Then I looked up – and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand! I asked, ‘Where are you going?’ He answered me, ‘To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.’ Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: ‘Run, tell that young man, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the LORD, “and I will be its glory within. Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the LORD, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the LORD. “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon! For this is what the LORD Almighty says: ‘After he has honoured me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you – for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye – I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me. Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,’ declares the LORD. ‘Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the LORD, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.’
Zechariah 2:1-13

Again Zechariah looks up. That same action has been reported as taking place three verses earlier. Then he’d also lifted up his head. So Zechariah, described as a ‘young man’ (v.3) is receiving one word from God after another. They are overwhelming him, and so his head hangs down as he’s trying to come to terms with one vision, and then another. What about ourselves? Are we taking in our stride these visions of horsemen and the deep, and four horns attacking and four craftsmen destroying? Are we shrugging? Are we saying, “Make it simple and happy and brief, pastor!”? Or do we enter into the vision from God and a result is that our heads hang down. Do we say, “I’ll never go to a church where the pastor occasionally makes my head droop?” That seems to me to be a very superficial kind of Christianity. When once Jesus’ disciples heard him preach they said, “Who then can be saved?” And Jesus said, “What’s impossible with men is possible with God.” Or can I ask you whether you have ever looked up as Zecariah did. In other words you have sat in the pew for years and the word of God has gone in one ear and out the other until one blessed day when you were startled, and paid attention, and listened and looked with growing expectation to what you were hearing and seeing. There is a looking down because of guilt, and a looking up in expectation of grace.

Now Zechariah is disturbed again; he lifts up his head as he hears someone walking towards him. It’s a man with a measuring line in his hand. That measuring line has actually been mentioned five verses earlier (Zech. 1:16), but now the measurer himself appears, and almost all the conversation in this chapter comes from this man. The man turns out to be also the interpreting angel and the Lord himself. Zechariah says a mere four words; “Where are you going?” (v.2), that is all, and the rest of this chapter is the pre-incarnate Lord Christ telling Zechariah what’s going on.


Zechariah doesn’t see some subordinate surveyor gathering information. It’s the Lord himself engaged in a sovereign work of construction who is before him. “I will build my church,” says the same Lord now incarnate and exalted. Jesus Christ builds up his people. He lays a foundation of reconciliation to God for them by accomplishing his great atonement on Calvary. He has redeemed them; they are his; they are no longer their own; he has bought them by his agony, enduring the wrath of a sin-hating God in their very place. That is the foundation Christ has established for their eternal relationship with himself. He’s also measured their number and it is vast; it is more than anyone can count but his knowledge of them is comprehensive. He knows the very hairs on their heads. He has also measured out their guilt and condemnation and has removed every molecule of their liability from them. He has taken responsibility for it himself. Then he has measured out all they will need to live a God-pleasing life in this world, and he has bought all that for them and gives it to them from one Lord’s Day to another. Then he has measured out all their glory and he has obtained all that for them as well. He has discovered just how wide and how deep and how long are all the needs of his people both in this world and also in the world to come. The measurer also guarantees all of that for them. He is building his church for eternity.

We are told that this Son of Man had his measuring line to find out, or better to “see” certain dimensions. It is the word that is found in Genesis one when God saw step by step the work of creation and declared that it was good. God later measured Job if he would dare to challenge his Creator, “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone?” (Job 38:4-6). Isaiah tells us that God measured out the heavens with the span, and in Job we are told that he meted out the waters and the land by measure. The Measurer has authority being our Creator and the Creator of our cosmos to be measuring our lives. Our mouths are stopped as we witness what he does.

Maybe there is that backward look here in Zechariah as the Lord the Measurer looks to see whether the church comes up to his standards. In creation the Lord saw that everything was as he wanted it, day after day. So the Lord visits each congregation day after day, and what he is doing is to give us a check-up, like a Doctor’s visit checking our blood pressure and the rate of our heart-beats. So the Lord is measuring our love and obedience and righteousness. You think of the seven churches in Asia Minor and how the Lord was evaluating the life of each congregation, measuring their leadership, their spirituality, their ardour, their knowledge, how they were handling their enemies and the heretics in their midst and so on. He visits those churches to see how things are with them, and with most things he can say, “That’s good!” but there is always room for improvement. He is building us up in every grace and virtue. The work of sanctifying us is his.

So today the Lord who promises to be with us whenever we gather in his name is not with us like the national flag or the national anthem is with men, to be seen by men or sung by men to cheer them up. Rather, he is with us like the mechanic giving our car a Ministry of Transport test. He has come here today with the measuring line in his hand and he’s measuring us by his will for every Christian – what we know so well from the Bible. “How has it been for you this year? How are you doing?” He is measuring how is your love for your neighbour and your love for your enemy and especially your love for God. What’s its temperature? Is it warmer? Are you loving one another with pure hearts fervently? Are you growing in your basic grasp of the Bible? Do you know of the Old Testament and the New Testament and do you know it experientially as well as intellectually? So Zechariah sees the Creator-Lord and he is engaged in the re-creation of the heavens and the earth as their architect and the almighty constructor of the heavenly Jerusalem and the new cosmos. Are you going to be a new man and a new woman ready for that glory? He is measuring your preparedness for that.


We read in our text this next vision that Zechariah the young man is given, “Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,” declares the LORD, “and I will be its glory within” (vv.4&5). Zechariah was being told of the extraordinary growth of Jerusalem. It has been abandoned, desolate and ruined for seventy years, the inhabitation of scorpions and jackals. Its best stones have been loaded on wagons and taken to build farm-houses and dwellings in the surrounding country. Israel has returned and they have set up accommodation for themselves, and farmed and laboured and all the time have sought to repair the walls and the gates to give themselves security from the marauders. They are low in spirits; the work is advancing at snail’s pace and their fellow countrymen in Babylon are not coming to join them. They are stagnating in Jerusalem and discouraged, and then this promise was preached to them. “God has given me a vision of the future of this city,” preached Zechariah, and they pricked up their ears, “It is of a city without walls.” “A city without walls, but that is our problem. We have no protection from our enemies. We must have protection. What does that mean? Are we always going to be vulnerable and exposed? It this word from God speaking of a new divine judgment upon us?” No, the very reverse. Jerusalem will become so enormous that any army, even the mightiest Babylonian army will think twice of attacking it. The city would completely absorb the attack. It does not need walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. It does not need walls because the Mighty God is protecting it; “I myself will be a wall of fire around it, declares the Lord.”

Have you seen pictures of a wall of fire? Have you seen Australian firemen this week tackling tinder dry forests ablaze with furious high flames, and a tsunami of fire leaping from tree to tree fanned by strong winds, devastating all that stand in its path? God will be a wall of fire around his people! Think twice Egypt! Consider your plans Assyria! Babylonian generals stop in your tracks! Your men are brave but what chance have they against a wall of fire? None whatsoever! Our God, says the New Testament, is a consuming fire. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. He delights to surround every soul for whom he died. They will not fall into hell. Yes, they must be faithful even unto death and the martyr will receive a crown of life in the great Day, and so be steadfast and unmovable and always abound in the work of the Lord, though there is little support from outside, and though our enemies grumble and threaten us. The Lord of hosts is with us! The God of Jacob is our refuge. Christ’s sheep shall never perish. None shall break through the wall of fire. It is impenetrable! But we must also look at those walls in this way, that in Revelation 21 the walls that surround heaven are not symbolic of the great defence of that place from attack. No. They are the walls of separation of those within who are holy unto the Lord, from those who are outside whose names are not written in the Lamb’s book of Life. They are a sanctifying boundary. They hark back to Eden and the fiery swords turning every way, and guarding the access to the tree of life, preventing rebellious man having untrammeled access to the living God.

Then the Measurer adds this affirmation: not only will he be the protecting ring of fire round and round and round his people, he also claims, “I will be its glory within” (v.5). Moses came into contact with the glory of God when drawn into Jehovah’s presence on Mount Sinai. He came back from that time in the glory with his facing shining so brightly that the people were virtually blinded by a sight of him. In fact in order for his elders to get near him and carry on some conversation with him he had to put over his head a veil to hide his glory. That was merely reflected glory. What will be naked flame of the glory of God be like? We know that the angels have to cover their eyes as they behold it. That glory will be in the midst of his people and the atonement of Jesus Christ will prepare all of us, the weakest of us, the youngest lamb in God’s flock, the one with the most horrendous past is fit through Christ, to dwell in the midst of the glory of God, just as the three young men cast into the burning fiery furnace did not have a hair singed or the smell of burning upon them. They waled in the flames with one who looked like the Son of Man. We shall dwell with the saints in the unoriginated light of God where there is no darkness at all. God around us as a wall of fire and God in all his glory in our midst. That was the vision of Jerusalem Zechariah was given, and also the people through his preaching, at a time when they were living amidst the unprotected ruins of the destroyed city of Jerusalem. “It will not always be like this” he said as he preached of the coming glory. There will be complete protection without and divine glory within. There will be great expansion, pictured to Zechariah’s congregation in terms of vast herds of livestock and billions of people.

That is the Old Testament picture of the mighty growth of the people of God, a vast Jerusalem with walls of salvation surrounding her and the glory of God not just in the Holy of Holies but filling the city. The people of God must be gripped with this word. The future is as glorious for them as the covenant promises of God, and so they must work in confidence. Think of Isaiah’s exhortation to the people, after declaring in Isaiah 53 of the triumphs of the suffering Servant and the work of God prospering in his hands as he preaches in Isaiah 54, “Enlarge the place of your tent, stretch your tent curtains wide, do not hold back; lengthen your cords, strengthen your stakes. For you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will dispossess nations and settle in their desolate cities” (Isa. 54:2&3). You understand that an eschatology of hope fires us to be always abounding in the work of the Lord knowing that it’s not going to be in vain.

But now we have to flood this picture with the prophecies of the New Testament. The kingdom of God is like a planted mustard seed, the smallest of seeds, but one that will grow so that it becomes the greatest of trees sheltering in its branches the birds that represent the nations of the world. The promise God made to Abraham was that all the nations of the world are going to be blessed by the one who will come in his line, the Messiah, and that the people of God will be like the sands on the seashore in numbers. The early missionaries in Acts declare, “God has opened the door of faith unto the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27) and that door is still open wide. It is open here today for you to enter into the peace of God through Jesus Christ. Come it is open! Many will come; multitudes have been given by the Father to the Son and they will come. The picture in Revelation is of a vast company more than anyone can number and they fill a new heavens and a new earth. That speaks of the missionary expansion of the church, influencing the nations of the earth so that the world will be filled with the glory of God as the waters cover the sea. That is the hope we have that drives us on. God has loved this world and given his Son to redeem this world he made. It is not going to be the scene of Satan’s triumph but the triumph of the Lamb that was slain.

Then you have the final picture of the glory that is to come. The book of Revelation gives us another vision of the glory that awaits us. You know the science fiction picture of a vast space ship, like a huge asteroid, a hundred miles in diameter, and it is descending slowly and quietly upon the terrified earth, international news channels concentrating on it, the inhabitants of the world full of fear wondering what the end of this will be, men’s hearts failing within them. Keep that fantasy in mind and then you read the reality of what John saw recorded in Revelation chapter 21; “I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God . . . and I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be their God” (Rev. 21:2&3). What was the original city of God at the first creation, man and God walking together, man working the world to God’s glory, will finally be consummated. The mandate given to our first parents to replenish the earth and subdue it will be realized. The Glory will no longer be a local focus, a town at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, rather it will fill the cosmos. There will be the recreation and regeneration of all things.

We are being told that at the end of time the separation of heaven and earth will be ended. When Christ returns he brings heaven with him; he doesn’t take us to heaven, he brings heaven to earth. He brings the people of God with him; he brings them as citizens of Zion the city of our God. They don’t come with wings like a squadron of individual angels; they come as members of the heavenly Jerusalem as it comes down to earth. God our eternal protection and God our ever present glory.


So what is the application of these visions – the measuring Messiah planning the building of  Jerusalem and the city’s consequent extraordinary growth – for the people Zechariah was preaching to in their ruined town, and to us in the spiritual ruins of a formerly blessed Principality? Six words. Which of them will touch you most?

i] Come to the Lord. To all those staying in Babylon, God and the prophet say, “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north!” (v.6). Don’t be on the losing side! Many Jews had the most thoughtful reasons for staying in Babylon. They all began to make excuses. It was such a long journey. They were not enjoying good health. Their businesses were now prospering. They had just invested in a new farm. Their wife as pregnant; their daughter was about to get married, and so on, but God invites and commands them, “Come!” In fact he says, “Come! Come!” He even urges them to flee from the land of the north. Can’t God keep you on the long journey? Can’t he provide for you and protect you? Can’t he produce a better bridegroom for your daughter? The Lord who commands is the Lord who provides. Will you resist a beseeching and pleading God? Here is a God who doesn’t shrug. He doesn’t say, “Well, they’ve thought it out and that is their choice.” Here is a God who doesn’t lightly take no for an answer, and so he pleads and entreats as he does with every one of you today who is not yet a Christ. “Come to me,” says God. It is his command and it is his pleading voice you hear.

Don’t stay in your Babylon. Would you stay in Sodom and Gomorrah knowing that fires are going to fall upon those dark places and consume them? This is the God whose judgments did not spare your fathers. He is the one who is speaking here. He is responsible for scattering you to the four winds of heaven when you persisted in worshipping Baals and idols. It was this God who gave strength to your enemies when you were taken in exile. He acknowledges it. He says, “I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven, declares the Lord” (v.6). If God did that to you whom he’d known and loved and chosen then you can guarantee that certainly his enemies won’t be ignored. So once again we find him pleading with the Jews to return to Jerusalem from Babylon “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!” (v.7). There are no greater constraints given to the church than the beseeching that is found in the word of God. God does not say, “If that’s what you want then what more can I say?” He is a pleading compassionate God, “Turn ye, turn ye, why will you die? I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked . . . Look unto me and be ye saved all the ends of the earth for I am God and there is none else . . . God commands all men everywhere to repent . . . The Spirit and the bride say ‘Come’  . . .  All day long I stretch forth my hands to a gainsaying and disobedient generation . . . Flee from the wrath to come . . . Escape you who live in Babylon . . .”  Zechariah preached that same word that he’d received from God as though God was beseeching men by him. Come to God, just as you are, now. Gadsby wrote,

What sweet invitations the Gospel contains
To men heavy laden with bondage and chains;
It welcomes the weary to come and be blessed
With ease from their burdens, in Jesus to rest.

ii] There is hope in none other. Let’s be settled one this. There’s not another Jesus. There is none other name under heaven given amongst men whereby we must be saved. God has sent the man on the red horse, and he has sent the four craftsmen and he has sent the man with the measuring line. Listen to them. There is no one else who can help. If you defy then God himself says, “I will raise my hand against you, and your slaves will plunder you.” Are you listening, because when it happens you won’t be able to say, “Nobody ever told us.”? God does not intend to spare the nations that plundered Jerusalem taking all that was valuable to their own lands. God says that when they took young boys and girls into slavery, “They were touching the apple of my eye” (v.8), and in the Hebrew it is literally, “the little man of my eye.” Christians who approach God and speak to him are reflected in the eyes of God as a little person. How hard to tolerate even an optometrist examining your eyes? Don’t you feel that that is the most tender part of your body? That is how sensitive God is about any who touch the little man of his eye. “I’ll raise my hand up against them to strike them,” says God. “Your own slaves whom you have mistreated will rise up against you and they will plunder you as you once plundered Israel” (v.9). There is no possibility of escape if you neglect this great salvation. That is the second word from God to you.

iii] Rejoice in the Lord always. If you defy the Lord you face an appallingly unhappy future. And finally lying before you is an encounter with the God you have chosen to ignore. God comes to offer you joy unspeakable. He is the God of hope who fills all who trust in him with joy and peace. Isn’t that wonderful? Little wonder he is exhorting you, “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion, for I am coming, and I will live among you, declares the Lord” (v.10). Here we see the disconsolate people of God groaning in Jerusalem. Why are they morose? One woman is missing her sisters back in Babylon; a boy grieves over the loss of friends; he has left behind friends he grew up with, leaders he much respected. They are poorer in Jerusalem than when they lived in Babylon. They’ve lost so much and feel like the rump of a proud people, and there’s no news of other Jews leaving Babylon and joining them in the year ahead. But God speaks and God says, “I am coming”, and not just for a brief visit. “I will live among you.” The Lord has declared it. “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Then we may smile at all our foes, if God is in our midst, we will be safe. Aren’t we rejoicing that the risen Jesus is with us today? You may not have your dear husband, your beautiful wife, you loving parents, but you have him living with you day after day, making all things work together for your good. Rejoice in the Lord for he comes and lives amongst us. That is God’s word for you.

iv] The future is bright with his blessing. What lies before us is the world-wide expansion of the gospel church. That is absolutely guaranteed. What we are seeing in China and Korea and Zambia and Brazil is but a foretaste of the world-wide spread of the gospel. God says, “Many nations will be joined with the LORD in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you” (v.11). The people who heard Zechariah could scarcely believe that the future was going to be like that, that one day “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya near Cyrene; visitors from Rome (both Jews and converts to Judaism); Cretans and Arabs would hear men declaring the wonders of God in their own tongues!” And yet on the Day of Pentecost that is exactly what they did hear. The word of God to Zechariah and through Zechariah to this remnant who had returned to the loneliness and hardship of ruined Jerusalem were told of an extraordinary turn around, that the nations who now were so contemptible of them and their God would hear of his wonders in their own tongues and believe upon him. I have just read to you from Acts chapter two which describes the conversion of 3,000 men from all the surrounding nations on the Day of Pentecost. It was the morning glory of the church of those loving the Messiah who had finally come. They became his people; they were joined to the Lord in that day as Zechariah told the people and God took up his residence in their hearts. Now don’t you believe the Bible? Don’t you believe that God came to Zechariah and spoke to him and sent him to preach his word to the nations of the world with a message of the glorious spread of the kingdom of God.

v] The Lord restores us. The one who rejected his people and sent them into Babylonian captivity has mercy on them and restores them again. Hear these words of forgiveness; “The LORD will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem” (v.12). You feel that the past years of your life have been lived under the cosh of God for your wild defiance of him. Can there be any hope for you? Are you destined to be a man in an iron cage for the rest of your days? God is telling you to come, to flee to him, to escape from the powers that have gripped you. He will take you as his portion and his choice. You see a husband in the marriage supper sitting next to his dear bride, and he serves her, and he gives her the most delicious dainties, the tenderest cuts of meat, the sweetest grapes, the choicest puddings. That is going to be her portion from now on, the very best, and if you return to the Lord he will receive you as his portion. He does not provide thin gruel, and dry crusts, and mildewed food. God only takes the finest as his portion, and you are that portion. He puts you into Christ and so you are just like him and you are his portion for evermore. Of all the women he could marry the heavenly bridegroom has chosen you. He delivers you from captivity to sin and chooses you as his free sons and daughters. You are his portion and he blesses you for evermore.

vi]Be still before the Lord. Did Zechariah often have conversations with the Lord about the heartaches of life? Did he ask God whether he knew how tough it was to be living in ruined Jerusalem and harassed by their nearby enemies every day. Did God know what it was like to be living on the bread-line and hearing your children crying for food? God had planned and done all this, hadn’t he? He had roused himself from his holy dwelling and summoned these Jews back to Jerusalem in all its dust and poverty. “Do you know what you’ve done?”

Then the Lord would question Zechariah, “So you don’t like what I’m doing?” “No, I don’t.” “You think I’ve made a mistake?” “As a matter of fact, yes I do.” But the Lord never seemed bothered by that. He already knew how Zechariah felt about things. “Do you think I should have asked you for your advice?” “Yes, and if you had, I would have told you to do something different.” “Zechariah, that’s why I didn’t ask you in advance. I already knew how you felt. Just keep this in mind. I did what I did for my own reasons. But I did it without consulting you so that you’d know that I take full responsibility for this little group of people struggling here in Jerusalem. They are my choice and my portion, the apple of my eye.”

That conversation, often repeated, was a great comfort to the soul of Zechariah. He preferred to worship a God who could suddenly and without warning do things that made no sense to him. Only an Almighty God gives and takes life, rides upon the storms, sends prosperity and also trouble, answers our prayers, and sometimes leaves us speechless and confused, all of this without feeling any need to explain himself to us. The mystery of it all ends up building my faith. The end of it all is this; “I must walk by faith trusting in him, not by sight.” Why would I want to worship a God I could fully understand? “How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!” (Romans 11:33).

We choose to worship a God who can suddenly and without warning do things that make no sense to us. Where does all that leave us? The answer is, we’re all of us still hurting. We all have regrets. We are a death-sentenced generation living in a sin-cursed world. We all hurt every day. No one is immune from the sufferings of humanity. We live with pain and sadness every day. There is no escape from that reality. And when we hurt, we have two choices: We can hurt with God, or we can hurt without God.

If you are hurting today you may feel as if you have come to the end of your endurance. I pray that you will hang on to the Lord. If you turn away from him, things can only get worse. During the terrible days of the Boxer Rebellion (1900-1901), when missionaries were being captured and killed, Hudson Taylor went through such an agony of soul that he couldn’t pray. Writing in his journal, he summarized his spiritual condition like this: “I can’t read. I can’t think. I can’t pray. But I can trust.” There will be times when we can’t read the Bible. Sometimes we won’t be able to focus our thoughts on God at all. Often we will not even be able to pray, lying mute and weak in the Intensive Care ward. All you can say is “Jesus . . . Lord Jesus.” But in those moments when we can’t do anything else, we can still trust in the loving purposes of our heavenly Father.

Where do we find God’s final answer to the problem of our suffering? We find the answer hanging on a Roman cross outside the city walls of this city of Jerusalem. There Jesus is dying for the sins of his people. That man on the cross is God’s final answer to all our deepest questions about the suffering we see all around us. Hear me! When we hurt, we have two choices: We can hurt with God, or we can hurt without God. There is no world without hurt because there is no life without love. And the Lord Christ didn’t simply die with us. He died for us. The cross sends a message from God to a rebel world: “I will never stop loving you.” The suffering of the world is great, but the love of Christ is greater still. We cannot escape suffering. It comes to all of us again and again, but we must not stop there. The road continues on from our pain into the arms of Jesus.

When God said to Zechariah, “Be still before the Lord,” he invites us to linger at the foot of the cross. The Son of God roused himself from his holy dwelling to come to earth and die on a cross outside Jerusalem. God’s answer to your pain is not a sermon or a theory or a book you need to read. God’s answer to your pain is a Person. God’s answer is Jesus. Run to the cross. Flee from every other refuge. Escape from every other master and lay hold of the Son of God. Fix your gaze on him whose death has set you free. Embrace him in the midst of your pain. Be still before the Lord for he came to set us free. Amen.

27th October 2013    GEOFF THOMAS