“Then I looked up – and there before me were four horns! I asked the Angel who was speaking to me, “What are these?” He answered me, “These are the horns that scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem.” Then the Lord showed me four craftsmen. I asked, “What are these coming to do?” He answered, “These are the horns that scattered Judah so that no one could raise his head, but the craftsmen have come to terrify them and throw down these horns of the nations who lifted up their horns against the land of Judah to scatter its people.””
One of the great principles of the message of the Bible is that there is a purpose to history. Whether we are thinking about our own personal history, that record of our experiences and circumstances that we have faced, or the historical record of our world, the message is that behind everything experienced is the plan and purpose of the Living God who is working everything out according to His own good and holy will. To come to understand that this is the truth and to submit ourselves to the will of God is the definition of real worship. The Scriptures keep reminding us that God is sovereignly in control of everything. “All things work together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8:28) That God has a purpose for everything that happens is a tremendously comforting doctrine for us as we live our lives facing events which at times seem to be chaotic and out of control.
It is to this issue that the Prophet Zechariah speaks in our text today. He is describing a series of visions that he received during one night as God’s people were returning to Jerusalem from exile. They were struggling with a great amount of uncertainty and danger. Zechariah receives these visions in which the Angel of the Lord, the pre-Incarnate Christ, intercedes for the people of God and then begins to speak comforting words to the prophet, so that the people of God could be comforted. These words outline how God is at work refining His people. Over the centuries to come they will be shaped by events which God will allow them to experience so that they will be brought to the point of really believing God. God will judge His people through the nations that He allows to overrun them. Their response will either result in these experiences being judgements, hardening them in sin and eventually destroying them, or their response of faith will lead to them experiencing it as a refining fire that will produce real Godliness among them.
At the heart of all that God was doing, and is doing in our lives, is this principle. He wants to bring us to hear and submit to His Word. God has revealed His truth to us in the Lord Jesus Christ. He calls us to trust Him as the one who was offered for our sin. God arranges our circumstances so that we are brought to see our need of Christ. We come to understand our sin, that we are in fact ruined by sin, and desperately in need of Christ. He shows us the glory and the beauty of Christ crucified the one and only offering for our sin. We hear His invitation to come to Him and to receive life from His gracious hand. That revelation brings us to a choice, to believe Him receiving the life He offers, or to reject Him and suffering the consequences.
Perhaps Charles Haddon Spurgeon put it best when he wrote, “Every Christian student of history knows that the circumstances of the outward world have ever been arranged by God so as to prepare the way for the advance of His great cause. How strangely Providence works to spread the truth of God. They said of Martin Luther’s writings, that they were scattered by angels. No such distributors were employed. But still they were scattered so widely that it was a perfect mystery how it was done. There was scarcely a little peddler who went about with jewels who did not somewhere in his stock keep a copy of the Word of God or Luther’s Psalms.
It was said in England, out of every three persons you met with in the road, though they might be but peasants breaking stones, there would be one of the three a Wickliffe – for Wickliffe’s translation of the New Testament spread marvellously though it was continually hunted after and burnt when discovered. You will find, if I am not mistaken, that soon God will broadcast over all lands those testimonies which are most clear and full of Christ!”