God’s Word for You
Zechariah 2:10 The sign of the cross
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Friday, June 24, 2022
10 “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion.
For I am coming, and I will dwell among you,”
declares the LORD.
Now the second part of the poem begins: God himself will come to dwell among his people. This is a prophecy of the coming of Christ into the world. “Shout and be glad!” Zechariah says. The coming of the Savior is near; close at hand. The Jews would become more and more concerned with the date as the time grew near, but it is not the date but the condition of each heart that must be considered. We need to remember this same difference today as we wait for the second coming of Christ. It is not the date we must fear, but the condition of our hearts that must concern every one of us.
“I will dwell” uses the same vocabulary as God’s words in Exodus 25:8: “Have them make a sanctuary for me, and I will dwell among them.” And more recently, during the captivity, the vision of Ezekiel reached its climax when he saw “the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east… The Glory of the Lord entered the temple and filled the temple” (Ezekiel 43:2,4-5).
The first tent was a small affair that Moses and Aaron stitched together with help from the great craftsmen of their generation, Bezalel and Oholiab. The temple of Solomon was designed by David and built with the help of the great bronze smith of his time, Huram-Abi (2 Chronicles 2:13, 4:16). The present temple of Zechariah’s time, the one we call Zerubbabel’s temple or the “second temple,” took four years to complete and was accomplished without any mention of a great builder. The people worked with the resources that they had. But the true dwelling of God with his people does not depend on a great or marvelous building. In Zechariah’s time, when the people were struggling to rebuild the old ruined temple, this was a reminder of the blessings of having a sanctuary in accord with God’s design, of following God’s will, and of keeping God’s word foremost in the heart. Of course, this is a message for spiritual Israel, which is the holy Christian church. God was not coming to dwell in a tent made of goat hide nor a tabernacle made of stone, but in person, in the flesh: the Lamb of God, who came to take away the sin of the world. The building we are concerned with in the true Church is the condition of each Christian’s own heart, and it is that promise, the gospel of the coming of the Son of God, that sweeps our hearts clean and polishes all of our rough places.
“Shout and be glad” is a message for us, we who live under the shade of the terrible disgrace of the cross. Satan tried to use the cross to destroy Christ and to shame his followers, but the cross is what God used to crush Satan’s head and power and bring the end of shame and disgrace to everyone who puts their faith in Jesus.
The very shape of the cross serves as a reminder of what the terrible thing did, and what it truly stands for. The Romans took an ancient idea, which was tying a man to a stake until he died of thirst, and they increased the agony of the man by using nails to cause fear among the witnesses. They stripped the man naked or nearly naked to take away any shred of dignity. They added the cross-piece to spread the man’s arms out, which had the effect of making it impossible to exhale properly, transforming it from an instrument that caused a man to die of thirst, into a perverse instrument that caused a man to die of drowning, since his lungs would fill up with the fluid we all exhale and cough away all day long, and which is easiest to see when we breathe on a mirror to cause a little fog there. The victim on the cross drowned in this, as we see in Jesus’ body after his death, when the soldier’s spear brought “a sudden flow of blood and water” (John 19:34).
The upper part of the cross bore a sign for Jesus, an announcement by Pilate as to who this was, with his crime being “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews” (John 19:19). The arms of the cross spread out the Savior’s hands to render him defenseless. Today our artwork often shows his hands on the cross in the act of blessing, and this is theologically correct, for the world is blessed by his passive act of dying for our sins. He “blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing” (Ephesians 1:3), and again, “Blessed are they whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered” (Romans 4:7). Descending down the cross, we see the long stake or pole which held his body suspended above the hilltop. For the earth is suspended by the power of God over nothing (Job 26:7) but not for nothing, that is for no reason, for the earth is home to us all. So also Christ was held suspended over the earth by the power and the punishment of God, but not for nothing, for he died to bring us all to our eternal home. And today when, in a blessing, we make the sign of the cross, we are not stabbing at the air for no reason, or making fencing thrusts with our empty hands, but in imitation of the wave-offering of the priests (the tenupha), which was the communal meal of the Old Testament church. God said in Numbers 18: “This is yours, whatever is set aside from the gifts of all the wave-offerings of the Israelites, I give to you and your sons and daughters as your regular share. Everyone in your household who is ceremonially clean may eat it.” And so the waving of the hand as we make the sign of the cross remembers the physical cross and also spreads out the blessing of the cross to the four corners of the earth, just as Zechariah described the spreading of God’s people over the earth to carry the gospel wherever they were flung (Zechariah 2:6). And this meal we eat in the Lord’s Supper also reminds us of the death of Christ on the cross, as Paul says: “For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes” (1 Corinthians 11:26).
And as for the bottom of the cross, it was thrust into a hole in the ground to secure it in place. This reminds us that the crucifixion was not a sacrifice of theory, but of fact. This is why, when we confess our faith in the Creed, we recite the name of the executioner, Pontius Pilate, to remember that this was a fact of history, that it took place in a moment in time, when God gave his Son to die for our sins.
Shout and be glad, true sons and daughters of Zion, for Christ came and dwelt among us, and his Holy Spirit still lives in each one of us, until the Lord comes again in glory.
Pastor Timothy Smith