Zechariah 4 – preached on 25 Sep 2011
I have been preaching from the book of Zechariah and today we come to chapter 4.
There are some things in this vision that may not be easy to understand.
So, for some of us, it may be a small dose of “spiritual meat”.
If there is anything you do not understand in this message, pls speak to me after worship today.
I plan to cover chapter 4 by answering the following 3 questions:
1) What did Zechariah see and hear in this vision?
2) What does the vision mean?
3) What are the practical applications of this vision for us today?
Let us remember the context of the situation.
It is around 520 BC.
Some Jews have returned from different nations to rebuild Jerusalem & the temple.
They faced all kinds of opposition from their enemies.
They did not manage to make much headway in their work.
Some have turned their attention to building their own homes instead.
There was great discouragement and a great sense of sin & guilt.
Some may be thinking, even if we can rebuild the temple, will God accept it?
What’s the point of continuing?
It was in this context that the vision in chapter 4 was given to Zechariah.
And this vision was meant to encourage the people of God.
So hopefully, we too can get encouragement from this vision today.
Now, what did Zechariah see and hear in this vision? – that’s our first question for today.
First, he saw a lamp stand.
This lampstand was made of solid gold – we see this in verse 2.
On top of this lampstand was a huge bowl which acted as a recepticle.
There were also seven lamps on this lampstand.
In those days, they used oil lamps.
For each of these lamps to be burning, it needed oil to be present.
We are told that there were 7 pipes that connected the bowl at the top to each of these 7 lamps.
So this will enable a continuous flow of oil from the bowl at the top to each of the lamps via the pipes that connected them.
Now, this lamp stand was not like the lamp stand you will find in the tabernacle.
The lamp in the tabernacle had to be maintained by man every day.
Every time the lamps ran out of oil, new oil had to be manually poured in to sustain the fire.
But the lamps that Zechariah saw had a continuous supply of oil from the bowl at the top.
Now, how then was the bowl at the top continuously supplied with oil that filled the seven lamps?
That brings us to the second thing that Zechariah saw.
He saw two olive trees next to the lampstand – we see this in verse 3.
“Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”
Now, we are told that that there were 2 pipes that connected these 2 olive trees to the bowl.
You will see this in verse 12.
So here’s the picture:
The olive trees haves their fruits crushed.
The olive oil flows through the 2 pipes into the bowl at the top of the lamp stand.
The oil from this bowl then flows through 7 pipes that brings it to the 7 lamps on the lamp stand
So in this manner, the lamps continued to burn and never faded out.
That was what Zechariah saw.
Now, what did Zechariah hear
Zechariah was told in verse 6, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor
by power, but by My Spirit’, says the LORD of hosts.
Now, Who is this Zerubbabel mentioned here in verse 6?
You will find his name also mentioned in the books of the prophets Nehemiah, Ezra & Haggai.
These 3 prophets served during the time of the reconstruction of Jerusalem and the temple.
Zerubbabel was the civil governor of Judah during that time.
He was the person who was responsible for this civil construction effort taking place.
Before Israel was scattered into the various nations, they had a king
But now, they were a nation under siege.
So instead of a king, they have a governor who coordinated and managed their civil activities.
And this governor, as it were, had to report to the leaders of the nations who ruled over them.
So it was a tough time for Zerubbabel.
The Jews were back in their own country trying to reconstruct their city and the temple.
They were discouraged but he had to motivate them to press on.
He had to liaise with the leaders of the nations who ruled over them
Now God had some things to tell to Zerubbabel.
And these things were recorded by Zechariah from verses 6-10.
We will attempt to understand those words later on.
But in a nutshell, that was what Zechariah saw and heard:
Two olive trees connected to a lampstand, providing a continuous supply of oil to the 7 lamps.
Words were spoken to Zechariah and to be conveyed to Zerubbabel from the LORD
We come now to our 2nd question: What does this vision mean?
Please listen carefully as I try to piece the picture together.
First, the lampstands.
In the bible, the Church is often portrayed as a lampstand.
In Rev 1:12, the 7 Churches in asia were represented as lamp stands and the Son of Man was in their midst.
The Church is to be a light bearer to the world as Jesus put it in Matt 5:14.
In order for its light to continue to burn brightly, oil must be supplied to the lamps.
The Holy Spirit is the olive oil that keeps the lamps burning.
But where did the olive oil come from?
How did it flow to the lamps?
The vision tells us that the olive oil comes from the 2 olive trees connected to the lamp stands.
But what do these 2 olive trees represent?
In verse 14, we are told that the olive trees were “the anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the earth”.
Interestingly, you will read the same reference and description in Rev 11:4.
You see, in the old testament, there were 3 annointed offices – prophet, priest and king.
The prophets were the ones who brought God’s word to the people.
But the prophets were not there all the time.
Sometimes, there could be long periods of time where the people could be without a prophet.
But the priests and the kings were were 2 annointed offices that were present all the time.
And through them God will provide His grace and continuous flow of olive oil for the people.
The priests provided the people directions as to how God was to be approached.
The kings provided the people direction as to how they were to live their civil or social lives.
Now, these 3 anointed offices of prophet, priest and king existed separately in the past.
The only exception was Melchizedek in Gen 14:18.
Melchizedek was priest and king at the same time.
But after Melchizedek, the offices of priest and king remained separate.
For example, you see Moses ruling the people while Aaron functioned as the priest.
You have the judges and a separate priesthood.
And throughout the history of Israel, you see these 2 offices existing separately.
In the time of Zechariah, there was Joshua the high priest and Zerrubabel the governor.
These 3 offices of prophet, priest & king will eventually came together in the person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is prophet, priest and king at the same time, in the order of Melchizidek – Heb 5:6.
But before that happened, God continued to deal with His people through the 2 annointed offices of priest and king.
In this case and at that point in time, it was Joshua the high priest and Zerrubabel the governor.
Therefore, O Israel, stay close and listen to to their directions.
Stay close to them and the oil will continue to flow to keep your lamps burning.
Because that is God’s provided means to sustain His people
And God says in verse 7, “O great mountain, before Zerabbubel, you shall become a plain”.
No matter how impossible the task may seem, it shall be resolved the way a mountain is reduced to a plain.
And God says in verse 9, “the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it.”
The task of rebuilding the temple and Jerusalem may seem too daunting.
From a human stand point, it seems impossible.
But the temple will be rebuilt.
Zerubbabel who laid the first brick will also lay the last brick.
And how is it going to be done?
“Not by might, not by power, but by my spirit, says the Lord” – verse 6
God is telling the Israelites – just stay close to my annointed ones.
Through them, the olive oil will continue to flow.
Through them, the task will be completed
That is what the vision meant.
So what are the practical applications of this vision for us today? – which is our 3rd question.
I have 3 applications and with that I will close.
First, I want you to realize that the Christian Church is the same in the old and new testament.
God does not have two people
He has only one Church.
And the Church is saved in the same manner.
Some of them look forward to the Cross.
Others look backward to the Cross and forward to Christ’s second coming.
And the Church is like a golden lamp stand , precious in the eyes of God.
It is indestructible, because God is the one who sustain it.
Now, the task of the Church, whether in the old or new testament, is to bear light.
And this requires us to be different from the world.
Unfortunately, old testament Israel conducted itself much like the pagan nations around them.
They committed the same sins that the pagan nations around them did.
And it resulted in them being punished
Now, is it any different for us today?
Are we clearly a lamp stand bearing light to the world around us?
That is the question we need to ask ourselves.
A survey was done by someone called George Gallup Jr. on Christian conduct in the US.
His conclusion was that there was no clear behavioral patterns that distinguished Christians
from non-Christians in our society today.
He says that what everybody else is doing seems to be what the Christian would do.
I do not know how he conducted his survey.
I do not know what his sample size for the survey was.
But my greatest fear is that he may be right.
Look into your own lives as an example.
What do you do after work or after school?
Do you do exactly the same things that the non-Christians do?
Watch TV, go for a movie, go shopping, read novels, play computer games? etc.
Do you spend much time praying, reading the Bible & Christian books, seeking things pertaining to the kingdom of God?
Are you pursuing the same things that non-Christians are pursuing? Glory, honor, status, riches?
By how you spend your time and what you are pursuing, can someone tell that you are a Christian?
I am not referring to what doctrines you hold to.
I am referring to whether those doctrines have changed you such that you shine as a light to the dark world around you.
Let us examine ourselves before God.
Secondly, God’s work will be accomplished because God Himself will accomplish it.
The situation facing the Israelites seemed like an impossibility.
From a human perspective, the reconstruction of the temple and Jerusalem was not likely going to be completed.
But God says that Zerubbabel will see its completion.
How will it happen?
“Not by might, not by power but by my Spirit, says the LORD.”
It’s not going to happen because you move in an army of construction workers to do the work.
It’s not going to happen because you use the latest technology.
It’s not going to happen because you are connected to the pagan kings who gives you favors and priorities for materials or food.
It is going to happen because my Spirit will move amongst my people and make it happen
It is going to happen when you align yourself close to the olive trees.
That is God’s provided means and from that, a continuous supply of oil will flow
Never despise the days of small things.
In fact, most of the time, that’s how God achieves big things for His glory.
Apply that to our little Church over here
Because this is the work of God, God Himself will prosper it.
We are not going to grow because we have good music that attracts young people.
We are not going to grow because we invest in a building where people can see us prominently.
We are not going to grow because we have eloquent preachers and are well connected in society.
We are not going to grow because we have many scholars and talented people.
It starts with each of us being constantly connected to the Lord Jesus – our Prophet, Priest and King.
And from Him comes a continuous flow of grace and blessing with the presence of the Spirit of God.
It starts when each of us learn to pray and submit to His way.
It starts not by might, not by power but by His Spirit when He brings that individual revival in us.
Now that brings us to our third and final application: we have to stick to God’s appointed means
The lamp stand stood right next to the olive trees.
The lamp was connected to the olive trees where the oil flowed into the bowl.
If you move the lamp stand away from where the olive trees were, there would be no supply of oil.
How then can the lamps continue to burn?
For the Church to continue to burn brightly, it must stay close to Christ.
The preaching of God’s word must be Christ-centered.
The people of God must be having their daily devotions drawing that olive oil that they need from Christ.
They must continue to use God’s appointed means in the local Church to grow &progress in the faith
So if you are not regularly found in Church worship, bible study or prayer meeting, how is your lamp going to continue burning?
Where are you when the Church is gathered for worship service?
Are you making an effort to be at our bible studies?
Are you making an effort to be at prayer meetings?
Even if you are physically present at those meetings, is your heart there?
I want you to know that true faith will see us making sure that we have our priorities right.
In Mark 4, there were 4 men who had a friend who was a paralytic.
They knew that only Jesus could help their friend.
The crowds made it impossible for them to get their friend close to Jesus.
But because they were so determined to get their friend to Jesus, they made a hole in the roof of the house where Jesus was, and got to Him that way.
And Jesus commended that act as a demonstration of their faith.
Do we long for the smile of God so much that it results in us denying ourselves, re-examining our priorities and seeking after Him?
Let us take heed to what the word of God says to us in this vision and examine ourselves.