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Lowell Brueckner

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The Angel of the Lord Appears


An expository study of Zechariah 1:7-21

The first vision

For your own profit and better understanding, may I suggest that you read our text first, then go on to peruse my comments with the open Bible handy. In this way, you will see exactly to what I am referring. This is the way that a Bible study works and the idea is to perceive what the Author, the Holy Spirit, wanted to share with His prophet, Zechariah, so that he would write His thoughts, first of all, for the benefit of the people of his day. Then, as He knew perfectly well, these words would be transferred through the millenniums until they found the people, who would experience personally their final fulfillment.

The angelic patrol

Three months after the Word of God came to Zechariah, which would be in the month of February, the 11th month of the same year, 520 B.C., of the reign of Darius, the prophet had his first vision (v.7). Although these visions occurred in the night, they were true visions and not dreams. Zechariah mentions various times that he consciously ‘lifted his eyes’ (v.18; 2:1; 5:1; 6:1). In 4:1, the angel awakened him from sleep, so that he could see a vision and in 5:5, he commanded him to lift his eyes. Zechariah writes of eight visions. 

In order to know the significance of the visions, he asks ten questions. Blessed is he that asks questions, for he will receive answers. The mysteries of the Kingdom of God are made known to such people (Mt.4:10-12). There are many, who are interested in having experiences, but to Zechariah, the experience was not as important as the significance. He wanted to understand what God was doing in his day, knowing that it also had future significance. We have a prophet in Zechariah, who marked the coming of the Messiah in a distant future. He asked and we benefit, because he not only shared the things that he saw, but joined them to the answer given him. 

In this vision, a Man comes riding on a red horse having a mission to fulfill (v.8). It is a very important Person and His mission is important; He is to carry out the most important plan in the world… the plan of God. Red is the symbol of judgment, blood and war. He is among the myrtles, trees that only grow to a height of about ten feet and in the vision they are in a low-lying area. The myrtle trees symbolize the people of God, Israel, in a state of humiliation, just being freed from captivity. A little later the Man is revealed as the Angel of the Lord and seems in a similar position, as Joshua saw Him, when He called Himself the Captain of the hosts of the Lord (Jos.5:13-15). This is the Word of God, the eternal Son of God.

After Him come other horses (of course, having riders) of various colors… red, sorrel and White. The colors mentioned certainly symbolized something and as the numbers in the Bible, they are consistent in their symbolism from beginning to end. That is because it is the work of the same Author, the Holy Spirit, who knows perfectly how to communicate with human beings. After Pentecost, He proceeded from the Father, sent from the Son, to teach Christians from His textbook, the Bible. The colors depict the ministry of the angels… judgment, victory and a combination of both.

Zechariah is a young man, who know how to ask questions, as we have already said, and in this verse (v.9), he asks his first question. A heavenly messenger is with him throughout this time to inform him. Heaven is willing to answer question and his question concerns these horses. We now enter the spiritual world and we have come to learn about angels that are led by the Angel of the Lord.

The Man remains among the myrtles and He is the one who answers the question (v.10). By His answer, we learn something, not only about these angels, but about the mission of angels in general. He says that they are sent from the Lord on a reconnaissance mission. They are a spiritual patrol that enter into the business of men. We should know that the world of spirits is very real, more real and older then the material world that we see, and truthfully, is controlled by spirits, good and bad (see Job 1:7; 2:2).

The Angel of the Lord intercedes

For the first time, the Man is called the Angel of the Lord (v.11). He is among the myrtles that symbolize the people of Israel, as we have already mentioned, and in the same way, we see Him among the seven candlesticks in the book of Revelation, which symbolize seven churches. The Lord, the good Shepherd, is always among His people, be they Jews or Gentiles. The angels report to Him and their information concerns the political situation, which for the moment is tranquil. The reign of the Persians, who have defeated the Babylonians, has been established and there is peace.

It may be somewhat surprising that the tranquil situation in the world does not please the Angel of the Lord (v.12). Many times, the things that cause the world to rejoice, saddens heaven. The Son of God always has been an intercessor and he prays to His Father, not for the world, but for His people (Jn.17:9). In the days of His flesh, He said, “I have not come to the world to bring peace”, therefore His mission is not to better its condition, but to bring to pass that which is of benefit to His people. He has entered with a red horse and with forces that will upset the present tranquility. He prays to the Lord of Hosts, which is His name and the manner in which God manifests Himself throughout this book, demonstrating his sovereignty over the situation on earth. He asks that God would do a work that would upset this condition and would favor Israel, now that the 70 years of anger against them, have passed. With what mercy he desires that the Father should pity them! The years of anger were necessary, and not a day less, to try them and break their rebellion, but because of His mercy, he did not let one day more than necessary pass. God’s discipline is under total control.  

Now the Lord responds with gracious, consoling words to the angel who is instructing Zechariah (v.13). He is “The Father of mercies, the God of all comfort” (2 Co.1:3). Luther said, “If you are a preacher of mercy, do not preach an imaginary mercy, but the true mercy. If the mercy is true, you must therefore bear the true, not an imaginary sin… Be a sinner, and let your sins be strong; but let your trust in Christ be stronger, and rejoice in Christ who is the victor over sin, death, and the world… Do you think such an exalted Lamb paid merely a small price with a meager sacrifice for our sins?” The wrath is past and it is time to confide in His mercy.

These things were said in the hearing of Zechariah, so that he could proclaim, not wrath, but God’s jealousy for His people, abused by their enemies (v.14). The zeal of the Lord for Jerusalem, for Mt. Zion and for His house, was demonstrated by Jesus, when He saw the spiritual state of Jerusalem in His day and when He enter the temple before Passover. He wept over Jerusalem and entered the temple, casting out all the businessmen, because ‘the zeal of Your house has consumed me” (Ps.69:9).

The unfolding of an eternal plan

The Lord’s discipline, executed upon Israel, was occasion for their enemies to aggravate their suffering and profit from it, rejoicing in their calamity. They had no right to do this. However, the profit that they were looking to gain was not the cause, but the result of something else that motivated them. What was the motivation and the reason, precisely, that angered the Lord? It was the fact that they were at ease in self-confidence (v.15), in the same state of which Habakkuk writes in 2:4: “As for the proud one, his soul is not right within him.” God demands that all the world deposit their confidence in Him, because “the just shall live by faith”.

Those who do not trust God become His enemies, intending to profit from His people in the time of their weakness. Without the defending hand of God upon them, the enemies think that this is the time to destroy them with their own power and astuteness. Seventy years is a brief time to discipline His people. Enemies of God and His people, watch out for eternal wrath! God requires that all people abandon their self-confidence and be reconciled to Him, trusting in His; and if they refuse, the Lord of Hosts will battle against them.

The people who left the land, because of God’s anger, now return with His great mercy that exceeds the previous wrath. The Lord of Hosts will work, so that His house may be rebuilt, because He longs to cohabitate with His people again. The work will extend over all the city of Jerusalem and the measuring line signifies this reconstruction (v.16).  

The Lord of Hosts continues His work, even beyond Jerusalem, extending it to other cities of Israel, which will prosper again after the captivity. When the Bible speaks of Zion it is pointing to the spiritual center, that is, the heart of Israel… the people who are concerned for the spiritual wellbeing of the nation. What God unfolds will be a motive of consolation for Zion, and Jerusalem will become the capital city again, as God determined from the beginning (v.17). As early as the book of Genesis, it is evident that the Lord had chosen Jerusalem, because there is a meeting between the patriarch, Abraham, with the priest, Melchizedek, king of Salem (afterwards called Jeru-salem).

The Lord of Hosts continues His work, even beyond Jerusalem, extending it to other cities of Israel, which will prosper again after the captivity. When the Bible speaks of Zion it is pointing to the spiritual center, that is, the heart of Israel… the people who are concerned for the spiritual wellbeing of the nation. What God unfolds will be a motive of consolation for Zion, and Jerusalem will become the capital city again, as God determined from the beginning (v.17). As early as the book of Genesis, it is evident that the Lord had chosen Jerusalem, because there is a meeting between the patriarch, Abraham, with the priest, Melchizedek, king of Salem (afterwards called Jeru-salem).

Although a revival occurs in the time of Zechariah,  in this prophesy we see a perfection that has not yet taken place in all of history, nor will it take place until God deals with the enemies of Israel once and for all. The perfect fulfillment will not occur until the Lord Jesus Christ reigns over the earth from Jerusalem in the Millennium. Therefore the complete vision ought to interest us, if we expect to be with Him in that reign.

The second vision

The four horns and the four craftsmen

In the prophetic Word, horns symbolize powers (Dn.7:7-8, 20, 24; 8:3, 6-7, 20; Rev. 12:3; 13:1, 11; 17:3, 7, 12, 16). As animals use their horns to push at, dominate and gain preeminence, in the same way human powers push one against another until the strongest one prevails. The four horns in the vision are four powers (v.18). In Amos 6:13, this principle is well illustrated, where horns is a proper translation. It speaks of Israel exalting itself and thinking that it has won horns because of its own strength and the Lord is letting them know that their boasting is in vain.

Zechariah wants to know the significance of the vision of the four horns and asks his second question. The answer is that they were those that scattered Judah, Israel and Jerusalem (19). Because we are dealing with prophecy, this statement does not only speak of what exists in that day, but things that will come to be in the future. Probably these four are the world powers of Daniel 2:1-49 and 7:1-28. The verb is the key to the interpretation… scatter. Since Egypt, world powers have always been involved with Israel and Israel has had people of influence among them to preserve the people.

In this period of Jewish history, the four kingdoms are very significant. Babylon has executed its power over the world, pursuing and carrying the Jews into captivity and the Media-Persians took their place. Zechariah and the Jews had lived under their dominion, and before the Messiah would come, the Greeks and the Romans would hold power. It’s no wonder that in the time of Jesus, under Rome the fourth empire, that the Jews were awaiting their Messiah to liberate them from the four horns (Dan.2:40-44; 7:7-14). Those who believed that Jesus was the Messiah wanted to make Him king by force. We read much in the Gospels about entering into His kingdom, but for that, we must wait for His second coming. His kingdom now has come without observation and His throne is set in the heart of His people.

Apparently, the four craftsmen enter into the second visión, because no commentator considers this vision separately (v.21). The craftsmen are raised up by God as opponents against the horns. They enter to smash the nations that have oppressed Israel. We need not fear the oppressors. For each horn, God has a craftsman. Beforehand, God has determined their end and already has at hand the means to throw them down. He terrorizes them.

It makes me think of Isaiah 7 and a time when two confederate nations came against Judah. The heart of Judah and its king “shook as the trees of the forest shake with the wind”. The word of God came through His prophet, Isaiah, “Take care and be calm, have no fear and do not be fainthearted because of these two stubs of smoldering firebands”. A few verses later, he continues, “It shall not stand nor shall it come to pass.” Then God shows them the future of their enemies: “The land whose two kings you dread will be forsaken.” The remedy, to which Isaiah points, is the same divine remedy as always for each human dilemma: “A virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” We run to Jesus and there we find gracious words of comfort and victory. Nothing that the enemy has formed against you will prosper.


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