It is the comfort and triumph of the church (Isa. 59:19) that when the enemy shall come in like a flood, with mighty force and fury, then the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him. Now, in this vision (the second which this prophet had), we have an illustration of that, God’s Spirit making a stand, and making head, against the formidable power of the church’s adversaries.
I. We have here the enemies of the church bold and daring, and threatening to be its death, to cut off the name of Israel; such the people of God had lately been insulted by: I looked and behold four horns (Zech. 1:18), which are explained Zech. 1:19. They are the horns which have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem, that is, the Jews both in the country and in the city, because they were the Israel of God. They have tossed them (so some read it), as furious bulls with their horns toss that which they are enraged at. They have scattered them, so that no man did lift up his head, Zech. 1:21. No man durst show his face for fear of them, much less give them any opposition, or make head against them. They are horns, denoting their dignity and dominion—horns exalted, denoting also their strength, and power, and violence. They are four horns, for the Jews are surrounded with them on every side; when they avoid one horn that pushes at them they run upon another. The men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and many of Israel that joined themselves to them, set about the building of the temple; but the enemies of that work from all sides pushed at them, and drove them from it. Rehum, and Shimshai, and the other Samaritans that opposed the building of the temple, were these horns, Ezra 4:8. So were Sanballat and Tobiah, and the Ammonites and Arabians, that opposed the building of the wall, Neh. 4:7. Note, The church’s enemies have horns, and use them to the hindrance of every good work. The great enemy of the New-Testament church has seven heads and ten horns (Rev. 17:3), so that those who endeavour to do the church any service must expect to be pushed at.
II. We have here the friends of the church active and prevailing. The prophet did himself lift up his eyes and see the four horns, and saw them so formidable that he began to despair of the safety of every good man, and the success of every good work; but the Lord then showed him four carpenters, or smiths, who were empowered to cut off these horns, Zech. 1:20, 21. With an eye of sense we see the power of the enemies of the church; look which way we will, the world shows us that. But it is with an eye of faith that we see it safe, notwithstanding; it is the Lord that shows us that, as he opened the eyes of the prophet’s servant to see the angelic guards round about his master, 2 Kgs. 6:17. Observe, Those that were to fray or break the horns of the Gentiles, and to cast them out, were, 1. Carpenters or smiths (for they are supposed by some to have been horns of iron), men who had skill and ability to do it, whose proper business it was, and who understood their business and had tools at hand to do it with. Note, God calls those to serve the interests of his church whom he either finds, or makes, fit for it. If there be horns (which denote the force and fury of beasts) against the church, there are carpenters (which denote the wisdom and forecast of men) for the church, by which they find ways to master the strongest beasts, for every kind of beasts is tamed, and has been tamed, of mankind, Jas. 3:7. 2. They were four carpenters, as many horns so many hands to saw them off. Note, Which way soever the church is threatened with mischief, and opposition given to its interests, God can find out ways and means to check the force, to restrain the wrath, and make it turn to his praise. Some by these four carpenters understand Zerubbabel and Joshua, Ezra and Nehemiah, who carried on the work of God in spite of the opposition given to it. Those horned beasts broke into God’s vineyard to tread it down; but the good magistrates and the good ministers whom God raised up, though they had not power to cut off the horns of the wicked (as David did, Ps. 75:5, 10), yet frightened them and cast them out. Note, When God has work to do he will raise up some to do it and others to defend it and protect those that are employed in the doing of it.