To the Four Winds of Heaven
“I answered and said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ And the angel answered and said to me, ‘These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth’” (vv. 4–5).- Zechariah 6:1-8
The visions of Zechariah 1–6 alternate between prophecies of events that would occur after the first post-exilic generation of Jews passed away and prophecies that had an immediate fulfillment at or near the time they were first given. Visions of future events include the vision of the borderless Jerusalem (Zech. 2), the vision of God justifying His priestly nation (3:1–5), and the vision of the Lord’s destruction of sin and removal of wickedness from the land (chap. 5). Visions of realities then current for the post-exilic community include the vision of a world wherein the Lord had not yet shaken the nations to exalt His people over all (1:7–17) and the vision of the four horses found in today’s passage.
Like the vision recorded in Zechariah 1:7–17, the vision of the four horses conveys a sense of peace in the world for the post-exilic community. The prophet describes four chariots that go “out to the four winds of heaven” (6:5). These “four winds of heaven” likely symbolize creation in its entirety (consider, for example, the “four corners of the globe”). Basically, the vision depicts our Creator’s thorough knowledge of all that takes place on earth. He sends His angelic servants forth around the globe so that they can report on what is happening in every place. God is not ignorant of the true state of world affairs; He is sovereign over all. What He declares about happenings in the world is not merely wishful thinking.
Zechariah’s vision makes special mention of the horses going both to the north and to the south. Traditionally, the areas located to the north and to the south of ancient Israel were nothing but trouble for the ancient Jews. In the south, of course, was Egypt, the great world power that had enslaved the Israelites and also intervened in the people’s domestic affairs (Ex. 1; 2 Kings 23:31–35). Danger was also associated with the north for the ancient Jews (Jer. 1:13–15). After all, both Assyria and Babylon invaded the ancient states of Israel and Judah from that direction. If one was an ancient Jew, the only thing that could be rightly expected from either north or south was strife and assault. However, when the horses go forth to these regions, only rest is found (Zech. 6:8). In other words, all is quiet.
Given that enemy opposition prompted the post-exilic community to take a break from rebuilding the temple (Ezra 3:8–4:24), this vision is one of assurance. The Lord had quieted the opposition, so the people in Zechariah’s day should not fear any more trouble if they were to faithfully complete the temple. Their enemies would be kept at bay.
God held back the opposition in Zechariah’s day in order that the work of temple rebuilding could be completed. Ultimately, this vision is also being fulfilled in the new covenant era. The Lord is restraining His enemies so that He can build His church. Though our foes may at times seem to gain the upper hand in some places, their efforts will ultimately prove to be unsuccessful. Christ will build His temple, and He will finish the job no matter the opposition.
Passages for Further Study