In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,
I. Consider, first, the solemn and yet familiar thought here of the passing away of the hearers and the speakers alike.
II. Notice, next, the contrast between the fleeting hearers and speakers and the abiding word. There is nothing so transient as the words that are spoken by Christian teachers. Of all the seed that is sown, our Master taught us that three-fourths, at least, was likely to perish. And even where the word takes root in men's hearts, how swiftly the speaker of it passes and is forgotten! And yet, in all these fleeting and mingled human utterances, does there not lie an immortal and imperishable centre, even the word of the living God? The word of the Lord endureth for ever, and this enduring word is that story of Christ's incarnation, death for our sins, resurrection, and ascension, which by the Gospel is preached unto you.
III. Consider the witness of the past generations to the immortal word.
Our prophet is speaking to the men who returned from exile, and he appeals to them concerning the history of the preceding generations which had been carried away into captivity, according to the threatenings of the pre-exilian prophets. And, says Zechariah in effect, though the prophets' words no more sound, and the men that heard them are stiff in death, that past generation is a witness that even through human lips and to careless ears a word is preached that will be fulfilled.
A. Maclaren, Christian Commonwealth, December 9th, 1886.
Zechariah 1:7-17The rider in the myrtle grove.
I. The prophet saw a grove of myrtle trees in a hollow or low place. By the myrtle grove all are agreed is signified the covenant people, the nation of Israel, and by its being in a low place is indicated their depressed and sad condition. In the Hebrew mind the idea of modest beauty and freshness was associated with the myrtle, and hence we find this introduced as symbolical of the Church under the reign of the Messiah, when, "instead of the briar," the symbol of the world under the curse, "shall come up the myrtle tree" (Isaiah 55:13).
II. The mounted rider, though in appearance as a man, is described as the angel of Jehovah. By this appellation is designated in Scripture a being who on various occasions appeared to men, and who, though coming forth as the angel or messenger of Jehovah, is at the same time represented as a Divine being, having the power of God, receiving the honours due only to God, and exercising the proper functions of the Almighty (cf. Genesis 16:7-14, Genesis 22:11-19, Genesis 21:11, etc., Genesis 48:15-16; Exodus 13:2, Exodus 23:20-21; Joshua 5:13-15). A comparison of these passages leads to the conclusion that the angel of Jehovah is none other than God manifest in human form, the Being who, as the Captain of the Lord's host, led up Israel to Canaan, the Being who came forth to execute vengeance on the enemies of the covenant people, and who was known to Israel as their Protector and Advocate. That this Being is the same who in the fulness of time came to our world as the Angel of the Covenant the teachings of the New Testament lead us confidently to believe.
III. For the consolation and encouragement of the people, the prophet had to tell them that, depressed as was their condition, the Angel of the Lord, the Leader, the Protector, the Redeemer of Israel, was still in the midst of them. He was there, standing and still, but ready to ride forth in their defence, and to send judgments on their adversaries, which was indicated by the vision of His being mounted on a red horse, the symbol of war and bloodshed. He is also with them as their Intercessor with God. Hence He appears in this vision as making intercession for them, beseeching God to have pity on Jerusalem and the cities of Judah; and, now that the time of chastisement was at an end, that He would be gracious to them, grant them full restoration and establishment in their own land.
W. Lindsay Alexander, Zechariah's Visions and Warnings, p. 1; see also Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 61.
References: Zechariah 1:8.—Spurgeon, Morning by Morning, p. 270. Zechariah 1:8-21.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. x., No. 598. Zechariah 1:12, Zechariah 1:13.—Ibid., Evening by Evening, p. 55.
Zechariah 1:18-21I. As physical emblems of force, horns are in the prophetic visions representative of earthly powers or kingdoms. The number four, in its prophetic acceptation, is the signature of the world, and is used here to indicate powers coming on every side or from all quarters. As in the former vision the riders were represented as having gone over the whole earth and found all quiet, so here all the earthly powers hostile to the people of God are, in general, indicated by the four horns.
II. As the prophet continued to look, Jehovah showed him—rather caused him to see—four workmen or artificers, and informed him that the workmen had come to frighten away, or discomfit and cast down, these oppressors. "These are come to fray them." In modern usage the verb "fray" signifies to rub or file down, but in old English it is used in the sense of terrify or frighten. The four workmen do not symbolise four special powers by which the enemies of Judah were to be discomfited and cast down; as the horns were four, so an equal number of workmen came to indicate the completeness of the overthrow of the enemies of Judah. Each horn has its destined destroyer.
III. What was thus showed for the comfort of the people of God in the old time is no less for the comfort and encouragement of the Church in all ages and places. The Angel of the Lord, the Divine Redeemer, abides for ever with that Church which He hath purchased with His blood. And exalted as He is to the throne of His glory, having all power in heaven and on earth, He can send forth at any time agencies by which the power of the Church's enemies shall be broken and all their forces routed. It behoves the Church, then, to have faith in her exalted Head, and patiently to wait for Him.
W. Lindsay Alexander, Zechariah's Visions and Warnings, p. 17; see also Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iii., p. 220.
References: Zechariah 1:20.—Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 342. Zechariah 2:1-5.—Ibid., Sermons, vol. x., No. 604.
The LORD hath been sore displeased with your fathers.
Therefore say thou unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye unto me, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will turn unto you, saith the LORD of hosts.
Be ye not as your fathers, unto whom the former prophets have cried, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Turn ye now from your evil ways, and from your evil doings: but they did not hear, nor hearken unto me, saith the LORD.
Your fathers, where are they? and the prophets, do they live for ever?
But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us.
Upon the four and twentieth day of the eleventh month, which is the month Sebat, in the second year of Darius, came the word of the LORD unto Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, the son of Iddo the prophet, saying,
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.
Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will shew thee what these be.
And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered and said, These are they whom the LORD hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth.
And they answered the angel of the LORD that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and, behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.
Then the angel of the LORD answered and said, O LORD of hosts, how long wilt thou not have mercy on Jerusalem and on the cities of Judah, against which thou hast had indignation these threescore and ten years?
And the LORD answered the angel that talked with me with good words and comfortable words.
So the angel that communed with me said unto me, Cry thou, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; I am jealous for Jerusalem and for Zion with a great jealousy.
And I am very sore displeased with the heathen that are at ease: for I was but a little displeased, and they helped forward the affliction.
Therefore thus saith the LORD; I am returned to Jerusalem with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the LORD of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem.
Cry yet, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; My cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the LORD shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.
Then lifted I up mine eyes, and saw, and behold four horns.
And I said unto the angel that talked with me, What be these? And he answered me, These are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.
And the LORD shewed me four carpenters.
Then said I, What come these to do? And he spake, saying, 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 it.