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The Two Anointed Ones
The striking vision next recorded, being the fifth in the series, is of prime importance to any reverent student of the word of God. Not only does it set forth precious and important truth relative to Israel, as God’s light-bearer in the world, but it is the only instance where the typical meaning of oil is distinctly explained. It gives us therefore an unerring key whereby to unlock many of the treasures of symbolic teaching throughout the Old Testament.
The prophet seems to have fallen into a slumber after the interpretation of the previous vision; for we are told that the angel who had been speaking with him came again, and waked him, as a man is waked out of his sleep, saying, “What seest thou?” (vers. 1, 2). Zechariah looked, and beheld a sight of great beauty and splendor. A golden lamp-stand, evidently somewhat similar in construction to that which is described in Exodus 25:31-37, appeared before his eyes. But in one marked respect it differed from that whose lamps the priest had to carefully fill daily lest they should be extinguished. Here no human hand provided the oil, nor was responsible to maintain the light of testimony. The stand and its lamps were of one piece, and the latter were continually supplied in a most remarkable manner. Upon the top of the central shaft was a golden bowl, or fountain. From this radiated seven pipes, which connected with the seven lamps. On either side of the stand an olive tree was growing, the branches of which were represented as bending over the receiver-fountain, and pouring their oil into it in a continual stream. Thus the light was ever maintained in its beauty and power (vers. 2, 3).
In response to Zechariah’s request for enlightenment as to the meaning of this, the angel said, “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.”
Here was no meaningless oracle, such as those of heathen sybils, but a plain declaration that just as the oil pouring into the golden bowl fed the lamps, so the Holy Spirit would confirm and unfailingly furnish Israel to be Jehovah’s testimony-bearer in the earth. He who had brought up a remnant from Babylon under Zerubbabel, the prince of David’s line, would infallibly fulfil every promise made through His holy prophets. Human power and might could neither hinder nor help. The Holy Spirit alone could sustain and maintain them as His light in the world. Thus we know what oil typifies. It speaks ever of the Spirit of God, whether as anointer or earnest. In His divine power alone can any testimony be carried on for God at any time. During the present dispensation of Israel’s scattering, the Church is the light-bearer, even as her Lord was while here upon the earth. By and by, when Israel shall be restored in the saved remnant, she will once more become God’s witness. But whether with the blessed Lord Himself, the Church His Body, or Israel His people, all true testimony is in the energy of the Holy Spirit.
Endued by power divine, who need fear the face of man? Before Zerubbabel and the feeble remnant in the land, Gentile authority might seem like a great mountain, hindering all progress in the special work committed to them. Only unbelief could so count it. Faith would say to the mount of difficulty, “Become a plain,” and so it should be. No weapon formed against them should prosper, no arm should be strong enough to hinder, till the temple was completed to the glory of Jehovah, and Zerubbabel should bring forth the capstone amid the shoutings of a rejoicing people, crying, “Grace, grace unto it?” (vers. 4-7).
Even so shall every promise made in the word of God be fulfilled to the letter. In this case he who had begun the house should finish it (see Ezra 3:10-15 and 6:14-18); thus proving that a prophet had been among them. It was a day of weakness, a day of small things; but they should not despise it, for it was the day of Jehovah’s energy. The nations of the earth might be utterly indifferent to what was transpiring at the insignificant place where the Lord had set His Name; but there He was, working in mighty power, nevertheless. There the plummet of truth was in the hands of Zerubbabel, and the people wrought according as they found it written. There too the eyes of the Lord rested with complacency, after running to and fro through the whole earth (vers. 9, 10).
In God’s sight it was “a great work” that was going on in Jerusalem, for it was the carrying out of His own word, with a view to the coming of His Son into the scene.
On one other point Zechariah desired enlightenment. He had been contemplating the two olive trees, wondering what they might signify; so he inquired boldly of the angel, asking for information regarding them. It would seem as though there was slowness of apprehension on his part; for he not only had to put his question twice over, but the angel did not immediately reply, but questioned him, as in verse 5, where it seemed as though spiritual intuition ought to have made all clear, saying, “Knowest thou not what these be?” Confessing his ignorance, Zechariah is told that, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
To him the two anointed ones could be no other than Zerubbabel, the prince, and Joshua the high priest. So in kingly and priestly power the testimony of God was to be maintained. These were the agencies through which Jehovah would work.
In Revelation 11:4 the two witnesses are said to be “the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.” The reference is clearly to Zechariah’s vision; yet there is a marked difference. There we have two candlesticks; here, but one. The reason is plainly this: the two witnesses come on the scene before Israel is established as God’s lamp-stand nationally. With them it is individual testimony. Therefore in place of one seven-branched lamp-stand, setting forth completeness of testimony we have two witnesses described as two lamp-stands. And they are also said to be the two olive trees; for they stand before God as His anointed sons of oil in the day when His name is denied and His word despised. Coming in the spirit and power of Moses and Elijah, they prophesy in the energy of the Spirit till put to death by the Beast and his adherents. Thus, for the moment, all testimony for God will seem to have been blotted out; but the word of the Lord shall not fail, for the seven-branched lamp-stand shall be set up when the Lord descends and delivers His people Israel out of the hands of all who oppress them.
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Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zechariah 4". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany