Seven Lights With Seven Channels To The Lights
Zerubbabel Part I
Key Verse 4:14
“So he said, ‘These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.’” (NIV)
“Then said he, ‘These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.’” (KJV)
Here’s another vision that the prophet saw which followed the earlier one he saw in God’s heavenly court. In that courtroom, he witnessed something incredible. He saw the high priest of his people, the man called Joshua dressed in filthy clothes being accused of all the sins he and his people had committed against God by no other than the devil himself. It must have been a terrifying vision, because to witness something like this and still remain standing is not a small thing; it’s rather heroic. Who can stand after seeing that! Well, he didn’t remain standing after all. But before we go there, the prophet Zechariah also witnessed something remarkable. He witnessed the gospel of Christ Jesus being enacted right before his very eyes. The gospel he witnessed was the Pre-Incarnate Christ [The Son of God himself] advocating miserable Joshua’s case before the throne of God, and having his filthy garments replaced with immaculate ones. “See”, he tells him, “I have taken away your sin.” (3:4) He does even more than that for him. “I will put rich garments on you.” In other words, the nation and the man will be thoroughly equipped with everything they need to fulfill their holy purpose and to serve the Lord of Glory. “I am going to bring my servant, the Branch” (3:8) the Lord told the prophet, “And I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (3:9) Zechariah not only witnessed the gospel unfolding before his very eyes, but his ears also heard its words. They proclaimed what the Lord Jesus was going to do in a single day through his death and resurrection— the redemption of the world from the curse of sin— those whose faith rests on Christ and his work. It’s unlikely that the prophet grasped the vision. But the glimmer of hope that was planted in his heart passed on to the generations after him.
Another thing came from the magnificent vision Zechariah saw in the courts of heaven. The art of leadership! Joshua the high priest was the leader of God’s people. Ordinarily, he was honorable and majestic and qualified to serve both God and men. But when he stood in the courts of heaven, his situation was different. He looked filthy and miserable, and subdued. The first lesson in leadership then is to stand before the Lord of glory as a sinner, severely humbled and utterly unworthy, but justified by the cleansing that’s done by the gracious work of the Lord who alone can remove one’s sin. That lesson is crucial for a leader. Unless a leader knows this kind of severe grace, he is unfit to lead anyone, neither his church, or God’s people, not his own family. May the Lord help us to have the basic humility to remember God’s grace of forgiveness and cleansing in our lives every day. May that grace give each of us the strength to serve as humble and effective servant leaders in his church and community.
Zechariah finished that first vision and went on to the next. Look at verse 1. You can’t blame him for being asleep. Maybe being wakened from sleep is putting it very mildly. Let me tell you why I’m saying this. Listen to what Daniel the prophet says after one of his visions: “I was left alone, gazing at this great vision; I had no strength left, my face turned deathly pale and I was helpless.” (Daniel 10:8) The reason I mention this is that we might not take those words lightly. What these prophets endured to pass down to us the Words of Life is no joke. In verse 1, Zechariah tells us that he was wakened by the angel “as a man is wakened from his sleep.” What he endured throughout these visions must have been exhausting to his body and soul, to the point of collapse. But now it was time for him to get up again and receive another vision. And he must also record it for posterity so that it might be passed down as Living Testimony to the truth from generation to generation. Why am I saying this? Let me tell you why in the words of Peter the apostle himself. “And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts. Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by the prophet’s own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” (2 Peter 1:19-21) And this is why they kept a record, and this is why we take that record very seriously.
Read verses 1-3. “Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, ‘What do you see?’ I answered, ‘I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’” Now let us read 11-14. “Then I asked the angel, ‘What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?’ Again I asked him, ‘What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?’ He replied, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ ‘No, my lord,’ I said. So he said, ‘These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.’” So what was the prophet Zechariah seeing? Actually, the image was supposedly familiar in a way. The golden candlestick with seven branches stood by the altar of incense in the holy place of the Tabernacle. And it was the high priest’s duty night and day to keep the wicks trimmed and the lights of the candles burning by providing a steady supply of oil. (Exodus 25:31-40; Leviticus 24:2-4) That was the familiar image to every priest or prophet. But is this what Zechariah saw? It seems to be quite a distorted picture of the familiar. Alongside the familiar seven branched candlestick, or Menorah, this one had a bowl at the top. And this bowl was being supplied with oil dripping into the bowl through golden pipes coming from two olive trees that were standing one to the left and one to the right of the seven branched candlestick or Menorah. What a remarkable picture! And how original. Quite a distortion from what the prophet have been familiar with.
If you count the pipes you get almost forty nine of them going into the Menorah with the bowl constantly being supplied with the oil produced by the olive trees, such that the lamps never ever run out of the oil that burn the candles that produce the light. This Candle Light is Ever Burning and never ever goes out! It needs no high priest to go in daily to trim the wicks nor to keep it supplied with the necessary oil to keep it burning. It never goes out. The question is what did the prophet see? What does this ever burning Candle Stick Light symbolize? What are those Olive Trees that constantly produce the Oil that stand by the Candle to keep it burning? And why does the Lord want to show the prophet a vision of this magnitude where no human being is needed to keep the light in the Tabernacle burning?
First of all, does anyone know what the Tabernacle where the candlestick sits symbolizes in the first place? Simply speaking, the Tabernacle [Or Temple] symbolizes God’s presence where God meets with his people to receive their prayers and confessions and to offer them forgiveness and blessings and new beginnings. So if the Tabernacle is God’s presence, then what would the vision of this Eternally Burning Light symbolize? Who is the Light that burns forever? It has to be God’s Light, symbolic of his presence, and symbolic of his Truth; and symbolic of his Righteous Law shining Justice on a dark world showing right from wrong; separating good from evil; It is symbolic of his Living Word to shine compassion and grace and mercy. Yes it symbolizes God’s light in all it’s glory. How important is that Light? Let me tell you. People in the world think they are enlightened with their philosophies and their sciences and their prideful accomplishments and high minded thoughts and Oprahs and psychics. But here’s how the Lord Almighty describes what he sees: “The people walking in darkness”, and “Those living in the land of the shadow of death” (Isaiah 9:2) That’s the condition of our world, a deep darkness and a land smothered in death. A people so terribly buried in darkness and eaten by death that they are in desperate need of God’s Light, specifically the Light of God’s Word to burn through that thick darkness so that they might find their way out and hopefully escape to Life!
At the time of Zechariah, God’s light had to be kept burning by the hand of high priests who were feeble and full of weaknesses and mistakes and sins like Joshua the high priest whose clothes were so soiled that they reeked of dung. Still, the light of God went out like a candle snuffed by the wind every time they rebelled against God or had to be disciplined by him. Recently, it was seventy years that God’s light was out when they were in exile. Their temple had been destroyed and barely did the prophets speak God’s word to them. However, what Zechariah saw was no ordinary vision. It was not simply the return of the burning of God’s golden candlestick in the temple! What did he see? He saw an everlasting burning of Light with an everlasting supply of oil. What does that kind of Light symbolize? Let me tell you that when the Lord Jesus came to the world John the Baptist testified saying: “The True Light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” (John 1:9) It was the prophesy that fulfilled the earlier one that said: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.” (Isaiah 9:2) Jesus is God’s everlasting Light. He is the Light of God’s Word, because he is the Living Word of God, who shines the Light of God’s Word and God’s Truth on our hearts; and when that Light touches out hearts, all the darkness is exposed; then a man or a woman have a chance to come into the light or hide from the light. Let me explain what it means that Jesus is the Light of God.
Once, a bunch of no good religious people who were bent on exposing Jesus as a fraud spent all night looking for an adulterous woman to catch her in the act of adultery, and they finally found one. Ironically they let the man go, but they dragged the poor woman to the public square where Jesus was teaching Bible and told him in front of everyone: “Here’s an adulterous woman caught in the act. Now the great prophet Moses tells us to stone her. What do you say we should do?” Yes, what do you do? No one knew what to do! Actually whatever anyone thought they should do, even the disciples, wasn’t right. Why? Because they were all living under a cloud of darkness. You have to imagine the world under a thick cloud of darkness, and everyone in that public square was blind as a bat and couldn’t see a thing — spiritually speaking — because of the darkness that’s all around them. I’ll give you an example— the Pharisees who dragged this woman there, were living in the darkness of self righteousness. But they couldn’t see it. Nor could anyone else see it. Everyone else really thought they were holy rollers who knew what they were doing and knew God and his word. Others were confused. That’s darkness too to be confused and not to know what to do in this situation. So what did Jesus do? He said a few words, something like: “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7) We’re not going to study this lesson. But what we’re going to do is to throw the light switch on. What did Jesus do? He is Light. His words are light. He simply turned the lights on. What happened? They all went away. Why? Because the darkness was exposed by the light. What darkness? The darkness no one could see before Jesus turned the lights on. When he did that, everyone saw that she’s not the only sinner in the square! What a great revelation! In other words, it means that no one there was qualified to stone her! Imagine that! What other darkness was exposed? Well, of course, the woman’s own great darkness of self condemnation. She thought she was condemned when she really wasn’t. [How many people are like just like her!] Not even the Messiah, Son of God condemned her. “Neither do I condemn you…. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:11) [How many need to hear those words!]
So, right there and then Jesus uttered these immortal words: “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12) But as I said earlier, one either hides from the darkness like the Pharisees did, who chose to skulk away one by one when Jesus shown His light, rather than to repent and be liberated from the darkness; Or one can come into the Light as the woman chose to do when she chose to be delivered from her life of misery— not just the misery she was suffering from to her slavery to an adulterous life, but a far worse misery she suffered from the constant pangs of self-condemnation that usually follow the sins of the flesh. That Light in the darkness of the world is God’s blessing to guide his children seeking a way out of the darkness; who search for hope through the cloud of despair hovering over this world. This world has seen many fake lights who claimed to penetrate the darkness in people’s souls in order to help them achieve the greater good. But I can confidently tell you that they are, one and all, the spawn of demons, and children of darkness, and their teachings send people straight to hell.
There is but One True Light— Jesus Christ and this is what he said: “This is the verdict” he said about all of us, “Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” (John 3:19-21) In other words, Jesus came to shed light on this world— on all of us. But people loved their comfortable lives of sins a lot more than they loved God and what’s good and right. Actually, people hated the light of God and chose to remain in their own darkness because they didn’t want everyone else to know the evil they were doing. On the other hand, there were always those who would live by the truth. And hard as it may be for them, they will come into to the light. They will confess their sins, repent of them and ask forgiveness. They will lean on the Messiah’s mercy. They will hold to the Savior’s love. And they will do all that by faith. YET notice why they do this! “So that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.” In other words, they will do so to let the whole world know that it was God who did it! When it was impossible for them on their own to stand in the light, but their hearts’ desire was to stand in the light of God’s truth, God himself snatched them out of the darkness; and he did it through Christ; all they had to do was to put their faith in him. And now, they would forever glorify Christ through whom they live in the light. Now, to which group do we belong? Or do we want to belong? It is certainly worth taking time to deeply meditate on how critical has Jesus’ light been to our soul.
Zechariah observed something on that day which no one had ever observed before. A Menorah Eternally Alight without human help of a high priest supplying oil for the burning. He witnessed the symbolic Light of Christ burning on its own! But it wasn’t Christ alone burning the Light. If you look again at verses 11-14, you will see that there were Two Olive Trees supplying the oil to the bowl at the top of the symbolic Menorah which kept all the lamps supplied with more than enough oil to keep the Light forever burning. There may be many interpretations regarding whom these two olive trees might represent or be symbolic of. In verses 13-14, when the angel questions the prophet regarding his knowledge about them, Zechariah is dumbfounded and yet again he says “No, my Lord” as in “I don’t know what they are, or who they are, or whom they might represent or symbolize.” So the angel tells him this: “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” [That was the 1984 NIV version] But let me read you the KJV which says: “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” And the difference is subtle but significant. Many interpreters assume that the two olive trees are symbolic of the men who appear in these two chapters, and are the focal point of the vision, that is, in chapter 3 Joshua the high priest, and in chapter 4, the governor Zerubbabel. Therefore, as the NIV also took that interpretation and considered that the two olive trees, or the two anointed ones, must be the two servants in these two visions who are anointed to serve the Lord. Thus, they “are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord”.
But the KJV has it more accurately with the description of the olive trees as “the two anointed ones”, and as such, we are seeing them more clearly as they “stand by the Lord”. Why is this significant? Because we asked the question before saying that Christ was not alone in keeping the Everlasting Light Forever burning. Whoever it is, it cannot be of any human origin and their source has to be in and of God Himself. Therefore, most likely it cannot be the two heroes of our two chapters Joshua and Zerubbabel. We have another Hero whom we give credit to, however. Biblically, the Oil has been symbolic of anointing of kings and prophets; It has been symbolic of the coming of the Holy Spirit to empower a person to serve the office for which they were anointed with the oil of anointing. Therefore, mostly the Olive trees and oil are in reference to the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised his disciples [and consequently us] saying: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you … Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” (John 14:16-20)
The promise of the coming of and outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon all who belong to Jesus came true for every confessing believer the moment Jesus ascended and took his seat at the right hand of Father God in the Glory. That Oil of anointing and Light that never goes out finally came true in Christ through his gospel. Zechariah witnessed the incredible and impossible work of God about to happen in God’s time. Such anointing and overflow of God’s Spirit was unheard of in the Old Testament. Only the few, the elite, the chosen, the very special were marked for the anointing of oil and for special service. To witness unending Light by the anointed ones who stand by the Lord of all the earth was beyond comprehension for the prophet. Who are these two? Could they be Christ and his Spirit? Could they be the Grace and Truth, or the grace upon grace, the blessing upon blessing that apostle John talks about in his first chapter? Or could they be The Son and the Spirit standing by the Father at his Throne in brilliant light! We really don’t know. Then again they could be anything the Lord wants them to be! But one thing is clear. From there and there alone comes down to Joshua and Zerubbabel and to every child of God the anointing we need if we are to lift a finger to serve the Lord of the earth with our lives. Without the light of God shining in our lives, driving out the darkness; without the anointing of oil, we are blind people walking towards a cliff.
And that’s the other lesson of leadership. For Zerubbabel and his associates like Joshua the high priest who were privy to this prophesy as well. The art of leadership! The second rule of leadership. A leader who is called to serve God’s people must love the light of God. He or she must love God’s word, and must desire to live in the truth of God’s light all their lives. Then and only then they can be anointed with the oil of anointing and receive the overflowing blessing of God’s grace and truth to serve by God’s side for his glory.
The question is how was Zerubbabel [and his associates and all who are set apart for God’s special purpose] called to serve the Lord in his position of leadership over God’s people? Read verses 4-10. “I asked the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’ He answered, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ ‘No, my lord,’ I replied. So he 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 Almighty. ‘What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’” Then the word of the Lord came to me: ‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. ‘Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. ‘(These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth.)’”
First, he was called to serve the Lord with humility not to interpret according to his own understanding, but to have an open mind to learn what the Lord had for him to learn. (Verse 4-5; 11-13)
Second, he was called to serve the Lord by not relying not on human might or power but on God’s Holy Spirit. (verse 6)
Third, he was called to serve the Lord by living by faith in God Almighty, even in the face of insurmountable obstacles. (verse 7a)
Fourth, he was called to hope in the coming Messiah who will come when faith is fully formed (matured) in the nation and ready to bear fruit in God’s appointed time. (7b)
Fifth, he was called to deliver the good news of what the Lord has accomplished, especially the “Day of small things” so that God’s people may not despise it but may have the eyes to recognize what the Lord does [his own measure of things] and rejoice in it. (8-10)