6 So he answered me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of Hosts. Zechariah 4:6 (HCSB)
The angel who roused Zechariah from sleep for a series of visions in the night was giving the prophet another important message about the coming of God’s kingdom. Unlike the great human empires before it, this one would come from small beginnings, starting with the rebuilding of a modest temple in Jerusalem after Nebuchadnezzar’s destruction of Solomon’s Temple and the seventy-year exile in Babylon.
Zechariah continues describing his conversation with the visiting angel.
2 He asked me, “What do you see?”
I replied, “I see a solid gold lampstand there with a bowl on its top. It has seven lamps on it and seven channels for each of the lamps on its top. 3 There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” Zechariah 4:2-3 (HCSB)
The seven-branched lampstand was identical to the one the Lord instructed Moses to make for God’s tabernacle and subsequent temples. It burned a fuel of olive oil, representing the Holy Spirit, and its light the Presence of the Lord. The lamp itself pointed to His called-out people, Israel, whose mission was to shine God’s light into all the world to draw new believers unto Him.
The prophet Haggai had already delivered God’s message to the returned exiles to resume their work on the temple under the leadership of their Governor, Zerubbabel, and their high priest Joshua (or Jeshua). Problems had arisen after they laid the temple foundation, and work on the project was stopped for many years while their own homes were completed. God spoke through Haggai to address their priorities and tied their work stoppage and lack of faith with an observed reduction in the quantity and quality of the recent blessings they had been receiving.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to me: 9 “Zerubbabel’s hands have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of Hosts has sent me to you. 10 For who scorns the day of small things? These seven eyes of the Lord, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.” Zechariah 4:8-10 (HCSB)
The rebuilt temple would be modest in comparison with the one Nebuchadnezzar had destroyed. But it was a new beginning. It would point to God initiating His new kingdom under the leadership of the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ, and point to a day when God would not reside in a building, but in the hearts of believers worldwide through the Holy Spirit.
The number seven is often associated with the Lord, being the number of completeness. Seven eyes, seven spirits, and seven qualities of the Spirit all point to the perfection and purity of God. Sabbath rest on the seventh day or seventh year of a field’s harvest is a direct acknowledgement of His blessing and our total reliance upon Him.
Zechariah asked the angel about a detail in this vision.
11 I asked him, “What are the two olive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” 12 And I questioned him further, “What are the two olive branches beside the two gold conduits, from which golden oil pours out?”
13 Then he inquired of me, “Don’t you know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.
14 “These are the two anointed ones,” he said, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Zechariah 4:11-14 (HCSB)
The olive oil from the two trees and two branches represents a continual feeding of the lamps just as the Holy Spirit continually builds God’s church, one person at a time. New believers are drawn to the Light of the World, Jesus Christ, through God’s generous prevenient grace. Though human world governments have been continually evolving towards their final form since the fall of the Roman Empire, the eternal church of Christ has also been quietly growing throughout this time. Not by might nor by power, but by God’s Spirit witnessing through His word into the hearts of women and men all over the globe.
There is a parallel passage in the book of Revelation about two anointed witnesses who will appear in the last days to make one final appeal to the world on behalf of Christ. They will be almost universally opposed and killed, only to rise from the dead themselves three and a half days later.
3 I will empower my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, dressed in sackcloth.” 4 These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. Revelation 11:3-4 (HCSB)
God’s great and final empire will not initiate with a massive invading army like those of Alexander the Great or Nebuchadnezzar. It will grow slowly in the hearts of people. When Christ finally does return in glory with the New Jerusalem, He will put down all who actively oppose Him and His people. His throne will be located on the foundations of the work begun by Zerubbabel, humble servant of the Lord and a member of the genealogy of the coming King, Jesus Christ.
12 Then after the exile to Babylon
Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel,
Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,
13 Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,
Abiud fathered Eliakim,
Eliakim fathered Azor,
14 Azor fathered Zadok,
Zadok fathered Achim,
Achim fathered Eliud,
15 Eliud fathered Eleazar,
Eleazar fathered Matthan,
Matthan fathered Jacob,
16 and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,
who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah. Matthew 1:12-16 (HCSB)
What great blessings in your life did the Lord initiate with small beginnings? What “small things” might He be working on around you now?
Many of us who came to faith in Christ did so in small increments, while others did so with a sudden revelation. As infinite as God is, there are an unlimited number of ways for people to be drawn to Him by His love and grace. May He continue to do so in our lives and in the lives of those we love, live near, or work with.
Precious Lord, thank You for being constantly at work in our lives. Continue to bless us, protect us, and use us to advance Your kingdom. May we reflect Your Light to others as anointed vessels, purified by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and continuously filled with the “oil” of Your Holy Spirit. We ask this in Jesus’ name, Amen.