The Fifth Vision
As WE NOTICED IN OUR LAST STUDY, the fourth and fifth visions are set in the
temple precincts. Both describe divine provision made for God’s people.
The principle lesson in Chapter 3 is that God is able to cleanse His people.
Now, in Chapter 4, the principle lesson is that God is able to empower His
people. The key verse in the fifth vision is, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but
by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts’, v. 6.
The order of the visions is significant. Cleansing first – then power, see
Ezek. 36. 25-27; John 3.5 and Titus 3. 5. Before we examine the chapter in
detail, it might be helpful to pose a question: if the vision tells us that God
is able to empower His people, what is it, precisely, that He empowers
them to do? It would be useful, at this juncture, to read chapter 4 and then
to check your conclusions with those that follow in this article. Your
contributor strongly objects to ‘spoon-feeding!’ The chapter divides simply
into two sections:
1) The vision: v.1-5
2) The explanation: v.6-14
1) The Vision, vv. 1-5
‘And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man
that is wakened out of his sleep’, v.I. Evidently the four previous visions
and their explanations, had exhausted Zechariah – which isn’t surprising!
It is, however, particularly important to notice that the prophet was not
dreaming. Rather like Balaam, ‘Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the
man whose eyes are open hath said; he hath said, which heard the words of
God, which saw the vision of the Almighty, falling (omit ‘into a trance’) but
having his eyes open’, Num. 24. 3-4.
The vision itself is described in verses 2-3, and Zechariah was completely
baffled, vv. 4-5. The vision has two constituent parts:
A) The Lampstand. Whilst this is certainly similar to the Iampstand in the
tabernacle, there are some significant differences. The lampstand seen by
Zechariah had seven lamps, and each of these was supplied with oil by
seven pipes running from a bowl, or reservoir, located at the top of the
Iampstand’s main shaft. But where did the oil supply come from to feed the
bowl or reservoir? It came from:-
B) The two olive trees. These stood on either side of the bowl, which they fed
with oil through ‘two golden pipes’, v. 12.
The vision presents an immediate problem. If, as in the tabernacle, the
lampstand speaks to us of the Lord Jesus, how can it be fed by the ‘two
olive trees’ which are clearly stated to be ‘the two anointed ones, that stand
by the Lord of the whole earth?’, v. 14. The oil for the lampstand is
supplied by them, and there can be no doubt that oil is one of several Bible
symbols of the Holy Spirit. Whilst the ministry of the Lord Jesus is always
in the power of the Holy Spirit, He does not receive the Holy Spirit from
others. That much should be obvious to us all.
What then is the significance of the lampstand seen by Zechariah? A
lampstand has a specific function, which is, obviously, to give light. This is
precisely God’s intention for Israel. See Isaiah 49. 6, ‘I will also give thee for
a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest by my salvation unto the end of the
earth’. See Isaiah 62. 1-2, ‘For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for
Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as
brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth’.
Israel was the one nation chosen to be the witness to the one true God,
and the seven-branched lampstand at the heart of her national life was a
symbol of her vocation in this way. Sadly, Israel failed, and the height of
her sin was the rejection and crucifixion of her Messiah. This brought the
removal of national testimony, and the commencement of a new testimony
- hence ‘seven golden lampstands’, Rev. 1. 12 etc. The Zechariah vision
shows us, however, that God’s purpose for His earthly people will be
fulfilled: Israel will again be a light bearer. The power of its light – the
power of the Holy Spirit – will be supplied by the ‘two olive trees’ or ‘the
two anointed ones’. The fact that they are described as ‘olive trees’ and
'empty the golden oil out of themselves’, v. 12, shows that they have the
resources to maintain the work of the lampstand.
This still leaves unanswered questions – in particular, the identity of the
’two olive trees’. Before noticing the answer given in the passage itself, we
must observehow the vision is applied to the situation current in Zechariah’ s
2) The Explanation, vv. 6-14.
Here were people endeavouring to re-establish a testimony for God,
who had given them ‘a reviving, to set up the house of our God, and to
repair the desolations thereof’, Ezra 9. 9. How could they do it? The answer
is given in verse 6, ‘This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying,
Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts’.
Whilst it is God’s purpose to make His people a lampstand for the whole
world – and this would be accomplished by the power of the Holy Spirit. Zerubbabel
is reminded that only by the power of the Holy Spirit would
the work of present reconstruction be completed. The apparently
insurmountable difficulties would be overcome - ‘Who art thou, a great
mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain’. The temple would
be finished among shouts of, ‘Grace, grace’. The idea of, ‘Grace, grace’ is
probably that of gracefulness in form and appearance.
The lessons of verses 6-10 are very clear for Zerubbabel – and for us too:
A) Work for God can only be undertaken by the Power of the Holy Spirit, v. 6. This
is so important. The old maxim is absolutely true:
We look for better methods, but
God looks for better men.'
We tend to cloak our lack of spiritual power by adopting methods and
practices which look appealing and attractive, but which only serve to
replace faithful and unswerving loyalty to the Word of God. We sorely
need the power of Acts 4. 31, ‘when they had prayed … they were all filled
with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness’. Nothing
else – only the Word of God. We must remember that the Word of God is
never popular. Be suspicious of people who ‘receive it with joy’, Matt. 13.
20. The Lord jesus taught that there isn’t any root there. Tears of repentance
and sorrow for sin, are evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work.
Human wisdom – human oratory – human organisation – worldly
means and worldly methods – are not for the servant of God. Spiritual
power lies in communion with God, and unswerving faith in Him.
B) Difficulties can only be summounted by the Power of the Holy Spirit, v. 7.
Zerubbabel’s great mountain was, undoubtably, the difficulties and
opposition encountered in the Lord’s work. We all have ‘great mountains’.
We all wish that they could become a plain! The greatest mountain in our
lives is spiritual weakness. Paul puts it like this: ‘He that soweth to the flesh
shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of
the Spirit reap life everlasting’, Gal. 6. 8. It is important to remember that
the entire passage is addressed to believers, and that this includes the
warning in the previous verse, ‘Be not deceived, God is not mocked: for
whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap’. The words, ‘shall of the
Spirit reap life everlasting’ denote, not the possession of eternal life, but the
enjoyment of it. The ‘great mountain’ of spiritual weakness can only ‘be
overcome as we submit to the interests of the Holy Spirit in our lives.
C) Tasks for God can only be completed by the Power of the Holy Spirit, vv. 8-9.
That ‘headstone’ was going to be put in place. The promise is sure. The
work would be accomplished: ‘the hands of Zerubbabel have laid the
foundation of this house: his hands shall also finish it’. Their servant who is
labouring in the power of the Holy Spirit will not deviate from his God given
task. He will not take up the Lord’s work, and put it down again. He
will be ‘steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord’.
He will not ‘quench the Holy Spirit’, by failing, through indolence or
inconsistency, to use the gift entrusted to him. The servant of God who is
labouring, ‘Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit’, can be confident
of accomplislting something for God.
Notice too, that the completion of the work would also be confirmation
of Zechariah’s own ministry: ‘and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts
hath sent me unto you’, see Deut. 18. 22.
D) Discouragement can only be overcome by the Spirit of God. v. 10. ‘For who
hath despised the day of small things?’ The word ‘despise’ means ‘to scorn'
or ‘tread on’. There are plenty of people about – not always unsaved
people either – who pour scorn on faithful service for God. Don’t be
discouraged – notice how the verse continues: ‘for they shall rejoice, and
shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel’. The verse presents a
contrast between the unspiritual pouring scorn on the Lord’s work, and
the spiritual rejoicing because the work was proceeding. Zerubbabel was
busy: the plumbline was in his hand!
However, the force of this is almost certainly greater. The words have
been translated as follows: ‘Yea, they shall rejoice - (even) those seven and
shall see a plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel: these are the eyes of
Jehovah, which run to and fro in the whole earth’. J.N.D. The R.V. supports
this rendering. So, men may pour scorn, but God, who sees all perfectly,
rejoices in the industry of His servant. (The words in verse 10, ‘those seven
… the eyes of the Lord’, must be understood with reference to chapter
3. 9). Do remember that if you encounter discouragement from others in
your faithful service for God, He knows your loyalty, and rejoices to see
you working for Him.
In the final section of this chapter, verses 11-14, Zechariah twice asks
about the ‘two olive trees’. We should be grateful for the second question
since it gives a most valuable piece of information - ‘what be these two
olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil
out of thenlselves?’, v. 12. Bearing in mind, as we have seen, that the
candlestick represents Israel in her role as God’s light to the world, in what
sense do the two olive trees support it by supplying oil which, as we have
observed, is an often-used Bible symbol for the Holy Spirit?
At that moment in time, i.e. when Zechariah wrote, the testimony was
maintained by two men: Joshua and ZerubbabeI. One was the high priest:
the other was the civil leader, and descended from David; an ancestor of
the Lord Jesus, Matt. 1. 12-13. The two men are frequently mentioned
together (see Haggai 1. 1, 1. 12, 2. 2 etc.), and some important lessons
emerge from this connection. The position of Joshua is emphasized in
chapter 3: the position of Zerubbabel is emphasized in chapter 4.
But is that all? Revelation chapter 11 describes God’s ‘two witnesses’ in
the end-time when Jerusalem will become, spiritually, ‘Sodom and Egypt,
where also our Lord was crucified’, v. 8. They are described as, ‘the two
olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth’,
v. 4. So God will have a -testimony even in those dark days, and it will be
maintained by the Holy Spirit.
But is that all? Surely the ultimate testimony of Israel to the world does
not depend on Joshua and Zerubbabel, or on the two witnesses of Revelation
chapter 11. Zechariah chapter 6 tells us about a ‘priest upon His throne’, v.
13. Not now Joshua the priest AND Zerubbabel of the royal line, but both
offices combined in one Person. (This recalls Melchisedec, Gen. 14. 18, etc.).
Who is the ‘priest upon His throne?’ The PRIEST-KING is none other than
’the BRANCH’. ‘Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man
Whose Name is the BRANCH; and He shall grow up out of His place, and
He shall build the temple of the Lord’, v. 12.
The vision of Zechariah Chapter 4 will be finally fulfilled when Christ
comes to reign. He will give His people the spiritual power to give light to
the whole world. His ministry then, as before, will be in the power of the
Holy Spirit, ‘The spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom
and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge
and of the fear ofthe Lord’, Isa. 11. 2.
THE SIXTH VISION
Notice how the picture changes. The previous two visions have emphasised
God’s grace: the two visions in chapter 5 emphasize His intolerance of sin
among His people. The situation can be summed up in the words of
Romans 11. 22: ‘Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God’. The first
vision in chapter 5 describes His intolerance of sin INDIVIDUALLY, v. 1-4,
and the second describes His intolerance of sin NATIONALLY, v. 5-11.
Zechariah was certainly not adverse to asking questions, and we will
follow his good example in considering now the vision of the FLYING ROLL,
A) WHY A ROLL? A ‘roll’ in Scripture was, of course, the depository of
the written word. In most cases, the ‘roll’ contained the Word of God. In
some instances, the Old Testament refers to the words of men: for example,
in Ezra 6. 2, where the roll contained the decree of Cyrus permitting the
people to return and rebuild the temple at Jerusalem. But the following all
refer to the word of God, Jer. 36. 2, ‘take thee a roll of a book, and write
therein’; Isa. 8. I, ‘Moreover the Lord said unto me, Take thee a great roll,
and write in it’. See also Ezek 2. 9-10 and 3.1-3. Ezekiel’s roll was ‘written
within and without’. We shall shortly discover what was written on
B) WHY A FLYING ROLL? Let Hebrews 4. 12 answer: ‘For the word of
God is quick and powerful (‘living and active’), and sharper than any two
edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and
of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of
the heart’. The figure of the ‘flying roll’ therefore conveys the active power
of God’s Word. You cannot play around with it. If you don’t believe the
Word of God, it condemns you. The Word of God cannot be disobeyed
with impunity, precisely because it is the Word of God. It carries the very
character of God Himself. Zechariah chapter 4 tells us that ‘the eyes of the
Lord run to and fro through out the whole earth’. None can hide from His
gaze, and none can hide from His Word.
C) WHY SO BIG? It was twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide, i.e. 30’ x
15’. Quite obviously, the roll was unrolled’ It wasn’t wound round a stick
as it would be in storage. It has been pointed out, although you need a little
bit of maths and a logical mind to follow the argument, that the tabernacle
measured 20 x 10 cubits, see Exod. 26. 15-25. The porch of Solomon’s
temple was also twenty cubits long and ten cubits wide, see 1 Kgs 6. 3. The
measurements of the ‘flying roll’ may therefore convey the holiness of
God’s presence amongst His people.
Whatever interpretation we give to the measurements, and we must
always beware of complicated explanations, one thing is very clear: the
'flying roll’ was big! It seems far more likely that this was the point of the
measurements! It could be easily seen: there was no possibility of missing
the message it conveyed – a message of condemnation. God’s word is quite
clear: He hasn’t made it difficult to read, or hidden it away, read Psa. 19.711.
D) WHAT WAS ITS PURPOSE? ‘This is the curse that goeth forth over
the face of the whole earth (or ‘land’)’. The ‘flying roll’ is therefore a symbol
of divine judgement which knows no barrier nor exception: the ‘whole
land’ is covered. None can escape or remain undetected. All are subject to
it, ‘that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world may become
guilty before God’, Rom. 3. 19.
E) WHAT WAS WRITTEN ON IT? Both sides of the roll contained writing.
One side pronounced judgement on ‘every one that stealeth’; the other side
pronounced judgement on ‘everyone that sweareth’. The first was the
middle commandment of the second table of the law: the second was the
middle commandment of the first table of the law, i.e. ‘Thou shalt not steal'
and, ‘Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord Thy God in vain’, Exo. 20.
15, 7). ‘The central commandment from each of the two tables of the
decalogue was selected as illustrative of the whole, plainly implying that
the breach of one commandment constituted a breaking of the whole
law, and rendered the individual a transgressor’, F. A. TATFORD. See James 2.
10, ‘For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point,
he is guilty of all’.
F) WHAT WAS ITS EFFECT? Read verse 4 very carefully. It is most
solemn. Transgression of the law, whether in regard to men or in regard to
God, brings the offender under its curse. The broken law brings
condemnation. Achan proved this bitterly. In short, verse 4 teaches that the
transgressor and his influence, will be removed. There is no doubt: ‘I will bring
it forth … it shall enter … it shall remain … and shall consume’.
We must not think for one moment that the vision concerned Israel
alone, and trade on the fact that, in any case, ‘Christ is the end of the law for
righteousness to everyone that believeth’. Or, we are ‘not under law, but
under grace’, Romans 10. 4; 6. 14. Both statements in Romans are wonderfully
true, but they do not leave us free to live as we please. We have not been
justified on the basis of law works, but those who are justified should
display the ‘righteousness of the law’. We have already cited Galatians 6.
7-8 in this paper. Notice too what happened at Corinth when Christians
acted wrongly, see 1 Cor. 11. 27-31. God will not tolerate sin and impurity
amongst His people, and refusal to put it away must bring solemn judgement.
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