THE TWO OLIVE TREES & THE LAMP – Zechariah 4:1-14
Posted by Pastor Greg Allen on March 9, 2011 under PM Bible Study |
PM Home Bible Study Group; March 9, 2011
(Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture references are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version; copyright 1982, Thomas Nelson, Inc.)
II.The Prophet’s Night-Visions (1:7-6:15).
E.The Vision of the Candlestick and the Two Olive Trees (4:1-14).
1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And he said to me, “What do you see?” So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”
4 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?”
5 Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”
6 So he answered and said to me:
“This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel:
‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’
Says the LORD of hosts.
7 ‘Who are you, O great mountain?
Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain!
And he shall bring forth the capstone
With shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’”
8Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying:
9 “The hands of Zerubbabel
Have laid the foundation of this temple;[a]
His hands shall also finish it.
Then you will know
That the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.
10For who has despised the day of small things?
For these seven rejoice to see
The plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
They are the eyes of the LORD,
Which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”
11 Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees—at the right of the lampstand and at its left?”
12 And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles[b] of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?”
13 Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”
14 So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.”
a. Zechariah 4:9; Literally house
b. Zechariah 4:12; Literally into the hands of
In chapter three, we were given a vision of Joshua the priest. He was presented to us as a living picture of the priestly ministry of the people of Israel to the world; and prophetically, of the future priestly ministry of the Lord Jesus Himself as the Messiah. Chapter four presents us with a similar vision. It has to do, primarily, with the kingly ministry of Zerubbabel, the governor of the people who had come back from captivity along with Joshuah (see Haggai 1:1, 12, 14: 2:2, 4, 20-23). He was heir of the royal lineage of King David through whom the Lord Jesus would be born (see Matthew 1:12-13); and with his return to Jerusalem, the covenant promise to David was assured.
This fifth vision—as is true of all of the eight night visions of Zechariah’s prophecy—is meant to give "good and comforting words" to the distressed people of Zion (see 1:13). Not only had their God not forgotten them; but He purposed still to use them for His glory in this world.
I.THE VISION (vv. 1-5).
A.Zechariah begins, "Now the angel who talked with me [that is, the interpreting angel of 1:9, 13-14, 19; 2:3; 3:1; 4:4-5, 13; 5:5, 10; 6:4-5] came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep" (v. 1). This probably doesn’t refer to a normal, physical awakening from sleep; since these visions have a continuity with one another, and all occurred in one night. Rather, it refers to an awakening from a relapse into a normal state of consciousness which—compared to Zechariah’s state of awareness in the receiving of divine revelation—was like a state of sleep (see Daniel 8:18; 10:9; Luke 9:32; see also Ephesians 5:14).
B.In awakening Zechariah, he asks him what he sees. And Zechariah says, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left" (vv. 2-3). The lamp would immediately have suggested to Zechariah the lamp within the tabernacle that was to be kept continually burning (Exodus 25:31-40); and the two olive trees would have suggested the supply of oil that would have fed the lamps. The fact that two specific branches of full trees dripped oil into the receptacles of the lamp (v. 12) suggests an abundant and continual supply. But as we shall see from the larger context of these visions, it suggests the two men that God was providing to fulfill Zion’s most immediate hopes for reestablishment and comfort—Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor.
C.The sight must have been wonderful. Zechariah asked the interpreting angel, "What are these, my lord?" (v. 4). And the angel said, "Do you not know what these are?"—almost with the suggestion that he should have known. The symbolisms were such that they ought to have been plain to him; and the previous reference to Joshua should have helped indicate their context. But Zechariah—just as we might have done—admitted, "No, my lord" (v. 5); that he did not know what these things were. We can perhaps see the things that God reveals to us plain enough in and of themselves, but to truly understand what it is that He reveals to us, we must turn to Him for help.
II.THE EXPLANATION (vv. 6-14).
A.Notice that the angel doesn’t seem to give a specific interpretation to Zechariah of the mysterious things he was seeing right away. Instead, he turns his attention to one of the two leaders of the people. In chapter three, Zechariah had already been given a vision of the high priest Joshua (3:1-5). That vision was already established to be a "wondrous sign" (3:8). And now, its shown to Zechariah that the vision he’s being shown of the lampstand and the olive trees is also a sign—this time meant to be passed on to the governor Zerubbabel: “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel" (v. 6).
B.Zerubbabel—the physical descendant of David and ancestor of our Lord Jesus—had been charged with the responsibility of seeing to the rebuilding of the temple. Humanly speaking, it was a responsibility that was too great for him, because he was opposed on every side by enemies and because the people were discouraged and fearful. But he was not to rely on human power to build.
1."’Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of hosts" (v. 6). The oil that continually dripped into the lampstand pictured for Zerubbabel the continual supply of the strength of the Holy Spirit, in whose power Zerubbabel would build. And because it was God who was doing the work through him, nothing could oppose him: "‘Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”’” (v. 7). Mountains are often a symbol of earthly strong governmental power in Scripture (see Isaiah 2:2; Jeremiah 51:25; Daniel 2:35; Micah 4:1); and if this is what was meant, then God was assuring Zerubbabel that no earthly government would be able to prevent him from accomplishing what God was calling him to do (see Ezra 4:1-5:18; Zechariah 1:21). The capstone would be put in place—indicating the completion of the work; and it will be declared to have been done by grace!
2.Another word from the Lord came to Zechariah concerning Zerubbabel (v. 8): “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you" (v. 9). God does nothing in half measures. He begins a good work; and He finishes it (Philippians 1:6). But note in this that—because of the phrase "the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you"—the vision’s significance extends beyond simply that of the immediate temple. It looks ahead to the coming of the One described in 3:8-9: "’For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. For behold, the stone that I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ says the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.’" Zerubbabel’s work is a picture of a greater work yet to come—that of the establishing of the rule of the Messiah on earth. The work of Zerubbabel may have seemed small and meager in its day; but it was far from so. "For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth" (vv. 9-10). The God who wisely searches all things, who sees the end from the beginning, who both decrees and secures the fulfillment of His plans for this world through His Son Jesus Christ. The wise purpose of God, in that sense, rejoices to see the plumbline of construction in the hand of Zerubbabel—because it is through him that the promised Messiah would come.
C.Zechariah, however, still struggled with the vision. "What are these two olive trees—at the right hand of the lampstand and at its left" (v. 11). And it may be that he didn’t receive an immediate answer because his question needed to be refined by further examination of the vision. (Sometimes, when we want to know what God is telling us, His answer is for us to keep looking further.) And so, "I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" (v. 12). The angel seems to make Zechariah search even further; saying, "Do you not know what these are?"—again, almost suggesting that he ought to know. When he said, "No, my lord" (v. 13), the angel tells him, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth" (v. 14). In the context of the events that lay behind Zechariah’s vision, these two "anointed ones" would be Joshua the priest and Zerubbabel the governor. They serve as the ones through whom a living witness of God was shining into the world (see a similar description being used of two future witnesses yet to come in Revelation 11:1-6).
* * * * * * * * * *
What an encouragement this must have been to Joshua and Zerubbabel! And what an encouragement it must have been to God’s covenant people! A three-fold office of our Savior was being pictured in this: Joshua represented His Priesthood; Zerubbabel represented His Kingship; and perhaps Zechariah himself was figured in the the lamp that represented the light Jesus brings into the world as Prophet.
And this should also be an encouragement to us as well. We—who stand in a time in history after the vision that Zechariah saw, and before the two witnesses that Revelation 11 tells us the world will yet see—are Jesus’ "witnesses" in this world right now (Acts 1:8). As He Himself has said, "You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and put in under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven" (Matthew 5:14-16).
May we be faithful witnesses in our day—constantly fed from the oil of the Holy Spirit; and boldly declaring the glories of the coming King!