Jerusalem is going to be a besieged city. All the nations will be gathered against her. But it will all be in vain. For they will be overthrown of the Lord. This is the prediction of verses 1-3. The working of the Lord in behalf of the holy city, announced in figurative terms in verses 2, 3, is more minutely described in verse 4. The Lord will take action against the horse and the rider, the cavalry. It here represents the entire military force of the enemy. The Lord will smite every horse with terror and with blindness, every horse of all the peoples without one exception. And every rider He will smite with madness.
The Old Testament Scriptures contain several reports of such workings of the Lord in behalf of His people. When the people of Israel were passing through the Red Sea with the Egyptians in hot pursuit, the Lord looked unto the host of the Egyptians through the pillar of fire and of the cloud and troubled the host of the Egyptians, so that they fled from before the face of Israel. The spies hear of Rahab that the terror of the Lord was fallen upon all the inhabitants of the land and that they fainted because of Israel. Their hearts melted and no courage remained anymore in any man because of God (Jos. 2:2ff). When Gideon’s three hundred blew the trumpets, the Lord set every man’s sword against his fellow throughout all the hosts of the Midianites (Judges 7:22). In reply to Elisha’s prayer the Lord smote the Syrians with blindness, so that they could not discern that they were being led of the prophet to Samaria. After that He made the Syrians hear a noise of a great host, so that they fled for their lives (II Kings 7:8).
So will the Lord smite with blindness and madness and terror the vast military force of all the nations when it will be laying siege to Jerusalem. The entire host will be thrown into hopeless confusion, so that it will rush headlong to destruction. Unable to distinguish between friend and foe, the soldiers will turn their sword each against his fellow. Meanwhile the Lord will open His eyes upon the house of Judah in love, so that no harm will befall it.
Also this prophecy has reference first of all to the earthy Jerusalem. All the nations in their combined military force will gather against the holy city as activated by the purpose to destroy it. But as smitten of the Lord they will be seized by terror, blindness and madness. In this state of mind they will lay off from Jerusalem and go to making war the one against the other and thereby bring themselves to naught as kingdoms. So will the Lord set Jerusalem a cup of trembling and a burdensome stone to all the nations. It means that the nations are smitten of God because of the injuries they do to Jerusalem His dwelling place.
This prophecy was fulfilled concerning the earthly Jerusalem when it was still the city of the living God representing the church. It was fulfilled in the period that intervened between the utterance of this prophecy and the beginning of the new dispensation. As had always been the case so also during this time, the nations of the earth as represented by the world powers of that day, the Persian, the Macedonian, the Graeco-Roman world powers were gathered against Jerusalem always in spirit and as to attitude and posture of heart, if not always literally. As dwelling in the midst of the nations, all of which were hostile, Jerusalem was a besieged city. Apparently it was at the mercy of, the nations and in danger of being destroyed. Finally it was destroyed and vanished away forever as the city of God representative of the church on earth. That this calamity did not strike sooner was because as smitten with blindness and madness of the Lord the nations were fighting each other. For it was an age of empire building and thus of conflict between the nations.
Though the church is no longer represented by the earthly Jerusalem and is now spread over the whole earth and sown among all the nations, it is still just as true of her as it ever could have been that she is a city besieged, seeing that she dwells in the midst of a hostile world that would like nothing better than to remove her out of the way. And the church is a little flock and the world is mighty. From a human standpoint she is doomed to extinction. But she has the promises. The Lord will make her a cup of reeling, a burdensome stone. All who lift her as wanting to remove her out of the way will come away with sprains and dislocations are ruptures. As smitten of the Lord with terror and blindness and madness, the nations of the world will make war upon each other. And the world will be too much occupied, with these conflicts to give much attention to the church. These wars will only add immensely to the sufferings of this present time with which mankind is afflicted and in which God’s people must also share. But in the midst of all these troubles the church dwells safely in a spiritual aspect. For as He always had done through all the ages of the past the Lord will open His eyes in love upon His church. In His power she shall be kept.
5. This is here the word of promise to Jerusalem, the church. It means that the church is strong, invincible and will overcome the World and not be overcome by it. With this word of promise dwelling in them, blessed unto their hearts, the chiefs of Judah, the heads of the tribe and with them their spiritual kin in the tribe, shall say in their heart, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength in Jehovah of Hosts, their God.
But how can the inhabitants of Jerusalem, being but mere men, be the strength of the chiefs? They may express themselves as they do because they see the glories of God reflected in Jerusalem’s inhabitants, and it is this God and none other who is their strength. Not the glass but the Christ seen through the glass is their strength—the God revealed in His face. But it is because in this case the glass and what is seen in it cannot be separated the c& from the other that the chiefs say that the inhabitants of Jerusalem will be their strength yet not the inhabitants but their God. Not the church is strength. Not the teaching ministry is strength, but the Gospel alone is strength, the Christ of the Gospel, the God revealed in His face. Only as loving, holding and faithfully proclaiming the Gospel and thus as identifying itself with the Gospel, is the church strength, are the inhabitants of Jerusalem strength. Then only can the chiefs of Judah rightfully say, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength.
A distinction is made in the text between the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the chiefs, the members of the tribe of Judah. In the old dispensation Jerusalem was the visible city of God. And it was this as the center of the typical symbolical revelation of the kingdom of God on earth. Here dwelt God in the holiest place of the temple behind the veil. Here burned His altars. Here covering for sin was made. Here God’s people were blessed of Him through the priest as His organ. Jerusalem is now above essentially. The holy city is now in heaven having been set there with Christ its King at the time of His ascension into heaven and His sitting down at the right hand of the throne. But Jerusalem comes to manifestation in the church on earth, in the preaching confession and practice of the Gospel by the church institute. The instituted church is for the believers on earth the visible Jerusalem. And the instituted church is the church with its officebearers. It may be said to represent the Jerusalem which is now above.
As to Judah, all the members of the tribe must be thought of as included in the inhabitants of Jerusalem. For Jerusalem? God was also their God. His mercy was also upon them and Him they served. The blood of the continual burnt offering covered also their sins. Jerusalem was their place of worship. Only they did not dwell in Jerusalem but in the country regions where they would be the first to encounter the enemies.
With a view to the distinction that is made in the text between Jerusalem and Judah, it is correct to say that Jerusalem in the church in its center as it may be seen when assembled with its officebearers about God’s word and testimony for the public worship of His name, and that Judah is the people of God living their lives in the family, state and. society and thereby thrown in every way in contact with the world that lies in darkness.
Let us now once more look closely at what the chiefs of Judah will do. They will say in their heart. This is significant. For from out of the heart are the issues of fife in a spiritual-ethical aspect. Thoughts are from out of the heart, violations, feelings, actions. It is in the heart that a man chooses Christ or Belial, life or death, heaven or hell, depending upon whether the heart he possesses is one of flesh are one of stone. The chiefs of Judah say in their heart. They choose. What they choose is known from what they will say in their heart, namely, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength. What they say is peculiar. It would be understandable were they to say, the Lord is our strength, or, the enemy approaches. We will flee to Jerusalem and seek safety behind its walls. But they will say in their heart, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength. The implications of the saying as one that will rise from out of their heart are clear. Implied in the first place is that the inhabitants of Jerusalem are strong and second, that the chiefs are strong only as arrayed on the side of Jerusalem’s inhabitants. Also this is implied, namely that they will make Jerusalem’s cause their own and as standing shoulder to shoulder with Jerusalem’s inhabitants fight the good fight of faith, proclaim, confess and practice the Gospel of Christ and vindicate it against all heresy.
These are the implications of what the chiefs of Judah and their divisions say and will say in their heart. Others to save their soul and for the sake of their position and name may go over to the side of the enemy, but not so these chiefs. On the contrary they say to Jerusalem’s inhabitants, your people shall be our people and your God our God. What it all means is that the chiefs of Judah choose Jerusalem and its inhabitants and reject the world.
Apparently an absurd choice. For judging from the things that are seen, Jerusalem is weak. This was particularly true of Jerusalem at, the time of the utterance of this prophecy. It was still a long ways from having recovered from the great injury that had been done the city by the Chaldeans, the world power by which the, tribe of Judah had been transplanted to Babylon. Its population was small. Its palaces were still in ruins. It had no army. Certainly there were no chariots and horses found there. It was under the dominion of Persia and all the nations round about were hostile: It was a far cry from this Jerusalem and the Jerusalem of David’s and Solomon’s day. And according to the voice of prophecy all the nations of the earth would one day be gathered against it. And it is no different with the church today. She is a little flock surrounded by wolves: This is the visible Jerusalem of today. Its inhabitants see their calling, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble are called. The city today is completely without physical defenses. Owing to the fact that its warfare is spiritual, its only weapon of defense is the sword of the Spirit which is the Word of God.
Yet the choice of Judah’s chiefs is anything but foolish. It is a wise choice, a choice of true wisdom. For it is a choice that is the expression of a living faith in Jehovah of Hosts, Israel’s God. As has already been explained, these chiefs put all their confidence alone in Israel’s God. For they do not say in their hearts, the inhabitants of Jerusalem are my strength, and put the period here. They add the words that make what they say in their hearts right—the words, In Jehovah of Hosts their God. It is in Kim that they believe. It is His promises that they hold and by which they are living—the promises contained in this section and that can be summed up in, that one word of Christ, “Upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” Positively expressed, hell shall be overcome by it. What a remarkable thing faith is—the redeeming faith of God’s people, of these chiefs of Judah. It sees Him the invisible God arid endures. It cleaves to promises that, judging from things seen are impossible of fulfillment, promises that apparently are always being slain by these seen things. How can the church survive with all the nations of the earth gathered against her? How Can Christ’s little flock overcome an opposition so vast? It does survive. It has overcome. For the inhabitants of Jerusalem are strong. For their faith does not originate with them. It is given them of God. They are not their own, but they belong to Christ Jesus who by His blood blotted out all their sins and delivered them from the power of the devil. They are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus. All their fruit is of Him. He has engraved them in the palms of His hand. They were ever before Him. Such is here the teaching of our prophet. For let us take notice, “The chiefs of Judah shall say in their heart . . .” So reads the text here. Observe the tense of the verb. It is future, “Shall say in their heart . . . .” The Lord is here telling His people what they shall say in their heart. That He knows can have but one reason. It is He that will put what they will say in their mind and write it in their heart. What can this mean but that all their salvation is of Him. How then can they perish through the loss of the life that was once given them? They cannot. How can He not do all that He said—make Jerusalem a cup of reeling and a burdensome stone for all the people, smite the forces of the enemy with madness? He can certainly. In a word, He can, and will and shall save His people to the uttermost. For He is, Jehovah, the I am, the eternal and unchangeable God, faithful to His promises. The Lord of hosts is He, the God of all the earth. There is none else beside him.
6. Let all the nations of the earth gather against His people. They will do so only to their own destruction. For in that day He will make the chiefs of Judah as a pan of fire among sticks of wood, and as a torch of fire in a sheaf. And they shall devour on the right hand and on the left, all the people around. And Jerusalem shall yet sit in her own place in Jerusalem. Through this imagery the Lord promises deliverance and overwhelming victory to be wrought of Him not apart from but through His people. Judah will utterly destroy the hostile nations as fire devours wood or dry leaves. The promise was centrally fulfilled by Christ. By His suffering and death on the cross he vanquished every foe. By His atonement Christ merited the destruction of the wicked. Prophecy affects it. For being the Word of God it always accomplishes what it says. By the mercy of God the chiefs of Judah—God’s believing people—make His prophecy their own. It is also true of them therefore that in the imagery of the text they “devour all the people round about,” yet not they but the Word of prophecy that He makes to dwell richly in them and that by His grace He empowers them to proclaim. As what Christ wills and also works—the salvation of Zion through the overthrow of the world powers—His people also will and proclaim, it may be truly said of them that they reign with Christ. Let us take notice how that here again the text brings out that all credit is due to God alone. “In that day I will make the chiefs of Judah a pan. . . .” So the text reads. And let us observe, too, that the only abiding entity is Jerusalem, the holy city, the kingdom of Christ. For when, according to the text, the hostile nations shall have been devoured, the world and all that is of the world shall have passed permanently away, Jerusalem shall yet sit in her own place in Jerusalem. In Christ the church is immovable and imperishable. With a view to the distinction that is here drawn between Jerusalem and Jerusalem, it may be said that the first reference is to the inhabitants of the holy city and the second to the city as the place of abode of God’s people. Ultimately the place of abode will be the new earth and the inhabitants the church in glory.