15 December 2017 Bible Reading
In today’s reading from Revelation 6, we see the first four seals opened. They reveal what have been commonly called “the four horsemen of the apocalypse.” These four horses are symbolic of sweeping judgment. The judgment carried out by God against the Roman government, here, is not the first occurrence, nor is it likely to be the last. This is simply an explanation of the way spiritual conflict manifests itself in the temporal world. We read of these same horses and riders in Zechariah 1:7-11 and Zechariah 6:1-8. In Zechariah 1 these horses and riders are sent by the Lord to patrol the earth. In Zechariah 6:5, the four horses and riders are going out to the four winds of heaven. This is symbolic of sweeping judgment, as explained in the following passages:
- Jeremiah 49:36, And I will bring upon Elam the four winds from the four quarters of heaven. And I will scatter them to all those winds, and there shall be no nation to which those driven out of Elam shall not come.
- Daniel 11:4, And as soon as he has arisen, his kingdom shall be broken and divided toward the four winds of heaven, but not to his posterity, nor according to the authority with which he ruled, for his kingdom shall be plucked up and go to others besides these.
- Zechariah 2:6, Up! Up! Flee from the land of the north, declares the LORD. For I have spread you abroad as the four winds of the heavens, declares the LORD.
- Matthew 24:31, And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.
- Revelation 7:1, After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree.
Many, today, offer an unnecessarily complicated interpretation of the imagery in verse 2. The rider of the white horse is given a crown, symbolic of authority – this rider has the ability to conquer. By simply referring to other parts of Scripture where God has used the same imagery, we see there is no need to equate the rider symbol with Christ, an anti-christ, or any other particular personality.
It is important to note the similarities between the events brought about by the first four seals and the events Jesus describes in Matthew 24, where he prophesies the destruction of Jerusalem. Wars are predicted (24:6), kingdoms and nations attacking and conquering (24:7), famines and earthquakes (24:7), and being put to death (24:9). The similarities do not mean that these are the same events at the same time, rather they show us the pattern in God’s judgments.
1 Yahweh’s word that came to Micah the Morashtite in the days of Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah, which he saw concerning Samaria and Jerusalem.
2 Hear, you peoples, all of you.
Listen, O earth, and all that is therein:
and let the Lord Yahweh be witness against you,
the Lord from his holy temple.
3 For, behold, Yahweh comes out of his place,
and will come down and tread on the high places of the earth.
4 The mountains melt under him,
and the valleys split apart,
like wax before the fire,
like waters that are poured down a steep place.
5 “All this is for the disobedience of Jacob,
and for the sins of the house of Israel.
What is the disobedience of Jacob?
Isn’t it Samaria?
And what are the high places of Judah?
Aren’t they Jerusalem?
6 Therefore I will make Samaria like a rubble heap of the field,
like places for planting vineyards;
and I will pour down its stones into the valley,
and I will uncover its foundations.
7 All her idols will be beaten to pieces,
and all her temple gifts will be burned with fire,
and all her images I will destroy;
for of the hire of a prostitute has she gathered them,
and to the hire of a prostitute shall they return.”
8 For this I will lament and wail;
I will go stripped and naked;
I will howl like the jackals,
and moan like the daughters of owls.
9 For her wounds are incurable;
for it has come even to Judah.
It reaches to the gate of my people,
even to Jerusalem.
10 Don’t tell it in Gath.
Don’t weep at all.
At Beth Ophrah I have rolled myself in the dust.
11 Pass on, inhabitant of Shaphir, in nakedness and shame.
The inhabitant of Zaanan won’t come out.
The wailing of Beth Ezel will take from you his protection.
12 For the inhabitant of Maroth waits anxiously for good,
because evil has come down from Yahweh to the gate of Jerusalem.
13 Harness the chariot to the swift steed, inhabitant of Lachish.
She was the beginning of sin to the daughter of Zion;
For the transgressions of Israel were found in you.
14 Therefore you will give a parting gift to Moresheth Gath.
The houses of Achzib will be a deceitful thing to the kings of Israel.
15 I will yet bring to you, inhabitant of Mareshah.
He who is the glory of Israel will come to Adullam.
16 Shave your heads,
and cut off your hair for the children of your delight.
Enlarge your baldness like the vulture;
for they have gone into captivity from you!
2 Woe to those who devise iniquity
and work evil on their beds!
When the morning is light, they practice it,
because it is in the power of their hand.
2 They covet fields, and seize them;
and houses, and take them away:
and they oppress a man and his house,
even a man and his heritage.
3 Therefore Yahweh says:
“Behold, I am planning against these people a disaster,
from which you will not remove your necks,
neither will you walk haughtily;
for it is an evil time.
4 In that day they will take up a parable against you,
and lament with a doleful lamentation, saying,
‘We are utterly ruined!
My people’s possession is divided up.
Indeed he takes it from me and assigns our fields to traitors!’”
5 Therefore you will have no one who divides the land by lot in Yahweh’s assembly.
6 “Don’t prophesy!”
“Don’t prophesy about these things.
Disgrace won’t overtake us.”
7 Shall it be said, O house of Jacob:
“Is Yahweh’s Spirit angry?
Are these his doings?
Don’t my words do good to him who walks blamelessly?”
8 But lately my people have risen up as an enemy.
You strip the robe and clothing from those who pass by without a care, returning from battle.
9 You drive the women of my people out from their pleasant houses;
from their young children you take away my blessing forever.
10 Arise, and depart!
For this is not your resting place,
because of uncleanness that destroys,
even with a grievous destruction.
11 If a man walking in a spirit of falsehood lies:
“I will prophesy to you of wine and of strong drink”;
he would be the prophet of this people.
12 I will surely assemble, Jacob, all of you;
I will surely gather the remnant of Israel;
I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah,
as a flock in the middle of their pasture;
they will swarm with people.
13 He who breaks open the way goes up before them.
They break through the gate, and go out.
And their king passes on before them,
with Yahweh at their head.
3 I said,
“Please listen, you heads of Jacob,
and rulers of the house of Israel:
Isn’t it for you to know justice?
2 You who hate the good,
and love the evil;
who tear off their skin,
and their flesh from off their bones;
3 who also eat the flesh of my people,
and flay their skin from off them,
and break their bones,
and chop them in pieces, as for the pot,
and as flesh within the cauldron.
4 Then they will cry to Yahweh,
but he will not answer them.
Yes, he will hide his face from them at that time,
because they made their deeds evil.”
5 Yahweh says concerning the prophets who lead my people astray; for those who feed their teeth, they proclaim, “Peace!” and whoever doesn’t provide for their mouths, they prepare war against him:
6 “Therefore night is over you, with no vision,
and it is dark to you, that you may not divine;
and the sun will go down on the prophets,
and the day will be black over them.
7 The seers shall be disappointed,
and the diviners confounded.
Yes, they shall all cover their lips;
for there is no answer from God.”
8 But as for me, I am full of power by Yahweh’s Spirit,
and of judgment, and of might,
to declare to Jacob his disobedience,
and to Israel his sin.
9 Please listen to this, you heads of the house of Jacob,
and rulers of the house of Israel,
who abhor justice,
and pervert all equity.
10 They build up Zion with blood,
and Jerusalem with iniquity.
11 Her leaders judge for bribes,
and her priests teach for a price,
and her prophets of it tell fortunes for money:
yet they lean on Yahweh, and say,
“Isn’t Yahweh among us?
No disaster will come on us.”
12 Therefore Zion for your sake will be plowed like a field,
and Jerusalem will become heaps of rubble,
and the mountain of the temple like the high places of a forest.
4 But in the latter days,
it will happen that the mountain of Yahweh’s temple will be established on the top of the mountains,
and it will be exalted above the hills;
and peoples will stream to it.
2 Many nations will go and say,
“Come, and let us go up to the mountain of Yahweh,
and to the house of the God of Jacob;
and he will teach us of his ways,
and we will walk in his paths.”
For the law will go out of Zion,
and Yahweh’s word from Jerusalem;
3 and he will judge between many peoples,
and will decide concerning strong nations afar off.
They will beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks.
Nation will not lift up sword against nation,
neither will they learn war any more.
4 But they will sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree;
and no one will make them afraid:
For the mouth of Yahweh of Armies has spoken. 5 Indeed all the nations may walk in the name of their gods;
but we will walk in the name of Yahweh our God forever and ever.
6 “In that day,” says Yahweh,
“I will assemble that which is lame,
and I will gather that which is driven away,
and that which I have afflicted;
7 and I will make that which was lame a remnant,
and that which was cast far off a strong nation:
and Yahweh will reign over them on Mount Zion from then on, even forever.”
8 You, tower of the flock, the hill of the daughter of Zion,
to you it will come,
yes, the former dominion will come,
the kingdom of the daughter of Jerusalem.
9 Now why do you cry out aloud?
Is there no king in you?
Has your counselor perished,
that pains have taken hold of you as of a woman in travail?
10 Be in pain, and labor to give birth, daughter of Zion,
like a woman in travail;
for now you will go out of the city,
and will dwell in the field,
and will come even to Babylon.
There you will be rescued.
There Yahweh will redeem you from the hand of your enemies.
11 Now many nations have assembled against you, that say,
“Let her be defiled,
and let our eye gloat over Zion.”
12 But they don’t know the thoughts of Yahweh,
neither do they understand his counsel;
for he has gathered them like the sheaves to the threshing floor.
13 Arise and thresh, daughter of Zion;
for I will make your horn iron,
and I will make your hoofs brass;
and you will beat in pieces many peoples:
and I will devote their gain to Yahweh,
and their substance to the Lord of the whole earth.
6 I saw that the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures saying, as with a voice of thunder, “Come and see!” 2 And behold, a white horse, and he who sat on it had a bow. A crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.
3 When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature saying, “Come!” 4 Another came out, a red horse. To him who sat on it was given power to take peace from the earth, and that they should kill one another. There was given to him a great sword.
5 When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature saying, “Come and see!” And behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a balance in his hand. 6 I heard a voice in the middle of the four living creatures saying, “A choenix of wheat for a denarius, and three choenix of barley for a denarius! Don’t damage the oil and the wine!”
7 When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the fourth living creature saying, “Come and see!”
8 And behold, a pale horse, and he who sat on it, his name was Death. Hades [a] followed with him. Authority over one fourth of the earth, to kill with the sword, with famine, with death, and by the wild animals of the earth was given to him.
9 When he opened the fifth seal, I saw underneath the altar the souls of those who had been killed for the Word of God, and for the testimony of the Lamb which they had. 10 They cried with a loud voice, saying, “How long, Master, the holy and true, until you judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 A long white robe was given to each of them. They were told that they should rest yet for a while, until their fellow servants and their brothers, [b] who would also be killed even as they were, should complete their course.
12 I saw when he opened the sixth seal, and there was a great earthquake. The sun became black as sackcloth made of hair, and the whole moon became as blood. 13 The stars of the sky fell to the earth, like a fig tree dropping its unripe figs when it is shaken by a great wind. 14 The sky was removed like a scroll when it is rolled up. Every mountain and island were moved out of their places. 15 The kings of the earth, the princes, the commanding officers, the rich, the strong, and every slave and free person, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains. 16 They told the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17 for the great day of his wrath has come; and who is able to stand?”
134 Look! Praise Yahweh, all you servants of Yahweh,
who stand by night in Yahweh’s house!
2 Lift up your hands in the sanctuary.
3 May Yahweh bless you from Zion;
even he who made heaven and earth.
30 The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, the revelation:
the man says to Ithiel,
to Ithiel and Ucal:
2 “Surely I am the most ignorant man,
and don’t have a man’s understanding.
3 I have not learned wisdom,
neither do I have the knowledge of the Holy One.
4 Who has ascended up into heaven, and descended?
Who has gathered the wind in his fists?
Who has bound the waters in his garment?
Who has established all the ends of the earth?
What is his name, and what is his son’s name, if you know?