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If I forget you, Jerusalem

The times of Haggai and Zechariah were times of spiritual rebirth for the children of Israel. They were times of renewing of faith, and rededication to the work of God. Times had not always been so favorable for God's people.

Many alive at this time could recall the great destructions which Nebuchadnezzar's armies had accomplished upon the city of Jerusalem and its glorious Temple. And everyone could remember the degradation and misery (or perhaps, for some, the temporary prosperity and consequent distraction from God's Way) which had been their fortune while in captivity in Babylon. Sadly they had asked themselves the question -- "How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?" (Psa 137:4).

But the Jews had not been plagued and distressed in the same way as another nation might have been. The treatment and the purpose were different, for they were -- and are still today -- God's chosen people. God Himself told them (Jer 30:11): "Though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: But I will correct thee IN MEASURE and will not leave thee altogether unpunished."

Why does God trouble His people? Why does He bring trials upon those who profess to serve Him?

Job has answered this question. In Job 23:10, this man -- burdened with poverty, sorrow and disease, is able to say -- "But He (God) knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold."

Paul, in his letter to the Hebrews, presents a clear statement of God's purpose with His children (Heb 12:5): "My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou are rebuked of Him. For whom the Lord loveth He chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom He receiveth. If you endure chastening, God dealeth with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chasteneth not? But if ye be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are ye bastards, and not sons."

And in v 11 he concludes:

"Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them that are exercised thereby."
And God did exercise His people by trials in the land of the enemy. Jeremiah foresaw this in his Lamentation at the fall of Judah, and he asked: "Wherefore doth a living man complain -- a man for the punishment of his sins?"

Israel was this "living man". Every other nation that God ever punished had remained a dead man. God was to make a full end of every nation except Israel.

Jeremiah understood this, and he thanked God for the special position of himself and his fellow Jews. Therefore he cried to everyone who would listen (including us, spiritual Israel):

"Let us search and try our ways, and turn again to the Lord. Let us lift up our hearts with our hands unto God in the heavens" (Lam 3:40,41).
And thus, by the controlling hand of their Father, the children of God were sent into a far nation for 70 years -- years of slavery and hardship in the main part.

But they emerged from Babylon (as they had from the wilderness many years before) as a stronger people -- more ready to listen to God because of their sufferings. The weaker elements had been purged from the people, just as the dross is separated from the pure metals, by the fire-the fire of God's furnace.

The Israel of the kings had constantly rebelled and sought after idols, but the Israel of Zechariah's time now realized very soberly the meaning of the one God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And they learned the lesson exemplified in Psa 137:

"If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning! If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth, if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy!"

Zec 6:9-15 concerns Joshua, the son of Josedec, the High Priest of Israel's return. The prophet Zechariah was commanded to take crowns of silver and gold, and to place them upon the head of Joshua.

This act was to commemorate something of great importance. Our duty and our privilege, is to determine what is signified here. And if we will study these verses in the light of God's Word, we shall find an inspiring and uplifting picture of Jesus Christ and his work -- past, present, and future.

Verse 10 tells us of three men -- Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah -- who came to Jerusalem from Babylon, bringing precious gifts. (In the Septuagint, these three names are translated by the common words which their names signify. Thus we read, in this version, that "chief men, useful men, and men of understanding" came from Babylon, bringing gifts.)

It is easy to see that this verse expresses, for our instruction, the true character of the true Israel. Each of us must leave the darkness and ignorance and wickedness of spiritual "Babylon", and each of us must come to God in understanding, ready to sacrifice our wealth and time in His service: "Ye turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God" (1Th 1:10).

And this must be a continuing renewal of purpose. It must not merely be a single decision made at baptism which can be nullified by later actions. As Paul implies, idolatry is a far wider evil than the simple worship of graven images. And we might add, "Babylon" has far more followers than we might first be willing to admit.

One of the most difficult trials was one which drew very little if any complaint from God's people. This was the temptation of ease and plenty, and many Jews succumbed to this even when others had no effect.

But a few were able to overcome this as well. They had achieved comfort and respect in the land of their sojourning -- in Babylon, the wealthiest and grandest city ever seen in the world, but they gave up their positions there as of no comparison with the things of God. They left behind them friends, and possibly even families, and they came to a devastated land to face the open hostility of the Samaritans, who hindered their work on the Lord's Temple.

These are the same kind of choices which we must make: choices between Babylon and Jerusalem; choices between a life of ease and pleasure-seeking, and a life of patience and faith. Let us pray to God that we may make the right choices and that we may be given the strength to continue in them.


The pilgrims to Israel had brought with them silver and gold which they had gained in the land of their captivity.

Cyrus, the Persian king who had been God's instrument to overthrow Babylon, had issued some decrees concerning the Jews, about 20 years before this time. He had given the Jews permission to return to their land and to rebuild their Temple.

And to aid them in this, he had authorized them to receive gifts of silver and gold, with other goods and beasts, as offerings from their neighbors -- much as Israel had done when leaving Egypt under Moses.
This is the means whereby such men as those of v 10 were able also to bring riches for God's temple. But the credit was not be theirs for bringing the gold and silver. God says:

"The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine, saith the Lord of hosts" (Hag 2:8).
God gave them the gold and the silver: but it was to be used in honoring Him. These precious metals are also representative of other gifts which we receive from God, with which we must also honor Him.

The gold represents a pure faith which is pleasing to Him. It is His desire:

"That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ" (1Pe 1:7).

For this loving attention, we must -- as was Paul -- be thankful to God (2Co 12:10): "Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, reproaches, necessities, persecutions, distress, for Christ's sake: For when I am weak, then am I strong!"

How is it possible to find pleasure in every kind of discomfort and unpleasantness? Only when we learn to see the hand of God in all our affairs, preparing and shaping us:

"We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope; and hope maketh not ashamed" (Rom 5:3,4).
The silver was offered at times by the Jews as a type of sacrifice -- as atonement. In the beginning, under Moses, they were commanded to pay a portion of silver to redeem each one of themselves individually.

But the fact remained as before, that the money was God's in the first place. In other words, God was providing them with the means of redemption. The redemption of their lives was a gift of God, and not gained by their own labors.

Is it not easy to see in this God's provision of a Son through whom He might righteously forgive our sins?

"For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life" (John 3.16).

This silver and this gold were constituents of the crown which Zechariah placed upon Joshua. Joshua is a representative of Jesus Christ, and the events concerning him as recorded by Zechariah are prophetic of our Saviour. Joshua was a priest who succeeded in his work of leading the people of God in building God's temple. Therefore he received a crown -- but a crown reserved only to be worn by kings. We can see in this transaction a preview of the time when Jesus, our High Priest, will become King as well.

And at this time, we are assured, we shall have the opportunity to become "kings and priests" also (Rev 5:9). Our promotion to such an estate will be upon the principles which this silver and gold represent: the silver being the redemption which is in Christ Jesus by the mercy of God, and the gold the proving of our professed faith by our character and actions (1Pe 1:7).

In the New Testament, different crowns figure very prominently; but they are all in truth the same crown. In the consideration of these crowns we can see the hand of God working through His Son to help us in attaining to His Kingdom. The victory of Christ over sin has opened for us the way of life:

"Be though faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of Life" (Rev 2:10).
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried he shall receive the crown of Life which the Lord hath promised to them that love Him" (James 1:12).
In Jesus Christ we have an Advocate with the Father, a man who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and an intercessor through whom we may pray to our Father. It is because of this that we may be accounted righteous before God-

"Henceforth there is laid up for me a crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, shall give me at that day. And not to me only, but unto all them also that love his appearing" (2Ti 4:8).
Thus, only through Christ can we attain to a glorious immortality:

"And when the Chief Shepherd shall appear, ye shall receive a crown of glory that fadeth not away" (1Pe 5:4)
A Crown of Life, a Crown of Righteousness and a Crown of Glory -- here is the reward set before us: an immortal life based upon righteous principles, and the privilege of serving with Christ as kings and priests in the kingdom which he will establish upon the earth -- a Kingdom that will break in pieces and consume all the Babylons and Persias and Russias and Americas of this present time.

Zechariah has now placed this symbolic crown upon the head of the priest-king. Now he recites words which can apply in the fullest sense to only one person, Christ:

"Behold the man whose name is the Branch. And he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the Temple of the Lord. Even he shall build the Temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne" (Zec 6:12,13).
In v 14 we see that this crown was to be placed in the new Temple (which at this time was still under construction) for a memorial. This was evidently done as God had commanded. But there still remains a greater fulfillment of this instruction, which will be realized in the near future. When the people in that time saw the small and insignificant Temple of the Jews as it was being built, many wept and felt discouraged that it was so meager in comparison to the grandeur of Solomon's destroyed Temple. But God does not look upon the outward appearance: He rejoices in an inward frame of mind which is directed toward Him.

Thus He blessed the efforts of the faithful and He spoke reassuringly of another Temple in the distant future:

"And I will shake the nations, and the desire of all nations shall come; and I will fill this House [that is, the future Temple] with glory, saith the Lord of Hosts. The glory of this latter House shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of Hosts, and in this place will I give peace" (Hag 2:7).
This is the Temple and the Age to which Zechariah's thoughts are pointing. It is the one to which Christ referred --

"My Father's House... a House of Prayer for all nations."
In this Temple will be placed the true crowns -- Christ and the Saints -- a righteous, immortal body of the redeemed ones who have come faithfully through trials to bear the glory of their Father. We live in a time when little can be done on behalf of the Truth. But we are told not be "despise the day of small things." We must always work to the limit of our opportunities, undeterred by present difficulties -- even with no immediate return on our labors -- in anticipation of this glorious Kingdom Age.

"They that are far off shall come and build in the Temple of the Lord" (v 15).
This is the promise of all the prophets, and of Christ himself: a world of peace; its people enjoying the blessings of God's Kingdom, and following the way of Truth, as taught by the Saints. Then they will say to one another --

"Let us go speedily to pray before the Lord, and to seek the Lord of Hosts. Yea, many people and strong nations shall come to seek the Lord of Hosts in Jerusalem, and to pray before the Lord" (Zec 8:21,22).
Brethren and sisters, this is certainly a glorious picture that we find in God's Word. At times it seems almost beyond belief that it can happen. But we have God's guarantee that it will happen, as Zechariah says:

"And this shall come to pass if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord."
God's promises will come to pass. They are as certain as the sun and the moon in their courses. But the question for us to consider especially is whether or not they will come to pass for us. Look at the alternative:

"Depart from me, ye workers of iniquity..."
"Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom."
The choice is ours. Shall we remain in a comfortable but wicked "Babylon", OR shall we make the hard and perilous journey and bring our gifts to the Lord in Jerusalem? Let us -- "Diligently obey the voice of the Lord our God."
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