One of my favorite TV shows growing up was Home Improvement staring Tim Allen. In each episode, Tim hosted his own home improvement show with his trusty, mild-mannered assistant Al. They were introduced with the question, “Does everybody know what time it is?” And the response was always what? “It’s Tool Time!”
The prophet Zechariah is also concerned about time and tools. Three dates given in the book make it clear that because Darius the Persian is the reigning monarch, it’s a time of discouragement and despair for the Israelites. Think about it, this was the first time in almost 500 years that Israel didn’t have a king from the line of David ruling on the throne. There is “deep despair. Excessive misery!”
One night, God came and gave Zechariah eight visions. In the second vision, God shows the prophet in our text four craftsman. What’s the gist of the vision? “It’s Tool Time!”
Now that had to sound strange to Zechariah’s contemporaries. We wouldn’t be surprised if they were a bit cynical and sarcastic, especially when we understand more about “the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (Zech. 1:19). The horns Zechariah mentions, they are the enemies of the nations. Now why on earth would you describe the enemy as horns?
Well, think about the horns of bulls and rams. Think about the horns on a rhino. Animal horns capture and kill. They gore and gouge. Their horns torture and tear. This is why biblical authors employ horns to symbolize ultimate enemies. So for example, in the book of Daniel, horns represent ruling empires, crushing everything that stands in their way. In the book of Revelation, John describes both the dragon and the first beast as having ten horns. Horns announce destruction, devastation and death. And Zechariah says that these four craftsman are the solution? Really? Just four? There is deep despair, there is excessive misery and only four craftsmen?
This begs the question … what enemies, with maiming and mauling horns, have ripped your life apart? Rejection? Frustration? Desperation? A broken heart? When there is deep despair and excessive misery, trying to defeat enemies that destroy us like animal horns, using the tool of God’s Word, sometimes seems rather pointless.
We all have heard and hear the voices which say, “Everyone with their head on straight and whose eyes are wide open knows that reading and studying the Bible doesn’t change a thing. It’s a quaint, antiquated activity that’s completely irrelevant. If you really want to change things, you have to take matters into your own hands. You have to be tough, rough, and stick it to ‘em.” And so we walk around with our shoulders slumped over and our spirits downcast. We get up in the morning, put in our time, do our duty, and then go home … defeated and discouraged. With deep despair and excessive misery heaped on us, we don’t stand a chance. We don’t stand a chance against “the horns that have scattered Judah, Israel, and Jerusalem” (1:19).
“The LORD showed me four craftsmen” (1:20). Craftsmen are builders. The ESV, the English Standard Version, translates the Hebrew word charashim as “craftsmen” whereas the NRSV, the New Revised Standard Version, translates the world as “blacksmiths.” Blacksmiths … I think they may be on to something here. Doesn’t blacksmith sound better, sound more powerful than craftsmen? You know, maybe we do have a chance against the horns, against the enemy after all!
So let’s go with blacksmith. Don’t you feel better already. We should post this on our website … “A place where friends become family. A church, whose members are like blacksmiths with strong hands and bulging biceps! They’re strong-muscled people who emerge from worship with sweat on their brow and fire in their eyes!” We aren’t craftsmen with pliers and screwdrivers! Oh no! We are blacksmiths with sledge hammers and blowtorches!
Too bad though that isn’t what Zechariah means. Sure, charashim may refer to blacksmiths in some texts, but here … the prophet’s second vision isn’t about pulverizing metal … it’s about building the temple. In fact, … all eight of the prophet’s visions are connected to rebuilding the temple. So as much as we want to see ourselves as strong blacksmiths … we are craftsmen who are in deep despair and filled with excessive ministry.
So, we’re right back where we started. Craftsmen taking on the big, bad, beastly horns. That’s Moses going against Pharaoh. That’s Joshua against Jericho. That’s David against Goliath.
And this is exactly Zechariah’s point. Although the craftsmen don’t look like much … the vision ends with these words … “the craftsmen have come to terrify them, to cast down the horns of the nations” (1:21). We don’t conquer evil by walking around with hard hearts, by holding on to vendettas and wanting to get even. We don’t conquer evil by giving people the cold shoulder or talking behind their backs. No, the scattering horns meet their match against craftsmen who rebuild the temple, who are directed by God’s Word. When the temple goes up, the horns go down. When the temple goes up, the horns go down! God’s kingdom comes in victory!
God defeats every enemy in the book of Zechariah! At the top of the list is Satan, the attacking accuser. Sin also meets its match throughout the book. It is taken away (3:5), destroyed (5:4), removed (5:11), and washed away (13:1). All of this previews and predicts Christ’s Easter victory when he defeats every enemy in the universe, every dragon, devil, darkness, and even death!
Last season, David Ayres was sitting in the stands with his wife at a hockey game when the starting goalie for the Carolina Hurricanes was injured. Then later in the game, the back-up goalie was injured. The next thing the 42-year-old Zamboni driver David Ayres knew was he was skating onto the ice. He had to be thinking, “Who? Me?” Ayres was Carolina’s third string goalie who had never played a second in the NHL. He allowed goals on the first two shots. “Deep despair. Excessive misery!” right? But then he stopped the next eight shots he saw and Carolina defeated Toronto 6-3.
There once was another group of people who didn’t look like much. They were like third-stringers. Their leader Peter knew more about bass fishing and boat docks than he did about Roman culture and the Greek language. His cronies, they didn’t have any formal education. Were they humble? Well, they jockeyed for cabinet positions. Were they loyal? Once, but at the worst possible moment, the three leaders were found asleep.
Before Jesus came along, the disciples were loading trucks, coaching kids’ soccer, and selling Slurpee drinks at 7 11. Their collars were blue and their hearts were hard. There’s no evidence that Jesus chose them because they were smarter or nice than the other guys. When Jesus called them, each disciple had to ask “Who? Me?”
And get this? Zechariah’s “Tool Time” was part of their message. Only these tools weren’t used to build up … they were used to tear down. Zechariah 13:7 says, “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will scatter.” Tools of torcher were used against the Good Shepherd. A blindfold, a whip, some thorns, a purple robe, a hammer, some nails and finally a spear. This isn’t a syrupy, sentimental kind of love, but rather a fierce love for you … a love written in the blood of Jesus. God’s love is for you … for you in your rejection, in your frustration, and in your desperation.
From Zechariah we know, when the temple goes up, the horns go down! On the third day … Jesus, the Temple, rose up alive forevermore! When the temple goes up, the horns go down! Jesus conquered all the powers which rip us up and tear us apart. And then he announced a building program.
Jesus says, “I will build my church.” Are you ready to rebuild what’s been destroyed in your life? Christ uses humble people, not the proud, Davids not Goliaths. Blacksmiths need not apply. Craftsmen, on the other hand, are most welcome. Craftsmen who lay hold of their tool, the Word of God, to hear it, study it, love it, believe it, and follow it. And they build with great vim and vigor, joy and delight. No more deep despair or excessive misery!
“Does everybody know what time it is?” “It’s Tool Time!” Let’s build. Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.