God’s Word for You
Zechariah 2:3-5 The wall of fire
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Wednesday, June 22, 2022
3 Then as the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, another angel came to meet him 4 and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be inhabited like a village without walls because of the great number of men and animals in it. 5 And I myself will be her surrounding wall of fire,’ says the LORD, ‘and I will be the glory within her.’
That “young man” is Zechariah himself. We must keep the basic truth of this third vision in mind: This is not the measure of the physical city of Jerusalem, but of spiritual Jerusalem, which is the Christian church. This church will become so filled with believing souls that no city could ever hold them all. This is what Zechariah means by “a village (or hamlet) without walls.” Ezekiel mentions “a land of unwalled villages” (Ezekiel 38:11, see also Esther 9:19). These are inhabited places that are either so minor, or small, or remote, or secure, that they either don’t have a need for walls or don’t have the resources or time to build walls. A community of tents is a reminder of Peter’s words: “I live in the tent of this body” (2 Peter 1:13), which shows how temporary our residence on earth is and how we should think of ourselves while we are here. Paul says the same thing in 2 Corinthians 5: “If the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands” (2 Corinthians 5:1).
A challenging phrase here is that the residents will be “men and animals.” While behemah (the plural is the familiar Behemoth) can mean livestock (Genesis 8:1) or wild animals (Deuteronomy 28:26); it is generally anything that isn’t a fish, bird or reptile (1 Kings 4:33). There is no reason to bring this verse into a discussion about the presence of animals in heaven, since it is talking about the spiritual kingdom of God on earth. While we could simply reduce “animals” to possessions, God is concerned about the living creatures of the earth (Jonah 4:11; Psalm 50:10; Proverbs 12:10). But there is a plainer sense here: Animals were brought inside cities in ancient times. One of God’s judgments against sinful Jerusalem had been, “I will strike down those who live in this city, both man and animal” (behemah, Jeremiah 21:6). The mention, then, of there being “great numbers of men and animals” is a message of comfort and contentment in the kingdom of the Christian church. There are no boundaries as to the size of the Church; God only looks for faith, not limits to numbers.
The fiery wall is the protection of God for his people, just as the pillar of fire was for Israel on the march (Exodus 14:24). For those who need a more solid illustration, there is Psalm 125:2, “As the mountains surround Jerusalem, so the Lord surrounds his people both now and forever.” He defends his people by destroying their foes. The demons shriek and speak nonsense, as we know from the request of the demons to enter into hogs, which did them no good at all (Matthew 8:31-32). We don’t see God’s fiery wall, but the devil sees it, and he can’t break through. He can only attack the sheep that stray outside, with wandering hearts and wandering actions. He tries many weapons; some of those entice us to venture beyond the fiery ring. But we are led back by repentance, defended by Christ himself, who, we will hear soon enough, says to the enemy: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! This one is a burning stick snatched from the fire!” (Zechariah 3:1). That fire isn’t the ring of the Lord’s protection, but the flames of the devil’s prison house. We are saved by the grace of God, even as the devil tries to accuse us. God’s response is: “That one’s sins are covered; leave him alone.” And again, “She is my precious daughter; do not accuse her of anything at all!” And again: “this one was born in Zion.” This exchange is glorious, for it shows God’s compassion and grace for each of his chosen children. God is the glory in the middle of the Church. He is the center of our faith and worship. God’s will rules in our hearts.
Our home in this world is protected by Christ, but it is not our permanent home. All the while that the devil attacks us, we are shielded by spiritual defenses greater than any physical walls, fences, gabions, guns or mortars. We are protected by baptism, by the word of Christ, by the sacrament of the forgiveness of sins. The Lord protects us, even chastises us for our good: “He drew his bow and made me the target for his arrows” (Lamentations 3:12). But he calls us to sorrow over our sins and then to delight over his forgiveness. He keeps us safely within his glorious, powerful and everlasting wall of fire.
Pastor Timothy Smith