ZECHARIAH-SERIES NR 7
POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT!
It is common knowledge that Christ-believers are from time to time inclined to become discouraged with their own spiritual life – when it looks as if things are not going too well or if progress is poor. Despondency is ever the enemy of all Christians. Does Zechariah perhaps have a message to assist and encourage us with that, we may ask.
In the year 520 BC the Lord of Hosts gave Zechariah 8 visions in the same night 1) The man on the red horse, 2) the 4 horns and the 4 craftsmen, 3) the man with the measuring-line, 4) clean garments for the High Priest, 5) the golden lampstand, 6) the flying scroll, 7) the woman in a basket, and 8) the 4 chariots.
We looked at the first 4 visions over the past few Sundays. Today we look at the 5th vision: The golden lampstand.
Once more, bear in mind the immediate context:
15 years previously, 50000 Jews returned to Jerusalem from exile in Babylon. Due to strong opposition from hostile people, they became despondent and could not succeed to rebuild the temple. After 15 years it was still lying in ruins. And it was critically important that the temple and the city be restored, because it was the place where the Lord Jesus was to walk.
For that reason the Lord called Zechariah and Haggai to be prophets in order to go and encourage the Lord’s people and to spur them on to start the rebuilding, and to complete it. And in the same breath the Holy Spirit gave – TOGETHER with these encouragements – further precious expectation of the first coming of Christ centuries later, and a further look towards a many centuries later second coming of Christ. That is why Zechariah is full of references of the Messiah – the Lord Jesus Christ.
But the 5th vision adds extra very precious information: Now note this…
Zechariah was overwhelmed by the previous 4 visions. The concentration was too much. Because of exhaustion he fell into a deep sleep. But there were still 4 visions to come! The angel who explained the visions to him, had to wake him up! The 5th vision was already there – he must look and perceive!!! Instead of giving Zechariah a chance to explain what he sees, the angel is telling it to him in advance:
Zechariah observes a golden lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. There are also two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.
It is clear that it is a lampstand with 7 lamps and that the olive trees are the source of the oil that keeps the lamps burning continuously. Olive oil therefore. The two olive trees feed the bowl with oil and the bowl feeds the lamps.
Of course the idea of a lampstand or candelabrum (menorah) was not strange to Zechariah. In the temple the candelabrum with seven lamps burned day and night. Although it looked slightly different to the one Zechariah saw. But it was part of the permanent equipment in the temple.
In the outer court were the bronze altar and the bronze laver. In the holy place there was the table with the Bread of the Presence and the golden lampstand and the golden altar of incense. In the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant and the Atonement Cover. All these items and their purposes were individually and combined a picture-image of how a sinner is saved in Christ. It was also a picture-image of the person and work of Christ himself.
The meaning of the lampstand, in particular, was a symbol of the light of the presence of God (the number 7 = Divine completeness) and His perfect favour that rests upon His people, and it was also a prophetic future-aligned symbol of Christ who would be the Light of the world. It was the duty of the priests to keep replenishing the oil and trim the wicks.
Towards the end of Revelation we read that the New Jerusalem will not need a sun or moon, as the Lamb will be the lamp and God’s glory the light. Once more: His presence and His favour that rest on His people.
Earlier in Revelation we read that the Lord Jesus compares the churches with lamps/candelabra (Rev 1:20). One of the churches even receives a warning that the Lord will remove their lamp from its place unless there is repentance (Rev 2:5). It means their presence will be removed – they will stop to exist as church of Christ. Because the lampstand is a symbol of God presence and favour. A pure, true, holy presence – therefore the gold.
In the Service on the Mount, Jesus told His followers that THEY were the light of the world (Matt 5:14). It is a light that must shine before men, said the Saviour. It cannot and should not be put under a bowl. Although Jesus is of course the light of the world himself (John 8:12) as Isaiah foretold 800 years before that He shall be (Is 42:6; 49:6). But – His people reflect it.
If we therefore listen to the testimony of the entire Scriptures, and pack out the puzzle pieces, we see what the meaning of the lampstand in Zechariah’s 5th vision is. It is the light of the presence of God and His favour resting on His people.
Remember again what the big question and challenge was: HOW was the temple in Jerusalem going to be restored? 15 years previously, Zerubbabel (governor) and Joshua (high priest) were unsuccessful. After 15 years it was still lying in ruins. WHAT is going to let it succeed now?
Answer: Yes, Zerubbabel and Joshua were indeed powerless men who did not have the ability to do it by themselves, but it is God’s Word and promise, His presence and His favour and the power of the Holy Spirit that will be the decisive factor.
This 5th vision shifts the perspective: AWAY from man and focused on God himself. The entire vision is only one great promise from God, with which He is saying only one thing:
“The work SHALL succeed, because it will be done by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, of course Zerubbabel and Joshua will be the leaders, but the work will not succeed because of THEM, but by the power that comes from the Holy Spirit. So powerfully will the Spirit work, that even resistance that seems as big as a mountain, will become a plain. And Zerubbabel will lay with his own hand the last of the stones to complete the temple. And then the people will rejoice with gladness and thanksgiving and pray that the favour of God would rest on the completed temple. That is My promise, says the Lord of Hosts – Zerubbabel’s hands laid the foundations 15 years ago, and his hands will complete the restoration. But not by any goodness in himself, but because God’s omnipotent favour is with him. Nothing out of men, but everything out of the Lord”.
These powerful words of promise from the Lord contain two very familiar phrases (almost like slogans) one often hear in Christian conversations:
1 > NOT BY MIGHT NOR BY POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRIT, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY (verse 6) and 2) WHO DESPISES THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS? (verse 10).
From the context – as explained above – one can better understand what these phrases truly mean. They are not phrases that are standing alone. They were spoken within a context.
1 NOT BY MIGHT NOR BY POWER, BUT BY MY SPIRIT, SAYS THE LORD ALMIGHTY
Of course it does not imply the passivity of Zerubbabel and Joshua. The Holy Spirit did not make them into passive spectators. They had to work and they surely did work. But the Holy Spirit was holding the reigns and He empowered them. That is where the difference lies between something done by the flesh and something done by the Spirit.
The flesh can be very active, but achieve very little – as was seen in how afraid they were at the opposition they had received 15 years previously and subsequently stopped with the rebuilding of the temple. And did not have the courage to restart the work. The flesh (that which is out of man) cannot do God’s work.
It is like Peter who followed Jesus with self-confidence after Jesus was arrested. But denied Him three times. And yet – a few weeks later – filled with the Holy Spirit – the same Peter testified without fear to the same people who had crucified Christ. And a great number of people came to repentance and faith.
It is the SPIRIT who transforms the desert into a fertile field (Is 32:15). It is the SPIRIT who brought the dry bones – whom the Lord showed Ezekiel – to life and put breath into them (Ezek 37). Man can make plans and carry them out, but unless it is by the SPIRIT, it will lead to nothing (Is 30:1). Deliverance is not by the size of the army, or the strength of the soldiers (Ps 33:16). Paul testifies that his ministry is by the power of the Spirit (1 Cor 2:4).
May the Lord SO touch us that we would become vigorous with the DESIRE to always live SPIRITfilled.
2 > WHO DESPISES THE DAY OF SMALL THINGS?
We know from passages like Ezra 3:12 and Haggai 2:3 that the people (particularly those who knew Solomon’s temple) were terribly disappointed and discouraged because the restored temple was not nearly as large and glorious as the temple that Solomon had built.
And yet the Lord’s favour was on the second temple. What God saw by looking at the temple, was not what could be seen, but that which the temple was pointing, namely the coming of Christ and the establishment of the international NT church that was to come.
That is why the Lord is saying to the people: “Do not despise that in which God delights, even if it is inferior in your eyes. Do not measure My work by human standards,” Even though the start is humble, the end will be prosperous (Job 8:7). God chooses that which seems insignificant in man’s eyes to shame that which seems great in man’s eyes (1 Cor 1:28).
Man is impressed by numbers and greatness and stature and success – but not so the Lord. The day of small things are mostly great in God’s kingdom.
The greatest mystery of Zechariah 4 is the question about what the meaning is of the two olive trees. Remember: In the symbolism of the vision, the two olive trees are depicted as the SOURCE of the oil that keeps the lamps burning. And the oil is a symbol of the Holy Spirit – as it says in verse 6.
The question is though: If the two olive trees signify Zerubbabel (governor) and Joshua (high priest) – as verse 14 suggests – how can that be, because the Holy Spirit empowers these very two persons for their work – how then can they be the SOURCE of the oil (Spirit)? It is not possible.
It is rather puzzling, until one sees that it is actually the OFFICES of Zerubbabel and Joshua that were the source of the oil/Spirit namely KING and PRIEST. At that stage there was not an anointed king, but Zerubbabel performed the function of ruler and he was a descendant of David. And Joshua was the high priest, a descendant of Eleazar.
But here is the unravelling: Throughout the centuries of OT history, the offices of priest and king have always pointed towards ONE MAN who would appear in the future and who would unite in Himself BOTH offices – the Messiah. No king of Israel was ever allowed to perform the functions of the priest and no priest was ever allowed to be a king. And yet this same Zechariah says in 6:13 that the Messiah shall be both king and priest. And Psalm 110 has stated it all along.
TOGETHER therefore, Zerubbabel and Joshua are pointing ahead to the Messiah – concerning their OFFICES! In Messiah their offices would be combined. And Messiah is the true source of blessing that would make of Israel a light for the nations (Is 60:1-3).
The two olive trees are therefore the source of the oil, sure enough. But TOGETHER the two olive trees (king and priest) actually symbolize the Messiah – the Lord Jesus Christ who will be King and Priest for ever. And He is the source of the power of the Holy Spirit. In Acts 2:33 the Apostle Peter declares that, exalted to the Right hand of the Father, Jesus has received the promised Holy Spirit and poured Him out.
This is the way we must understand this gripping vision for our own lives:
All people who are IN CHRIST, are included with Him as King and Priest, and therefore share in the gifts of the Holy Spirit. It is a given fact. And all included people are called to partake of the work in the coming of the kingdom of God. No one is excluded. Indeed, the calling to partake in the building of the temple/the body of Christ, is alive in the heart of everyone who is in Christ and in whom the Holy Spirit abides. It is not possible to be in Christ and not have a realization of this calling….
BUT – and this is the point – It is not possible for any Christian to be in the Lord’s service other than by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is He and only He that can let the light shine to the glory of God.
Yes, it is true that the Holy Spirit is present in the life of the person who is in the King-Priest. And still the Spirit can be grieved. It is not to say that the Spirit controls the life of the person in whom He lives. Therefore we hear the summons in Eph 5:18 to be continually filled by the Spirit. The way alcohol has an influence on a person who partakes of it (the image that the Apostle uses in verse 18) (something that according to the Apostle should not happen) in the same way the Spirit uses His blessed influence in a believer’s life – the person who partakes of the Spirit – to put it like that.
The Lord’s message to the Jews in Jerusalem in 520 BC is very clear: By My Spirit you SHALL be successful with the rebuilding of the temple.
Translated by Marthie Wilson