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
God is the sovereign ruler of the universe. So what? That’s one of those basic theological assertions that sounds good in Sunday school but often rings hollow in our daily lives. Sure God is sovereign, but what good does his rule do me?
We might ask this especially when we are going through a trial. I lost my job. Where is God’s sovereign rule? So and so just lied to me. Where is God’s sovereign rule? My wife has cancer. Where is God’s sovereign rule?
Zechariah’s last vision gives us a vivid picture of God’s sovereignty, but that’s not all. As God reveals his sovereignty, he does so to teach his people to rest in him. Rest is increasingly hard to come by in our high-paced, constantly-connected world. True rest, however, doesn’t come from a schedule adjustment, but from faith in our sovereign King.
Zech. 6:1 Then I looked up again and saw four chariots coming from between two mountains. The mountains were made of bronze. 2 The first chariot had chestnut horses, the second chariot black horses, 3 the third chariot white horses, and the fourth chariot dappled horses—all strong horses. 4 So I inquired of the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?”
The bronze imagery is not explained by the angel, and probably stands for strength. In Ancient Near Eastern mythology, mountains often picture the entrance to heaven, God’s abode.
This final vision has similarities with the first vision- both include colored horses and the patrolling of the earth. Zechariah’s asks his angelic guide for an explanation of what he was seeing.
Zech. 6:5 The angel told me, “These are the four spirits of heaven going out after presenting themselves to the Lord of the whole earth. 6 The one with the black horses is going to the land of the north, the white horses are going after them, but the dappled horses are going to the land of the south.” 7 As the strong horses went out, they wanted to go patrol the earth, and the LORD said, “Go, patrol the earth.” So they patrolled the earth. 8 Then he summoned me saying, “See, those going to the land of the north have pacified my Spirit in the northern land.”
The four spirits of heaven is a reference to the four points of the compass, referring to the universal nature of God’s reign. The chariot imagery suggests military action (cf. Jer. 49:36).
The “patrolling” here is a clear statement again of God’s sovereignty over nations and geo-political realities. He is the ultimate authority.
The reference to the “north” includes Babylon, as to get there from Israel the route was from the north through modern day Lebanon or Syria. God’s Spirit is at rest because the black horses had already gone north and executed judgement on Babylon. Thus this vision is retrospective; it pictures something that had already happened.
Note that from the first vision God’s Spirit was not at rest although the nations were. After Babylon’s judgement and Israel’s return, however, God’s Spirit is at rest, satisfied.
The Big Picture
When we think of God’s Spirit not being at rest we must think in terms of “satisfaction.” As an analogy think of creation- God had a purpose, and once he had completed his purpose he was satisfied. God chose Israel as a people and chose Palestine as their land. He gave it to them. Thus for Israel to be judged and exiled was a temporary detour. But Babylon has been judged, and Israel has been returned home. They should breath a sigh of relief, even given their current trials.
We need to be reminded of God’s powerful sovereign reign. We can be at peace because of God’s sovereign rule. What was wrong with Israel and Babylon has been made right. This same sovereign rule assures us that what is wrong will be made right. Yes we face trials, but those horses are pawing the ground, waiting for the command to go.
These horses (and riders) that bring about God’s judgment are once again featured in the apostle John’s vision in Revelation. In Revelation 6:1-8 four colored horses carry riders who bring God’s judgment to the earth.
These riders anticipate the arrival of Jesus in Revelation 19:11-12 who will conquer all evil and finally bring peace to the earth. His victory is only good news for those who have turned to him by faith. Sinners made saints through Jesus’ death and resurrection can find rest and comfort knowing that Jesus will bring justice and peace to the world.
Taking It Home
Most of us aren’t dealing with trails from massive world powers. We deal with lesser powers, but as Joyce Baldwin said,
It is enough to know that the Lord is triumphant over the dominant world powers. The lesser are included with the greater.
For many God’s sovereign rule is like germ theory in the 19th century—it’s an invisible reality that we doubt. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. God’s sovereignty gives us rest, redemption, and a ruler. God’s sovereign reign is only invisible until Jesus’ return. In the meantime, we are called to live by faith in his reign.
We must remember that our ultimate hope for justice and righteousness is in God. Moses, Paul, and the author of Hebrews remind us that the Lord says, “Vengeance is mine” (Deut. 32:35, Rom. 12:19, Heb. 10:30). We do not, and cannot, be trusted with bringing justice to all the earth, but he can. So we can rest.
This is practically helpful to us in two ways. First, we can rest even when we endure personal wrongs. Whether we are frustrated with someone else’s driving, or are wronged by a co-worker, or deeply hurt by a family member, we can rest because we trust God.
Second, we can rest even when we endure corporate wrongs. By corporate wrongs I mean wrongs done to a class of people. So when the poor are abused by the rich, they can rest in God’s sovereign reign. When wars result in suffering to civilians, we can rest in God’s sovereign reign. When people of one ethnic background fight with another, we can rest in God’s sovereign reign.
In fact, we must trust in God to live in peace in spite of these wrongs. We all will experience personal wrongs that will never be made right until the Rider on the White horse returns. We all know unspeakable wrongs have been done to entire groups of people—wrongs that we can’t make right. But Jesus can and will. His peace is the peace we need.
- Ask God to bless you with strong faith in him. Ask him to give you peace in spite of the trials you will face today.
- Praise God for his sovereign reign over the universe. Praise him that he is trustworthy with our greatest hurts.
- Pray for Jesus to return quickly to the world. Praise him for dying for our sins, and rising from the dead. Praise him for being the reason we have access to peace that passes all understanding.
Program note: I will be posting devotions on Revelation starting January, 2019. Enjoy your fall, and we’ll see you here next year.