The Burden and Glory of God's Word to Israel
Zechariah 12:1
The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, said the LORD, which stretches forth the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth…

God presents Himself here as creating and speaking. It is to Israel that HIS Word is primarily addressed, for it is Israel that recognises His Word, and by Israel His Word is carried to the world, which thus becomes also Israel. Remember the meaning of the name, and its origin. Prince of God was the name which Jacob got from that long wrestling in the dark — Israel, prince of God, because he had power with God. The name denotes the fact and the power of communion. Israel is composed of those who seek God and cling to Him, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

I. THE CREATOR OF THE HEAVENS AND EARTH AND THE SPIRIT OF MAN HAS AN ISRAEL. The idea of Israel is fellowship with God and power with God, gained in and by that fellowship. Is such an idea reasonable? We think it a poor conception of God which represents Him as so mighty and rich that He does not care for fellowship with souls. Do you think to convince me that God is wanting in sympathies and affections by showing that He is Almighty? The argument is all in the opposite direction. Should I have more ground to believe in His heart if He were less than all-powerful and all-wise! There is in man a longing after relation to the Infinite. All his history proves this. Something in him cries out after God, and the heavens and the earth have tended to intensify this cry. Man is haunted by a something issuing from heaven and earth that will not let him rest. It would have been sad if man had craved an infinite friend, had yearned after nearness to a perfect and eternal living One, and felt no hope, countenance, or stimulus in the world around him. But man stands in no such barren and dead world. A living world is round him, material, but full of spiritual suggestion, inviting him to seek God, and waking him up again when he grows dull and hard. Will it be said that this does not make probable the idea of an Israel — men that have power with God, it gives support to the idea of communion with God, but not to that of prayer, an asking that influences the Divine will? The answer is obvious. Communion with God, in the case of a being like man, an imperfect, sin-laden being, must take largely the form of prayer. Such a being, coming near to God, cannot but ask from Him. And this asking, so inevitable, cannot be a futile thing. If asking be a necessity with the spirit that has communion with God, there must be room and need for it on the side of God. What is true on the human side is true on the Divine side. The whole doctrine of prayer is found in the spirit of man, in the longings and necessities, and there can be nothing in real contradiction to these. They who seek God have a peculiar affinity with Him. God as a moral being has moral affinities. It is not a lowering or limiting of God to believe that He has an Israel.

II. GOD HAS A WORD FOR HIS ISRAEL. Neither the heavens nor the earth nor the spirit of man take the place of a word. They are each a revelation. But they are fuller of questions than of answers. The heart of man needs a word. It is only in words that there is definiteness. One of the distinguishing peculiarities of man is that he employs words. By these he reaches the fulness of his being. He makes his thought clear to himself, and gives it an outward existence by words. He makes all shadowy and vague things firm and abiding by words. And shall not God meet him on this highest platform? A Word of God is a necessity to the human soul God has a word to Israel which makes fellowship close and confiding. The word gives man the necessary clue to the interpretation of the universe and himself. It is God's Word to Israel as the ideal man Israel is the ideal and complete man, and it is in proportion as any man approaches the ideal that he fully comprehends and embraces the message of God's Word to Israel.

III. GOD'S WORD TO ISRAEL IS A BURDEN. This expression is often used by the prophets. No doubt it expresses, in the first instance, the weight of obligation and responsibility in the declaring of God's message, but this rests on the fact that the Word of God is a weighty matter for all men.

1. God's Word is a burden by reason of the weight of its ideas. Thoughts that may be put into words are of all degrees of weight — some light as a feather, some heavy as a world. Thoughts weigh upon the mind, even though they are felt to be precious. The ideas in God's Word are the weightiest of all — God, soul, sin, salvation, renewal, eternity. Men are never right till they try to lift these thoughts and weigh them. They are no judges of the weight of things till they try these.

2. God's Word is a burden of momentousness and obligation. There are many weighty thoughts that have little or no practical moment. But the thoughts in God's Word are of pressing and supreme importance. They are light, food, shelter, life. To reject them is ruin. Everything must depend on how we stand to these words.

3. God's Word is a burden which is easier to bear in whole than in part. The half or quarter, or some little fraction of God's Word is worse to bear, harder and heavier than the whole. A single truth taken out of the whole may be quite oppressive and intolerable. It may crush all joy and courage out of life. The truth about sin needs the truth about grace and redemption in order to be borne. The truth about duty needs the Divine promises. Relief is to be found not by throwing off any truth, but by taking up more. The hardest truths become pleasant in proper company. Every truth has relations to all the rest, and is not properly itself without them. Let the effort be to take the whole truth, and to take it as a whole. Then it will no more oppress than the vast load of atmosphere which every man carries.

4. The Word of God is a burden which removes every other load. Thought, conviction, and feeling bring their inevitable burden. And if a man rejects burdens he is but making up a heavier burden. If a man will not have the burden of God's Word, then the whole riddle of the universe becomes his burden. But if I take up God's Word, and actually carry it as God's Word, I have no further care. There is provision for driving away every fear and every care in that Word.

(J. Leckie, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.

WEB: An oracle. The word of Yahweh concerning Israel. Yahweh, who stretches out the heavens, and lays the foundation of the earth, and forms the spirit of man within him says:

The Instruments of a Foolish Shepherd
Top of Page
Top of Page