The first vision included a squad of four angels on horseback who had been patroling among the nations of the earth. They rode into a grove of myrtle trees and reported to their commander that all of the nations were at rest, meaning that things were relatively peaceful among the nations.
An interpreting angel explains the scene to Zechariah so that he can understand what is happening and report it to the people, recording it in his book of prophecy. The commander to which the report is being made is the “Angel of the Lord”, which is an appearance of Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, before His incarnation. He made several of these appearances in the Old Testament and is each time recongnized to be the Lord walking among and talking to men (Gen 16:7-13; Exodus 3:2-4; Joshua 5:13-15; Judges 6:12-14).
As these angels make their report to Christ, He then intercedes, praying to the Father on behalf of His people. As they are recovering from the 70 years in captivity they are struggling, while the rest of the world, especially the nations that had scattered them in the first place, were at ease and at peace.
God answers the petition and the interpreting angel tells Zechariah that God has spoken good and comforting words. He is to tell his people that God loves His people jealously, that is, with a love that is energetically focused upon them as His special people. He is also very angry with the nations that brought this calamity on His people. Even though it was His hand that brought the judgments upon them for their sin, the Lord still intends to visit judgment upon the wicked nations that attacked and used His people.
Further God makes it clear that because the people heeded His Word earlier through Zechariah (Zech 1:3, 6) and returned to Him, repenting of their sin, then He is returning to them just as He promised. He is bringing with Him mercy and will restore and even expand the nation as it will prosper under His blessing.
In Zechariah’s second vision, he sees four horns. These represent four powerful nations that have been raised up against God’s people and have scattered them. These may be related to the four beasts in Daniel’s vision (Dan 7:7-8; 8:3-9), which include Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. We know that God’s people have more than four enemies however, and so these four horns might also refer to enemies that come from all sides, that is from every direction – the four corners of the earth (north, south, east, and west). Whichever interpretation is correct, we can say with certainty that these horns represent the nations with which God is angry and who He Himself will repay for their evil deeds against His people.
Zechariah next sees four craftsmen. These are workers who are raised up by God to destroy the horns. The word translated “Craftsmen” is also translated on various Bible versions as “engravers”, “carpenters”, and “smiths.” The word can refer to all of these and specifically speaks of a worker who uses a hammer, anvil, and chisel to do his work with wood, metal, or stone. The key word here is hammer. These workers will hammer the horns, terrifying and destroying them.
As we recall that God’s Word is likened to a hammer (Jer. 23:29) and that the weapons we use in spritual warfare include the Word of God mighty in pulling down strongholds (2 Cor 10:4-5), we see that these craftsmen and men skilled in the use of God’s Word who speak out against the nations harming God’s people. As sure as God’s Word will never return void, He uses His Word spoken by the prophets against these nations to “fray” them, to break them apart and bring them to ruin. Every time throughout history that nations and people rise up against God’s people, He defends them and sends them men to stand up and proclaim His Word, even in the midst of a flood of evil.
Ultimately we see that just as the Angel of the Lord stands among His people (represented by the myrtle grove) He also stands in our midst, bringing us comfort and a challenge. In order to comfort us He tells us in His Word that He will never leave or forsake us, He loves us with a jealous love, He intercedes for us, and He sends His angels to minister to us and watch over us. In challenging us, He tells us that when we stray we must return to Him and He, as He promises, will return to us.
Join us this Sunday, August 7, for the second message in our series in Zechariah as we see Zechariah’s first two visions (Zech 1:7-21), involving “Horses, Horns, and Hammers”.