Now we come to the fifth vision of Zechariah. Apparently chapters one thru four all occurred in one night, one vision after another. These weren’t dreams, by the way; they were visions through which Zechariah was awake. It’s a rather obscure passage which most people aren’t familiar with, except for the famous phrase in vs. 6, but since I did a little homework on it, we can learn some great lessons from it.
To understand this book (and most of the other books of the Bible), it’s really necessary to know the context of their writing. Remember, this and Haggai were written for one main purpose: Encourage God’s people in the rebuilding of the temple after they came back from exile. They had to contend with hostile neighbors, lack of people and resources, and sheer discouragement. In the broader context, it shows us how the Lord encourages his people to carry on his work in the face of opposition—both outer and inner.
Last chapter dealt with the High Priest and the religious/spiritual condition of Israel. It was addressed to Joshua as the spiritual leader of Israel and was meant to encourage him in his work. This chapter is addressed to Zerubbabel, the governor of the region who was also a descendant of David. As governor he was in charge of the “secular” part of the work.
Now let’s take a look at the actual vision. It was a seven-piece lampstand, almost just like the one that used to be in the temple (which the Lord wanted to rebuild). The temple lampstand was there to give illumination to the Holy Place, where there was also the incense, the table with the Bread of the Presence, and the curtain that led to the Holiest of Holies (where stood the Ark). The scholars I’ve read interpret the Lamp of the temple to symbolize the Holy Spirit, since he's the sevenfold One. Oil is also used repeatedly as a symbol of the Spirit, which is why they anointed people with oil on their head.
But there’s a huge difference between the temple one and this one: A bowl of oil (symbolizing the Spirit) feeding the lampstand. This means that it would never go out, its light would never dim.
But we need to keep this is proper perspective, which is where the famous vs. 6 comes in. His work will not be completed by human might nor by human power, but by his Spirit. His Spirit must provide the wisdom and leadership and power behind what we do. But if that happens, we will succeed. Despite the best efforts of men and demons, his work as powered by the Spirit will never die out. There’s a mountain in front of us? Mountain Schmountain!
I absolutely love vs. 10: “Who dares despise the day of small things. . .?” It's true that this temple looks small compared to the one Solomon built. But as MacArthur put it “Don't despise what God is pleased with.” His perspective on how big or small something is and the human perspective on the size of something might be entirely different.
Now we come to the part of the picture that Zechariah seems determined to ask about. The lampstand with the bowl is in the center of the vision, but it has two olive trees on either side of it. He asked about them earlier on in the passage, and the guiding angel basically ignored him and spoke the words of encouragement to Zerubbabel that we discussed before. He asks again, and the angel again ignores him. He then asks a third time, and the angel seems annoyed for some reason (we’re not exactly sure why), but he finally answers the prophet’s question.
The angel finally tells him that they are “the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” Apparently this is referring to Joshua (the High Priest representing the line of Aaron) and Zerubbabel (representing the royal line of David). Of course, we know that in the Messiah, as predicted in chapter 6, the two offices of Priest and King will be permanently united. But for now, what we need to understand is the beautiful tension presented here. Yes, it’s not by (human) might or by (human) power, but by his Spirit that these things will be accomplished. But he will not do it except through human means. We are his tools, and with very few exceptions, he's chosen to limit himself to using us as his hands, his feet, and his mouth.
So what about you? Do you “despise the day of small things,” either in your life or elsewhere? Do you despise the work that the Lord is doing, because to your human eyes it looks pretty small? Well, quit it then!
And now for your contemplation: "By My Spirit" by Leslie Phillips, one of my favorite renditions of 4:6.
Father God, I want to see things as you see them, not from my limited human perspective. Holy Spirit, please give me new eyes and a new heart, by your grace.