An angel awakens Zechariah to give him his fifth vision! You would think that being given visions from an angel would stop you from falling asleep, but it would appear that it was exhausting work. I reckon it was a case of ‘the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’.
The angel asks him to describe what he sees and we get the picture of a large gold lamp (one main column with a bowl on top) with pipes feeding fourteen small menorahs, the type of lamp used during the Jewish festival of Hanukah. These lamps were part of the temple furniture. Oil or the fuel is flowing from the bowl, through the pipes and keeping the fourteen lamps lit. Zechariah also describes two olive trees either side of the main lamp and oil that is directly flowing into the bowl of the central lamp, and this is the unusual part of the vision. Zechariah would be used to seeing lamps, but to see the fuel for these lamps being fed directly from two olive trees would be the confusing part.
The angel then explains the vision which appears to be an encouragement to Zerubbabel, the governor of Judah at that time, who has the monumental task of rebuilding the temple. He is told that ‘it is not by might, nor by power (man’s attempt through physical strength or use of armies) but by my spirit’ that there will be success. This verse is famous and one as Christians we can hold onto, remembering that we can achieve nothing in our own power, but only through the spirit which we have been given. Mountains can be moved or even flattened at the word of God. What an amazing thought! Here is the promise that it is pointless to do God’s work in our own strength, that it will only be done through God’s Spirit.
The work here that is being discussed is the work that the people had become so disillusioned with, they had given up for 16 years (detailed in Ezra 4)…it was just too difficult and they felt abandoned by God. In Ezra it describes how the building of the temple occurred after these 16 years ‘with the prophets of God helping them’. Were these prophets physically building the temple themselves? It is more likely that they were giving encouraging prophesies, proclaiming God’s word, to God’s people by God’s spirit. Those who despaired of finishing the work, rejoice when they see Zerubbabel giving directions what to do, and taking care that the work be done. In 1 Corinthians, Paul states that prophesying builds up the body of Christ. Just as the Jews were easily discouraged, so can we be, and it is important that we encourage one another with prophetic words of encouragement from God, to give us the strength to carry on God’s work, a providential means to strengthen our faith. So start encouraging one another!
And the two olive trees, well I like this description from the Matthew Henry Commentary
From Christ the Olive Tree, by the Spirit the Olive Branch, all the golden oil of grace flows to believers, which keeps their lamps burning.