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The Complete Temple
"And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep" ( Zec 4:1 ).
Here is the mystery of repetition. Even angels cannot deliver the whole message of God at once, or if they could do so, it is not in the power of man to receive the divine revelation in one gift. Moreover, we see different aspects of the same revelation. This mystery of aspect is often overlooked in estimating the orthodoxy of men. Zechariah did not see all the visions at once. Suppose that some other man came after him and saw the first vision whilst Zechariah was looking at the third, Zechariah was not at liberty to upbraid that man with indifference or ignorance or heterodoxy. All men must pass through their own visions; each man sees his own aspect of God, and realises his own theory of life and responsibility and destiny, and if so be the man be incorruptibly sincere God will see to it that his education is completed in his own way.
"And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof" ( Zec 4:2 ).
The candlestick is the seven-branched candlestick of the tabernacle; yet what variations are introduced for the purpose of showing that while God may retain the central or substantial truth, he reserves to himself the liberty and the right constantly to vary all the outbranchings and all the outshining of the candlesticks. It has been noted that the first variation here is the bowl on the top of the candlestick, containing the oil; then we have the pipes to conduct the oil into each lamp; then we have the two olive trees on either side of the bowl. All this multiplication of conduits shows that the action of the Lord in the Church is not an action once for all, but is continually proceeding, and continually varying. The candlestick itself was never changed, but many mechanical accidents pertaining to its construction and use were continually being re-arranged. So it is with the truth of God and its whole ministry. Is the progress of the world, then, to be determined by the continually-changing ingenuities of man? The answer is, that these changes were not made by human ingenuity, but were the result of divine appointment. Besides this, there is the sublime answer in the sixth verse, "Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." God will have everything his own way. God never vacates his own throne. Yet God uses the candlestick as well as the sun, the oil of human manufacture as well as the spark of uncreated glory. We are to look for the Spirit of God, when we have done the work of God. The Spirit could not be withheld from us, except God were to be unfaithful to his own government, when we have honourably and lovingly rendered obedience to his will. If you have prepared your work, God will do his part; if you have not prepared your work, you have no right to expect the Spirit of God to complete what has been left undone through indolence.
"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" ( Zec 4:7 ).
The powers that oppose God exalt themselves very highly, and boast loudly of their magnitude and importance. All this was foreseen by prophecy, and foredoomed. "Every one that exalteth himself shall be abased." Appearances were wholly contrary to the probability of Jesus Christ making universal progress through the world; these appearances did not escape prophetic attention; hence we read, "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain." Prophecy does not overlook valley and mountain, crooked lines and rough places; all these are broadly recognised, and even specifically detailed, yet concerning the whole of them is the word of the Lord sure. Nothing shall stand before the great power of the risen Lord when he comes forth to complete the purpose of the Cross. The foundation of the temple had been laid long. It was by no means certain whether the people would be able to complete the temple, but Zechariah foretells that the temple should certainly be completed; the headstone thereof was to be brought on "with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it" all favour from God unto it, redoubled favours, grace upon grace. But the completion of the temple was only the completion, not the end. We only complete one temple that we may begin another. We only make the metropolis what it ought to be, that from it we may proceed to Christianise the whole land.
In Zechariah 4:10 a question is asked which often occurs in human speech, "For who hath despised the day of small things?" Without prying into the exact meaning of this inquiry in relation to apocalyptic vision, it is yet our duty to remember it as a practical guide of conduct. The mustard seed is small, but what of the mustard tree! The dawn may be feeble, but what of the midday glory! The whole action of God has been an action from the small to the great, from the visible to the invisible, and up again to the invisible and eternal. A child can play with the acorn, but what man can shake the oak! God is continually surpassing all that he has yet done. "Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? And how do ye see it now? Is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?... The glory of this latter house shall be greater than of the former, saith the Lord of hosts: and in this place will I give peace, saith the Lord of hosts." God always perfects his own strength in human weakness. Again and again men remind themselves that Joseph was raised from prison; David was brought forth from the sheep-fold; Daniel was delivered from bondage, and the world itself is under the evangelising influence of fishermen and tent-makers, who themselves were called to their work by One who became the Carpenter. Wise is the old proverb, "Wouldst thou be great? Become little." A commentator has quoted the words of St. Theresa: "Whenever I am to receive some singular grace I first annihilate myself, sink into my own nothingness, so as to seem to myself to be nothing, be capable of nothing."
Let thy mercy be multiplied unto us, O God, according to our need. We may have all the light we want; thou givest liberally unto all earnest seekers, who make the Cross their altar, and thou dost not upbraid them. Thou art our Father, and thy name is thy character. Thou wilt not withhold any good thing from them that walk uprightly; but is not the condition severe? Who can be upright before God? Who can be righteous when tried by the standard of the sanctuary? Yet we know thy meaning well, for we can testify that thou sendest thy rain upon the just and upon the unjust; thou makest thy sun to shine also upon the evil and upon the good; thou art kind to them that are evil and unthankful. The whole world is a reservoir into which thou dost pour what it can hold of the ocean of thy love. We bless thee that we are sure of thy goodness, thy readiness to help; this is our light, our joy, our song, our strength. Because God is near we have no dread; because the Lord is at hand we can pray loudly or whisperingly, with a look or with a touch, and not one hint of all our meaning will be lost on the divine attention. Thou hast been with us, round about us, above us, on our right hand and on our left, our downsitting has been of consequence to thee, and thou hast watched our uprising as though it affected thy throne. The very hairs of our head are all numbered; our tears are put in God's bottle, and there is not a word on our tongue, there is not a thought in our heart, but the Lord, the Father, the Eternal One, knoweth it altogether. This is a joy ineffable, this is a terror unspeakable; for if we do right how glorious to know that thou art looking on, but if we do wrong how overwhelming to feel that the eye of judgment is searching our innermost thought! Meet us as sinners, and pardon us. The blood of Jesus Christ thy Son cleanseth from all sin. May we know its healing and cleansing power. God be merciful to us sinners. Amen.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 4". Parker's The People's Bible. https://www.studylight.org/
the Third Week after Epiphany