6 : 1 - 8
Zechariah’s vision continues. It is hard for us to understand or as they say ‘get our heads around’ this imagery. We have learned that in the Old Testament horses and chariots always spell danger, enmity and invasion. Here they represent the angelic hosts sent by the Lord to the four ends of the earth. They represent God’s power just as they represented the power of kings and emperors on earth. They were the most lethal vehicles of war for many centuries in the ancient world. You might compare them with tanks today or fighter aircraft - being the machines which most terrified enemies and created destruction. During the 2nd World War the German Panzer tank divisions were greatly feared. The Americans called their initial bombing onslaught on Iraq in 2003 ‘Shock and Awe’ and that is exactly what horses and chariots conjured up in the minds of ancient people, communities and nations.
The black and white horses and chariots seem to symbolise judgement on Babylon and perhaps on the whole earth. It is a kind of fearful vision of the fear of God. It is very like the Book of Revelation with its Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse in chapter 6.
Black horses: The horses’ black colour represents an ominous sign, often associated with mourning or destruction. In Revelation, the rider of the black horse had scales in his hand. He cried out, "A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.". The Black Horse follows the Red in Revelation, which stands for war. Here the ominous sign is lack of food and inflation as food becomes scarce following the wars at the start of the tribulation. Oil and wine foods of luxury are not harmed meaning the poor will suffer the brunt of the famine following the war. Whether the meaning of the black horses of Zechariah and the black horse of Revelation mean the same is not certain.
White horses: White is often associated with the colour of purity, peace, holiness and victory in scripture. White horses appear twice in Zechariah (Chapters 1 & 6) and twice in Revelation (Chapters 6 & 19). In Revelation 19, Jesus is riding a white horse, followed by the saints who are also riding white horses, showing the victory of Christ and the saints over the world. In Revelation 6 however, the rider has a bow and goes out conquering; his peace, however is false, since it is followed by war, the Red Horse. For this reason, the white horse in Revelation 6, is seen as the Antichrist who brings a false military peace, pictured as a white horse.
Dappled horses: Essentially the term means spotted, but there is not a point of reference, to draw upon a meaning and its application here. Speculation might see a mixed state of affairs surrounding Israel during this period of judgement.
Four spirits of heaven: The angel describes these four chariots, with four diverse coloured horses, with angel drivers implied but not stated, as being the four spirits of heaven. In this case, it is referring to angels, which stand before the throne of God. These angels have a specific function; they are in the presence of the Lord. These four chariots could be four judgement angels, represent angels involved in judgement on the nations. Their emergence from between two mountains of Brass, means they have come forth for judgement, as the armies of the Lord.
If we wanted to take these ideas and put them into today’s culture we might do so in this way. There are four visitations causing us all great grief i) the global warming / climate change problem which is going to cause trouble for generations to come ii) the economic crisis with its huge national debts, increasing unemployment and great worry and anxiety for many iii) the wrecking of family life as has never been seen before at any time on human history iv) the prevalence of cancer and other incurable diseases.
These have comes as judgements on our human conduct and society. They are a result of our bad management of the world’s resources. A common theme links them all - being out of balance with nature. We have learned too late that emitting so much carbon gases harms our environment. Greed and lust for wealth has brought terrible destruction to the stability of national and personal finances. Spectacular misuse of sexuality has ended family life as it has been known for thousands of years. No more obvious sign and symptom of overwhelming and underlying loss of harmony is to be found the huge quantity of illness among us today.
It was not meant to be like this. In the great advances that have taken place since the industrial revolution two hundred years ago - it is the spiritual and the moral and the personal that have lost out. Our values are driven by greed, fame, luxury and extravagance not by Christian piety, social equality and a caring society. We are very much out of kilter, our of balance, out of harmony and it is no surprise that as part of that indeed the cause of it - is that we have largely lost faith in and contact with God.
If we took the Bible to heart, we could re-learn how best to order our collective lives. We would not eat processed foods as much as we do. We would not misuse sex as we do. We would not be seduced by the empty promises of unearned wealth. We would not suffer internal, psychological and emotional problems as we do. Because the Bible does have wise guidance for us and answers to our problems. The clue is simple. Life is meant for God. Get that right and all else will follow better. Life is spiritual. If you deny that, suppress it and fight against it, refuse to follow its quiet promptings, then you lose your way and collectively societies and the human race itself fall apart.
The Christian life is one of discipline just as an athlete or a sportsman or sportswoman exercises discipline to be fit to compete. The Christian life is one of self-denial just as the academic or entrepreneur spends years in anonymous toil and labour before making that crucial breakthrough that changes everything. But the Christian life is not boring or negative or miserable at all. It is deeply rewarding and enriching - but in ways that are different from contemporary values.
There is less sense of humanitarian vocations among young people in schools as they consider their futures. Girls want to be glamour models and become famous. Boys want to be footballers and become rich and famous. You see how different standards of nursing care are in our hospitals now. The sense of doing something as well as possible because it is a Christian vocation has largely gone in this country. Many nurses are employed by agencies and have little or no ongoing commitment to their colleagues or place of work. Wards are not properly cleaned. Infections have multiplied. People are afraid to go to hospital in case they leave worse than they went in.
There have been many wonderful advances in treatment of human diseases. The skills of doctors and nurses are greater than ever. There are many dedicated health professionals. But they are fighting against overwhelming odds. Not of their own making. Modern life is like ferrets in a sack - like headless chickens running around - like lemmings running over the side of a cliff, wildebeest drowning in rivers. See how many young people are dying through violence or suicide. See how many have destroyed their lives through drugs and alcohol. See how many are dying in their thirties and forties broken by failed relationships and multiple partner lifestyles.
There remains this hour of sense and sensibility in the place of worship and prayer at your disposal. Here in beginning to take God on board as a factor in your life, you can recover balance and perspective. Here you can begin to exercise your inner spiritual being in a helpful saving and constructive way. Here you can find help and strength to support you in your struggles and difficulties. Here you can find forgiveness for all you have done wrong. You can find peace. You can begin to put things right. You can find guidance for the future. You can begin to know that God loves you and will accompany you on your life’s journey if you want.
Here you can make a significant change for the better. You can do yourself a favour - and others too. You can ask Jesus Christ into your life for the very first time. Ask the Saviour to help you, comfort, strengthen and keep you, he is willing to help you; he will carry you through. You do not need to live burdened by the four great judgements that are on us in our time. Jesus rose from the dead and lives resurrected for you. Let Him liberate and free you, bless and save you.