The Book of Zechariah
THE FIFTH VISION: THE GOLDEN CANDLESTICK & THE TWO OLIVE TREES
1. The last two weeks we looked at the fourth vision, which concerned Joshua the high priest.
2. Joshua, in his official capacity as high priest, represented the nation Israel as he stood before the Lord in his “filthy garments”(3:3), and his purging from sin and Israel’s restoration forms the necessary prelude to the fifth vision, which we will look at tonight.
3. Israel was supposed to be God’s candlestick, a light shining for God to the rest of the world (cf. Deut. 32:8-10; Ezek. 5:5). But she failed and God judged them and scattered them (cf. Lev. 26:33; Ezek. 5:10b).
4. All eight of Zechariah’s visions deal with the restoration of Israel. The second coming of the Messiah and the restoration of Israel is the great theme of the book of Zechariah (cf. Zech. 8:3, 20-23).
5. So it is not very difficult to understand the interpretation of Zechariah – if you interpret it literally, that is – but in addition to the interpretation, there are numerous applications. A good principle to follow is that when studying the Bible remember that there can be only one correct interpretation, but there can be many applications.
6. Tonight, I would like to make a threefold application: to the prophet Zechariah’s day, to a future day, and then to our day.
I. THE APPLICATION TO ZECHARIAH’S DAY
1. Zechariah undoubtedly tired after seeing the first four visions (4:1). Daniel had a similar experience, as did Peter and the other disciples (Dan. 10:8; Luke 9:32).
2. The candlestick was “all of gold” (4:2), representing the deity of Christ, who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
3. There were “seven lamps thereon” (4:2), symbolizing the fullness of the Holy Spirit (cf. Rev. 1:4; 3:1; 4:5; 5:6). Oil in the Bible always represents the Holy Spirit. We will consider this more fully later on when I make the application to our day.
4. The candlestick was essentially the same as the one in the tabernacle and temple, except for three differences:
(1) The candlesticks in the tabernacle and temple each had a wick in them. The priests saw to it that they were always filled with oil. The oil was drawn up through the wicks. But here in Zechariah’s vision, we see that the oil was supplied through gravitation. The oil flowed out from the bowl on top (4:2) and fed into each one of the seven lamps.
(2) Zechariah’s candlestick had numerous “pipes” or tubes, from which the oil poured. The candlesticks in the tabernacle and temple had no pipes at all, only seven branches or arms to hold the lamps.
(3) A third distinguishing feature of Zechariah’s candlestick is the “two olive trees” (4:3; cf. 4:11). These represent an unlimited supply of oil which can never run out. The significance of this is the automatic and spontaneous supply of oil for light without human agency. Since oil represents the Holy Spirit, the application is easy to discern! (4:6)
4. There is a familiar story about an American and an Englishman watching the Niagara whirlpool rapids. The American said to his friend, “Come, I will show you the greatest unused power in the world.” He then took him to the foot of Niagara Falls and said: “There is the greatest unused power in the world!” “Oh, no, my brother, not so,” replied the Englishman. “The greatest unused power in the world today is the Holy Spirit of the living God.”
5. The immediate application was for Zerubbabel (4:4-6). “This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel” (4:6).
6. Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah (Haggai 1:1). He was in the royal line of King David (cf. Matt. 1:12), but it was now “the times of the Gentiles” and there was no more king in Israel.
7. Zerubbabel faced the difficult task of rebuilding the temple in the midst of a corrupt and worldly society that was hostile to the things of God. The application is clear – we are trying to build a Bible-preaching church in the midst of a corrupt and worldly society that is just as hostile (perhaps more so) to the things of God.
8. God gave this vision to the prophet Zechariah to encourage Zerubbabel and the people (4:6, 7). The “mountain” of opposition would be cleared away (4:7).
9. Our Lord said in Matthew 17:20, “For verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.”
10. Sometimes God sends people to encourage us, and sometimes He encourages us directly Himself. When Sir Walter Scott was a young boy he was a poor student and was forced to sit in the corner of the schoolhouse with a dunce cap on his head. When he was about twelve years old he happened to be in a house where some famous writers were being entertained. Robert Burns, the great Scotch poet, was standing and admiring a picture under which was written the couplet of a stanza. He inquired concerning the author but no one seemed to know. Timidly young Scott walked up to Burns, named the author and recited the entire poem. Burns was surprised and delighted. He laid his hand upon young Walter Scott’s head and exclaimed, “Ah, young man, you will be a great man in Scotland some day.” From that day Walter Scott was never the same. That one word of encouragement got him started on the road to greatness. Who have you encouraged lately?
11. God encouraged Zerubbabel through the following promises:
(1) to remove all obstacles (4:7).
(2) that Zerubbabel would finish the temple (4:9).
(3) that the LORD was working for them (4:9b).
(4) that the people would once again rejoice (4:10).
(5) His eyes do not miss anything (4:10b).
II. APPLICATION TO A FUTURE DAY
1. The second coming of Christ is the great theme of this book (cf. 1:8; 2:1, 10-13; 3:8). The interpreting angel explained that the two olive trees symbolized “the two anointed ones” (4:14). In Zechariah’s day, the two anointed ones were Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor. Both these offices foreshadowed the Messiah who as both Priest and King will reign from the throne of King David (cf. Zech. 6:12, 13; Jer. 33:15-17).
2. Both priest and king were anointed with oil for their offices, representing the enduement of the Holy Spirit for service. Thus they were “the anointed ones” and types of Christ. Christ means “the anointed one.”
3. Another future application is revealed to us in the Book of Revelation (Rev. 11:3, 4). Just as God used Zerubbabel and Joshua in the days following the Babylonian captivity, he will use these two unnamed witnesses during the coming tribulation.
4. Another prophetic picture is the unlimited outpouring of God’s Spirit when the Lord returns (cf. Joel 2:28-32) and the establishment of the nation Israel as the golden candlestick shining her light around the world.
III. THE APPLICATION FOR OUR DAY
1. Oftentimes we try and serve the Lord in the energy of the flesh – this is unwise (Zech. 4:6). Through the Holy Spirit we will be far more effective and with far more pleasure – notice “shoutings” (vs. 7) and “rejoice” (vs. 10). Do you have the joy of the Lord (cf. Neh. 8:10b)? I am not talking about hanging from the chandeliers.
2. As I have pointed out, oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit. Consider:
a. Oil lubricates, thus abolishing friction and promoting smoothness.
b. Oil heals. In Bible times wine and oil were applied to wounds – you may recall how the Good Samaritan poured oil and wine into the wounds of the injured man on the road to Jericho (Luke 10:34).
c. Only the Holy Spirit can heal the broken lives and the broken hearts of men and women, boys and girls, who have been wounded by life’s sorrows and cares. Thank God, we can sing from the heart, “Burdens are lifted at Calvary, Jesus is very near.”
d. Oil lights. It is the Holy Spirit who illuminates the Word of God and opens it up for the child of God. Jesus said that “He will guide you into all truth” (John 16:13). How does He do this? Through the Word of God.
e. Oil warms. The Holy Spirit can light a fire under a lukewarm Christian and get him red-hot for God. And He can warm up the coldest unbeliever, bringing him under conviction as the Word of God is fervently preached.
f. Oil invigorates – that is, it increases the energy of the body. In the book of Acts, we read how the apostles turned the world upside down because they were filled with the Holy Spirit; they were led by the Holy Spirit; and they were endued with power from on high by the Holy Spirit.
g. Oil polishes. The Holy Spirit takes the rough edges from the character of the believer. The fruit of the Spirit has none of the blots and blemishes of the old nature.
3. God’s work is instigated, promoted, and carried through to a successful accomplishment by the Holy Spirit – apart from man’s abilities and talents and strengths.
4. Today there are two extremes: wildfire or no fire!
5. Some churches feel that they do not really need the Holy Spirit – instead they have their program. They have their boards and committees! Someone has said committees are made up of the incompetent, appointed by the indifferent, to do the unnecessary. God save us from that kind of foolishness!
6. Most churches today are like Samson after he fell asleep in the devil’s barbershop. Judges 16:20 says Samson “wist (knew) not that the LORD was departed from him.”
The great Baptist preacher of a previous generation, A.C. Dixon, said: “When we rely on organization, we get what organization can do. When we rely upon education, we get what education can do. When we rely upon eloquence, we get what eloquence can do. When we rely on the Holy Spirit, we get what God can do.”