The Zechariah Zone #5

The Wall of Fire Around Us

A Study of Zechariah 2

Scripture: Zechariah 2:1-5

2 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.”

While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, 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 people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’

This is a wonderful prediction, but to understand it we have to know when, where, and why it was given. To put it another way, to understand the prophet Zechariah, we have to begin in the book of Ezra.


Over time throughout the history of Israel in the Old Testament, the nation became increasingly evil. Some of the accounts of what they did are shocking to read. The people descended into wickedness, until finally, in 587 B.C., the Lord allowed the Babylonian Empire of Nebuchadnezzar to overwhelm the nation of Israel, burn its capital, destroy its temple, and deport its people to refugee camps in Babylon. The country remained desolate for seventy years. In the meantime, Babylon itself was defeated by the Persians, and the Persian Emperor Cyrus became the most powerful man on earth.

Destruction of Jerusalem —- 70 Years Exile —- Cyrus issues decree & remnant returns to Jerusalem

Then, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah, God moved the heart of Cyrus to allow some of the Jews to return to Jerusalem and restore their city and rebuild their temple. This happened in 539 B.C. 

Ezra 1:1 says: In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the Lord spoken by Jeremiah, the Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and also to put it in writing:

“This is what Cyrus king of Persia says:

“‘The Lord, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah.

 Any of his people among you may go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build the temple of the Lord, the God of Israel, the God who is in Jerusalem, and may their God be with them. And in any locality where survivors may now be living, the people are to provide them with silver and gold, with goods and livestock, and with freewill offerings for the temple of God in Jerusalem.’”

Nothing was more important to the Jewish people than rebuilding their temple. I don’t think we can even realize what it meant to a Jewish person in those days. For seventy years, there had been no offerings for the forgiveness of sins and no visible presence of God for the nation. Now that was about to change.

About 50,000 Jewish refugees took him up on the offer and we call them the remnant who returned to Jerusalem from Babylon to rebuild the temple.

This is the Second Exodus. In the first Exodus, God delivered His people from Egypt to the Promised Land; and now He was leading them from Babylonia to the Promised Land.

Now let’s continue with Ezra, chapter 2: Now these are the people of the province who came up from the captivity of the exiles, whom Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had taken captive to Babylon (they returned to Jerusalem and Judah, each to their own town, in company with Zerubbabel, Joshua….

Zerubbabel was the political leader of the group, and he was named the Governor of Jerusalem. Joshua was the high priest. This is not the Joshua who led the Israelites into the Promised Land the first time; but this is another Joshua, who helped lead the Israelites into the Promised Land a second time. 

Try to picture this exodus of about 50,000 people packing their belongings, saying goodbye to their friends, and starting on a migration back to their homeland. The trip was nearly 900 miles and took four months. But imagine their joy when they saw the remains of Jerusalem ahead of them!

Let’s continue in chapter 3:

When the seventh month came and the Israelites had settled in their towns, the people assembled together as one in Jerusalem. Then Joshua son of Jozadak and his fellow priests and Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and his associates began to build the altar of the God of Israel to sacrifice burnt offerings on it, in accordance with what is written in the Law of Moses the man of God.  Despite their fear of the peoples around them, they built the altar on its foundation and sacrificed burnt offerings on it to the Lord, both the morning and evening sacrifices

The passage goes on to say that the Jewish settlers started observing the Jewish calendar again with all its feasts and festivals, and then they proceeded with the next phase of their plan—the rebuilding of the temple. They purchased cedar logs from Lebanon, which were floated down the coast of the Mediterranean sea to the port of Joppa and brought overland to Jerusalem, drew up the plans, gathered the other materials, and look at verse 8:

In the second month of the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, Joshua son of Jozadak and the rest of the people (the priests and the Levites and all who had returned from the captivity to Jerusalem) began the work. 

They began rebuilding the temple. But now the Jews run into solid opposition. Chapter 4 discusses the political attacks and military threats on them. Under these withering attacks and political threats, the people finally simply had to stop. Ezra 4:24 says: Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

That ends chapter 4, and between chapters 4 and 5, there is a period of eighteen years—eighteen years when the Jewish remnant went about their lives, building their houses, getting married, having children, establishing their jobs, and walking beneath the unfinished construction of the temple.

But now, let’s go to Ezra 5.

Now Haggai the prophet and Zechariah the prophet, a descendant of Iddo, prophesied [preached] to the Jews in Judah and Jerusalem in the name of the God of Israel, who was over them. Then Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel and Joshua son of Jozadak set to work to rebuild the house of God in Jerusalem. And the prophets of God were with them, supporting them.

Two prophets showed up. These two men felt the call of God to do something. They gathered the people and began to preach to them. And a revival broke out—a revival of the work for the rebuilding of the temple. And Zerubbabel and Joshua—the governor and the high priest—got stirred up again, and so did the people. And they marched up that hill, cleared away the debris, jump started the work, withstood their enemies, and built that temple. In the next chapter, it is completed and dedicated.

What’s amazing is that the book of Ezra does not tell us one word that was spoken by either prophet. What could they have said that so stirred up the people? Wouldn’t you like to have a transcript of their sermons!

Well, we do! We have the Old Testament books of Haggai and Zechariah. These are the records of the sermons these two men preached and the lessons they taught. The words I read at the beginning of the message were one of Zechariah’s sermons. He is reporting on a vision God gave him. That’s the background. Zechariah was sent to encourage the people of God to be faithful in the present because their work would pay off in the future. That’s something we need to remember. Some of you have been planting seeds or seedlings in your garden. I put out two tomato plants. We do that today because we expect some tomatoes and peas and beans in the future.

I was talking to someone who volunteered over the Easter festival to work with the children. Why did she do that? Because she believes her work will pay off in the future. I can say that the seeds of my Christian life were planted and watered by two women in my home church who, for many years, taught the primary and junior children’s classes at my church. The Bible promises future returns for our work. And Zechariah’s great message was to keep on working with enthusiasm because there will be future results beyond anything the builders could imagine. 

2 Then I looked up, and there before me was a man with a measuring line in his hand. I asked, “Where are you going?”

Zechariah is having a vision. In his vision, he sees a surveyor. This man is going to survey the boundary lines of something. Zechariah wants to know where he is going.

He answered me, “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is.”

At the time of this vision, Jerusalem was a relatively small city. It was largely in ruins. But this vision was a prophetic picture of how large Jerusalem would one day become. Right now, the remnant of Jews were discouraged because they were trying to rebuild their temple and their city, and it seemed so small to them. It seemed to them like nothing. But Zechariah said, “Your work is very important right now; it is vital and it is glorious, even though it seems so small and feeble. But one day the city you are rebuilding is going to be the center of the world. 

Zechariah is going to begin talking about a time in the future that we call the thousand-year-reign of Christ, or the Millennium. What Zechariah is saying in this passage has a fulfillment still in the future. 

Here’s what the Bible teaches is going to happen in summary. The nation of Israel will continue to suffer from the opposition of the world, and sometime still in the future the whole world will go through a seven-year period of terrible tribulation. Near the end of that period, the military forces of the world under the control of the antichrist will arise against Israel and surround her. The global opposition we see to Israel is part of the buildup to all that. 

At the Battle of Armageddon, the armies of the antichrist will be on the verge of totally obliterating the Jewish people and the state of Israel. But at that very moment the Lord Jesus will return at His Second Coming, and He will establish a thousand-year kingdom and He will rule the world in righteousness from Jerusalem. At the end of that time, the universe itself will be recreated and we’ll enter the permanent New Heavens and New Earth. 

(I explain all of this in depth in my book, The 50 Final Events in World History).

— Tribulation/Battle of Armageddon 

— Return & Millennial Reign of Christ 

— Eternity in New Heavens & Earth

The Old Testament prophets could not stop talking about this. Dwight Pentecost said, “A larger body of prophetic Scripture is devoted to the subject of the Millennium…than any other one subject. This millennial age, in which the purposes of God are fully realized on earth, demands considerable attention.”

Let’s keep reading:

While the angel who was speaking to me was leaving, 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 people and animals in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,’ declares the Lord, ‘and I will be its glory within.’

One day the city of Jerusalem will be too big for walls to contain her. Her population will explode. And besides, the city will not need walls, because Almighty God will be a wall around her—a wall of fire.

He will also be the glory in her midst. When Moses dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord came into the Holy of Holies like a cloud of fire and dwelt among His people. When Solomon dedicated the temple, the glory of the Lord did the same. In the early chapters of Ezekiel, we see the glory of God leaving the temple because of the vile and violent sins of the people (Ezekiel 9-11). The glory of the Lord disappears over the Mount of Olives and returns to Heaven. But in the latter chapters of Ezekiel, we see the glory of the Lord literally return to Millennial Jerusalem (Ezekiel 43). 

Ezekiel 43: 1-5 says, “I saw the glory of the God of Israel coming from the east. His voice was like the roar of rushing waters, and the land was radiant with his glory…. The glory of the Lord entered the temple….”

Now continuing in Zechariah 2:

“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, Zion! Escape, you who live in Daughter Babylon!” 

In other words, the Lord is inviting Jews who are dispersed all over the world to return to Jerusalem. 

For this is what the Lord Almighty says: “After the Glorious One has sent me against the nations that have plundered you—for whoever touches you touches the apple of his eye—

The apple of the eye is the pupil of your eye. You know how sensitive that spot is. You don’t really want anyone touching the pupil of your eye. The Lord was telling the nation of Israel that He is very sensitive about them and about their fate. He is sensitive about anyone hurting or harming them.

 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.

This is Jesus speaking. He is going to descend at the Second Coming and defend Israel. He will be sent by Almighty God the Father.

10 “Shout and be glad, Daughter Zion. For I am coming, and I will live among you,” declares the Lord11 “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. 13 Be still before the Lord, all mankind, because he has roused himself from his holy dwelling.”

Let me summarize. Haggai and Zechariah were Old Testament prophets who were sent to Jerusalem to encourage the remnant of Jews who had returned from Babylon to rebuild their city and their temple. In this message, Zechariah is passing along a vision that he received from God. He told the people to keep on working, keep on persevering even though their work seemed small and insignificant. What they were building would in the course of time become the center of the entire earth. One day the city would be too big for walls, the Lord would be a wall of fire around them and the glory of God would dwell in their midst.

Zechariah was telling these workers that what they were doing was providing an essential link in the work God is doing through His people over the centuries. What they were doing would bear fruit in the future. They were a vital link.


There are three applications we can claim for ourselves.

First, we need to understand that God has chosen the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob—the Jewish people and the nation of Israel—to be the dominant nation on earth in the coming days. Until then, she will be attacked and besieged, and during the Battle of Armageddon, she will be nearly defeated and destroyed. But Jesus Christ will come again and save her and establish her as head among the nations and rule from Jerusalem for a thousand years. The reason we support the nation of Israel is not because Israel is yet godly nor always right. But they are God’s channel of grace that began with the call of Abraham and will end in the Millennial Reign of Jesus Christ. They are essential to the historical continuity of God’s work in this world.

Second, there’s an additional application here for us. Sometimes what we are doing for the Lord seems so small and insignificant. But it isn’t. Like these Jewish workers who had returned to Jerusalem, we become discouraged when the progress is so slow. But they were doing more good than they knew and their results would be far greater than they could imagine. The same is true for us. By God’s grace, we’re doing more good than we know and our results will be far greater than we can imagine. 

Third, what the Israelites will have physically in the future, we who are followers of Jesus have spiritually in the present. The Lord is a wall of fire around us and the glory in our midst.

About four years ago I went through a spell of significant discouragement. There were three or four events happening in my life that were overwhelming me, and I struggled to keep up my spirits. Somehow I came across a little book written by a missionary who went to China in the early 1900s. Her name was Marie Monsen and she was a very unusual character.

She said that one night early during her time in China, she was the only missionary on the station. Before going upstairs to bed, she shut all the windows of the house and locked the two doors. Sometime during the night she was awakened by two heavy blows on her right shoulder and she woke up terrified. Then she heard these words spoken clearly and distinctly: “The Lord is a wall of fire around His people.”

Her fear was immediately replaced by a deep sense of peace, and she imagined the roof being lifted off the house and, as she sat up in bed, she imagined she was surrounded by a very high wall of fire. A swarm of arrows came flying from beyond the wall, but none of them reached her.  She began weeping and said, “It is like that, Lord. Thou art round about Thy people, and I have never known it before.”

The next day a messenger arrived asking her to come because a little boy was terribly sick. Maria went out to rent a driver and horse cart, but the only driver was a man who was known for his ill temper and profanity. She hired him, and this is what she said:

“We were hardly outside the city gate before I noticed that the peace of God seemed to fill the atmosphere around me. In the cart it felt like a soft warmth wrapped around me. I have no words with which to describe it. The driver felt it too, to such an extent that he never uttered a curse all day, although the roads were very bad. In several places the cart slid slowly through the mud without the wheels going around. The whip, which was usually applied to the animals when they were struggling hardest, was not used that day at all. It was all so wonderful that I thought more than once: ‘Will it be like this in the Millennium?”

Many times later, when she faced tremendous danger, she was able to remain calm and unafraid because she was convinced the Lord was a wall of fire around her and the glory in her midst.

Well, yes, Marie, that is what it will be like during the Millennium. God will literally be a wall of fire around Jerusalem and the glory in her midst. But for now, it’s true in ways I cannot fully understand. It’s true for you and me.

The devil complained that God had built a hedge around Job’s life, one which the devil cannot penetrate unless the Lord allows for some reason He Himself knew. But I believe this is true for you and me today and for our church.

God is a wall of fire around us and the glory in our midst. The Lord has us within a globe of grace. He may let the devil send us a trial. We may be persecuted. We may have problems. We may be imprisoned for our faith. We’re not exempt from suffering. But in ways we cannot even realize, God is a wall of fire around us and we have the Holy Spirit within us.

The Bible says, “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Colossians 1:27).