I saw, by night, and behold, a man riding upon a red horse; and he stood among the myrtle trees that were in the bottom ; and behind him were horses, red, speckled and white. Then said I, O my lord, what are these? And the angel that talked with me said unto me, I will show thee what these are. And the man that stood among the myrtle trees answered, and said, These are they whom Jehovah hath sent to walk to and fro through the earth. And they answered the angel of Jehovah that stood among the myrtle trees, and said, We have walked to and fro through the earth, and behold, all the earth sitteth still, and is at rest.-ZECHARIAH i. 8-11.
THE INWARD SENSE.
IN its inward sense, the text displays the decline of the church; and it indicates the quality of the understanding of the Divine Word, in different stages of the failing church. And the application of the text is brought pointedly in contact with each of us, in our self-examination.
THE LITERAL MEANING.
Literally, the time of our text was about five hundred and twenty years before Christ. A few months previous to this time, the prophet Haggai had declared to the Jews that Jehovah very soon would “shake the nations,” and redeem Israel. And the Jews became impatient in awaiting such an event, and somewhat doubtful as to the future. And then there came, to the prophet Zechariah, a series of eight visions, relating to the present and future conditions of the heathen, and of Israel. Zechariah reassured the Jews of the Lord’s favourable intentions towards them ; and he prophesied the impending restoration of Jerusalern, and the final triumph of Israel.
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
A revelation by visions at night, indicates an obscure revelation, not made in clear insight into truth, but made in a general way, to minds not yet prepared to see truth in its own clear light.
Those who are mentally in the night are in natural-minded states, which are states of darkness, and of ignorance as to the principles of goodness and of truth. And if such persons are evil in character, they are in the thick darkness of falsity. At the time of our text, the Jewish Church was in a condition of deep and thick darkness, because of very great degeneration in the character of its people.
Zechariah, as a prophet, represented the truth of doctrine, and those who are in the knowledge and truth of doctrine; i.e., ” who have ears to hear” ” what the Spirit saith unto the churches.”
Zechariah saw a man, who, according to the eleventh verse, was an angel of the Lord. Angels are persons in the spiritual world, in whom the Lord’s truth is known, loved, and practised. And they are often employed by the Lord, to proclaim, or to communicate, His truth to men on earth. But impersonally, angels represent the Divine Truth, in which the Lord comes to men, spiritually.
The man seen by the prophet was riding on a horse. Symbolically, the horse represents the human intellect, the understanding; and especially the understanding as to the Divine Word. A red horse is mentioned. Red is the color of love, or goodness, the most vigorous and fundamental color. And the red horse here represents man’s understanding of the Divine Word, as to the goodness, or regenerate love, which is taught in the Lord’s Word. And this man on the red horse was an angel, sent to examine into the existing conditions of the Gentiles and heathen, as to their understanding of the quality of love, and of goodness, which is the embodiment of love.
This man on the red horse stood “among the myrtle trees, in the bottom.” Standing is a position in waiting for something to occur, or to be ready. And so it represents a mental state of awaiting results, in order to take further action.
The myrtle is a small evergreen tree, of aromatic odor, and with thick foliage. The myrtle represents rational truths of simple and inferior order, rather than those grand, far-reaching rational truths which are represented by very large and lofty trees. Truths represented by myrtles may be spiritual truths, but not on high spiritual levels. In the prophecy of the restoration of the church, meaning the regeneration of the individuals of the church, in Isaiah lv. we find that, in verse 13, the results of the change from evil to good are thus symbolized : “Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir-tree; and instead of the briar shall come up the myrtle tree; and it shall be to Jehovah for a name, for an everlasting sign, that shall not be cut off.”
And the work of this angel among the myrtle trees was to comfort the Jews with the thought that, in spite of their hard conditions, internal and external, the Lord still kept His angels among them, for their good, and to induce them to look to the Lord, in all things, and to obey His commandments; and thus to return to a state of mind, and of life, in which the Lord could be with them, and could save them from their evils,
IN THE BOTTOM.
This angel-man was among the myrtle trees “in the bottom,” that is, in a low place, something of a valley, like a former river-bottom, now dry. Being in a grove, it was also a shady place. These circumstances represent that the angel, in seeking to know the conditions of the church among men, came down to such mental levels as men were occupying; that is, external and lower planes of thought, in the natural mind. And here, behind the angel, were horses, red, speckled and white, That which is behind another, is in an inferior position, representing an inferior state, a more external condition.
These horses of different colors represent different conditions, in different men, or at different periods in the career of the church. In a bad sense, red, or the color of love, represents evil love. The church was in a very unregenerate state; and so the horses would reflect the colors of the church. In this sense, a red horse would represent the understanding of man corrupted as to the comprehension of genuine love, or goodness, as taught in the Divine Word.
In a good sense, a white horse represents a clear knowledge of the Divine Word; as in Revelation xix. 11-14: ” And I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse: and He that sat upon him was called Faithful and True; . . . and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed Him, upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean.” In this case, in the Revelation, the rider on the white horse was distinctly named “The Word of God.” And He was the Lord, Jesus Christ, “the Word made flesh,” who thus, sitting on the white horse, represents His spiritual association with the regenerate mind of man, which, in a symbolic sense, as a horse, bears up and carries, the Lord, in all its thoughts. But, of the evil man it is said, in the Psalms, ” God is not in all his thoughts.”
But when used in a bad sense, the white horse is white from paleness and lack of vigor. And then he represents a dying mind, spiritually losing its vitality. And this was the state of the church, as represented in our text.
And other horses were speckled; that is, mixed in color, partly light, partly dark. This condition represents a mixed state of mind, having some knowledge of truth, yet mixed with, falsities and evils.
WALKING TO AND FRO, ETC.
These horses were said to be those “whom Jehovah had sent to walk to and fro through the earth;” that is, inquiries were made, as to the states of men in the existing church, as to their understanding and love of the Divine Word. And the searchers reported to the angel that they had fulfilled their orders, and had “walked to and fro through the earth;” that is, the revelation of existing conditions was now to be made; which was that they had found all the earth sitting ” still, and at rest.” The earth represented the church among men on earth; and the conditions observed were those of the people of the earth; that is, the existing states of the church, in men. That everything was found to be “still, and at rest,” means that there was no activity, no motion, because there was no life. It was the stillness of indolence” inertness, and death, and not the quietness of peace.
Literally, this report was in view of the recent prophecy of Haggai, that Jehovah soon would “shake the nations,” and break them.” And the report of the searchers indicated that there were no present signs of any such shaking up of the spiritually cold, indifferent, selfish, and dead states of the heathen world. Externally the nations seemed to be quiet, and even secure in their selfish ways. But this apparent external quiet did not prove an internal peace; but the heathen nations were fast filling up the full measure of their iniquities, when they would come to judgrnent, and to self-destruction, according to their interior states of character.
The heathen in our minds are our selfish passions and notions, which often feel at rest, and quiet, when we are ignorant of our real quality of character; and when we do not see the inevitable results of such interior life as we are living, in evil. In such circumstances, our case would be more hopeful, if we did not feel so self-satisfied and secure, in our evils. Our natural mind may seem to be still and to rest, in its sensuousness, while our spiritual mind is engaged in a severe struggle for its life.
It seemed hard to the Jews,. to live in distress while the heathen nations were living at ease. And this is more or less the case, always, in the life-struggles of human beings, in the search for spiritual life. While the church remains in the material world, it must meet the sensuous conditions of this world; and it must come into conflict with such states. Our natural minds are seeking natural peace and ease, even while our interior minds are seeking the spiritual peace and rest which come with regeneration, in goodness, truth, and righteousness. And while we are longing for success in our mental conflict, our Lord will sometimes open our minds, by means of His holy Word, and will give us a glimpse of existing conditions in the world of our own sensuous natural mind, He will show us the angel of Truth, occupying the representative horse of our intellect, and standing in the myrtle grove, the rational thoughts of our minds. And we shall recognize our own different conditions of understanding, some red, some speckled, and some white; mental conditions in which we sometimes attempt to understand the Lord’s Word from selfish and evil loves, or from mixed truths and self-derived notions, or in the deadly whiteness, or paleness, of a lack of spiritual life.
And when such conditions are revealed to us, in and through the Divine Word, it is for us to exert ourselves, to enter into pure loves and true thoughts and righteous conduct, so that our Lord may restore us to spiritual vigor; and may expel the heathen from our minds, And then, in us, spiritually, ” Jehovah shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903