Focus On Jerusalem

Title

The Man Among the Myrtle Trees
by: Norbert Lieth






The Man Among the Myrtle Trees
by Norbert Lieth

(FOJ Note: I really like these articles by Norbert Leith and highly recommend his writings. Mr. Leith, who lives in Denmark is a contributing author to the Midnight Call Ministry)

 

"Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying, I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest. Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words. So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem. Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem" (Zechariah 1:7-17).

    Approximately three months after the prophet Zechariah instructed his people to give themselves wholly to the Lord (compare verses 1 and 7), he was given this mighty vision of Jerusalem's future. "Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts" (verse 3). Just how literally this promise should be taken is from this first revelation of God concerning the future of the city.

    The Jews had returned to Jerusalem. They had started to rebuild the Temple and had turned to the Lord again. God's answer was not long in coming: He turned back to them and gave them a wonderful revelation of the city of the great King (Matthew 5:35)! The curse they had been under up until was to be removed, and they would again be a blessing (Zechariah 8:13).

    A large portion of Jews will turn to the Lord during the Great Tribulation. According to my understanding of Scripture, they will also rebuild the Temple (Revelation 11:1). Then the Lord will turn again to His people. God's promises will also become a perceivable blessing, comfort and living hope for those of us who believe on the Lord Jesus Christ when we dedicate ourselves completely to the Lord: "Submit yourselves therefore to God...Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:7 and 8).

Jerusalem during the times of the nations

    "I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him there were red horses, speckled, and white" (Zechariah 1:8). Zechariah saw a rider on a red horse who stopped in a ravine (NIV) "among the myrtle trees." The myrtle tree is a symbol of Jerusalem. Myrtle trees grow in the valleys around Jerusalem, and are characterized by their dark, green, glossy leaves. They are adorned with flowers and during Zechariah's time were often used as wedding decorations and at the Feast of the Tabernacles (Nehemiah 8:15). Perfume also was made from myrtle trees. The green leaves point to Israel's hope and future. Jerusalem will not fade. It will bloom before the Lord forever.

    Where were these myrtles located? In a deep ravine. Many expositors consider this to be the Kidron Valley. The "ravine" symbolizes Israel's position among the nations. The time of the Gentiles began with Jerusalem's first destruction by the Babylonians. Jerusalem never really has been free since then. Jerusalem was ruled by the Romans when Jesus was here the first time. This occupation will last until Jesus returns as Israel's Messiah: "...and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Luke 21:24). Jerusalem (Israel) is like the myrtle tree, which grows modestly in a shady, low place. Accordingly, Israel is a people despised by the nations until this present day. Jerusalem is contested and hated, and the nations would like to take the country back from the Jews.

The nations' thoughts

    While Israel the myrtle is despised by the nations, the Lord stands among the myrtles in the ravine. He remains standing where others have passed by. Three times, we read:

"He stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom..." (verse 8),

"And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said..." (verse10),

"And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees" (verse 11).

    While the nations thoughtlessly treat Israel, the Lord remembers them: "And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest" (verse 11). The angels mentioned in this verse had the task, as messengers of the Lord of hosts, to see how the nations would behave toward Jerusalem. What did they see? Indifference, thoughtlessness, self-confidence and a presumptuous rest. Nobody cared about Jerusalem. It was more important for them to have peace among the nations than to take Israel's side. There was no turning to the Lord and His Word; therefore, there was no turning to Israel. Nothing's changed. The world is relatively silent when terrorists murder Jewish women and children. Similarly, there is not protest when the Arab League, and its representatives pour out their tirades of hatred on Israel. Hardly anyone lifts a finger in response to the injustice toward Israel. But the same world condemns Israel every time she makes a move, even when she is defending herself! How different were the Lord's thoughts? Jerusalem is mentioned 5 times in this passage of Zechariah. God's thoughts about the city are obvious:

"Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years" (verse 12),

"Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy"
(verse 14),

"Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem" (verse 16),

"Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; my cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem" (verse 17).

Who among the mighty men of our world has like-minded thoughts concerning Jerusalem? This shows how far the nations live from the thoughts of God. The Lord is on Jerusalem's side even if the nations are indifferent and thoughtless. The number 5 represents grace. The day will come when the Lord will turn to Jerusalem again in all His perfect grace. He will have mercy upon His city and people; He will again be jealous for them; He will comfort them and choose them.

Final solution or final liberation?

    "And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction" (verse15). The nations want to find a "final solution to the Jewish question." God punished His people, but that which the nations have done was never in accordance with His will. A "final solution" will never be justified. Therefore, the answer to such attempts is always divine wrath. The Lord doesn't want a "final solution," but a final liberation from the pressure of the nations. This final liberation will bring the return of Jesus. Then His thoughts against all the nations but Jerusalem will be realized. The time of the Gentiles will come to an end. The wrath of God will come upon the nations, so that they cry: "And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; And said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: For the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?" (Revelation 6:15-17).

    We must not be indifferent where Jerusalem is concerned. The land of Israel and the Jewish people must be dear to our hearts because they are dear to the Lord. It is not by chance that Zechariah was told twice that he should proclaim the words of the Lord: "So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy" (Zechariah 1:14) and, "Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem" (verse 17). Just as the Lord is angry with those who hate Jerusalem, He will bless those who love her: "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee" (Psalm 122:6).

The One who turns everything around

    "I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled, and white" (Zechariah 1:8). Who is this mysterious man who stands among the myrtle trees? It is the Son of man, Jesus Christ, Israel's Messiah. It is He who is concerned about Jerusalem, and He is also concerned about you! The man among the myrtle trees suddenly appears on a red horse in the midst of the time of the nations, during the middle of the night (verse 8). Israel had no king at that time. The Jews were busy in rebuilding Jerusalem, and encountered violent resistance from the enemies. Even at that time it was the Arabs who contested their right to Jerusalem: "Now it came to pass, when Sanballat, and Tobiah, and Geshem the Arabian, and rest of our enemies, heard that I had builded the wall, and that there was no breach left therein; (though at that time I had not set up the doors upon the gates;)..." (Nehemiah 6:1). It's no different today! Since Jerusalem has been back in the hands of Israel, the Arabs rage against it. Pressure from Jerusalem's enemies is increasing, not only from the Arabs, but also internationally. This will continue until the end of the days when all nations gather against Jerusalem. Then Jerusalem will become a cup of trembling to them all (Zechariah 12:2). When Jerusalem is at its lowest point in its history, the Lord will take care of His people, who are despised by the world. His return will bring Israel salvation, light and blessing.

Why does the Lord stand between the myrtles? Perhaps it is a prophetic reference to Isaiah 55:13: "Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off."

Blessing instead of cursing - life instead of death

    The Lord, who bore a crown of thorns and over whose head was written: "Jesus of Nazareth the king of the Jews" (John 19:19), will see that the curse is taken away and that myrtles grow in the place of thorns. He who bore the curse of the crown of thorns in His death, stands among the myrtles because Jerusalem will flourish eternally before Him and through Him. The Lord stands by Jerusalem. Instead of a crown of thorns, He will wear ornaments: "I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels" (Isaiah 61:10). Let's return to the fact that the man stands among the myrtles in the ravine (verse 8). Where is the lowest point on the earth's surface? Geographically, it is the Dead Sea; spiritually, it is Calvary. The Lord descended from heaven to earth to reconcile the world to God. Israel's future salvation also lies concealed in Calvary: "...he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross" (Philippians 2:8). He stands among the myrtles in the ravine to bring salvation to His people. While the world stands against Israel and nobody takes the side of this people and land, the Lord Himself stands by Jerusalem! The man who appears on the scene so suddenly is riding a red horse. This is the color of His blood, the color of victory, but also the color of the Judge over all the nations. Here, this man is called "the angel of the Lord: "And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest" (Zechariah 1:11). It is clearly the Lord Himself who is standing among the myrtle trees. The name "angel of the Lord" is often a reference to the Lord Jesus before His Incarnation, who is synonymous with God (Genesis 22:15-17). He is the visible manifestation of the invisible God in the Old Testament.

Who can bring the Gospel message to the people?

   Only the Lord. An angel speaks to Zechariah in verse 9 and the latter asks the angel about the significance of the horses: "Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be." The angel wants to answer him, but apparently cannot. He can only point to the One who has the answer, and this is the Lord as the angel of the Lord: "And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth" (verse l0). Only one person can give us a true, satisfactory answer to the most important questions in life: Jesus.

    A great biblical truth is revealed; namely; who and what Jesus Christ is in His work of redemption. Peter wrote, "...the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into" (lst Peter 1:12). Even the angels would like to reverently look into the work of salvation through Jesus in all its glory, but they are not able. The reason for this is that they are sinless beings who have no need of salvation. The Lord proclaims the message of life to us, however, through His Word, by means of the Holy Spirit. And this Lord wants to speak to our hearts right now. Behind the man among the myrtles stands the heavenly hosts of God. The angels on the red, speckled and white horses show us that over the visible armies of this world is an invisible host of God, which is much mightier: "And he answered, Fear not: for they that be with us are more than they that be with them" (2nd Kings 6:16, compare also Revelation 12:7-9a). The significance of the different colors is not explained, but they are certainly apocalyptic.

   This Lord who once wept over Jerusalem stands here as high priest and advocate for Jerusalem and the cities of Judah and prays for them: "Then the angel of the Lord answered and said, O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years? And the Lord answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words" (Zechariah 1:12-13a). If the Lord Jesus intercedes for Jerusalem and Judah in this way, should we love Israel less? It is very comforting to know that someone is praying for Jerusalem. We are not told what the Father said to the Son, but they must have been kind and comforting words, for we know that the Father always hears the Son (John 11:42 and John 17), and doubtless He did so in this case as well.

    The timing of Jerusalem's final restoration is not mentioned anywhere in the Bible. It remains hidden. It will take place when Jesus returns. Nobody knows the day or hour when this will take place. We are not told when it will take place, but we are told how. The fact that, following His prayer and God's response, the Lord turned back to Zechariah and commanded him to cry aloud for Jerusalem, makes it clear that He had been heard, and that they must have been wonderful words (verse 13 onward). For with all divine authority it is to be proclaimed that the time is coming when the Lord will turn back to His people.

What is the message that all should hear?

The seven statements concerning Jerusalem. Let us summarize:

1. "I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy"
The divine authority - God Himself - is with Jerusalem.

2. "I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies"
The divine love is of Jerusalem.

3. "My house shall be built in it"
The divine presence is back in Jerusalem.

4. "A line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem" (Jeremiah 31:38-40a)
The divine indivisibility remains in Jerusalem.

5. "My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad"
The divine blessing is back in Jerusalem.

6. "The Lord shall yet comfort Zion"
The divine kindness is back in Jerusalem.

7. "...and shall yet choose Jerusalem"
The divine promise will remain in Jerusalem.

Concerning the nations, we read this statement:

8. "I am very sore displeased with the heathen..."
The divine wrath over all those who hate Jerusalem.

 












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