As Christiana and I visit with many family, friends, and acquaintances here in Nassau, many express their admiration of us as “pioneers”, and “visionaries”. Truth be told, we have been on a “strange” journey which began in the summer of 1980 – sharing the Gospel with others wherever we went. That journey has taken us literally all over the world. We thank our Father who has enabled us and made us willing to follow His vision for our lives, and more importantly, His vision for His people wherever He has sent us. Christiana and I earnestly desire to see the Lord’s people worship Him in spirit and in truth, and serve His people in a manner which glorifies the great name of Jesus. We constantly seek the Lord, asking Him to reveal to us His vision for us, for our team, and our new community here in the Bahamas. Which brings me to this point of reflection on the priest and prophet, Zechariah.
Zechariah was commissioned by the Lord to lead returning exiles in their spiritual formation, as they would restore and revive the true worship of YHWH in the rebuilt Temple at Jerusalem. He was given eight night visions, and all in one night! With absolute certainty of his divine call, Zechariah remained faithful. He had become convinced that his mission would not fail, and that the Transforming Presence of the Lord would restore the Covenant people as Worshippers and Workers, to the honor and glory of God Almighty.
Zechariah 1:7-17: “On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, which is the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo, saying, “I saw in the night, and behold, a man riding on a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in the glen, and behind him were red, sorrel, and white horses. Then I said, ‘What are these, my lord?’ The angel who talked with me said to me, ‘I will show you what they are.’ So the man who was standing among the myrtle trees answered, ‘These are they whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth.’ And they answered the angel of the Lord who was standing among the myrtle trees, and said, ‘We have patrolled the earth, and behold, all the earth remains at rest.’ Then the angel of the Lord said, ‘O Lord of hosts, how long will you have no mercy on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah, against which you have been angry these seventy years?’ And the Lord answered gracious and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. So the angel who talked with me said to me, ‘Cry out, Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am exceedingly jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion. And I am exceedingly angry with the nations that are at ease; for while I was angry but a little, they furthered the disaster. Therefore, thus says the Lord, I have returned to Jerusalem with mercy; my house shall be built in it, declares the Lord of hosts, and the measuring line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem. Cry out again, Thus says the Lord of hosts: My cities shall again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and again choose Jerusalem.’”
In Zechariah’s time, God’s people faced difficult days as returning exiles. There were only 42, 630 souls, (see Ezra 2:64-67), a small number when considering the overwhelming task of leading an entire nation. These few had become discouraged because the work of rebuilding the Temple had ceased, (see Ezra 4:24). Now, the Jews were allowed to return in 539 BC, and this was the year 520. In 522 BC, a military coup in Persia was quelled by Darius, who had become a powerful ruler in the Ancient Near East. Their Babylonian advocate had perished, and these disheartened Jews wondered about this new ruler. The haunting question for this discouraged group was: “Why should our God allow this sad condition to continue?”
Allow me to tell you that both Prophesy and Vision are the two-fold aspect of the word of God. While Prophesy is basically a call to repentance, Vision-casting is a call to hope and faith. The wise Solomon tells us that in Proverbs 29:18, that God’s people always need His vision. My friends, True Vision comes from God. It gives us a heavenly perspective of earthly events. True Vision also “shows” God’s future for His people. We need it, if we are to continue in the Lord’s ways. Our journey on this earth is filled with untold dangers and setbacks.
In this first of eight visions, Zechariah sees the “the Rider among the myrtles”. In 1:8, he sees Heaven’s swift reconnaissance unit, led by a Mounted Warrior. The myrtle trees are symbolic of God’s restoration, (“hadas/hadar”; see Nehemiah 8:15; Isaiah 55:13). The phrase “in the glen”, speaks to “Paradise” in dark places. God is among His people! What does this vision mean? Beginning in 1:9-17, Zechariah gets the report from the horsemen, (see vv. 10-11). These horsemen patrol the whole earth, and there are no hindrances. This heavenly unit operates freely. So, from this divine perspective, who is really in control? YHWH or Persia? Now v. 11 does not appear to underscore this fact – Rest for the Gentiles!?! Meredith Kline notes: “…the world powers were manifesting their defiant indifference to the God of heaven and earth by failing to assist His covenant people in their struggle to recover from the devastation of the Babylonian exile and to rebuild the sanctuary where He placed His name”.
In verse 12, we see the Angel interceding. Who is this Angel? Is he the Angel of the Lord, or Lord of the Angels? Listen, it is not inconsistent for faith to cry out to God. Israel had now experienced “70 years” of Divine distress, and had continued in passionately pleading with their covenant-keeping God. Praying with power means knowing God’s promises! Listen to YHWH’s comforting reply in vv. 13-17. We learn of His Immeasurable love for His people and unrestrained anger against their oppressors. There is that unimaginable promise of “Immanuel” – God with us, “the Return of the Great King”. The Lord Himself would see to the restoration of His covenant community!
What is this vision saying to us today? When God’s people are ridiculed and oppressed,
He may not always intervene, but He is far from being indifferent. Secondly, the Sovereign Lord is with us, even in our “dark nights of the soul”. Thirdly, He is displeased with the present situation that we face. Fourth, we have a Mediator, (Hebrews 8:6; 9:15; 12:24). Admittedly, we often think we have a problem because present experiences hardly match our hope! (see Psalm 73:16-17). However, my advice to all of us is simply this: It is foolishness to seek peace and happiness apart from a covenantal relationship with God!
My friends, Zechariah knew that his mission could not fail because the Lord of Hosts had commissioned him, and was present among His people – even in the midst of their distresses. Like Zechariah, Christiana and I are convinced of our specific call to lead the Lord’s people in their spiritual transformation. We are equally convinced that the Lord has always been in the midst of His people, even in their darkest moments. I have two questions for you to consider: “If you knew you could not fail, what would you do for the glory of God?” Secondly, Is the “transforming Presence” of the Most High God a present reality in your life?