the election of grace, that is, a remnant that God preserved for Himself because of its being chosen in Christ. It was, therefore, a remnant that He could not do otherwise but save, seeing that, being chosen in Christ, it had the eternal and unchangeable love of His heart. And so also in this day, last hour, there is always the remnant that God preserves for Himself, the remnant according to the election of grace always surviving the judgments of God because, being hidden in Christ, it cannot perish.
This chosen remnant is scattered over the whole earth. This was already the case in our prophet’s day, seeing that the Lord had whirled Israel, the Israel of the ten tribes, among the nations of what was then the civilized world. The chosen remnant was found in every country of that world as in this day it is found in every country of this whole wide world. But the Lord will not leave them there, His chosen ones, the remnant. He will turn their captivity as certainly as He has turned the captivity of Judah. Or, in the language of our Scripture passage (verse 7), the Lord shall bring them and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. But the mistake must not be made of limiting the chosen remnant, the people that God saves of verse 7, to the Jews. For in verse 22 this people reappears and here in this verse they are the “strong people and the mighty nations that shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem and pray before His name,” all the nations of the earth blessed in Abraham, blessed in Christ, the church of the elect that is being gathered by the Exalted Christ though all the ages of this Gospel period.
Because it is marvelous in the eyes of the remnant of this people—The reference is to the wonders that the Lord has promised to perform, first of all to the wonders of which the verses 4 and 5 make mention but then also to all the wonders listed in this chapter, and so to the wonder of the Lord’s returning to Zion and His dwelling in the midst of Jerusalem through the blood of the atonement, to the wonder that Jerusalem one day shall be called the city of truth, the holy mountain, to the wonder that the inhabitants of Jerusalem shall have endless life, and that the streets of the city shall be filled with boys and girls, Abraham’s seed, a multitude that no man can number. All are wonders of the Lord. And they are connected, the one with the other. The one calls for all the rest and the rest for the one. Wonder, wonderful works, achievements of God.
But why, one will ask, single out certain works of God and call them wonders? Are not all God’s works wonders, also His works of the six days of creation and His works of providence? To be sure they are. Yet there are certain works of God that the Scriptures single out and call wonders, new, unheard of, wonder-inciting. So in Ex. 33:10, where the Lord is reported to be saying to Moses with a view to the people of Israel who had made themselves gods of gold and thereby broken the covenant and merited extinction, “Behold, I will make a covenant: before all the people I will do marvels, such as have not been done in all the earth, nor in any nation: and all the people among which thou art shall see the work of the Lord: for it is a terrible thing that I will do with thee.” “Who is like unto thee, glorious in holiness, fearful in praise, doing wonders” (Ex. 15:2), thus sang the saints in Israel. They sang of the wonder.
What then is the wonder? The answer may be had from Ps. 78, in which the generations to; come are shewn the “praises of the Lord, and His strength, and His wonderful works that He hath done.” And the works enumerated are not the works of the six days of creation, nor His works of providence, but the marvelous things that He did in the sight of the fathers in the land of Egypt, in the field of Zoan, to wit. His dividing the Red Sea and His causing His people to pass through, and His making the waters to stand on an heap, His cleaving the rocks of the wilderness that His people might drink as out of the great depth etc. (ver. 13ff).
This, then, is the wonder, namely God’s delivering His people by His outstretched arm from the bondage of Egypt and His entering with them into the rest of Canaan. But this was but type, shadow. The wonder is the reality signified. It is that work of God whereby He lifts up this earthly creation including man, mankind, by whom it was originally headed and who was its crown, out of the abyss of the curse into which it was plunged by man’s transgression and leads to its eternal destiny which is the glory of the heavenly. This is the wonder. In the Old dispensation it was represented by a series of wonders, great works of God, including besides the Exodus, the Deluge, the deliverance of the people of Israel by David, God’s king in Zion, and the turning of Judah’s captivity.
This, then, is the wonder. The wonder spells out grace. Because of its many-sidedness, the Scriptures speak of God’s wonders. And the hub of them all, so to speak, is the incarnation of the Son of God. And all things, all the works of providence, “working together, as they do, for good to them that love God, are in the service of the wonder, the salvation of the church.
What the Lord said He would do—perform wonders—was incredible, impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people—incredible, impossible, it could not come to pass. This is the meaning, of the word marvelous in the context. Not that these people were out and out unbelievers. On the contrary, they were true children of God. Doubtless some or even several among them were out and out unbelievers. And these men certainly had difficulty with the wonder. They did not want it. It can be explained. They would not repent, and for all such the wonder spells judgment and eternal perdition. But the unbelief at which the prophet here strikes must not be limited to the reprobated in the community. What God said He would bring to pass was impossible in the eyes of God’s believing people. It was incredible. They wanted to believe but could not. They were unwillingly unbelieving.
There are more cases of this type of unbelief on the part of believers regarding the wonder reported to us in the Scriptures. There was the case of Sarah, Abraham’s wife. Overhearing the Lord saying to Abraham that He would certainly return to him according to the time of life and that Sarah should have a son, she laughed, within herself. For she had waxed old and her lord was old also. The thing was impossible in her eyes. In that moment she was unbelieving, but unwillingly so. For she derived no pleasure from her unbelief but only sorrow. For she so much wanted a son. If only in her eyes the word of the Lord could come to pass. How she would have laughed, not in bitterness of soul as she was doing, but from sheer joy.
Then there’s the case of the incredulity of Thomas regarding the report of the wonder of Christ’s resurrection. Except he should see in Christ’s hands the print of the nails, and put his finger in the print of His nails, and thrust his hand into Christ’s side, He would not believe.
So it was with the remnant of the people of .our prophet’s day. As God’s people they were skeptical. Jerusalem shall be called a city of truth,—Jerusalem, the city that had become a harlot and was full of murderers shall become a city with not one murderer in it, a city perfectly consecrated to God in love? It was incredible in their eyes. At the time these predictions were uttered; the city must have been sparsely settled. Large parts of the city must have been uninhabited. And in the habitated sections one perhaps could walk the streets for hours without meeting a soul. For only a tenth part of the number of exiles that had returned to the land of Judah had taken up their abode in Jerusalem. Yet the day will come when the streets of the city will swarm with boys and girls? It can only be if their brethren in the dispersion experience a change of heart and go by the thousands to Jerusalem, or if the remnant in Jerusalem undergo a phenomenal internal growth. So they must have reasoned. And as neither seemed likely, the prediction that the streets of Jerusalem would be, full of boys and girls one day was incredible in their eyes. They were asking, How can these things be? Their incredulity was also owing to a lack of understanding of how the Lord was to realize His promises, as was the case with Mary the mother of Jesus, When she was told of the angel Gabriel that she would conceive in her womb, and bring forth a son, she was perplexed and said, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And so the remnant of this people, How shall this be? The thing is incredible. What they, too, were in need of is more light. And this light the Lord now also will shed. But He first rebukes their unbelief. Says He to them, “Became in the eyes of the remnant of this people it is marvelous, that is, hard, difficult, is it also marvelous, that is, impossible in mine eyes?” It is right and godly to say that the thing that God says He will do would never be, if man had to bring it to pass. For this is the truth. But it is different when God’s people allow themselves to imagine that God can’t bring it to pass either, that the thing is too hard even for Him. This is the type of unbelief into which the remnant of this people had fallen. They were doubtful whether God was able to make good His promises, do as He had said, performs wonders. This is plain from what the Lord said to them in rebuke of their unbelief, in substance this. Is it so that I, the Lord, cannot bring it to pass, just because in your eyes the thing is too difficult even for me? They were questioning the ability of God to perform His wonders.
It must not be supposed that they were the only saints of Bible times capable of this sin. It was one of the weaknesses of faith with which all of them had daily to strive. This has already been shown. To the cases mentioned, a few may be added. There is the case of Moses. The children of Israel were crying for flesh. And the Lord said that He would give them flesh; perform a wonder that the people might eat. But in the eyes of Moses He could not possibly make good His word. “The people among whom I am,” said he to the Lord, “are six hundred thousand footmen; and thou hast said, I will give them flesh that they may eat a whole month. Shall the flocks and the herds be slain for them, to suffice them? or shall all the fishes of the sea be gathered together for them, to suffice them?” In Moses’ eyes the thing couldn’t be done. Providing flesh for a multitude of people so vast was too difficult for the Lord. He lacked the ability to perform the wonder. That this was Moses’ attitude is plain from the Lord’s rebuke of his unbelief. Said He to His servant, “Is the Lord’s hand waxed short? Thou shalt see now whether my word shall come to pass unto thee” (Num. 11:20ff). More such cases of unbelief could be mentioned. Jacob deceived his father Isaac in the matter of the covenant blessing. Abraham lied about Sarah his wife saying that she was his sister. David despaired of his life, saying that he would yet one day perish by the hand of Saul. And we as believers will go to doubting our salvation in the imagining that we are sinners to great to be forgiven and saved, or we go to imagining that the cause of the truth might yet one day turn out to be a lost cause in this world and that the gates of hell might still one day prevail against Christ’s little flock. Is not the root of all such deportments and attitudes on the part of God’s people the carnal fear that God is not able to do what He has promised, that the hand of the wonder-working God has waxed short?
Let us take notice of the Lord’s reply to all such unbelief. It is this, “Because it is marvelous, difficult, yea, impossible in the eyes of the remnant of this people, is it, therefore, also impossible of mine eyes, saith the Lord of hosts?’ Hard, impossible in the eyes of the Lord? Surely, no. How could this be? True, His wonders are things that “eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of any man, the things that God hath prepared for them that love Him” (I Cor. 2:9). But hard, impossible in His eyes? It cannot be, certainly. For, first, the Lord is indeed mighty all His wonders to perform. Second, it is not so that God does not know Himself. On the contrary, as the living God He knows Himself through and through and therefore knows, too, that to His power to save there is no limit. How then, could it be marvelous, difficult, impossible also in His eyes? This cannot be.
What does the Lord by this mean to be saying to His people? This, precisely, that they lay aside their unbelief and all wrong thoughts about Him, that they strive to see and know Him as He sees and knows Himself and has revealed Himself to them in the face of Christ, and that in this God, the God and Father of Christ, the God of their salvation, the wonder-working God, the God of the Scriptures, they put all their confidence. And this they also will do by His mercy. For He lays His commandments on their hearts.
Having thus commanded His people, the Lord now sheds the fuller light,” explains why one day the streets of the holy city will be full of boys and girls. 7. Behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country; 8. and I will bring them, and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. As has already been pointed out, the saved people of these verses are the many people and strong nations of verse 22, and not Jews although, of course, the Jews according to the election are included. And this whole vast multitude shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, that is, dwell with God in His holy temple. For all are His people, a people that He shall save and bring. All shall seek the Lord and pray before Him. And as there could be no room for all these people in the earthly Jerusalem, it is the heavenly Jerusalem with which we here have to do.
The salvation of this multitude will be solely the work of Jehovah and not a work that He shares with men, the human preachers of the Gospel. For let us take notice, “Thus saith the Lord of hosts, I will save my people,” and, “I will bring them,” and, “they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem,” that is,” dwell with Me in my holy temple,” and, “They shall be unto me for a people. True, the gathering is done through the Gospel as proclaimed by human preachers. But these preachers are His creations, and the Gospel is the Gospel of God and it is potent to save only because He lays it upon the hearts of His people.
The versions translate here, “And they shall be my people and I shall be their God,” which, certainly is true. But a better translation of the text at this place is, “And they will be unto me for a people, and I will be unto them for a God.” The idea is that they shall be unto God all that a people saved by His grace should, can, and shall be unto Him. They shall consecrate themselves unto Him in love with all that they are and possess and cry out His praises forever. And He will be unto them for a God, that is, be unto them all that He is as God, so that it is Him that they shall possess. As their reward exceeding great He shall give Himself unto, them without any restraint, so that they shall taste Him, the only blessed God, in all His infinite goodness.
So shall it be in truth and in righteousness. For these saved ones have the truth in their inward parts, love the truth, speak the truth every one with His neighbor and walk in the light of the truth. And righteousness clothes them as a garment. And they are righteous both as to the inward and outward man, for His will is inscribed upon their hearts and wills and minds, and with joy they run the way of His commands. Truth and righteousness, therefore, is the very sphere of their existence, the orb by which they are enclosed as to all the issues of their life. And it is the only and very sphere, orb in which they can be unto Him for a people and He unto them for a God. For He is light and in Him there is no darkness at all.