Zechariah 1:20

Prophet depressed. Heart failing for fear. Roused. Vision twofold. Like the mystic pillar of the wilderness, it is dark and lowering towards God's enemies, but bright and cheering towards his friends.

I. THE POWERS OF EVIL. Beasts dimly seen. "Horses" indicate the strength and malice of the world powers. The results are terrible. The unity of Israel is broken. Strength dissipated in party conflicts. Gored and tossed and sore oppressed by their enemies. Dispirited, "so that no man did lift up his head." But man's extremity is God's opportunity. Let us feel and confess in true humility our sin, and the justice of our sufferings, and cry mightily to God; then deliverance will surely come.

II. THE POWERS OF GOOD. (Vers. 20, 21.) Cf. Elisha and his servant (2 Kings 6:17). So here. "Carpenters; workmen."

1. Equal in number. Four indicates completeness. There will be sufficiency for God's purpose, and yet the number will not be in excess of that on the other side, as if the victory were to be obtained by might and not by right.

2. Greater in authority. Law at their back. Ministers of justice. Power not usurped or wrongly used, but employed under the authority of God.

3. Completer in equipment. (Ezekiel 21:36.) Men of free souls, sympathetic hearts, and invincible courage. Men of trained intelligence and executive ability. The right men in the right time. - F.

And the Lord shewed me four carpenters
Evil agencies are counterbalanced by good — for there is a Divine providence always at work in this world. The prophet saw "four horns," representing the powers by which Judah had been scattered; but at the same time he saw "four carpenters," the instruments raised up by God to accomplish a Divine work.

I. THE WORLD IS MADE FOR THE CHURCH. Men read the history of nations without the slightest reference to the Church of the living God. They look at passing events and circumstances without believing that they are the development of a Divine providence at work in the world. It may be thought that the world was made for unfallen man. Was it not rather made to be the scene of man's trial and probation? It is a fact that the world was mapped out with a peculiar reference to the locality and home of the Church. The world was made for Christ, and therefore for the Church. The world was made to be the school for unfallen intelligences. It was made to be the tabernacle of God.

II. THE WORK GOING ON IN THE WORLD IS IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE DIVINE PLAN. There is a charm in history, since it not only annihilates the distances of time and space, but transports us to other scenes and periods. If you are a devout student of history you will see a Divine hand prescribing, the limits of conquest and the extent of a nation's duration. There is, then, eternal order underlying the world's disorder, and a Divine will subordinating all human wills. The great chapters of the world's history have all been written beforehand. We have only seen parts of the plan, some of the first chapters — strange and startling.

III. THE WORK OF GOD IN THIS WORLD IS UNDER DIVINE SUPERVISION AND ANGELIC INSPECTION. From some brief hints, it would appear as if the government of the world's provinces had been, in some measure, intrusted to the management of angels in former times.

IV. EVIL AGENCIES ARE COUNTERBALANCED BY GOOD. In the natural world there are opposite forces, and laws that seem antagonistic, but these agencies are counterbalanced. We have darkness and light — we have night and day. All the forces in this world are adjusted by Divine wisdom, and thus the balance of the universe is preserved. There are opposite powers in the world. There is Satan, and there is Christ. "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil." There is sin; and yet sin is counteracted by grace. There is flesh, and there is spirit. The one seems to be the adversary of the other. Is the law in our members always to bring us into captivity to sin? No. Flesh itself is to be transfigured, to be consecrated and hallowed. There is death in the world. All men die, though Christ has died; all men shall rise, because Christ has risen. Thus evil agencies are counterbalanced by good. If there are powers hostile to the Church and to us, there are powers that are directly "opposed to them, and that are at work for us, for said the prophet," The Lord shewed me four carpenters.

(H. J. Bevis.)


1. The champions of the Church are as numerous as its assailants.

2. They are more powerful than its assailants.

3. They are seasonably provided.

II. THE GROUND ON WHICH THIS TRUTH RESTS. On the love, power, promises, and dispensations of God.

(G. Brooks.)

"When God makes the prophet, He does not unmake the man." Each sacred writer preserves his individuality. Character and circumstance leave their impress on the inspired productions. Zechariah was moulded by the peculiarities of the age in which he lived. He was raised up to incite the Jews' zeal in building the temple. His mind overflowed with it. he could think of nothing else. Hence we cannot marvel that, when he prophesied, he used architectural figures. At one time he sees a "man with measuring line," and anon he says, "The Lord shewed me four carpenters."

1. God's works are often unobserved. "The Lord shewed me." The seer did not behold them at first. Only when Divine help was afforded did he become aware of them. Are there not thousands who resemble him? As regards nature it is so. "Eyes have they, and they see not." What is true of creation is true with double emphasis and touching revelation. The Bible is dull and uninteresting to some. Others delight in it. Why the difference? The last have Divine teaching.

2. God's works are creative. "Carpenters." These are constructive agents. Building, not demolishing, is their proper work. In seeking our own spiritual and moral welfare, we cannot too often remember this important principle — the true method of destroying is by creating. Get good into your heart, and it will cast out evil.

3. God's works are compensative. "Four." Observe the number. It corresponds with the number of Israel's foes. There is more of equality in men's conditions than is often supposed. A grand law of compensation is in operation. "God hath set one thing over against the other." As regards riches and poverty, adversity and prosperity, there is compensation. Everywhere evil is counterbalanced by good. Our mercies outweigh our miseries.

(T. R. Stevenson.)

The Hebrew word means workman in iron, brass, and stone, as well as wood. They are here the workmen of God. The horn is the instrument of power. The four horns are the symbols of persecutors, of violence and oppression, of the destroyers of the people and State. How were they to be crushed, put to fear, destroyed? That the prophet could never have found out for himself. The Lord showed him four carpenters. They were to fray (frighten) the horns. It would be heart breaking if there were nothing for us but to realise the evils we have brought on ourselves; if we were left only to all that we could see of our troubles. But there is a revelation for us, and an interpretation of the revelation too. The four horns were met by four carpenters. It was a declaration to Zechariah that there existed — ready to act out of the unseen world, whether by energising human means, or not — a system of counterpoises, and counter influences, and means of salvation, with Divine intentions concerning them, all of which were there, though man saw them not. God revealed the workers of the spirit world. Zechariah saw four horns; it was the human apprehending the terrible; and the terrible is not ignored by God; it is emphasised, it is explained. God puts their evil work against His people side by side with the work that He will do in their behalf. There was a matching of four against four. All evil meets its match in every part when God comes forth to work. If there be bad influences against you and yours, God can bring counter influences against them, and He can break the spell of evil already done. Why need you ever despair of restoration, of help, of salvation, be your cause never so low? The "Son of God has come that He might destroy the works of the devil."

(P. B. Power, M. A.).

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