There is a clear connection between the two visions in the last chapter and the one with which this chapter opens, for all three involve the words “going forth.” “The curse goes forth over the face of the whole land” (chapter 5:3), “the ephah goeth forth” (chapter 5:6), and now “the chariots go forth” (verses 1-5.) It is as if Zechariah was being permitted to stand in the center of things, where God is; and was able to see the successive goings forth of Divine Providence, in respect of the moral government of His people and the world.
Some have concluded that the four chariots with different colored horses represent the four world-empires which were to succeed one another until Christ would come. But in fact, all monarchies and kingdoms – with their rise, reign, and fall – are designed for no other purpose than to minister to the Church of Jesus Christ. So we may say that this vision is a representation of the ways of the Lord’s Providence in the government of this earth. No matter what the Providences of God are causing to be done all around us, whether in reference to public or private affairs, we should see them all as coming from between the mountains of brass – that is, from between the immovable counsels and decrees of God. All the events which take place in this world spring from the unchangeable counsels of the Lord, which are formed in unerring and perfect justice, truth, and goodness. His Providences move as swiftly and as strongly as chariots, but they are all directed by His infinite wisdom and sovereign will.
The red horses that the prophet beheld in this vision signify war and bloodshed; while the black suggest the dismal consequences of war, famine, pestilence, and desolation. The white represent the return of comfort, peace, and prosperity; and the horses of mixed coloring stand for events of different kinds – both days of prosperity and days of adversity. The holy angels (verse 5) go forth as messengers of God’s counsels, and as administrators of His justice and mercy. When Satan goes throughout the earth, seeking whom he may injure and devour; the chariots of God also go throughout the earth, to bring relief and deliverance to the saints. How comforting, then, this vision is! It clearly teaches us that the Lord constitutes Himself as the gracious Keeper and Protector of His redeemed sons and daughters. Despite the upheavals and disturbances that transpire throughout history, His Providence ensures that no weapon that is turned against them shall prosper. His chosen ones are always within the precincts of His Almighty guardianship – even if they are dwelling in the wilderness or sleeping in the woods!
At this point, an interesting episode (verses 9-15) breaks in upon this series of visions. From far-away Babylon, where the majority of the Jewish people were still residing, a deputation of three Jews came to Jerusalem – apparently bringing a present of gold and silver, which was probably intended to aid the little band of returned exiles in their heroic work. The men who brought the gift were named Heldai (also called Helem in verse 14), Tobijah, and Jedaiah; and they were received and entertained by Josiah (also called Hen in verse 14), the son of Zephaniah. The prophet was directed to take the gold and silver and make crowns therewith; and these, probably with some ceremony, were placed upon the fair diadem which (as we have already seen, in chapter 3) had been set upon the head of Joshua the high priest.
This was a very significant act. The two offices of king and priest had always been kept very much separate among the Jews. When, for example, King Uzzi-ah had attempted to burn incense upon the altar in the Temple, his altercation with the priests and the rising of leprosy on his forehead proved how stringent that separation was. But here, the Divinely-commissioned prophet – by an unmistakable symbolic act – combined the two offices in the same individual. And then, using a well-understood name for the Messiah, he went on to say, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; He shall grow up out of his place” – that is, He shall emerge from the obscurity of His early beginnings – “and he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both” – that is, between these two priestly and regal offices.
At this point in history, the family of David was like a decayed tree, with only the stump remaining; but from such a lowly and unlikely origin, a shoot would come forth – which would again become a noble tree, and perpetuate the memory and influence of the royal line. This imagery was employed by more than one of the prophets; and in every case, it can only be applied to Jesus Christ! Certainly David’s descendants had reached a low ebb when Joseph went up from Nazareth in Galilee to the Judean village of Bethlehem so that he might be counted and taxed with his fiancée Mary, because they were descendants of David. There was no room for them in the inn; the newborn baby was wrapped in swaddling-clothes and laid in a manger; and the couple were so impoverished that they could not even afford to purchase two young pigeons – the gift of the poor – for the mother’s thank-offering in the Temple. From that lowly origin, however, Jesus – the Branch – has indeed grown into a noble tree, reaching out to the ends of the earth, with fruit that gives life and blessing to all mankind!
All praise to You, Lord Jesus, for being the Branch from the lowly root of David’s house. Thank You also for being our Priest-King Who ordains the works of Providence in such a way that all opposition to Your power shall be subdued! Amen.
If you prefer to listen, today’s Family Bible guide is available in audio format on both SermonAudio and YouTube.
Join other families all around the globe and receive the full-color, freely downloadable format of these thoughts in your email every day! It’s my prayer that you and your family will be equipped to receive abundant blessings from the hand of the Lord as you study His Word and worship in His presence together.
illustration created with canva.com