“I asked, ‘What are they coming to do?’ He replied, ‘These are the horns that scattered Judah so no one could raise his head. These craftsmen have come to terrify them, to cut off the horns of the nations that raised a horn against the land of Judah to scatter it.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Nobody likes a bully. Nobody likes a bully and yet still, bullies are out there. They’re all over the place. Why? Why do so many folks turn to that particular tactic in their interactions with others? Many reasons. Often they’ve been bullied themselves by a parent or someone else in authority over them. They’re frequently trying to cover for some perceived lack they see in themselves. Occasionally they’ve just learned that’s the only way they can get what they want. Sometimes they’re just mean. Whatever the reason, though, nobody likes a bully. What we see here is God promising to deal with Israel’s bullies.
This is Zechariah’s second vision and it is the shortest of the bunch. Zechariah here sees four horns and four craftsmen. His angelic guide tells him the horns represent the nations that have oppressed Israel and that the craftsmen are there to destroy them. Simple, right?
Yes, but what does it mean? And who are these nations? Only one of those questions is worth asking. When we encounter something like this, the interpretive temptation is to try and identify which four nations are being referenced here. Or, an interpreter will try and spiritualize the message and associate each horn with some temptation or spiritual malady we face in our lives. While these kinds of efforts can certainly lead to some creative interpretations and, in the hands of the right preacher, result in some stirring applications, it’s not a responsible use of the text. A text cannot mean for us something it could never have meant for its original audience.
So then, what should we do with this text? Like yesterday, we are best here to reflect on the character of God being revealed. In this case, we see a God of justice. Where there were those who were oppressing His people, He was going to turn the tables on them. Yes, God allowed some of the oppression as punishment for their sins, but it was taken too far. Those nations became greedy for more than He had given them leave to have. Now a reckoning was coming to the benefit of His people.
In the bigger picture here, we serve a God who is just; who balances accounts and brings to justice those who have been oppressors. But–and this is important–this reckoning is not necessarily going to come on our timetable. In His wisdom and grace, He will bring justice to all sins when the time is right. That is something in which we can trust with absolute confidence. Where there are wrongs that seem to go unaddressed, that will not always be the case. Let us place our hope in that fact. Let us also remember this fact and commit ourselves to lives of justice and righteousness so we don’t end up on the wrong side of His justice.