Meditation Mondays: Revelation 6:5-6 Third Seal: Horseman of Famine and God's Preservation of the Oil and Wine
5 When He opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come and see.” So I looked, and behold, a black horse, and he who sat on it had a pair of scales in his hand. 6 And I heard a voice in the midst of the four living creatures saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius; and do not harm the oil and the wine.” (Revelation 6:5-6 NKJV)
Today we have Christ, the Lamb who was slain, opening the third seal and upon its opening John sees a black horse with its rider holding a pair of scales in his hands. This is the third horseman of the apocalypse and it is the horseman of famine. Now a few things to note about today's passage. First is the color black represents famine biblically speaking:
Jeremiah as he recounts the judgement of Jerusalem in Lamentations speaks of the famine in this way:
10 Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine. (Lamentations 5:10 KJV)
Secondly, the rider is holding a pair of scales- of balances and a voice in the midst of the four living creatures speaks of food in terms of measurements. There is a weighing of food because there is a scarcity of food. Food is rare, food is valuable. Food is not to go to waste. This is a prophecy fulfillment of Ezekiel 4:9-11. And again, we are reading John's prophecy about the coming Jewish War. In this coming war (that is in our past, but the future of the recipients of this letter) the Jews were going to have economic hardship, unlike anything they've ever experienced. The late New Testament Scholar Robert H. Mounce comments on this passage,"[there was going to be a shortage of the necessary staples]- a measure of wheat rising to more than 1000% of its former price, consuming an entire's day's wages so that a man's entire labor is spent in obtaining food."
Going back to the historian Josephus, listen how he describes the search for food during the Jewish Wars: "As the famine grew worse, the frenzy of the insurgents kept pace with it, and every day both theses horrors burned more fiercely. For, since nowhere was grain to be see, men would break into houses, and if they found some they mistreated the occupants for having denied their possession of it; if they found none, they tortured them as if they had concealed it more carefully." 
So the third horseman of the apocalypse relates to the famine during the time of the destruction of the temple. God confounding the godless through starvation.
Notice that the oil and wine in this passage go untouched in the midst of this famine (end of verse 6). Oil and wine are often connected to God's blessings in Scripture. We must remember that God preserves his people. If we think symbolically about this passage, we are reminded that just as the oil and wine was spared from the famine, so are God's people spared from judgement because of Christ Jesus.
 Robert H. Mounce, The book of Revelation (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1977), p. 155.
 Josephus, The Jewish War, v.x.2.