Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 22 2019 - Zechariah 4 – Gold lampstand and Olive trees

In his vision, Zechariah sees a gold lampstand with seven lamps on it. This immediately reminds us of the seven-branched lamp that Moses was commanded to make for the tabernacle. That lampstand was to be kept burning night and day as a symbol of God's constant presence with his people.

But the design of this lampstand seems very different from that commissioned by Moses. The lampstand that Zechariah sees has a bowl at the top and seven lamps lower down each fed with oil from the bowl. To add to the complexity of the picture, two olive trees are positioned one on either side of the lampstand and oil appears to run from a branch of each olive tree into the bowl of the lampstand (v. 12). The olive trees are said to stand for "two who bring oil [not "anointed" as translated in NIV] and serve the Lord of all the earth" (v. 14). In the light of the wider teaching of Zechariah and Haggai, these two would appear to be Zerubbabel the governor and project manager for rebuilding the temple and Joshua the high priest. The faithful service of these men will minister God's presence with his people and ensure their blessing.

The previous chapter had focussed on the ministry of Joshua. This chapter focusses on that of Zerubbabel who is being encouraged to get on with and complete the work of building the temple. The task may seem too great, like being asked to move a mighty mountain (v. 7) – perhaps literally requiring the moving of piles of rubble to prepare the ground for the building work. Zerubbabel may wonder how he will manage to accomplish this task. The Lord Almighty tells him that it will be done, "Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit" (v. 6). Zerubbabel is aware of his own limitations but is to remember that the "Lord Almighty" is with him and that nothing is impossible with God. He is to know that what he cannot do by his own effort God can enable him to do as his Spirit works in him and through him. Zerubbabel had laid the first foundation stone of the temple and "his hands will also complete it" (v. 9). In the face of the assembled people "he will bring out the capstone to shouts of 'God bless it! God bless it!'" (v. 7)

The eleven disciples had to learn this same lesson. Jesus, before leaving them, told them to go and tell the world of him and to make disciples of all nations. How would this fearful band of abandoned disciples manage such a task? They were not to rush straight out and try to get on with it but were to wait for the ascended Saviour to pour out his Spirit upon them. Then they would be fully equipped to do the work the Lord Jesus had assigned to them. It is by the power of that same Spirit that we too can continue the task the Lord has assigned to us.

One further verse deserves our attention. The Lord challenges his people through Zechariah saying, "Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?" (v. 10). It is easy to be dismissive about progress in building the kingdom of God and to think that not much is being accomplished. The Lord rebukes such an attitude. The kingdom of God is no small and insignificant thing, it is God's own project for the salvation of the world: it centres in Christ and is underwritten by his shed blood and glorious resurrection; it is powered by his Spirit who has begun this great work and who will see it through to completion. There will be great rejoicing in that final day when the building is complete, the capstone in place and God's people rejoice in the manifest presence of their God and Saviour.

Father God, thank you for the encouragements of this passage and for the assurance that you will complete the work you have begun in us. Fill us with your Spirit that we might be empowered for the work you call us to do in our day. We ask this in Jesus' name and for the sake of his glory.

Peter Misselbrook