Communion, Work, and Encouragement.

Zechariah 3, 4.

The history of the remnant returned from Babylon has peculiar interest; and suggesting much that is so important for guidance, it cannot be considered without profit by those who would understand its typical bearing upon ourselves, inasmuch as it is the same grace which watched over, encouraged, and bore with that backsliding company then (Hag. 1:5-11), which those conscious of failure now need to know as their only resource, whilst in shamefacedness they are bowed down under a sense of the reality and magnitude of their failure. (See Dan. 9:20.)

Glancing backward for a little, time was when in Israel's day the nation answered to the twelve loaves on the table of showbread; but that state of things ceased, the nation divided - Israel, beginning with idolatry, ended with judgment; Judah, preserved in grace for David's line for a time, also departed from Jehovah, and was carried into Babylon - night* settling down upon the scene of testimony. Never-failing grace, notwithstanding all, would still maintain something suitable to itself. The ever-merciful Jehovah accordingly restores a feeble few to the land, gathering them to the original centre with a divinely-wrought desire to have Him duly recognized, whose Spirit remained amongst them (Hag. 2:5), by erecting a house for His name, in which He would vouchsafe to find pleasure (Hag. 1:8), - however mean this temple would be compared with that demolished through their sin. They too are permitted to enter into that pleasure, and their inward joy rises upward towards its blessed source while they sing, "For His mercy endureth for ever" (Ezra 3:11), "toward Israel," adds unselfish faith, which, so far from circumscribing God in His gracious actings, loves to reckon upon His faithfulness towards all within the spheres of His revealed relationship. Here God sees something to meet His mind - a seven-branched golden candlestick, yielding light amid all the darkness in virtue of the golden oil which His grace supplies. (Zech. 4:1-3, 12.) Testimony to Him as Lord of all the earth (v. 14), perfect, in a sense, though administrative power, which gave the table of shew-bread its significance, remained with the Gentiles. Thus thought God of the restored remnant, though contemptible in the eyes of those who knew Him not nor His ways. So in church days that same grace established and maintained heavenly testimony concerning the accepted One at God's right hand, whose present place is the seal of the world's condemnation, because of having rejected Him when He came in grace, and because He came in weakness. Once the world refused Him the place which Jewish testimony claimed as "Lord of the whole earth." Now it is more deeply culpable in having formally cast out that same blessed One when He came, though in tenderest pity. God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them. (2 Cor. 5:19.)

*The twelve loaves were before God even then, though in a hidden way, preserved, as faith realized (Acts 26), in hope of the day when their once-rejected King will gather them to Him, and present them to God, invested with the fragrance of His own preciousness, as a crown of glory (Isa. 62:3) for Himself - the true table of showbread.

But man, alas! getting occupied with his own weakness, through lack of faith, rather than with Him who finds in it only occasion for bringing glory to Himself, becomes discouraged, and is glad of any reasonable excuse to slip out of his responsibility. He does so when in this condition. Circumstances arise which try his devotedness (compare Ezra 4:23, 24; Ezra 5:1, 2, 5); but in this he also finds an occasion for what pleases flesh better; viz., self-aggrandisement or gratification. How natural to hearts which were growing lukewarm it was to obey the King's command! Not more so than that, ceasing to build God's house, they found an opportunity for embellishing each his own. (Hag. 1:1, 4, 9.) At this point the prophets Haggai and Zechariah enter upon the scene, having been sent by God to rally the backslidden remnant. Their zeal in the matter is commensurate with the magnitude the evil of abandoning the work assumes, when the temple is viewed as that in which the glory of Jehovah was essentially involved. (Hag. 1:8.) This is an aspect of devotedness outside the whole range of thought of those who only, or habitually, contemplate man's blessing and happiness. To such the gathering of a feeble few around the centre which God is pleased to recognize is a matter of no moment - waste time and trouble, prejudicial in fact - should this gathering in any way cramp or hinder a "movement" which has in view "the benefit (as man thinks) of the community."

In the chapters named the prophet Zechariah is addressing the two chief actors in this blessed work of God - Joshua and Zerubbabel. The dealings of God with His two beloved servants at this juncture display the most precious grace and wisdom. Each is dealt with according to the exigencies of his office - the high priest as worshipper is engaged with the foundation; Zerubbabel the workman with the superstructure. At the outset communion with God, seen especially in Joshua's case, introduces the question of fitness to approach God; carrying forward the work, in the case of Zerubbabel, suggests the question of adequate strength. Thus in the prophet's vision conscience-smitten Joshua stands mute before God, while the accuser pleads against him; and God, while admitting Joshua's state, in love takes up his cause. Happy the portion of him whom God renders sensible of guilt, and silent in that sense, only to teach him what Divine love can do for him against all who would condemn, and with him when bowed down under the burden of a, state which conscience can but own! The accuser being silenced by the authority of Him, the object of whose blessed love Joshua now is, he is dealt with according to that love, in full view of the righteousness which cannot wink at iniquity. The iniquity is removed, the robe is provided and the mitre, and Joshua duly established in his office (vv. 5-7), being then also made fully sensible of the responsibility attaching to his position. To sustain him here, and those who "sit before" him in similar testimony, Christ is prophetically introduced by an assurance based upon the foundation-stone already laid before Joshua (v. 8, 9), by God Himself too - watched over, and engraved by Him, figure of the blessed One of whom God has said, "Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner-stone, elect, precious." Thus is Joshua drawn, by the arms of infinite, condescending love, into the nearness in which he may see with God what is involved in their present undertaking, and taste the delight which He finds in viewing what foreshadowed His beloved Son, upon whom all their hopes hang. His seven eyes are engaged with it; and it is only those who are dull to apprehend the glory promised in connection with "the Branch," and blind to the dignity conferred upon the present basis of their operations by being linked with Him, that would not find, in what they were so ready to abandon, at once the expression of God's grace to them, and an occasion for evincing the sincerity of their gratitude to God for what He had just done in their restoration.

These considerations have led us from the foundation to the building. All was contemptible to man, because outside the course of great things where he ever loves to move. It is everything for the faithful heart's comfort, which has learned to rest in God's estimate of things, to find that He is pleased with what man is prone to despise. Jesus moved amongst the base things, was crucified in weakness, and was despised and rejected of men. Well for the soul that has more than the world's estimate of the lowly Nazarene, and has realized what God has said of the believer, "dead with Christ," from the scene where He was sold for "thirty pieces of silver; "well for Zerubbabel (chap. 4) to have God's mind concerning that "day of small things." "Not by might, nor by power," just the things which would be likely to fill the eye amid Babylon's splendour and display; just the things that all are reckoning upon now for the accomplishment of the many "movements" on foot for the benefit of man; the very possible snare, too, of many who, by their profession, are content with the day of small things, but who have not yet learned to see God in them; and to be content also with the power which is alone adequate to sustain them - a power known only to faith, which, when apprehended, is sure to eclipse everything known to man, notwithstanding all his splendour, accompanied by a wisdom which writes confusion upon all his pretentious organizations by the word, "My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts."

Shall Zerubbabel now shudder beneath the discouraging shadow of the "great mountain," condescend to reckon upon its aid, or even borrow in any way from the pretentious scenes of his people's shame? Using by faith the power with which he is furnished, the great mountain melts, and all man's display is mere vanity when he walks contentedly with the God who finds pleasure in the day of small things, while sin characterizes display. What joy it is to Him to undertake afresh what is a matter of rejoicing (v. 10), to Him whose seven eyes run to and fro through the whole earth - the matter of rejoicing, may we not add? - to Him who ever delights to furnish conscious weakness with strength adequate to undertake and accomplish those things in which He would have us act as to Him. J. K.

Two things the heart wants which characterize life: energy, which desires an object to go after, to win Christ; and secondly, the peaceful, quiet enjoyment of the place we are in. This is rest - the happiness of knowing a settled, unclouded relationship. Relationship goes on beyond the glory: after the kingdom, and all is over, we shall still be children. t t t