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Thursday, June 20th, 2024
the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 4

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Verse 1


In Zechariah 3 it is about the religious head, the high priest. In Zechariah 4 it is about the political head, the prince.

First, God’s ideal is presented, that Israel will be a testimony to Him in the world. Then we also see the power God gives to respond to it.

Zechariah Awakened

It seems that Zechariah has entered a sleep state because of what he saw (cf. Daniel 8:18; Daniel 10:9-2 Samuel :). He must be awakened because there is more to see and pass on. It is not over yet.

The awakening of Zechariah presupposes that this night vision is particularly meant for a time of spiritual awakening. This prophecy is given to encourage those who build the house of God in a “remnant time” that is, in a period when the people of God are characterized by great weakness. This awakening is done by God or on His behalf, not through human intervention. Only the Spirit of God can effect an awakening, enabling God to make His communications in a way that they are also understood and accepted.

Verses 2-3

The Lampstand and the Two Olive Trees

Zechariah is roused. He is awakened. Then the LORD asks him what he sees. The question forces Zechariah to look closely. He is summoned to give the greatest attention to what he sees. Then he can describe in detail what he sees. He sees “a lampstand all of gold”. There has been one like that in the tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-Matthew :).

Zechariah also sees how the oil, through which the seven lamps of the lampstand can burn, is going to those lamps. At the top of the lampstand is a bowl drum. From this bowl, seven spouts go to each of the seven lamps. Through these spouts the oil flows to the lamps. The oil in the bowl is supplied by two olive trees. From the olive trees, the oil is transported through two spouts to the bowl at the top of the lampstand. In this way the lampstand can burn continuously. Of the two trees there is one on the right side and one on the left side of the lampstand.

This picture shows the constant, unlimited and God-governed supply for the light He wants to spread through His people. There is no human help involved in this, as there has been in the care of the light in the tabernacle and the temple. Only if God’s Spirit – the oil is a picture of Him (1 John 2:20; 1 John 2:27) – controls every detail, can the service be for the glory of God.

The lampstand is a picture of the Lord Jesus. He is the light of the world. In it we see the power of the Holy Spirit, which emanates from Christ, the Anointed. Just as the lampstand carries the lamps, so the Lord Jesus carries the believers. It is said to us, the followers of Christ, that we are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). We must let our lamps burn and let our light shine in the world (Luke 12:35; Philippians 2:15; Revelation 1:20). For this we need the power of the Holy Spirit.

Verses 4-5

Question About the Meaning of the Vision

The prophet does not remain silent after telling what he sees. He also wants to know the meaning of it and asks for it. He does not ask his question because he does not know the meaning of the lampstand. He is well aware of it. He asks about the meaning of “these”, that is the whole of the night vision. He wants to know what the lampstand and the olive trees have to say, what their application is for him and for his people and for their circumstances.

The reaction of the LORD gives the impression that He supposes that Zechariah should have known the meaning after all. But Zechariah must admit that he does not know it. He does so with great respect and reverence for the LORD whom he addresses with “Lord”, Adonai, which means the sovereign Lord.

Verse 6

Not by Force, but by God’s Spirit

The LORD then answers the question of Zechariah. He begins by saying that the answer is “the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel”. The word of the LORD is with regard to future events with a view to the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel is discouraged by the opposition to the rebuilding. Now he is encouraged that he does not have to expect it from human might, from his own effort, but that the Spirit of God guarantees that the work will be done.

With “might” and “power” we can think of a mighty individual and the power of a crowd, both of which involve human input. Even though someone is still so strong and even though there are so many people together, God cannot use any of them to do His work.

This is what the One says Who cannot and does not have to use human might, since He is “the LORD of hosts”. All earthly and heavenly hosts are subject to Him and available to Him.

With this explanation the LORD declares that the vision speaks of God’s Spirit through whom Zerubbabel can do God’s work. The result of that work is the testimony of God’s glory in the world.

How important this word is also for our days full of committees, schedules, organizations, budgets, sponsor actions and so on. Because a work for God is a spiritual work through and through, it can never be done by human effort, not by one’s own might or the authority of others (cf. Hosea 1:7). God’s work can only succeed in the power of the almighty, infallible Spirit of God.

Just as the lamps are supplied with oil, coming from a source not of human manufacture, and also without human intervention, God’s work is not done through a crowd or by energetic and persuasive people. Weakness is not an impediment, but on the contrary a necessity for God to be able to do His work (2 Corinthians 12:9; 1 Samuel 14:6; 2 Chronicles 14:11; Hebrews 11:34).

Verse 7

Grace, Grace

If there is a conviction that God’s Spirit works and is truly sufficient to do God’s work, the challenging question can be asked: “What are you, O great mountain?” These challenging sounding words are not pride, but an expression of the full confidence that the “great mountain,” the impressive empire that dominates, cannot prevent the work of God (cf. Jeremiah 51:25; Revelation 8:8). In the “great mountain,” in a general sense, we can also see the colossal difficulties and obstacles that arise as a mountain in doing a work for God (Matthew 21:21; Isaiah 40:3-Deuteronomy :; Ezra 4:1-Numbers :; Ezra 4:23-Jeremiah :Ezra 5:1-Deuteronomy :).

Zerubbabel will see with his own eyes that by God’s Spirit will be removed what stands in the way of his work to complete the rebuilding. Faith may know that by the power of God’s Spirit the mountains of trouble will become “a plain” or a highway.

The top stone still needs to placed and then the work is done. Christ is the foundation and He is the Accomplisher of the work. The temple, the sanctuary has to be there to put the lampstand in it.

The last words of this verse can be understood as a praying wish that God’s blessing will rest continually on this work. Perseverance, by the grace of God, crowns the life of the Christian. The enduring presence of our Lord in grace in His church on earth until His coming is the testimony that He Who founded it also sustains it.

The repetition “grace, grace” emphasizes that from the beginning to the end everything is grace. Obstacles disappear for the faith, the work is finished, everything is grace.

Verses 8-9

Promise of Completion

The word of the LORD comes to the prophet (Zechariah 4:8). The word is about Zerubbabel. Here Zerubbabel receives a confirmation that he himself will complete the work. It means for him an extra encouragement (Zechariah 4:9). This promise is literally fulfilled (Ezra 6:15).

The ‘Me’ Who is sent, at the end of Zechariah 4:9, is not Zechariah, but the Messiah (Zechariah 6:15; cf. Zechariah 2:9; Zechariah 2:11Zechariah 3:2). When the prophecies are fully fulfilled and the new temple is built, the Messiah will come to His temple. Then everyone will acknowledge that it is He Who has been sent by God to His people.

Verse 10

The Day of Small Things

“The day of small things” is the day when He can accomplish the working of His might in and through the weakness of His people. We also see here the seven Spirits of God (Revelation 4:5) that are there in the day of small things. They can be with few people to do God’s work. The masses have stayed in Babylon. Only the rest of them start the work to restore the priestly service. They cannot force anyone, but through the full activity of God’s Spirit – the number seven speaks of fullness – a number of people have woken up and started building.

From the church in Philadelphia the Lord Jesus says that she has “little power” (Revelation 3:8). But He immediately lets follow: “And have kept My word, and have not denied My name.” Therefore, He gives the promise that they will be a pillar in the temple of His God (Revelation 3:12). This may already be realized by us in faith in the power of the Spirit.

The small and weak remnant is promised joy when they will see how Zerubbabel will measure the end result and it will turn out to be in order according to God’s standards. He does so with “the plumb line” as a lead in his hand. It shows his close, personal involvement with the work.

“These seven” who are “glad”, are “the eyes of the LORD” which see all that is happening on earth (2 Chronicles 16:9; Proverbs 15:3). The LORD perceives both the opposition to His work and those who work for Him. These eyes now see with pleasure Zerubbabel who is building. Zerubbabel is a type of the Messiah Who will build the temple in the realm of peace (Ezekiel 40-43). This is how God looks to us with pleasure when we build for Him, even if it is the day of small things. But the power of the Holy Spirit is present.

Verses 11-12

Question About the Olive Trees

The night vision is not quite clear yet for Zechariah. That is why he asks further (Zechariah 4:11). He even asks the question again, adding something to the question of which he would like to know the meaning (Zechariah 4:12).

In his repetition of the question, the prophet speaks of oil as “golden [oil]”. In the picture it is thus indicated that the Holy Spirit is a Divine Person, just as Christ – represented in the golden lampstand – is. The two golden pipes through which the oil runs can be seen as the means which God uses to let run the flow of the Spirit.

We can think of precepts, but also of servants of the Word. The oil does not come from a dead reservoir, but from living olive trees nourished by God (cf. Psalms 52:8; Hosea 14:7; Romans 12:1). The golden stream of oil is available to us in the work that the Lord commands us to do. Both the oil and the pipes are made of gold, which means that in this case there is no distinction between the means the Lord uses and what He gives. Here, so to speak, there is no distinction between the weakness of the vessel, the servant, and the treasure in the vessel, the Spirit.

Verses 13-14

What the Olive Trees Represent

The Lord answers the questions of Zechariah first with a counter-question (Zechariah 4:13). In the counter-question the assumption sounds again that he might know the meaning of these things (Zechariah 4:5). Again he has to acknowledge that he does not know the meaning and again he does so with great respect and reverence for the LORD, whom he addresses again with “Lord”, Adonai, that is the sovereign Lord.

Then he gets the explanation (Zechariah 4:14). The two olive trees “are the two anointed ones” (literally “sons of oil”). They are standing “by the Lord [Adonai] of the whole earth”. They are standing in a position where servants wait for orders from their Lord. They represent Joshua and Zerubbabel, the two anointed ones. In the Old Testament we see that kings – Zerubbabel stands in the royal line – and priests – Joshua is high priest – are anointed in view of their service.

The two olive trees, a picture of the King and the Priest, Christ, provide the oil for the LORD’s testimony concerning the Messiah. The Lord Jesus always does everything through the Holy Spirit. We see that during His life on earth before the cross, His work on the cross and His life after the cross in the resurrection. Also later in the realm of peace He will do everything in the power of the Holy Spirit, as shown in this vision (cf. Isaiah 11:2).

In Revelation 11 we also read about two witnesses called “the two olive trees and the two lampstands” and that they “stand before the Lord of the earth” (Revelation 11:4). Their testimony has the character of Moses and Elijah. Moses was king and Elijah sacrificed for Israel as a priest. The Lord Jesus is the King-Priest. The two witnesses bear witness to this. In those difficult times they do so by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Zechariah 4". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/zechariah-4.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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