Jerusalem, the metropolitan city of the millennial earth: the center
Soul-entrancing have been the visions that have passed before the eye of the prophet, but it is now the Spirit of Christ in the prophet (1 Pet. 1:11) who speaks, and as He in resurrection-joy leads the singing of His people, so here He directs their longings. That same Spirit, indwelling us, directs our desires, and gives expression to them in "groanings that cannot be uttered" (Rom. 8:26).
1: For the sake of mount Zion, I'll ne'er hold my peace,We have heard the gospel preached to Israel; shall it be "mixed with faith" in the hearers? If it be, then it will awaken the keenest longings for the actual fulfilment of the promises as to Zion's glory. The very purpose of the visions has been to awaken such thirsting as only their fulfilment can satisfy. It is thus—on the same principle—that God ever works in men. Glorious things were spoken of that land that flowed with abundance; its hills and vales, its fountains and rills, its stones of iron and brass-filled mounts—all were made to pass before the people brought out of bondage. Would they spring eagerly to grasp the prize? Alas, it was not mixed with faith in them that heard, and two only of all the mass of adults ever saw that fair scene (Heb. 4:2).
Look at poor Job; a dark, gloomy, dense cloud overhangs him. But a beam of light surprises him and, for a time at least, he sees God, not against but for him, and in that clear light he looks afar into the future when his Redeemer shall stand—the Last—upon the earth and from his flesh he shall see God (Job 19). That vision closes with: "My reins faint with longing for that day."2
Hearken again, and give closer attention, for we are personally interested here: "And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes: and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away. And He that sat on the throne said, Behold, I make all things new. . . . These words are true and faithful." Do we believe them? Do we mix them with faith? Then shall we thirst for their fulfilment, and thirsting, we may hear this word: "I will give to him that is athirst of the water of life freely." Thirst, longing, desire is the necessary prerequisite of salvation, not only in its beginnings, but to the very end!
So here the Spirit of Christ says, O rest not content till what we have seen in vision becomes an actuality, and all the nations of the earth shall see in Jerusalem's glory that she is now at last counted righteous by her God; for here the very word "righteousness" is parallel and equivalent to "salvation," as indeed it often is in the Old Testament; the righteousness shines as the daylight, the salvation as a night illumination. How beautiful shall Jerusalem be then! Jehovah holds her in his hand as a king may admire the crown that he takes in his hand for that purpose, and that beauty and glory must surely have another name than "Forsaken" or "Desolate"—these must be changed to "Delightful," and "Married," for she has a Protector now who loves her with an everlasting love. There is no "as" at the beginning of verse 5, but the force of the simile is strengthened rather than not by the omission; a young man's affection forces him to its object, equally naturally thy children will be drawn to thee with a love, to which nothing can compare save the first fresh love of a young man for his bride. And it is well to note that it is only the tender affection of that bridal love that is in view; for this alone would be fitting in the words, "Thy children shall marry thee." The young bridegroom has gained, and joys in, the beauty of his bride. Thy children shall gain their beloved city and rejoice in its beauty.
6: O Salem, I've placed a watch on thy walls,Again Israel's Messiah speaks, and so identified are His desires with the full accomplishment of Jerusalem's glory that He appoints watchmen on her walls, not only to oversee and guard the beloved city, but neither to rest themselves nor, by their importunate appealings, to give Jehovah rest till He brings the word of the prophetic vision to its perfect fulfilment. Jerusalem is restored to Jehovah's favor; her walls are again rebuilt, but still she has not reached the perfection of her destiny, nor until she has, must she rest, nor (and this is surely a marvelous expression to be suggested in the inspired Word) permit her Lord to rest!
He loves such importunity that, when assured of His mind, will not accept "no" for an answer, nor take silence as a refusal.
Does this then mean that if we only pray long enough, we may obtain anything that we may desire? Most people would probably refuse this; and say surely it must have the limitation of being in accord with His will, not our fickle desire. But even granting this, must we not guard it still further? For this would make us to be real beneficent distributors of blessings whether for ourselves or for others, and God so hard to move that only the utmost importunity, the most strenuous pressure of our petitions could change His attitude. He does not long to bless, it is we who are the real source of good. It only needs to be thus stated to be instantly rejected by every true child of God. We feel that it is nothing less than blasphemy, and yet is it not the way that the matter is commonly put? Does not this scripture, "Give Him no rest," teach it? And would not the parable of the unjust judge favor such a thought? Alas, people press that parable till they actually make it teach that God is Himself the unjust judge, or has the same callous disposition man-ward. I have read that one mighty in prayer used to argue it out syllogistically thus: "I desire the eternal salvation of an individual. I am told in the Scripture that God 'will have all men to be saved' (1 Tim. 2:4), therefore He would have that man to be saved, so I know that I am desiring what He wills; and, 'If we ask anything according to His will He heareth us: and if we know that He heareth us whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him' (1 John 5:14, 15), SO I know that my prayer will result eventually in the salvation of that individual, even if I have to pray fifty years for it, as in some cases I have." That sounds perfectly logical, and yet who does not feel somewhat uneasy even in reading it? For we say: "Why limit your prayers to one, or even a few? The Scripture says 'all men.' Why not then pray persistently and feel sure that all men will be eventually saved, and not one of all mankind ever be lost, since you have been told that that is the will of God? And are you not seriously at fault if you do not grasp and plead thus confidently for all men?"
It is really, while apparently logical, a distortion of the Scripture, however innocently and even piously done. The word in Timothy simply tells us of the disposition of God to man—what is His wish. It does not speak of His eternal purpose, or His counsels, which must be irresistibly carried out, but of His beneficent attitude man-ward.
Has God then purposed and willed men to be lost? How carefully that is negatived, not only here but by 2 Peter 3:9: "The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing3 that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." The apparently logical argument mentioned leaves out a most important factor: the human will; this Scripture never does. Was it because our Lord was not willing to give life, that those Jews lacked it? Nay. "Ye will not come to Me that ye might have life" (John 5:40) is His faithful and true word. Is one saved? It is entirely of God's grace. Is one lost? It is entirely of his own will. The human will must ever be taken into account, and never must we place the God of all grace, whose very name is Love, in the position of being the unwilling One, and we the willing.
Here God has distinctly made it clear that His purpose is to bring Jerusalem to the place of metropolitan glory; then, cries Messiah, let us place the foot of our faith on that sure promise, and beseech Him to do what He has told us it is His purpose to do; for thus He admits us men into a partnership with Himself in the work of blessing. Our Lord (the Express Image of His Person as He is) said: "Pray ye therefore the lord of the harvest that he would send forth laborers into his harvest" (Luke 10:2), as if the gathering in of the sheaves were not the very strongest desire of the farmer himself, and he needed to be importuned—"given no rest"—to save his own crops! It is nothing but God's gracious thoughtfulness and love for man, as if He said: "I want your companionship, your partnership, in this happy work; and there is not one of you that cannot ask Me to send out laborers into the world-harvest field. That is not a matter of gift or discriminative ability, but open to all, but when I hear one asking that, I shall know whom to send." Let us be careful not so to distort prayer that we, however unintentionally, make the salvation of sinners to depend on our winning over to mercy an unwilling or indifferent God, and ignore entirely the power of the human will.
Verses 7 to 9 are too clear to need comment.
10: Go forth! Go forth through the wide-opened gates!Here again we have an illustration of that basic truth that earth ever provides symbols of heaven, the seen being pictures of the unseen. In this way Israel, the elect nation of God on the earth, provides pictures of the heavenly people. Thus in the repeated, "Go forth! Go forth through the gates," it is literal Babylon whose gates open to let the captive Israelites go free. Then their return to their own city is made easy by that "high-way" that shall make the journey homeward a path of triumph. Literal as all this is, it still affords the picture that affects us.
Quite as surely as Israel was subject to Babylon, so we, even this very day, are in subjection to that "Confusion" of which the very name Babylon speaks. Is there no confusion in Christendom? Out of that confusion the Lord is ever calling His people, although their complete deliverance will await that gathering shout of 1 Thess. 4:16, when indeed a very high-way will be ours, for the clouds of heaven shall be our chariots to take us to His Presence.
If we agree with those who hear in these stirring words a call to the captives in Babylon to flee from that literal city, yet reason revolts from being satisfied with the escape of about 40,000, under Ezra and Nehemiah, definitely fulfilling such a series of glorious prophecies as in these few verses.
All this divinely recorded history has its deeper meaning beneath the surface, and the ancient literal Babylon, and the deliverance from it, become a foreshadowing of eternal verities, both for us on whom the ends of the ages are come, and for Israel.
also foreshadows another earthly fulfilment when the restored Jerusalem
shall attract her children from earth's remotest bounds; and the
Gentiles shall at length own that that is indeed the favored nation,
the one that is truly "holy," amid all those on earth. Once again, too,
here we have that figure of a banner raised aloft so that all eyes are
turned to it; for what, of all the events of history, could so win the
rapt attention of earth's inhabitants as Jesus the Lord enthroned in
Jerusalem, and His Jewish people flocking to Him, the nations owning
that this is as life from the dead for Israel, and for the earth
itself, its "regeneration." But let no one think that this prophecy is
being fulfilled today; for unbelief cannot attract this tender delight
The words should either all be in Hebrew, or all translated—they mean
in the order given: "Forsaken," "Desolate," "My delight in her," and
2 As the last clause of verse 27 should read.
3 The word here is boulomai, which is stronger than the thelo of 1 Tim. 2:3.
4 This word means, "Sought out," but as it is a title, and we have adopted the Hebrew in verse 4, it seems only consistent to do so here.