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The Blue Letter Bible

David Guzik :: Study Guide for Zechariah 4

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By My Spirit, Says the LORD

A. Zechariah's vision.

1. (Zec 4:1-3) Zechariah's vision of the olive trees and lampstands.

Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?" So I said, "I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps. Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left."

a. As a man who is wakened out of his sleep: Zechariah had that woozy feeling that you get if you are awakened suddenly from a deep sleep.

b. A lampstand of solid gold: God gave Zechariah a vision of the golden lampstand that was meant to stand in the temple. Since Zechariah and his people were there to rebuild the temple, it made sense that God spoke to them in images related to the temple.

c. Seven pipes to the seven lamps … two olive trees: In addition to the lampstand, Zechariah saw something that was never in the temple - two olive trees that supplied the seven lamps with oil through seven pipes.

i. One of the more tedious duties of the temple service was the constant care of the lamps on the golden lampstand. They had to be continually refilled with oil, cleaned of soot, and their wicks had to be maintained. In this vision, Zechariah sees "self-filling" lamps, fed directly from two olive trees.

ii. In the temple, the lamps were fueled by pure, specially prepared olive oil. The lampstand Zechariah saw in his vision was fed straight from the trees.

2. (Zec 4:4-5) Zechariah asks for an explanation of the vision.

So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord."

a. What are these, my lord? Zechariah saw the vision, but didn't understand what it meant. What he saw was unusual but simple - a lampstand with lamps supplied with oil directly through pipes coming from two olive trees.

b. Do you not know what these are? At the same time, it was important for Zechariah to know, and the angel makes sure that Zechariah knows that he must come to understand the meaning of this vision.

B. The meaning of the vision

1. (Zec 4:6-7) How Zerubbabel will accomplish the work: by the Spirit of God.

So he answered and said to me: "This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! And he shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" ' "

a. This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: Zerubbabel was the civic leader of Jerusalem, and had the responsibility to finish the work of rebuilding the temple. The work had stalled, and Zerubbabel needed encouragement to carry on the work.

b. 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the LORD of hosts: In the vision of Zechariah 3 God spoke to Zerubbabel about the issue of purity. But purity alone is not enough to accomplish the work of God - the work of God needs resources, and not the resources of human might or power.

i. Might focuses on collective strength, the resources of a group or army. Power focuses on individual strength. God says, "not by the resources of many or one, but by My Spirit. It will not be by your cleverness, your ability, or your physical strength that the temple will be rebuilt, but by the Spirit of God."

ii. The necessary resource for God's work is the Holy Spirit and God promises Zerubbabel a rich resource in the Spirit of God to accomplish His work. When we trust in our own resources - whether they be small or great in the eyes of man - then we don't enjoy the full supply of the Spirit. "Oh! May God send us poverty; may God send us lack of means, and take away our power of speech if it must be, and help us only to stammer, if we may only thus get the blessing. Oh! I rave to be useful to souls, and all the rest may go where it will." (Spurgeon)

iii. This was the Spirit - the breath - the ruah of the LORD which worked in creation (Genesis 1:2), at the Red Sea, to open and close it (Exodus 15:8, 10) and that gave life to dead bones (Ezekiel 37:1-14).

iv. Looking back to the vision earlier in the chapter, we see that God wanted Zerubbabel to know that the Holy Spirit would continually supply his need, just as the oil trees in the vision continually supplied oil to the lamps on the lampstand. God wants His supply and our reliance on the Holy Spirit to be continual.

v. "O churches! take heed lest ye trust in yourselves; take heed lest ye say, 'We are a respectable body,' 'We are a mighty number,' 'We are a potent people;' take heed lest ye begin to glory in your own strength; for when that is done, 'Ichabod' shall be written on your walls and your glory shall depart from you. Remember, that he who was with us when we were but few, must be with us now we are many, or else we must fail; and he who strengthened us when we were but as 'little in Israel,' must be with us, now that we are like 'the thousands of Manasseh,' or else it is all over with us and our day is past." (Spurgeon)

c. By My Spirit: Why oil is a good representation of the Holy Spirit:

- Oil lubricates when used for that purpose - there is little friction and wear among those who are lubricated by the Spirit of God

- Oil heals and was used as a medicinal treatment in Biblical times (Luke 10:34) - the Spirit of God brings healing and restoration

- Oil lights when it is burned in a lamp - where the Spirit of God is there is light

- Oil warms when it is used as fuel for a flame - where the Spirit of God is there is warmth and comfort

- Oil invigorates when used to massage - the Holy Spirit invigorates us for His service

- Oil adorns when applied as a perfume - the Holy Spirit adorns us and makes us more pleasant to be around

- Oil polishes when used to shine metal - the Holy Spirit wipes away our grime and smoothes out our rough edges

d. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain! The work of rebuilding the temple was so massive it seemed like a great mountain. Here God promises that by His Spirit, that great mountain will be leveled into a plain.

i. In this case, the great mountain may have literally been the mountainous pile of rubble at the temple site. That rubble would be removed and the work carried on.

ii. "You all get up plans and say, 'Now, if the church were altered a little bit, it would go on better.' You think if there were different ministers, or different church order, or something different, then all would be well. No, dear friends, it is not there the mistake lies, it is that we want more of the Spirit." (Spurgeon)

e. He shall bring forth the capstone with shouts of "Grace, grace to it!" This is God assurance to Zerubbabel that not only will the work be finished, but Zerubbabel - he - shall finish it, setting the capstone and declaring that it was all a work of grace.

i. When the work is done through human might or power we can take credit for it, but when the work is done by the continual supply of the Spirit, then it is all to the glory of God's grace.

2. (Zec 4:8-10) More encouragement for Zerubbabel.

Moreover the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the LORD, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth."

a. His hands shall finish it: When the work is done by God's Spirit there are not only resources to begin the work, but also to finish the work. God is a finisher (Philippians 1:6).

b. For who has despised the day of small things? Zechariah's question rings true to us today. Almost every one of us could answer, "I have despised the day of small things." The question provides its own answer: none of us should despise the day of small things, because God has a wonderful - though perhaps difficult - purpose for those days.

i. It was a long "day" for Zerubbabel, because the work of the temple laid in ruins for almost 20 years. He probably would say to God, "What do you mean 'day of small things?' I've lived with 20 years of small things." Even so, God tells Zerubbabel to not despise the time of small things, and to consider it is all as just a day.

ii. In many of God's choice workers He uses a powerful season of small things. Those days are not a mistake nor are they punishment; they are days of priceless shaping and preparation. They are not days to despise.

iii. When Satan tempts us to despise the day of small things, he shines as an outstanding liar because Satan does not despise the day of small things. Satan fears the day of small things in our life because he sees what great things God does in them and brings out of them.

iv. Spurgeon spoke to the need for courage in the day of small things in our churches: "To me, it seems that it should be your glory to join the poorest and weakest churches of your denomination, and wherever you go, to say, 'This little cause is not as strong as I should like it to be; but, by the grace of God, I will make it more influential.  At any rate, I will throw in my weight to strengthen the weak things of Zion, and certainly I will not despise the day of small things.'  Where would have been our flourishing churches of today if our forefathers had disdained to sustain them while they were yet in their infancy?"

v. "God accepts your little works if they are done in faith in his dear Son. God will give success to your little works: God will educate you by your little works to do greater works; and your little works may call out others who shall do greater works by far than ever you shall be able to accomplish." (Spurgeon)

c. For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel: The seven are the eyes of the LORD mentioned in this same context. They rejoice when they see Zerubbabel busy with the building work, with the plumb line in his hand. The eyes of the LORD see it all, and they are happy to see God's people at work.

i. Though the work was empowered by the Spirit of God, Zerubbabel still need his plumb line. He still needed to get to work. God could have given Zerubbabel a shortcut and instantly, miraculously finished the work. That's isn't God's way of doing things, because His work in the life of Zerubbabel was as important to Him as His work through Zerubbabel.

3. (Zec 4:11-14) Explanation of the olive trees and lampstands.

Then I answered and said to him, "What are these two olive trees; at the right of the lampstand and at its left?" And I further answered and said to him, "What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?" Then he answered me and said, "Do you not know what these are?" And I said, "No, my lord." So he said, "These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth."

a. What are these two olive trees: Zechariah understood the message of encouragement to Zerubbabel, but he didn't exactly understand how it connected to the vision of the olive trees and the lampstand.

b. These are the two anointed ones: In Zechariah's day, the two anointed ones were Zerubbabel and Joshua. It seems that they were not the entire trees, but two olive branches from the trees, probably one branch from each tree. The trees themselves may represent the kingly and priestly offices in Israel.

i. God had a special work for these two anointed ones. They would be uniquely anointed to work together and to accomplish the work of God. God often calls two men to work together:

- Moses and Aaron
- Joshua and Caleb
- Elijah and Elisha
- Peter and John
- Paul and Barnabas
- Calvin and Luther
- Whitefield and Wesley
- Moody and Sankey
- Graham and Barrows

ii. God promises to raise up two more witnesses, anointed ones to preach the gospel to the world immediately before Jesus' return (Revelation 11:3-13). Revelation 11:4 specifically says of these witnesses: These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth.

c. The two anointed ones had work to do and it would be so supplied by the Spirit of God that they would be like the olive trees with a continual supply of oil for the lamps on the lampstand.

i. Anointed ones is literally sons of oil. In Hebrew idioms the son of something is radically characterized by that thing. For example, the sons of Belial totally represent their pagan god Belial. These two are so characterized by the ministry and the power of the Holy Spirit that they are sons of oil.

ii. How did the trees supply the oil? It came out of the trees. All real ministry is giving of ourselves. It doesn't matter how much we have; what matters is how much we give of ourselves. Some people are like a huge tank of oil that you might see at a refinery. You think, "that's enough gas to last a lifetime" - but you could never fill your tank there. At the refinery there is much supply, but no delivery.  A five-gallon can of gas at home can carry only a little supply - but it will deliver.

© 2001 David Guzik - No distribution beyond personal use without permission

Study Guide for Haggai 1 ← Prior Book
Study Guide for Malachi 1 Next Book →
Study Guide for Zechariah 3 ← Prior Chapter
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