Book of Zechariah Chapter 4 Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
What Are These?
God has an interesting way of confronting us abruptly, often without warning. Your "safe" job may suddenly be lost...something or someone in life that made you feel secure is abruptly—gone...The doctor called—something about your "health." The reverse is also true—Suddenly we might get the job of our dreams...What or who was lost might be restored...and the tests blessedly come back "negative." God wants us to look to Him, instead of merely turning to the things of this world. Zechariah was sleeping soundly, no doubt dreaming about the visions he saw and the words he heard...just as Daniel fell asleep because of his own visions (Daniel 8:18, 10:8-9), so did Zechariah. Suddenly this young man was awake, for as Verse 1 reports, "the angel who was speaking with me returned and roused me, as a man who is awakened from his sleep." A startled Zechariah now heard and saw even more.
The fifth vision shown to Zechariah is revealed in Verses 2-3—"He said to me, 'What do you see?' And I said, 'I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.'" The configuration of this "lampstand" somewhat differs from the one in the Tabernacle (Exodus 25:31-40), but it was similar...enough so that Zechariah should have immediately understood the relationship to the soon-to-be rebuilt Temple. But just as we often do not understand the intentions of God, Zechariah didn't, either. His comment in Verse 4 was: "I said to the angel who was speaking with me saying, 'What are these, my lord?'" There were six lamps on the original menorah and here there are seven. The previous lamps had to be refilled with oil continually by the priests, but this one received a continual supply of olive oil that did not come from man's efforts. We will catch a glimpse, in Verse 6, that the oil represents the Holy Spirit of God, the everlasting Supplier of God's blessings to us all.
We can see in Verse 5 that Zechariah should have immediately understood more about this vision than he did. However, it's also likely that God allowed Zechariah's comprehension to be limited, not in relation to him, but for us, millennia in the future. Zechariah asked a question he didn't really need to ask, so that we, who really do not understand, would have the answer. Verse 5 relates, "So the angel who was speaking with me answered and said to me, 'Do you not know what these are?' And I said, 'No, my lord.'" An olive tree, such as the ones seen in the vision of Verse 3, can live for an incredibly long time. We saw olive trees in the Garden of Gethsemane that were alive when Christ walked and prayed there, two thousand years ago. And a single one of those ancient trees can carry hundreds of pounds of precious golden oil. The implication of this vision is that God has a limitless ability to meet all of our needs, both spiritual and physical.
And now in Verse 6 we see our greatest need of all, which is not merely of this world. Zechariah wrote about this vision: "he said to me, 'This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.'" We often breathe a quick prayer, followed by exerting a lot of effort, and when the work is done, utter a brief prayer of thanksgiving and go on to the next task, wondering why we're so tired all the time. God gives us a work, which we describe as a "call," and the question is: How do we do it? Usually we involve ourselves in some kind of educational process, affiliate ourselves with some overseeing group, and then try to raise enough money through pledges, so that we can go to whatever place we are assigned to, and complete that task. Governor "Zerubbabel" was to complete the building of Jerusalem, make the place habitable, and especially he was to reconstruct the Temple of God. The strong suggestion here is that neither he, nor Joshua the high priest, nor Zechariah and Haggai the prophets, could do it, although that is precisely what they were being told to do.
Why would God ask people to do things they can't do? Jesus said to His people, "Come unto Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30). In other words, when we feel "called" by God, when He reveals His will to us, our first step is to—pray! And keep on praying, as He takes you into His will, one step at a time. Very few people experience this "rest" when attempting to do God's will. But His promise, His intention is exactly that—we are supposed to find His "rest" in the midst of life's difficulties, or as Scripture often calls them—"mountains."
God gives ordinary, faithful people the ability to do what otherwise could not be done. Matthew 10:1 is a surprise because "the gifts of the Spirit" were given to Jesus' disciples much earlier in time than we would expect. They were given "power over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease." In Matthew 17:19-20, we find the same disciples were disturbed because they could not cast out a demon. They did it before—why not now? Jesus replied, "...if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, 'Move from here to there,' and it will move, and nothing will be impossible." They had been given the power to cast out demons, but lacked understanding about the nature of faith. It was not them who cast out anything, it was the Lord! He is willing; our part is to believe that He can do it, that He wants it to be done, and He will respond to the need. He reveals the need and His will; we ask in faith, and He does it.
That is the meaning of the "mountain" in the words of Jesus, and it's the same in Verse 7 of this chapter in Zechariah, which says, "What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain; and he will bring forth the top stone with shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'" Governor Zerubbabel had a "mountain" of difficulties in his life, as every one of us does...and as of the time of this verse, he had been unable to do much about it. God is saying through the angel, to him and to each one of us: have faith! As it says in Hebrews 11:6, "Without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him." Many accept the first part of the Hebrews verse that God exists, but have trouble with the second part, which is—He ANSWERS prayer!
Notice in Hebrews 11:6, that we are to "diligently" seek Him. That's the point of Jesus' parable in Luke 18:1-8, in which He encourages us to keep on praying! If moving the "mountain" in your life is truly important, and it is, then God must be even more important. If you can't move the mountain, He can, and that's the reason He allowed the "mountain" in the first place. The progression is to: need, pray, believe, keep on praying, trust in Him, and He will answer. At the very least, you will receive the "peace" promised in Philippians 4:6-7.
The Hebrew people were stuck. None of their leaders, including the governor, could accomplish the task assigned to them. Zechariah knew it and he was heartsick—he wanted the Temple, they all did, but it wasn't being built! At that point we find Verses 8-9: "the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ' The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.'" God can and will accomplish what we cannot do. And incredibly, he uses us, even though we are not really needed. God eloquently pointed out that Zerubbabel hadn't done it and couldn't do it, but God opened the "door" and suddenly Zerubbabel did what he couldn't do, in the loving power of God.
Haggai 2:3 reports the attitude of older people who had seen the now destroyed glorious Temple of Solomon from decades before. They saw this replacement Temple as "nothing" by comparison, which is the meaning of the "small things" statement in Verse 10—"Who has despised the day of small things? But these seven will be glad when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel—these are the eyes of the Lord which range to and fro throughout the earth.” The words, "these seven" are revealed to be "the eyes of the Lord which range" over all the earth. He sees—everything.
In Verse 11, Zechariah asked the angel, "What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left?" When the angelic being did not immediately answer, Zechariah asked "the second time" in Verse 12, "What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?" Zechariah kept on asking, and we should do the same.
Zechariah expectantly awaited the angel's reply, which is in Verses 13-14..."So he answered me, saying, 'Do you not know what these are?' And I said, 'No, my lord.' Then he said, 'These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.'" The "two olive trees" and "branches" of these verses are also glimpsed in Revelation 11, where we see them prophesy, send fire from heaven, stop the rain from falling, corrupt the water supply, and fill the earth with plagues. The two are then killed, but later return to life and are taken up into heaven. In Verse 4 of that chapter, they are identified as "the two olive trees and the two lampstands standing before the God of the earth." They are thought to be people empowered by the Spirit of God.
Some think they are a resurrected Enoch and/or Elijah, Moses and others in Scripture, which is possible. Governor Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest may be implied here. However, God has made incursions into this stronghold of Satan we call "earth," in two highly interesting ways: 1) God's creation of the nation Israel out of one faithful man, Abraham, and 2) the creation of the church out of the God-man, Jesus Christ. Both, through the power of God, are witnesses who have brought many to the Lord. Both contain faithful people who believe sufficiently for miracles to be done through them, though in today's time of unbelief, miracles are less in evidence. There will be a time when the enemy will seem to reign supreme, but God's faithful ones will rise up at His command and battle in faith against this ancient foe, who will seem to win, but he will not, for God Himself will bring destruction upon him.
Father, I have a need, a "mountain" in my life that I can't move...but what is impossible for me, is possible for You. Please help me, Lord, and I trust that You will. Be my victory. Move this mountain, please...and I thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.