Take a moment to pray. Ask God to speak to you through his word—for his Spirit to convict you of sin, teach you the truth, and lead you in walking by faith.
Setting the Scene
We’ve all been there. Some tragedy happens, and the guilty party isn’t caught. They got away with it. Maybe it was theft on a small scale. To this day someone is still enjoying sweet tunes with my car stereo they stole in LA back in 2001. Maybe it was a bigger deal- a hit and run, a murder, grand theft, financial fraud.
It seems that as a culture we hear more and more about social justice and the problem of injustice. Due to sin, injustice is a reality on both the large and small scale. Few things are more frustrating than seeing a wrong go without resolution.
Zechariah’s second vision is brief but potent. He sees four horns (think awesome ram’s horns, google if it you need to) that represent the power of the nations who destroyed Israel and Judah. In a sense, they are the oppressors. Did they get away with brutal treatment of God’s people? The vision answers that question and offers hope to every victim.
Zech. 1:18 Then I looked up and saw four horns. 19 So I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these?”
And he said to me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.”
Horns here are the horns of bull or ram, his pride and symbolic of power and strength. Some take these to be Babylonia, Persia, Greece, and Rome from Dan. chapters 2 and 7. Other scholars suggest Assyria, Egypt, Babylonia, and Persia. At least Assyria and Babylon are in view, as they are the nations that scattered Israel. The point is, the horns represent the strength of Israel’s enemies.
Zech. 1:20 Then the LORD showed me four craftsmen. 21 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.”
The horns had humiliated and shamed Judah in defeat. The “craftsmen” were coming to issue judgement against those nations who had attacked God’s people. God had not forgotten Israel, and he promised judgement against those nations who profited from attacking his people.
The phrase “raise his head” means that the people of Judah weren’t free to do as they desired, they were an enslaved people.
The craftsmen probably stand for Persia, and in this image the horns are as a reference to Babylon, given that only Judah is mentioned. Those who in pride raised their horns against God’s people will themselves be scattered and their power destroyed.
The Big Picture
This vision depicts the judgment of Assyria and Babylon that for all intents and purposes had already happened. Babylon had defeated and displaced Assyria. Persia had defeated and displaced Babylon. As Israel was retiring to the land and rebuilding Jerusalem perhaps they wondered if those nations had gotten away with their evil. God assures his people, they had not.
What this vision is really about is entrusting God with vengeance and justice. The Apostle Paul picks up this theme in Romans 12:19, quoting from Deuteronomy 32:35,
Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for God’s wrath, because it is written, Vengeance belongs to me; I will repay, says the Lord.
This means that we can rest in God’s role as judge of the universe. In fact, it is Jesus himself who deals with evil. On the one hand, Jesus died on the cross, bearing the penalty for the sin of every believer for all time. Paul says in Galatians 3:13, “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us…”
On the other hand, Jesus will ultimately judge the sins of every unbeliever for all time. In the book of Revelation the Apostle John sees a vision of this ultimate justice:
Then I saw heaven opened, and there was a white horse. Its rider is called Faithful and True, and he judges and makes war with justice. His eyes were like a fiery flame, and many crowns were on his head. He had a name written that no one knows except himself. He wore a robe dipped in blood, and his name is called the Word of God.
So every wrong will be accounted for—either through the death of Jesus, or through the final victory and judgment of Jesus. Either way, we need not despair when we see wrongs go unpunished.
Taking It Home
This assurance from God means that his zeal for his people results not only in grace, but also in justice. God’s special love for his people demands that he judge his enemies. Wrongs will be made right.
As they were trying to restart the rebuilding of the temple, Israel needed this encouragement: God will make wrongs right. This truth also encourages us. When we are discouraged it is almost always the result of sin. People are abusive, they kill, steal, rape, insult, cheat, and deceive. But we need not lose hope, because God will make wrongs right.
This also reminds us to leave justice in God’s hands. Vengeance is his. We need not pursue petty revenge, or anchor our hopes to human courts and judges. We are free to lovingly forgive because we know that God is sovereign and just.
- Ask God to help you find hope and contentment in his justice. Confess the sins of bitterness, hatred, and keeping a record of wrongs.
- Pray for the return of Jesus. His reign is the only cure to the disease of injustice that has infected this world.
- Pray for those who have suffered as victims of sin and crime. Ask God to comfort them in their distress.