I The Eight Symbolic Visions, B The Communication of the Visions, 1 The vision of the Horseman, Text: 1:7-17, Title: False Peace


Things are not always what they seem. In the situation, in general, it looks like the nations raised up to punish God’s people are prospering while the Jews returned from Babylon are facing the devastating project of rebuilding on the ruins of the Holy City. The message here is that Israel will be blessed again both in the rebuilding of the temple and in the future with the advent of their Messiah. Zechariah is here to remind them of this. Human beings tend to see things in black and white. In this broken, sinful, fallen world there is a lot of gray. In the sight of God, no events or deeds are one hundred percent good or bad. Apart from Jesus Christ during His life on earth, no man has ever performed a wholly good act. And tragedies, too, are a mixed bag. No matter how terrible they seem, some good may come out of them. God teaches us this in Paul’s letter to the Romans. We read in 8:28, And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Even when bad things happen to those we perceive as good people, God has a good hidden in those trials. Conversely, when good things happen  to  bad people they are not the blessing we think they are. In the overall scheme, all that happens to God’s people leads to their salvation, but all that happens to the non-elect leads to their condemnation. All means all. Thus we may readily interpret our circumstances in the wrong way. In each life some rain must fall and some sunshine come, but from God’s perspective, they are always good for His own, and bad for the rebellious sinner. So, things are not always what they seem. If we are discouraged we should listen to what God says, as Zechariah encourages Israel to do. In this vision we see a faithful person, a false peace, and fulfilled promises.

I Faithful Person

And so the Lord comes to Zechariah in verses 7-11, On the twenty-fourth day of the eleventh month, the month of Shebat, in the second year of Darius, the word of the Lord came to the prophet Zechariah son of Berekiah, the son of Iddo. During the night I had a vision—and there before me was a man riding a red horse! He was standing among the myrtle trees in a ravine. Behind him were red, brown and white horses. I asked, “What are these, my lord?” The angel who was talking with me answered, “I will show you what they are.” Then the man standing among the myrtle trees explained, “They are the ones the Lord has sent to go throughout the earth.” And they reported to the angel of the Lord, who was standing among the myrtle trees, “We have gone throughout the earth and found the whole world at rest and in peace.” The are a number of things in this vision about which commentators can only speculate, but it seems clear that there are three parties present. Zechariah, the four horsemen including their leader, and the interpreting angel who talks directly with Zechariah. We don’t know what the colors of the horses represent, but it seems clear that the color red stands out. The leader is on a red horse and is distinguished from the others because one of those following is also on a red horse and also because the others report to him. Given what follows in this text red may very well represent the pent-up anger of the Lord against the enemies of Israel. He is not happy that they are at peace. That peace is deceptive and false and they are in for a surprise. His people are looking at those nations and asking, “Why do the wicked prosper?” That same leader standing among the myrtles is identified in verse 11 as the angel of Jahweh. Some speculate that this is the second person of the Trinity in one of his pre-incarnation appearances, but it is not vital for our understanding that the Lord is visiting the prophet directly with His Word. What is important here is the information conveyed to Zechariah and through Him to the people. The message is God has not forgotten. He is a faithful covenant keeping God. In Genesis 15:2 and 3 God promised Abraham, I will make you into a great nation, and I will bless you; I will make your name great,  and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you. The time has come for God to curse those who cursed Abraham and He has not forgotten. These things are written in the history of the Bible so that we can profit from them. No matter how hard things may become for you, in the end God has not forgotten and He will bless you.

II False Peace

We have already identified the peace of the foreign nations as false, but in verses 12-15 we read the particulars: Then the angel of the Lord said, “Lord Almighty, how long will you withhold mercy from Jerusalem and from the towns of Judah, which you have been angry with these seventy years?” So the Lord spoke kind and comforting words to the angel who talked with me. Then the angel who was speaking to me said, “Proclaim this word: This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘I am very jealous for Jerusalem and Zion, but I am very angry with the nations that feel secure. I was only a little angry, but they added to the calamity.’ God was angry with His people so he raised up other nations to execute vengeance upon his disobedient people. The message here is that they enjoyed it too much. Historians report that during this siege, which lasted about thirty months, "every worst woe befell the city, which drank the cup of God's fury to the dregs." Jerusalem was plundered and razed to the ground the temple destroyed and the elite of the population carried off. The prophet Jeremiah was a witness to the spiritual death of the holy city, and the book of Lamentations is actually sort of a funeral dirge that depicts the suffering and sorrow of Jerusalem’s death. the book describes the sufferings of the prophet, of the city, of the temple, and in graphic terms of the people under siege in  Chapter 4:1-10. There we read, How the gold has lost its luster, the fine gold become dull! The sacred gems are scattered     at every street corner. How the precious children of Zion, once worth their weight in gold, are now considered as pots of clay, the work of a potter’s hands! Even jackals offer their breasts to nurse their young, but my people have become heartless like ostriches in the desert. Because of thirst the infant’s tongue sticks to the roof of its mouth; the children beg for bread, but no one gives it to them. Those who once ate delicacies are destitute in the streets. Those brought up in royal purple now lie on ash heaps. The punishment of my people is greater than that of Sodom, which was overthrown in a moment without a hand turned to help her. Their princes were brighter than snow and whiter than milk, their bodies more ruddy than rubies, their appearance like lapis lazuli. But now they are blacker than soot; they are not recognized in the streets. Their skin has shriveled on their bones; it has become as dry as a stick. Those killed by the sword are better off than those who die of famine; racked with hunger, they waste away for lack of food from the field. With their own hands compassionate women have cooked their own children, who became their food when my people were destroyed. This should suffice to point out why God was furious with their enemies who had inflicted such unnecessary pain and suffering on His people. Truly, they added to the calamity. No peace to the wicked.

III Fulfilled Promises

We have already seen that God is faithful to His own. Now in verses 16 and 17 Zechariah describes that faithfulness, Therefore, this is what the Lord says: “I will return to Jerusalem with mercy, and there my house will be rebuilt. And the measuring line will be stretched out over Jerusalem,” declares the Lord Almighty. Proclaim further: This is what the Lord Almighty says: “My towns will again overflow with prosperity, and the Lord will again comfort Zion and choose Jerusalem.” Verse 16 certainly records the promise of God for the rebuilding and resumption of life in Jerusalem and beyond. There is a physical restoration. Before the birth of  Christ as recorded in the books of Maccabees an Hasmonean dynasty was begun which terminated in Herod Antipas, son of Herod the Great and the man who beheaded John the Baptist and mocked Jesus at His trial. Under Herod the Great the fortunes of the Jews prospered and the temple of Jesus’ time was finished by Herod. However, we should take careful note of the words introducing the next verse which imply a change in perspective. In addition to the material developments,  Zechariah is to ‘proclaim further,” or”proclaim again.” The word “again” occurs twice in this verse and it emphasizes the continuity with the past history of the chosen people, the people descended from Abraham with whom God made a covenant. He has chastened them but never rejected them. This serves to prepare for the prophecies to the divinely appointed leaders mentioned in chapters 3 and following chapters which have messianic symbolism and point forward to Christ and the New Covenant. For example in chapter 3:8 and 9 we read, Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day. Thus, Joshua is prefiguring Christ and the encouragement Zechariah brings of renewed blessings on Zion will only come about with the work and suffering of the Messiah in the future. Then in chapter 6:12 and 13 the Branch is mentioned again as Joshua is crowned as the the King-Priest, which is Jesus, Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.” Here we see then that the true restoration and rebuilding of the temple is when Jesus builds His Church. So the final message of Zechariah is that God will bless them in the present but much better blessings await them in the future with the advent of Messiah and we will bring true peace and conquer all their enemies.