Saturday of Week 25 of Ordinary Time – First Reading

Commentary on Zechariah 2:5-9,14-15

Today, we have the first of three readings from the prophet Zechariah. The book is closely, very closely, linked with Haggai whom we have been reading over the previous two days. The introduction is dated Oct-Nov, 520 BC, only weeks away from the prophecy of Haggai.

The Book of Zechariah consists of two distinct parts: chapters 1-8 and 9-14. The first part is concerned with Israel’s messianic future, emanating from the Temple. It begins with eight visions. The second part of the book (from which the other two readings will be taken) is entirely different and seems to be another work altogether, written at a later time, perhaps under the reign of Alexander the Great (who had overthrown the Persians).

Like Haggai, Zechariah was concerned with the rebuilding of the Temple but, more than Haggai, was also concerned with national ‘restoration’ and the high level of moral behaviour which was linked with it. This restoration is expected to inaugurate a messianic era in which the priesthood, represented by Joshua, will be held in increasing honour. But the sovereign power will be wielded by the ‘Branch’, a messianic title which the prophet applies to Zerubbabel. The two Anointed Ones will rule in perfect harmony. As things turn out, the two ‘Anointed Ones’ – Priest and King – will be combined in one Person, Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading presents parts of the third of eight visions the prophet has about a future glorious Jerusalem. We need to remember that these words were written when the exiles had only recently returned from exile and Jerusalem was still in a sorry state. The rebuilding of the Temple had not gone beyond the laying of the foundation, and both Haggai and Zechariah are concerned that the rest of the rebuilding process get under way as soon as possible.

Today Zechariah is trying to build up the morale and confidence of the returnees. Raising his eyes, the prophet says he has had a vision. He sees a man with a measuring line in his hand. The line is for taking measurements for the new building work and is a symbol of the overall ‘restoration’, not just of the Temple but of the people also. Zechariah asks the man where he is going. The man replies:

To measure Jerusalem, to see how wide and how long it is.

And, while the first man (now described as an ‘angel’, but evidently Zechariah himself) walks away, another angel comes out. The prophet is to go and tell the young man (Zechariah):

Run, say to that young man: Jerusalem shall be inhabited like unwalled villages because of the multitude of people and animals in it.

The prophet is being led to realise that the rebuilt Temple is not just for those who are living there now. What is in question is a New Jerusalem and a New Temple, whose population will overflow to such an extent that the City will be as if it had no walls.

Because, as Yahweh himself declares:

For I will be a wall of fire all around it…and I will be the glory within it.

The messianic Jerusalem will be protected by Yahweh himself, who has returned to his rebuilt Temple. This is reminiscent of the time in the desert when Yahweh accompanied his people with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. Earlier on Isaiah, too, had said:

Then the Lord will create over the whole site of Mount Zion and over its places of assembly a cloud by day and smoke and the shining of a flaming fire by night. Indeed, over all the glory there will be a canopy. It will serve as a pavilion, a shade by day from the heat and a refuge and a shelter from the storm and rain. (Is 4:5-6)

Our reading then concludes with part of a hymn of exhortation to the exiles:

Sing and rejoice,
O daughter Zion!
For I will come and dwell in your midst, says the Lord.
Many nations shall join themselves to the Lord on that day and shall be my people,
and I will dwell in your midst.

Here we have, in part, the return of the Lord among his people which will happen once the new Temple is rebuilt and dedicated. But there is also a looking forward to a greater Jerusalem, one inaugurated by the coming of God’s Son to live among us with a totally new Presence, sealed in a New Covenant. It will certainly be a city without walls to which all the nations of the world will be invited to come and stay.

We, the baptised and members of Christ’s Body, are among those who have been invited to come and live among God’s own people and who, by the grace of God, are now ourselves the Temple of God all over the world. As Paul said to the Corinthians:

Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?…For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor 3:16,17)

It is an awesome responsibility!

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