When God Seems to Have Forgotten You
If you have been a Christian for very long, you have had times when it seemed that God had forgotten you. You were seeking to please God with your life. You were not engaging in any known sin. And yet you had major trials. Your prayers seemed to bounce off the ceiling. God must have forgotten you!
To make matters worse, you noticed many pagans who seemed to be doing quite well. They had no regard for God or His ways. They were bragging openly about their sins. And yet they seemed to be enjoying everything that life has to offer.
Your details may vary, but it’s the same plot: you’re trying to follow the Lord and have nothing but trials. Meanwhile, someone you know thumbs his nose at God and seems to be having a grand time. You wonder, “What’s going on? Has God forgotten me? Why do the wicked prosper and the godly suffer?”
The Jews to whom Zechariah ministered were struggling with that issue. They were a group of about 50,000 refugees who had returned from the Babylonian captivity to a war-devastated land. They were surrounded by aggressive neighbors who opposed their efforts to rebuild the temple and the city of Jerusalem. By faith they had responded to Haggai’s message and had begun to rebuild the temple. Two months later, God had raised up Zechariah with the message, “‘Return to Me,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘that I may return to you,’ says the Lord of hosts” (1:3).
Then, on the 24th day of the eleventh month, five months to the day from when the people had begun to rebuild (Hag. 1:14-15), the Lord revealed to Zechariah eight night visions to encourage His forlorn people. All eight visions (1:7-6:15) develop the same theme, which is stated in 1:14-17, that God remembers His chosen people and that He will punish the wicked and bless His people in His appointed time. You can remember the theme of Zechariah by remembering the Hebrew meaning of the three names in 1:1 (and 1:7): Zechariah means, “whom the Lord remembers.” Berechiah means, “the Lord blesses.” Iddo means, “at the appointed time.” Today we will look at the first night vision (1:7-17). Applied to us, the message is:
When it seems as if the wicked are at ease and the godly are forgotten, Christ encourages us with His powerful presence, His prayer for us, and His promises for our welfare. He is always watching over us to make sure we know he is there.
The vision is described as “the word of the Lord” to Zechariah (1:7), which points both to the origin and authority of the message. It comes from God Himself. Zechariah saw a man riding a red horse, standing in a ravine among some myrtle trees, with other horses (and riders implied) standing behind him. The rider on the red horse is clearly the prominent one. Verse 11 identifies him as “the angel of the Lord
The myrtle trees in the ravine symbolize God’s lowly people, the Jews. They are not stately cedars on a mountaintop, but humble myrtles in a ravine, under Gentile domination. The myrtle is an evergreen that can grow to about 30 feet. It exudes a fragrant aroma from its berries and leaves (when crushed), and from its flowers. Its branches were used in the Feast of Booths (Neh. 8:15). The horses symbolize God’s activity in governing the earth. The red horses point to war and bloodshed (Isa. 63:1-6; Rev. 6:4). The white horses symbolize victory (Rev. 6:2). The sorrel (light brown) or dappled (Hebrew meaning is uncertain) horses may refer to a mixture of judgment and mercy.
Zechariah asks the interpreting angel what the vision means (1:9). The angel explains that the riders on the horses are those whom the Lord has sent to patrol the earth. As John Calvin points out (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], Zechariah, p. 35), God doesn’t need angels to inform Him as to the state of things on earth, but He employs this language in order to stoop to our weakness. When the Bible says that God Himself is our refuge, it does not add anything to say that His angels encamp around us (Ps. 34:7), or that He has an entire army of angels at His disposal. But it helps our weak faith to see that He is mighty over our enemy and his forces.