If you knew that you could not fail, what would you do for the Lord’s glory?
What Zechariah teaches us is that the Lord has a good vision for His people, despite the trials we often face. Through these eight visions, the Lord assures us that He wants us to participate in manifesting His plans and purposes for us. He is with us, empowering and enabling us; He is the Glory in our midst.
OT Israel faced difficult days as returning exiles…they had become discouraged by the many challenges around them. Comparatively, there were a few – about 50,000 in total, (see Ezra 2:64-67), and these Israelites had become discouraged, (Ezra 4:24); WHY? The work of rebuilding the Temple had stalled for almost two decades due to internal and external factors. This project was funded on the backs of the regions high taxation; also, those returning exiles decided that building their own houses was a greater priority.
The Temple at Jerusalem defined the Jews as a people! They were YHWH’s covenant people, and their primary purpose on earth was to worship the one true God, while leading other nations to do the same. Under Cyrus, the Jews were allowed to return in 539 BC, (he conquered Babylon that year and instituted a policy of religious tolerance – undoubtedly for political and military reasons only) – 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 ANE. (Their “man-in-the-office had been removed – violently). Further, it must have been very humiliating for those returning exiles to accept the painful reality that Israel’s best days were behind them.
Thematically, Zechariah (whose name means “the Lord Remembers”), centers on two major concerns – the renewal of God’s people, and the establishment of His Kingdom. The question that haunted these Israelites was: “Why should our God allow this sad condition to continue?” Zechariah’s overarching purpose: to lift the eyes of God’s people from their discouraging and disheartening circumstances to see the bigger picture of God’s coming Kingdom.
The Lord gave Zechariah eight visions in one night. Our text deals with the second vision: “Then the Angel of the Lord answered and said, “O Lord of hosts, how long will You not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which You were angry these seventy years?” And the Lord answered the angel who talked to me, with good and comforting words. So the angel who spoke with me said to me, “Proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “I am zealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with great zeal. I am exceedingly angry with the nations at ease; for I was a little angry, and they helped—but with evil intent.” ‘Therefore thus says the Lord: “I am returning to Jerusalem with mercy; My house shall be built in it,” says the Lord of hosts, and a surveyor’s line shall be stretched out over Jerusalem.”’ “Again proclaim, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts: “My cities shall again spread out through prosperity; the Lord will again comfort Zion, and will again choose Jerusalem.”’”
Then I raised my eyes and looked, and there were four horns. And I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these?” So he answered me, “These are the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. And I said, “What are these coming to do?” So he said, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, so that no one could lift up his head; but the craftsmen are coming to terrify them, to cast out the horns of the nations that lifted up their horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.”
If you knew that you could not fail, what would you do for the Lord’s glory? In Zechariah 1:2-3, we read: “The Lord was very angry with your fathers. Therefore say to them, thus declares the Lord of hosts: Return to me, says the Lord of hosts, and I will return to you, says the Lord of hosts.” Notice YHWH informs His discouraged people of His desire to bless them! In 1:16-17, He gives a four-fold promise . . . He has returned in mercy; He will dwell among His people; He will build; He will bless His people and they will prosper, (“again”); The question that haunted the OT covenant people in this text was, “How can we be YHWH’s chosen people and our cities overflow with prosperity if there are Gentile powers oppressing us?”
Beginning in verse 18, Zechariah receives the second vision from the Lord. It is the vision of the Four Horns and Four Craftsmen. What is the meaning of this vision? For Zechariah, the Four Horns, (vv. 18-19), are symbols of earthly power and influence. These Gentile nations have caused God’s people to become “scattered”, (see Ezekiel 5:10; 12:15; 22:15). This speaks directly to Israel and Judah’s captivities. It appears that these nations went “too far” in their appointed roles.
The Four Craftsmen, (vv. 20-21) . . .
These images could be carpenters, stone masons, or blacksmiths – humans and human agencies with divine and destructive powers. They come to “terrify” the horns, which were at rest and indifferent. They have also come to “cast down” these Gentile powers, (note the “ironic reversal”). Notice YHWH’s promise of divine protection for His covenant people. As the Lord of Hosts (“Lord of the Heavenly Armies), YHWH is more than capable of overthrowing any and every threat that confronts His people!
What is this vision saying to us today?
God’s people have always faced threats – both from within and without. These threats are very formidable. They take the form of political power, economic power, and even spiritual powers. (The apostle Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that we are in a dangerous and deadly wrestling match with unseen spiritual powers). Despite our daily predicament, the Sovereign Lord is not unaware of the source(s) of oppression. God, through Christ Jesus, has made all things right, (see 1 John 3:8b, “The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil.”)
This text also reminds us that our Sovereign Lord remembers everything. He remembers the sources of those things which cause us to become fearful, terrified, or even frustrated, as we seek to follow Him each day. “He knows our frame; He remembers that we are dust”, the Psalmist assures us. The Lord is faithful; He also keeps His covenant which Christ Jesus has fulfilled on our behalf. The risen and ascended Christ, embodied in the Holy Spirit, is the “Glory in our midst”. Therefore, God’s Word and His transforming Presence within and among us is our guaranteed protection, (see Jeremiah 23:29, “Is not my word like fire, declares the Lord, and like a hammer that breaks the rock in pieces?”).
The Holy Spirit empowers Believers, so that we are no longer fearful, but will become more faithful in our daily walk with Him. While we sojourn here on earth, heading to our final home in the new heavens and the new earth, we can rest assured of the Lord’s overcoming power within us, (see Romans 8:35-39, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? As it is written, “For your sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Also, we are encouraged by 2 Corinthians 10:4-5, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ”.)
If you knew that you could not fail, what would you do for the Lord’s glory?