AS WE HAVE ALREADY NOTED, chapters 1-6 contain a series of prophetic visions. Whilst their symbolism has been interpreted in different ways, the message of each vision is clear. In fact, it is often spelt out for us in simple language. Once we have grasped the main message conveyed by each vision, the splendid detail becomes easier to understand. We must, of course, remember why Zechariah was given these visions in the first place. As we have seen, the people had responded to the preaching of Haggai, and recommenced work on the temple. But they remained nonetheless a small and rather insignificant group of people who were ‘desperately struggling to establish themselves in a ruined city under the heel of a foreign power’, (F. A. TATFORD). They needed all the encouragement available, and they needed the assurance that God had not forgotten His people, nor cancelled His purposes for them. These eight visions did both: they encouraged the people to press on and complete the work, and they pointed to the coming glory of Jerusalem with the universal importance of its temple. Although there are some variations, the visions generally follow a standard pattern:
If you feel it’s all very baffling, just spare a thought for the prophet himself. No wonder he said, ‘what are these, 1. 9 what be these, 1. 19 … whither goest thou, 2. 2 … what are these, 4. 4 what is it, 5. 6 … what are these …’. He must have been very thankful that his questions were answered by ‘the angel that talked with him’, 1. 9; 1.19; 2.3; 4.1; 5. 5; 6. 5. And so are we!
It is really in two parts:
‘I saw by night, and behold a man riding upon a red horse, and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom; and behind him were there red horses, speckled and white …’, v. 8.
In the Old Testament, the angel of the Lord appeared in times of crisis, and the references make it clear that He was a divine Person. He is identified with God in Genesis 16. 7-14; Exodus 3.1-14; Exodus 23. 20-23 with Joshua 5.13-15; Judges 6. 12-14. He is described as ‘the angel of His presence’ (literally, ‘of His face’) in Isaiah 63.9. Hagar, Abraham and Jacob all describe Him as God, Gen. 16. 13,22. 11-14, 48. 15-16. He accepted sacrifices offered to God, Judg. 6. 17-24; 13. 3-23. The passage in Isaiah 63 identifies ‘the angel of His presence’, v. 9, and then speaks about ‘his Holy Spirit’, v. 10. Need more be said? The ‘man riding upon a red horse’ – also described as ‘the angel of the Lord’ – is the Lord Jesus Christ. Whilst at that point in time, the Lord Jesus had not entered manhood, His appearance as a man in the vision is undoubtably significant, compare Ezek. 1. 26.
A second lesson emerges. The whole world is under divine surveillance. ‘The eyes of the Lord run to and fro throughout the whole earth’, 2 Chron. 16. 9. Nothing escapes His gaze.
‘So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying’, v. 14. A message of hope follows, but we must notice that the message is the direct result of intercession by ‘the angel of the Lord’. So He is not only in the midst of His people - ‘among the myrtle trees’ – but He intercedes for them: ‘O Lord of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalern?’ Seventy years of captivity had passed, and although a section of the people had returned, it was an uphill struggle. God had said through Haggai, ‘I will shake all nations, and the desire of all, nations shall come … I will overthrow the throne of kingdoms’, Hag. 2. 7 and 22. But nothing was happening - ‘all the earth sitteth still and is at rest’. The ‘angel of the Lord’ presents the case of His struggling, suffering and downtrodden people: ‘How long?’
We too have a Representative in heaven. ‘Christ is … entered … into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us’, Heb. 9. 24. We have the same Intercessor as the Jews had in Zechariah’s day, but how much more we know about Him, and what a different relationship we have with Him! So Zechariah had a message to preach as a result of the intercession by ‘the angel of the Lord’. The message is made up of ‘good words and comfortable (consoling) words’, v. 13. It can be summed up as follows:
The first vision ended with stirring words, but how could this ever take place? The next two visions answer the problem. In the second vision, we learn that God will overthrow their enemies, 1. 18-21, and in the third vision, that God will protect them with His own presence, 2. 1-13. The second vision surrounds four horns and four carpenters. ‘These are the horns which have scattered Judah, so that no man did lift up his head: but these are come to fray them, to cast out the horns of the Gentiles which lifted up their horn over the land of Judah to scatter if, v. 21.
The significance of ‘four’ may well lie in another direction. The number reminds us of the four cardinal points of the compass, and therefore of universality. The Bible speaks about the ‘four winds of heaven’, Dan. 7. 2; Zech. 2. 6, and ‘four angels standing on the four corners of the earth’, Rev. 7. 1. In the eighth vision, we will encounter four chariots which are interpreted as ‘the four spirits of the heavens’, 6. 5. In the absence then of clear identification, it seems sensible to regard the four horns as the symbol of national hatred and oppression of Israel. The history of the Jewish nation has been marked by suffering, oppression, persecution and exile through the horns of the Gentile nations. Perhaps the best commentary on the four horns is in verse 15: ‘the heathen that are at ease; for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction’.
The answer lies in the following chapter: ‘He that toucheth you, toucheth the apple of his eye’, v. 8. We must also bear in mind Genesis 12. 3; ‘I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee’. It now becomes clear that this vision was intended to comfort these struggling builders, dwarfed as they were by giant world powers: their God was greater than alI, and every enemy of His people must suffer defeat and humiliation.
Numerous lessons arise from the second vision. For example, the very opposition we face is in itself the guarantee that God will deal with those responsible for it, 2 Thess. 1. 5-6. We are too precious to God for Him to stand by and do nothing. He may not act immediately – but act He most certainly will. Again, God will have the last word in this world. Some people and some nations resemble The Titanic commencing her maiden voyage – apparently quite unsinkable. But God’s carpenters are ceaselessly working. Human strength and power – even in this highly technological age – are nothing to Him. Again, Christ will be victorious in the final contest. A ten horned kingdom is yet to come, but the Lord Jesus, as the Lamb ‘in the midst of the throne’, has ‘seven horns’. His power and strength are perfect. Again, we can say with Zacharias, ‘Blessed be the Lord God of Israel: for He hath visited and redeemed His people, and hath raised up an horn of salvation for us …’, Luke 1. 69. The vision illustrates the fact that God is able to strengthen and encourage us when we feel downcast and dispirited. We all sometimes feel too weak to lift up our heads, see v. 21, ‘No man did lift up his head’. But God had not forgotten them – nor us: He was working on their behalf – and ours, ‘For in the time of trouble He shall hide me in his pavilion: in the secret of his tabernacle shall he hide me; he shall set me upon a rock. And now shall mine head be lifted up above mine enemies round about me’, Psa. 27. 5-6. ‘Many there be which say of my soul, There is no help for him in God. Selah. But Thou, O Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the lifter up of mine head’, Psa. 3. 2-3.
Your Basket Is Empty