I The Eight Symbolic Visions, B The Communication of the Visions, 3 The Vision of the Holy City, Text: 2:1-13, Title: The Wallless City

Introduction

The word utopia was coined in Greek by Sir Thomas More for his 1516 book "Utopia," describing a fictional island with an ideal society in the Atlantic Ocean. Actually the word is the combination of two Greek words “ou” and “topos” and the meaning is “no place.” More’s work is a satire and that is evident even in the title because there is another Greek word which sounds the same but is spelled differently, and that word means “good place,” (eutopia), The unavoidable conclusion is that a good place is no place. From time immemorial man has been captivated by utopian dreams born of his prideful commitment to  build a perfect society. The Greeks, the Romans, the Socialists and the Communists have all shared that dream and failed. Even the framers of our Republic had that dream of a city set on a hill and if you look around you can see how that went. This may be the greatest country in the world, but it is no utopia. What us wrong with us? It’s called sin and corruption and it begets sin and corruption. The problem is that we have the wrong builder. Now the conclusion of More’s “Utopia” is that the perfect society would have several things and they include among many others, no crime or immorality and no exclusivity in religion. You can see how that is an impossible dream because the only antidote to immorality is the gospel and the gospel is not permitted because it creates dissension. The only one who can build the perfect city and society is the Triune God. That is the city in the vision of Zechariah 2. It is a city that runs throughout Scripture. The city is also a garden of delight. It is the city for which Abraham looked that is built by God. It is Jesus’ city set on a hill. It is a city of safety, satisfaction and sharing.

I City of Safety

In verse 1-5 the city is measured for a very good reason. We read, Then I looked up—and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand!  I asked, “Where are you going?” He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.” Then the angel who was speaking to me left, and another angel came to meet him and said to him: “Run, tell that young man, ‘Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’ The reason for surveying a city would be to gather the information necessary to put up walls,. and as you know virtually all ancient cities had walls to protect the inhabitants. Ezra and Nehemiah presided over the rebuilding of he walls of ancient Jerusalem, but this city has no walls because it is so vast, and also because the Lord is a wall of fire around it. Now when the city of God is described in Revelation 21 and 22, it has walls. However, the walls are decorative and ornamental. They are filled with jewels and inscriptions, and that is their only purpose because we read in Revelation 21:25, On no day will its gates ever be shut, for there will be no night there. Walls are absolutely useless when the gates never shut so they must be ornamental. What God describes as a city is actually His people. We are that city, the living temple in which God dwells, imperfect but moving toward perfection in the new heavens and new earth. I repeat, God’s city is a Paradise, a garden of plenty and blessing. We of course devise modern technologies for the protection of our cities unlike the ancients, but you have also seen how well that works on 9-11. I would rather be protected by a God who is a wall of fire around us where our enemies can neither see us nor hurt us. That is a safe city.

II City of Satisfaction

In verses 6-9 we read that God pleads with his exiled people to come to this city, “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north,” declares the Lord, “for I have scattered you to the four winds of heaven,” declares the Lord. “Come, O Zion! Escape, you who live in the Daughter of Babylon!” For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After he has honored me and has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye. I will surely raise my hand against them so that their slaves will plunder them. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me. I cannot help but be reminded of Emma Lazarus’ poetic description of the statue of liberty, "Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" Undoubtedly many have found the promised opportunities, but others have been disappointed. No one has ever been disappointed when invited into the city of Jesus who said in Matthew 11:28, Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. There is both a positive and a negative satisfaction in Zechariah’s prophecy. The negative satisfaction is that God will plunder the enemies who spoiled His people, the apple of His eye. It is not wrong for the people to rejoice over the destruction of their enemies. War is a part of life in this weary sinful fallen world. Universal peace through the League of Nations, or the United Nations is a utopian pipe-dream. The words after “he has honored me” in our text are not in the original. All that the Hebrew says is "after glory" and I think it is referring to the glory of God triumphing over His enemies which happened ultimately in the cross of Christ, but for them it was the destruction of one after another of their traditional foes. When criminals are executed for capital crimes in our country in most states there is provision to include as the witnesses the family of the victims. They may not always rejoice for the right reasons, but they are entitled to see retribution enacted. The positive satisfaction is that the people of God escape to a better place. Their sufferings are rewarded. Likewise there is true satisfaction in coming to Jesus as James McGranahan wrote in his hymn, “Oh, Christ in thee my soul has found, And found in thee alone, The peace, the joy I sought so long; The bliss, till now unknown. Now, none but Christ can satisfy, None other name for me.There’s love, and life, and lasting joy, Lord Jesus, found in thee.”

III City of Sharing

With the command to rejoice there is a revelation of God’s future purposes for Israel in verses 10-13. Israel will grow to include all nations, languages, and peoples. “Shout and be glad, O Daughter of Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord. “Many nations will be joined with the Lord in that day and will become my people. I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. The Lord will inherit Judah as his portion in the holy land and will again choose Jerusalem. Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.” When the city of God is described in Revelation 21:24 and 26 we are told, The nations will walk by its light, and the kings of the earth will bring their splendor into it, and the glory and honor of the nations will be brought into it. Here in our text along with learning that God will again choose Jerusalem and that He will live with His people there, we learn that His people will be joined by “many nations.” Isaiah 2:2 and 3 makes clear that his was the constant vision of the Old Testament prophets, In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. Sadly in the days of Jesus that vision was ignored and the Jewish people had turned inward erecting walls of protection and separation in their laws and rituals. However Jesus opposed that separationist mentality when he spoke with the Samaritan woman in John 4 and as a consequence many of the hated Samaritans were converted and He said to His disciples in verse 35, I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. When Hebrews 11 tells us that Abraham looked for a city, beyond his time, whose builder and maker was God we wonder how big it was because God had told him that his seed would be as numerous as the stars of heaven and as the grains of sand along the seashore. That was fulfilled when Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 28:19 and 20, Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age. When the blessings of the covenant are extended to people of every nation and tongue, and the middle wall of partition between the Jew and the Gentile is broken down,  and countless numbers are added, it is indeed a cause for rejoicing as the Lord commands through Zechariah. As Frederick Faber writes in his hymn, “There's a wideness in God's mercy, Like the wideness of the sea; There's a kindness in His justice, Which is more than liberty. There is welcome for the sinner, And more graces for the good; There is mercy with the Savior; There is healing in His blood.  For the love of God is broader Than the measure of our mind; And the heart of the Eternal Is most wonderfully kind.”