"For ye are not come unto a mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, and unto blackness, and darkness, and tempest, and the sound of a trumpet, and the voice of words; which voice they that heard entreated that no word more should be spoken unto them; for they could not endure that which was enjoined, If even a beast touch the mountain, it shall be stoned; and so fearful was the appearance, that Moses said, I exceedingly fear and quake: but ye are come unto mount Zion, and unto the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable hosts of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect, and to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better than that of Abel" (Heb. 12:18-24).
"And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth are passed away; and the sea is no more. And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a great voice out of the throne saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He shall dwell with them, and they shall be His peoples, and God Himself shall be with them, and be their God... And He said unto me, They are come to pass. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give unto him that is athirst of the fountain of the water of life freely. He that overcometh shall inherit these things; and I will be his God, and he shall be My son.... And there came one of the seven angels who had the seven bowls, who were laden with the seven last plagues; and he spake with me, saying, Come hither, I will show thee the bride, the wife of the Lamb. And he carried me away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the holy city Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, having the glory of God: her light was like unto a stone most precious, as it were a jasper stone, clear as crystal: having a wall great and high; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written thereon, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel" (Rev. 21:1-3, 6-7, 9-12).
"And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him to be head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him that filleth all in all" (Eph. 1:22-23).
"So the angel that talked with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy. And I am very sore displeased with the nations that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction. Therefore thus saith Jehovah: I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies; My house shall be built in it, saith Jehovah of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth over Jerusalem. Cry yet again, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: My cities shall yet overflow with prosperity; and Jehovah shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem... And the word of Jehovah of hosts came to me, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath" (Zech. 1:14-17; 8:1-2).
You will have noticed in all these passages words which constitute a similarity of thought; they all refer to the "city of God", and in most of them there is definite reference to Zion. In the first, "Ye are come to Mount Zion", and then in these three passages in Zechariah, Zion is definitely mentioned. What is on my heart just now is the word of the Lord for us, which is to see what is the Lord's jealousy for Zion. These passages in Zechariah repeat the declaration that the Lord is jealous for Zion.
While it is true that Zion and Jerusalem are interchangeable terms, it is quite clear from the passages that we have read (and many others could be added to them), that there is very little doubt that Zion represents more than Jerusalem. Zion is Jerusalem ideally and essentially, not as to location (for Zion and Jerusalem both stand together on the same ground in the sovereign intention and purpose if God) but as to the meaning there is a difference. That is, it is not so much the matter of place as it is a matter of character. Don't divide between the place of Zion and Jerusalem; although geographically they are not identical, yet the difference is the difference in thought, in Divine thought as to character.
You notice in these passages in Zechariah that the angel is speaking as from man's standpoint, standing alongside of the prophet, standing looking out over the state of Jerusalem and Judea and the land in its desolation, as from the human standpoint. He cries: "How long, oh Lord, how long, wilt Thou be silent concerning Judea and Jerusalem?" Now, that is man's outlook upon the situation; it is the purely natural view of things. But the Lord, in answering the enquiry, goes further: "I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion." The Lord's jealousy is really bound up in Zion. This is from the Divine standard. When you find the Lord speaking about His thought for Jerusalem and what is the very essence of His Divine mind about things, then you find that He refers to Jerusalem as Zion. It is as though Zion were the representative of all the Lord's thought for Jerusalem; it is the extra thing. There may be a hint of this in the history of Zion.
As you know, Zion is identical with the City of David, but in the fuller sense Zion is a part of Jerusalem and is specifically called the "city of David" and we know that it became in a new and more essential and complete sense the city of David by reason of the very special conquest of that part. You know that while the lower parts were taken by Saul, the Jebusites remained in Zion and held it against all overcomers for hundreds of years and made it practically impregnable until the times of David. In the 400 years of the Judges, the Jebusites were able to hold Zion, but then when David came and was made king, he challenged his mighty men to prove their might against this stronghold and it was carried by David's mightiest men and fell into David's hands and it became the city of David in this special sense. Also, Zion is the higher point in the range, geographically - the most heavenward relationship. In the background we can see the "warfare in the heavenlies". It is the heavenly aspect of the Lord's people in spiritual conflict, and spiritual conquest.
Now, in Zechariah we notice that God's jealousy for Zion is very much emphasised and brought into view, and that His jealousy is related to the remnant. You notice in Zech. 8:11: "I will be unto the remnant of this people as in the former days". Please do not misunderstand me; I am not saying that this is the Old Testament. I know that this is to do with Israel and that it points to the millennium, but we know that there are two sides, the historical and literal, and the spiritual, and the former is always used by the Lord as the illustration of the eternal, and therefore we can always see New Testament truth concerning Zion in the Old Testament history.
You notice that when this remnant is spoken of and related to Zion and related to the Lord's jealousy, the word 'inheritance' comes in. You will be carried over to Revelation 21:7. And when you look to see what it is they will inherit, it is that which comes down from heaven in fulness of Divine thought.
Now to return to what we said a moment ago, the remnant seems to be particularly bound up with the Divine jealousy and the Divine jealousy centres upon this remnant. If this is so, and the New Testament interpretation of that is that while Jerusalem as a whole, as here expressed representing the whole church, it is not representing the full thought of God, God is concerned with a company, a remnant. They are a company of the Lord's people who represent His full thought and His jealousy is bound up with them. He is jealous for them with a great jealousy because they express His full thought, not actually, but ideally. It is concerning this ideal that He is so jealous. Over that we want to be occupied for a little while to get some of the factors and features of this Zion company which is so close to the heart of the Lord.
1. Zion Presents a Direct Link with the Fullest Divine Purpose
To begin with, the first feature of Zion (we will call them the Zion company), the first feature of this company is that they are a direct link with the fullest Divine purpose. They are governed by the same purpose by which He brought Jerusalem into being, and Israel into being. His purpose is not just general, that He might save a people, but rather that He might have an instrument for His great eternal intention. They were to be for Him a vessel for the accomplishment of the things which He had purposed when Israel as a whole failed. That people failed, but the Lord never abandons His purpose. His instrument may fail Him, His people may break down. The vessel may have to be broken and the whole thing set aside, while He seeks to get His full thought, for He never will abandon the purpose, however many vessels He may have to have. His purpose will be accomplished.
This company, this remnant, represents for Him a link in His full purpose through the ages. We may pass from the Old Testament to our own time now, and there is no doubt that this same thing recurs in every age when there is a state of declension. When the general instrument bearing His name does not do His purpose, He seeks a vessel which will go right through, He seeks a Zion people and they form for Him His link with His fullest intention and they are as precious to Him as His purpose itself. The instrument of His purpose is as valuable to Him as His purpose, because He has bound Himself to fulfil His purpose by that instrumentality and further, He must have such instruments.
This is something to dwell upon. God has chosen this people which is as precious to Him as His name and He is never going to abandon them, even if He brings to destruction all the nations; if necessary He will destroy all the earth, if necessary to get His end. But in order to do it He must have an instrument. If we should be, by His grace, a part of this instrument for that eternal purpose and we are in real fellowship with God in the place He wants, then God's jealousy for His purpose is transferred to His instrument. It is a great thing to be within the compass of the Divine jealousy. "I am jealous for Zion and with a great wrath."
2. Zion Presents 'Siftedness' Through Suffering
The second thing is that the remnant represents 'siftedness' through suffering. Siftedness through suffering is quite apparent in the case of the remnant. We see how few comparatively come back to the land in its desolation from the captivity. It was open to them all to come back, but only a few did so; it was only a remnant of the remnant that was left. They did not represent the whole company that had survived. They were the remnant of the survivors. The majority had settled down in exile and were finding their life in that realm. Just a remnant of them returned and they did so with the purpose to build and reconstitute that which was of God, but they were sifted, and that by suffering. The remnant has always that. Wherever you find such a thought expressed in the Word, you will find that that company has gone through testing which has proved it worthy of keeping its place of special value to the Lord.
One of the troubles that Israel had as a whole, was that it had become too big; it had spread itself over a very wide area and had lost depth. And whatever happens, you may expect to get God moving to get something in another direction to replace the old thing, so that the new shall be for Him a special vessel. It was the same process through which Gideon's army had to go. In the first place: tests as to interests in this world, (the home represents that in Gideon's army), and a good many find natural affections as a hindrance to going on with the Lord. Then "whosoever is fearful and afraid". We must respect the frankness, but at the same time we regret that they were fearful and afraid, but fear is a great means of sifting. They were sifted down until at last the Lord reached 300 and by them He saved Israel.
The Lord has to sift down to effectiveness and we see that a remnant is always a company sifted through suffering. The matter is as to whether we will pay the price. It is a matter of usefulness to the Lord, and effectiveness, and that can only be produced through much suffering which gets rid of all those things which weaken. This company, sifted through suffering, is brought into special relationship with the Lord's purpose, a relationship in a deeper and fuller intelligent understanding. To bring them into this relationship, He has to take them through the depths, but the afterward makes it well worthwhile. The Lord is seeking something of great value to Him, and He is greatly jealous over it.
3. Zion Presents an 'Inwroughtness' of Divine Knowledge
Then again, this company represents an 'inwroughtness' of Divine knowledge. You can trace right through the Word of God the Lord's desire that His people should know Him. On the one side are those who want and seek to know the Lord for themselves, those to whom the Lord can reveal His secrets, but on the other side are those who are just willing to get their direction from those who know the Lord, and not from the Lord Himself. We see this in the great contrast between Moses and the Children of Israel. The Lord could only show His acts unto the Children of Israel but His ways unto Moses. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him." He wanted a people in an intelligent co-operation with Himself. "They that KNOW their God shall be strong and do exploits." A people of the inwroughtness of Divine knowledge.
You can draw that line very distinctly in the people of God. There are those who are undoubtedly Christians, but it is all like a presented objective with them; on the other hand, there are those who know the Lord in an inward way, nothing must separate their fellowship with Him. They speak often together of the Lord and speak in a language which the majority do not understand. It is all about the Lord. You know how this comes out by the remnant, the remnant of the remnant (Malachi 3:16). It is a mark of the true remnant that they know the Lord in an inward way and are occupied with Him.
4. Zion Presents Utterness for the Lord
And then lastly, this remnant certainly does represent utterness for the Lord. There is no doubt but that they knew what things were like in the land. They knew by many reports what it was like, that it was a ruined waste. Jerusalem was destroyed and overthrown. It was not a very glowing prospect for anybody to go back there to live. It was all very discouraging, but fortunately this people had the Lord's interests at heart. This speaks of utterness for the Lord; all personal interests were set on one side and they went back in the interests of the Lord. The vessel of great value to the Lord is one that is utterly for Him and has got rid of all personal interests.
Now to close by gathering all this together into a principle governing this, and all such vessels as we may call remnants, and that which dominates Zion in the thought of God.
What is the principle governing from the Divine side or standpoint? I think we can call it spiritual efficiency. You notice, God was always trying to get His people to the place where they could take spiritual responsibility in relationship to His honour, and His name, and His interests in the lives of others. We see that these were standing in a place of responsibility and were brought there to take responsibility for the Lord's interests, "to stand and withstand and having done all to stand", knowing the Lord and being able to meet a situation in the name of the Lord, to stand in the Lord until the enemy is compelled to let go.
There is no doubt that the Lord has always sought to get His people to that place of responsibility, effectiveness, and efficiency. There are very few like that comparatively. There are multitudes of the Lord's own people always rushing about, asking someone what they ought to do in every emergency. They do not know how to stand against difficulties. They go to pieces in a crisis. But the Lord's will for His people is different from that. He seeks that the general company of His people should represent spiritual efficiency and be able to stand for Him in any situation and express His wisdom and power.
What we have said is that the company of His own should be a sifted, tried and proved company, standing for Him on this earth for all that is truly of His mind, in an intelligent way by reason of their knowledge of the Lord, and maintain the testimony in power and fulness. Oh, that the Lord may make of us - few, weak and insignificant as we may be - parts of such a vessel in the earth today, which stands in clear distinction from that general spiritual weakness and declension - through the power of His name!