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The candelabrum and olive trees.
I. By the candelabrum was symbolised the Israelitish community, the nation of the old covenant, the people of theocracy. But Israel was itself a symbol and type; it was the visible manifestation of that invisible spiritual community, the Church of the living God, which embraces the faithful of all ages and places. It is represented as made of the most precious of metals, pure gold, to indicate the worth and excellence of that which God hath chosen for Himself as His special treasure; and it is represented as having seven lamps, to indicate that the Church is a luminous body, having light in itself, and appearing as the luminary from which proceeds light to the world.
II. The light which the Church possesses is not from herself; it is light communicated and sustained by influences from above. Hence in the vision which Zechariah saw the lamps were supplied by oil, not by human ministration, but through channels and pipes from the olive trees, which stood beside and were over the candelabrum. Oil is the proper symbol of the Holy Spirit's influences. Apart from the Divine Spirit the Church is dark and cold and feeble; but through the visitation of the Spirit she is animated and invigorated, becomes luminous and glorious, and is crowned with success as she labours to erect God's temple on earth.
III. God sustains His Church by His grace. But this grace comes to men through certain appointed media. This was symbolised in the vision by the fruit-bearing branches of the olive trees, and by the conduits and the pipes through which the oil was conveyed to the lamps. The branches represented the sacerdotal and civil authorities in Israel. These were in the old time the channels through which God conveyed His grace to His Church on earth; and, as they operated through means of subordinate functionaries, the branches were represented in the vision as emptying themselves into the conduits and pipes, by means of which the oil was conveyed to the lamps. When the symbol was again exhibited (Revelation 1:12 ), the great Head of the Church Himself in proper Person was seen in the midst of the seven golden candelabra. Through Him, as the great Priest and King, uniting in Himself the two offices and discharging the functions of both to His Church, "the oil of Divine grace is poured into the candlestick of the Church in infinitely greater abundance than through any of the previous servants of God." (Hengstenberg.)
W. Lindsay Alexander, Zechariah's Visions and Warnings, p. 59; see also Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 96.
References: Zechariah 4:6 . Spurgeon, Sermons, vol. iii., No. 149; G. H. Wilkinson, Old Testament Outlines, p. 280; see also Church Sermons by Eminent Clergymen, vol. i., p. 401.
I. When Zerubbabel prophesied, the foundation of the temple had been laid, and he predicted that the same prince who laid the foundation should also lay the top-stone. The foundation of the Church has been laid; it grows up slowly but surely, a holy temple in the Lord. Our joyful hope is that He who laid the foundation will also finish it.
II. The propagation of the Gospel is not only for but by Christ. The Sower of the seed all through this dispensation is the Son of man; it is He who preaches peace, through the minds and voices of many preachers, in many languages; He publishes the testimony through all the earth, and saves sinners. The construction of the Church is also by Christ from first to last, and the builders from Paul and Apollos downwards are nothing without Him. Christ is always building His people together, healing, reconciling, moulding, blending, compacting them together as living stones that form the one temple of the one Holy Ghost.
III. Mark well what the energy is which surmounts or removes obstacles. Not might, nor power of mortal man. The upbuilding of the Church in the face of all difficulties has been possible, and is possible now, only under the might and power of the Holy Spirit.
D. Fraser, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xvi., p. 161.
I. Prophecy in the long reach of its onward flight stoops again and again to many fulfilments. There is the historical fulfilment, and there is the evangelical fulfilment, the spiritual fulfilment, the practical fulfilment, and the final and glorious fulfilment. There was a "headstone brought out with shoutings" when Zerubbabel's temple was finished, and the old men wept and the young men cried aloud for joy. There was a headstone brought forth with shoutings "when the Lord Jesus Christ," the firstborn of every creature, the top-stone of God's creation, was unveiled to human view at Bethelehem. There will be a "headstone brought out with shoutings" when the whole Church stands in its completeness, and its song of victory goes up, while God inhabits the praises of Israel.
II. There are two stones to which Christ is compared in the Bible the "foundation-stone," and the "head" or corner-stone. Christ is both. (1) First, He is the beginning of every good thing on which it rests as its basis. "Other foundation can no man lay than is laid, which is Christ Jesus." (2) And then afterwards, in due time, He is the "head" or "corner-stone," into which everything gathers itself up as all its aim and all its object, its glory and its last attainment, and in the sameness of those two stones lies the comfort the Alpha is the Omega, in Christ we begin, in Christ we end, we lay all upon His death, and we bring out all unto His glory. And therefore, because He is the beginning and the ending, the "foundation stone" and "top-stone," therefore we cry, "Grace, grace unto it."
III. And what is it we mean when we use that word "grace" in its double emphasis? We mean that it is all free favour, God's own pure mercy. Whatever good thing we have, it was purchased for us by Christ's blood. Whatever good thing we do, it was wrought in us by Christ's Spirit.
J. Vaughan, Fifty Sermons, 8th series, p. 253.
Consider the tendency in men to indulge contempt for good things, in the littleness and weakness of their beginnings and early operations.
I. There is much of a disposition to undervalue, "despise," the small beginnings and slow, early stages of a good work. (1) It comes from not duly apprehending the preciousness of what is good, in any, even the smallest portion of it. (2) In the indulgence of this disposition it is left out of sight how much in many cases was requisite to be previously done to bring the small beginning into existence at all; it did not start into existence of itself. (3) Another thing is, that we are apt to set far too high a price on our own efforts and services. Our self-importance cannot endure that so much of our agency, ours, should be consumed for so small a result. (4) We over-measure our brief span of mortal existence. We want to contract the Almighty's plan to our own limits of time, and to precipitate the movement, that we may see clearly to the end of it.
II. In the religious and moral department things that as yet are small are to be estimated, not according to their present dimensions, but according to their principle, and according to what they are to become. We are to recognise in them a Divine principle; that God has put in them His will, His power, His Spirit. This includes (1) the progress of education; (2) the progress of Christianity.
III. Pride, sluggishness, and covetousness have all something to do with the temper which leads men to despise small things. But the good cause of God, of Christ, of human improvement, is certain, is destined to advance and triumph. The awful mystery why this triumphant ascendency is so slowly achieved, so long delayed in this world, will, it is reasonable to believe, be one of the subjects for illumination in a higher state of existence, where enlarging faculties will have endless duration for their exercise. It may then be seen that the whole course of the world, from the beginning to the end, was "a day of small things," as compared with the sequel, only as a brief introduction to an immense and endless economy.
J. Foster, Lectures; 2nd series, p. 365.
References: Zechariah 4:10 . Spurgeon, Old Testament Outlines, p. 281; E. White, Christian World Pulpit, vol. xxxi., p. 187; Spurgeon, Evening by Evening, p. 333; Ibid., My Sermon Notes: Ecclesiastes to Malachi, p. 365.Zechariah 5:1-38.5.11 . W. Lindsay Alexander, Homiletic Quarterly, vol. iv., p. 175.Zechariah 5:0 Expositor, 3rd series, vol. iv., p. 119. Zechariah 6:1-38.6.8 . Ibid., vol. v., p. 107.
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Nicoll, William R. "Commentary on Zechariah 4". "Sermon Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany