Why we call ourselves The Measuring Line

In several passages, the Bible mentions a measuring line as a metaphor for God’s focused care and intentional establishment. Significantly, in Zechariah 2, an angel is sent “to measure Jerusalem to determine its width and length” (2:2). While the statement seems to indicate that Jerusalem already exists and the angel is sent to measure its already established size, digging a little into the background reveals something different. In chapter 1, we learn in verses 1 and 7 that the time of this scene is during the second year of the Persian king Darius. His reign began about 520 BC, which was only roughly 16 years since Cyrus, the Persian king who had defeated Babylon, had issued his decree to release the Jews from captivity to return to rebuild both the city and the temple of Jerusalem. The temple was not completed until around 515 BC, and the walls of the city were not rebuilt until years later, as we read in Nehemiah. Therefore, at the particular time of Zechariah’s angel and his measuring line, Jerusalem was not a defined city so as to be measured.

We gain one other important but general idea from Hebrew history. God used Israel and his interaction with it as a teaching tool to express his work and interest in humankind as a whole. For example, Israel’s enslavement in Egypt mimics the enslavement the first image bearers, Adam and Eve, had to sin. God provided a means of rescue for Israel just as he provides a means for our rescue from evil’s stronghold. God led Israel to the Promised Land as he leads us to our eternal home. We recognize the same story in the Babylonian captivity, release, and return. We, therefore, should not lose sight in Zechariah not only of the still-ongoing physical reconstruction of the city of Jerusalem but also of the spiritual lesson it shows us of God’s interaction with the world. God intends to build the eternal city of God in which he will always dwell with his people.

The verse 2 word translated determine is the Hebrew ra’ah, which means see. We are familiar with its use in Genesis 1 as we learn with each element of creation, God saw it was good. God seeing it good was not merely a passive observance and realization. Rather, God saw to it that it was good. With that understanding, we may view the measurement of Zechariah 2 as not merely an observance of the size of Jerusalem, but rather God seeing to it that Jerusalem would indeed be rebuilt. God’s interest and care about Jerusalem are expressed in over 800 Old Testament references, so his regard for the city to ensure its rebuilding is obvious.

But note next that another angel appears on the scene. In verse 3 we learn that this second angel also has a message to deliver. Our first question—even before we begin to wonder about the second angel’s message—is why a second angel? Could not the first angel have delivered this message as well? The point of the second angel is to emphasize the change of focus from the physical city to be rebuilt to the spiritual city that God had planned.

We know this is a second, spiritual perspective because the second angel says the city will be built without walls. Of course, the physical city of Jerusalem was indeed rebuilt with walls. One purpose for walls is to define the city; walls limit its size. But the spiritual city of God—this new Jerusalem—we learn in verse 3 would be built without walls, without limits constraining its population. But we learn further that God himself would be a wall of fire around it. Another purpose of a city wall was for protection, and God here was promising to protect this spiritual city of his people.

The purpose of God’s city is revealed in verses 10 through 13. God would dwell with his people, and his people included all those who would come to him. Therefore, Zechariah taught us that God’s new Jerusalem would be a city open to all (without walls), defined and protected by its relationship with God (wall of fire), and be the place in which God would dwell.

Interestingly, as we turn to the New Testament’s discussion of the New Jerusalem, we find all those elements reiterated. Revelation 21 tells us that God would oversee the building of his city (21:2). That city would include all those of the world who would come to him (21:3, 24). The city would be protected by God (21:17, 27).

What exactly is this New Jerusalem? It is not a location in which we will dwell. We, the people of God, are the New Jerusalem. Notice verse 9: the angel tells John that he will show him the bride, the wife of the Lamb. Of course, through the New Testament we learn that the church—the people of God—is the bride. As the angel says, “Come, I will show you the bride,” he takes him to a high mountain to show him “the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.” New Jerusalem is the bride; the bride is the church; we are New Jerusalem!

John then mentions that the one speaking with him “had a gold measuring rod [or line] to measure the city.” The measuring of the New Jerusalem (of us) is the same activity, then, in both Old and New Testaments: it is the gathering together and the building up of the people of God. We called our church The Measuring Line because it is precisely that embracing activity of God that the biblical metaphor depicts and that we thrill in. We pray that our church takes a vibrant role in gathering and building up the people of God.