If I were surrounded by fire, I would probably be scared to death. Obviously this figure is meant in an entirely different way.
And I will be to her a wall of fire all around, declares the LORD, and I will be the glory in her midst, Zech 2:5.
Zechariah was a minor prophet who prophesied shortly after Haggai. In fact, you can think of him as writing the sequel to that prophet’s book, Homer Hailey once said. The Jews have returned from Babylon and are in the midst of rebuilding the Temple. Zechariah’s job was not only to encourage them to finish the task, but to look ahead to the glorious coming of the promised kingdom. But here they were, a small remnant (42,360, Neh 7:66, out of an estimated million in Babylon), with no armies, no weapons, and not even a wall around their old city.
In the vision Zechariah sees a young man trying to measure the city, as if it were a finite place. In verse 4 God says Run, say to that young man, ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as villages without walls, because of the multitude of people and livestock in it.
“My kingdom is not of this world,” Jesus told Pilate. It would not be a physical, measurable location at all. The Jerusalem God had in mind was one too big for walls. It is open to multitudes of peoples. And the only wall it needs is the protection of God Himself.
The Hebrew writer calls the church “the heavenly Jerusalem.” We are in that city and we do not need stone walls or mighty weapons of war. We have “a wall of fire about” us in the person of the Almighty God. That fire represents not just the protection, but also the glory of our Savior. Even as we approach what could be a new era of persecution in our country, if we have faith in those promises, what have we to fear?
Of all the old hymns we sing, I can’t think of another with as many scriptural references, over forty if you count them all. Wouldn’t it be a shame to assign this one to the trash pile just because it doesn’t have modern rhythms or harmonies? And isn’t it shameful to us if we can’t understand what these lyrics mean? Jesus should be to us and to our descendants in ages to come “the fairest of ten thousand” to our souls, and God “a wall of fire about” us.
What is it then? I will pray with the spirit, and I will pray with the understanding also: I will sing with the spirit, and I will sing with the understanding also, 1 Cor 14:15.