Sermon #17 Zechariah Series
Title: The Golden Candlestick
Text: Zechariah 4:1-14
Subject: Zechariah’s Fifth Vision
Date: Sunday Morning — October 30, 2005
Reading: Zechariah 4:1-14 and Revelation 1:10-20
Tape # Zechariah #17
Do you sometimes find yourself fearful with regard to God’s church? Do you sometimes think that all you seek to do for the cause of Christ is meaningless? Zechariah was in just that state of mind when the Lord gave him nine tremendous, instructive visions in a single night to encourage him in the work that had been trusted to his hands.
Zechariah had already received four visions in a single night, visions assuring him (and us) of the certain accomplishment of God’s purpose, our Savior’s abiding presence with us, and his constant, gracious care and protection.
· First, he saw a Man on a Red Horse in the midst of a Grove of Myrtle Trees (1:7-17), portraying Christ among his churches.
· Then, he saw four horns and four carpenters (1:18-21), the four horns representing our enemies and the four carpenters representing gospel preachers by whom the four horns are frayed.
· Third, he saw a Man with a measuring line in his hand (2:1-13). That Man is our Lord Jesus, who measures and determines the number of his elect and the fulness of his house.
· The fourth vision given to Zechariah was the cleansing of Joshua the high priest (3:1-10), by which he was given a detailed picture of God’s saving operations of grace and assured of Christ’s coming to put away sin in a single day by the sacrifice of himself.
In this chapter he is given another vision to encourage him in the work the Lord had put in his hands and to assure him of its success. It is a vision full of comfort and encouragement to us. Here Zechariah describes his vision of “a candlestick all of gold.”
(1) And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep,
(2) And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof:
(3) And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.
(4) So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?
(5) Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
(6) Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts.
(7) Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.
(8) Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying,
(9) The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you.
(10) For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.
(11) Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof?
(12) And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?
(13) And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.
(14) Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.
A Man Awakened
(Zechariah 4:1-2) “And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, And said unto me, What seest thou?”
Zechariah was just a man, a man just like you and me. While the Angel of the Lord was speaking to him, giving him vision after vision of glorious things, setting before him the wonders of grace and redemption, he fell asleep, or at least became somewhat drowsy and indifferent. No doubt, the spirit within him was willing to receive everything the Lord was revealing. Yet, the flesh was weak. His mind just couldn’t keep pace with his soul, as the Savior spoke to him.
How often that is the case with us! We may not actually fall asleep physically, but our minds become dull, our hearts grow cold, and our souls languish, even while we are receiving the most blessed communications of grace from our God and Savior.
· In Prayer!
· In Reading the Book of God!
· In Hearing the Gospel!
But the Angel talking to Zechariah was the Angel of the Lord, the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord Jesus himself, the God of all grace. Rather than scolding his poor servant, he graciously came to him and “waked” him.
· The same thing happened to Daniel. He was in a deep sleep when the angel spoke to him (Dan. 8:18; 10:9).
· The Lord’s disciples had no sooner seen the Lord Jesus transfigured before them, and no sooner saw and heard Moses and Elijah in the mount with him, talking to him about “the death he should accomplish at Jerusalem,” than they were “heavy with sleep” (Luke 9:32).
· The same thing happened to them again in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 26:40).
We need God the Holy Spirit to continually awaken and renew us by his grace. Blessed are those who can say with their Savior, “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as the learned” (Isa. 50:4). We must have him to awaken us, and we must have him to renew his awakening grace in us continually, that we may learn and be taught of God. Whenever the Lord God speaks, may he also be pleased to stir our souls and awaken us, that we may hear his voice.
A Candlestick of Gold
(Zechariah 4:2-3) “And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: (3) And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof.”
Here is a golden candlestick, or candelabra, with seven lamps. It had a bowl at the top, containing oil, and there were conduit pipes, running from the bowl to the lamps. And there are two olive trees, one by each side of the bowl. I am sure Zechariah immediately thought about the golden candlestick in the tabernacle and in the temple (Ex. 25:31-40; 37:17-24). But there was an obvious difference. That candlestick did not have the bowl, the pipes, or the olive trees connected with it. These added features suggest an unlimited and uninterrupted supply of oil to the lamps. In verse 12 we see that two branches from the two olive trees were constantly pouring out golden oil through two conduit pipes into the bowl and into the lamps.
· The golden candlestick in the tabernacle and in the temple were typical of Christ, the Light of the world.
· But this candlestick, as we learn from Revelation 1, portrays the church of God (Isa. 60:1-3; 62:1; Matt. 5:14-16; Luke 12:35; Rev. 1:20).
(Isaiah 60:1-3) “Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee. (2) For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the LORD shall arise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. (3) And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.”
(Isaiah 62:1) “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth.”
(Matthew 5:14-16) “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. (15) Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (16) Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”
(Luke 12:35) “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning.”
(Revelation 1:20) “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”
Christ is the Light. The Light is put into the candlestick, into the church of God by the gracious influence of God the Holy Spirit, “the golden oil.” In Revelation 4:5 John saw seven lamps of fire, burning before the throne, “which are the seven Spirits of God,” that is the perfect, complete grace of God the Holy Spirit, in his many operations of grace.
By the power and grace of the Spirit, Christ, the Light of the world, shines forth into the world by the preaching of the gospel. The light that is poured into God’s church and shines forth from the church of God into the world…
· Is not the light of human logic, reason, and learning,
· Or the light of the Mosaic law,
· But the light of the glorious gospel of Christ.
By the light of the gospel lost sinners, like the lost piece of silver, are searched for and found, false doctrine is detected and exposed, and God’s people are enlightened, comforted, and led.
“All of Gold”
This candlestick was “all of gold.” That indicates great value and worth. And what could be of such great value as that which the Lord Jesus has purchased with his own blood (Acts 20:28)? The church of God is precious to Christ. He compares it to “treasure hidden in a field.” The children of God are his jewels, his jewels, his delight, his portion, and “the lot of his heritance.”
In verse 12 the gospel we preach is compared to liquid gold, “golden oil.” How precious it is to our souls! It is the very treasure of God that we carry about in these “earthen vessels!”
This golden candlestick has seven lamps branching out from it. Our Lord tells us that these “are the seven churches,” which represent all true gospel churches in the world. Yet, they are one candlestick, holding forth one great Light, “Jesus Christ and him crucified.”
“Two Olive Trees”
It is commonly thought that the two olive trees in this vision represent Joshua (the priest) and Zerubbabel (the civil ruler). In the immediate context that may be true. But the vision reaches far beyond the times of Zechariah, Joshua, and Zerubbabel. I am confident that the two olive trees (pointing to Joshua and Zerubbabel) are intended to more fully typify our Lord Jesus Christ, our Priest who is our King, our Priest-King, from whom and by whom the Holy Spirit and all his grace is constantly poured into his church. The bowl on the top of the candlestick is continually supplied with the golden oil from the two olive trees that causes the lamps to burn. In other words, it is Christ himself who constantly supplies his church with life and grace.
Yet, the two olive trees are one with the candlestick, so much so that we are told in Revelation 11 that the two olive trees are the Lord’s two witnesses, his two messengers holding forth the Light of the gospel (Rev. 11:3-4). — “He that receiveth you receiveth me” (Matt. 10:40). — “He that heareth you heareth me; and he that despiseth you despiseth me; and he that despiseth me despiseth him that sent me” (Luke 10:16).
What a blessed picture this is of God’s church! The Church of Christ has no need of assistance or help, from itself, or anyone, or anything in this world. Christ is the life and light of his Church, and the glory of his people forever!
When Zechariah saw this vision of the golden candlestick, he asked what it meant (vv. 4-5).
(Zechariah 4:4-5) “So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord? (5) Then the angel that talked with me answered and said unto me, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord.”
Zechariah saw the vision clearly enough. His question is really, “What is the meaning of this vision? What is its message?” We miss much, as we read and study the Scriptures, by our failure to ask the Spirit of God to show us the message contained in the words we read.
(Hosea 6:1-3) “Come, and let us return unto the LORD: for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up. (2) After two days will he revive us: in the third day he will raise us up, and we shall live in his sight. (3) Then shall we know, if we follow on to know the LORD: his going forth is prepared as the morning; and he shall come unto us as the rain, as the latter and former rain unto the earth.”
Zechariah knew that there was a golden candlestick in the tabernacle. He knew that that candlestick supplied with oil and kept burning by the priests. But here is a candlestick with lamps that are kept burning without the aid of a man. The vision was perplexing to him. He said, “I don’t know the meaning of this.” Many of the commentators take Zechariah to task for this, suggesting that he should have understood the picture. But the fact is, we are all so ignorant and our thoughts so carnal that none of us would ever have guessed what the message of this vision is, had it not been given to us plainly in verses 6-10.
Yet, in the light of what we read in these verses, the message of this fifth vision is crystal clear. — God will carry on the work he has purposed, build his house and save his people, without the aid of man.
(Zechariah 4:6-10) “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. (7) Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it. (8) Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, (9) The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. (10) For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.”
The message of the vision is to Zerubbabel. As Joshua the high priest represented Christ our great High Priest in chapter 3, Zerubbabel the civil ruler represents Christ our Ruler and King here. — I said the message is to Zerubbabel, and it is. But, really, it is a message to us about Zerubbabel, about Christ, the Builder of his church.
We will come back to these verses again. So, for now, let me just give you a summary of the message they contain. — Just as the golden candlestick was continually maintained with “the golden oil” by Christ alone, so the church (the house and temple of God) will be built and finished by Christ himself, and by him alone, that he alone may have the glory of it.
· The mountain mentioned in verse 6 represents any and every mountain, any and every obstacle and difficulty, that opposes God’s purpose, opposes the church of Christ, and opposes the interests of our souls.
· Zerubbabel is typical the Lord Jesus Christ, before whom all the enemies of the Gospel will be punished with everlasting destruction (2 Thess. 1:9).
· The whole work of salvation, the whole work of building God’s spiritual temple, is a work of grace. — “He shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.”
The reiteration of the word “grace,” tells us that as grace alone begins the work in the heart, so grace alone finishes it. It is grace all the way: daily grace, hourly grace, sufficient grace, and abundant grace, all from the Lord. This is the doctrine taught throughout the Sacred Volume. We learn it early, in the very beginnings of our experience. Yet, it takes a lifetime to learn it. And the more we progress in the knowledge of God’s free, sovereign, saving grace in Christ, the more we know our own nothingness, sinfulness, and utter insufficiency!
· We have no redemption, but that which grace has accomplished.
· We have no justification, but that which grace has performed.
· We have no righteousness, but that which grace has bestowed.
· We have no salvation, but that which grace has wrought.
· We have no faith, but that which grace has given.
· We have no hope, but that which grace has put in us.
· We have no sanctification, but that which grace has done.
The same Almighty hands of our all-glorious Zerubbabel, who laid the foundation of his spiritual house in our hearts, will finish it. Christ alone is both the Author and the Finisher, the Alpha and the Omega of our faith!
This vision was designed to encourage Zerubbabel to go on with the building of the temple at Jerusalem, to let him know that he was a worker together with God in it, and that it is a work which God would assuredly own, perform, finish, and crown. And it is a message to us, to encourage us in the blessed business of preaching the gospel and building his church by the preaching of the gospel, to let us know that we are workers together with God in this endeavor, and that our work is a work which God will assuredly own, perform, finish, and crown. He will do it, not by carnal means, and not by our might, but by the might and power of his Spirit.
· Israel was brought out of Babylon by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts working upon the spirit of Cyrus, and inclining him to proclaim liberty to them, and working upon the spirits of the captives, and inclining them to accept the liberty proclaimed.
· It was by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts that the people were moved to build the temple. They were helped by the prophets of God, who were as the mouth of God to his people (Ezra 5:2); but it was God the Spirit who moved them.
· It was by the Spirit of God that Darius was inclined to favor and further the work.
· It was by the Spirit of God that the work was begun, carried on, and finished.
· So it is now and ever shall be (John 6:63; Rom. 9:15).
(John 6:63) “It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.”
(Romans 9:16) “So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy.”
Christ himself, our great Zerubbabel, shall “bring forth the headstone with shoutings ,crying Grace, grace unto it!”
(Psalms 115:1) “Not unto us, O LORD, not unto us, but unto thy name give glory, for thy mercy, and for thy truth’s sake.”
When the work is finished, exactly according to the purpose and promise of our God, as revealed in his Book, then “thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you.” Then, — when the work is all finished, when the headstone is laid, — when all God’s elect are saved, — we will see, and see clearly, “the plummet in the hand of” Christ, with those seven eyes of perfect wisdom in the Foundation Stone laid before Joshua (3:9), and understand that he has by infinite wisdom and goodness run to and fro in the whole earth throughout the ages of time, accomplishing his purpose of grace exactly as he designed from eternity!
Two Anointed Ones
Now, look at verses 11-14.
(Zechariah 4:11-14) “Then answered I, and said unto him, What are these two olive trees upon the right side of the candlestick and upon the left side thereof? (12) And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? (13) And he answered me and said, Knowest thou not what these be? And I said, No, my lord. (14) Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
Here the Lord tells us that the two olive trees (Christ our Priest and our King), these two branches, are “the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” Yet, as I suggested before, faithful gospel preachers are, and I think, must be, included in the vision. I say that because this is how John saw this same picture in Revelation 11:14.
(Revelation 11:1-4) “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. (2) But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. (3) And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. (4) These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.”
Gospel preachers are, as John Gill stated, “Christ’s faithful witnesses, who stand on each side of the bowl, and receive out of Christ’s fulness gifts and grace to fit them for their work; and on each side of the candlestick, the church, to impart the oil of the Gospel to it.”
The work of these “two anointed ones,” the work of faithful gospel preachers, the work of God’s church in this world, is the work of God the Holy Spirit in this world. So these last verses refer to the abiding, effectual and constant work of God the Holy Spirit in and through his church. Without his almighty grace and irresistible influence, the candlestick cannot continue to burn and give her Light. All that God our Father purposed and promised, all that the Lord Jesus Christ purchased and secured for us, must be delivered and made effectual to our hearts by God the Holy Spirit., Salvation involves the work of the triune God for us. Zion cannot be built, God’s temple cannot be finished, we cannot be saved apart from…
· The Effectual Purpose of God the Father!
· The Effectual Purchase of God the Son!
· And the Effectual Power of God the Holy Spirit!
All three are absolutely necessary. All three are absolutely sure. And all three are to the praise of the glory of God’s boundless grace in Christ, our great Zerubbabel!
There is something else here that, in my opinion, must not be overlooked. In Zechariah’s vision the candlestick, the bowl, the lamps, the pipes, and the two olive trees (the two anointed ones) are all one.
In Exodus 25 we learn that there was one candlestick in the tabernacle. In Zechariah’s vision that one candlestick is set before us more fully. And in the vision John had in Revelation 1 he saw the same thing even more fully.
· In the Old Testament tabernacle one golden candlestick with six branches portrays Christ as the Light of the world.
· In Zechariah’s vision the same candlestick appears with seven lamps evidently portraying our Savior as the Light of the world, while at the same time portraying the church of God’s elect as the light of the world, radiating the Light Christ Jesus.
· In John’s vision (And it is clearly the same vision.) the Lord Jesus Christ, our Priest-King, is seen walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks. And John was plainly told that those seven golden candlesticks are the seven churches.
A candlestick has no light in itself. It only receives and holds forth light given to it. And until Christ came and gave it light to it, the church had no light. When the Lord Jesus appeared in heaven, having finished his work of redemption, he returned to glory and sent down the Holy Spirit in his seven-fold gifts of light and grace to illuminate the whole church of God with the revelation of his Christ’s fulness and the fulness of grace that is ours in him. Of his fulness we receive light, we receive grace for grace. So the candlestick sets before us the unceasing work of God the Holy Spirit in and through his church and her angels (pastors) giving forth the Light of the gospel in the world.
And as it was the office of the high priest in Israel to trim the wicks and supply the oil, so Christ, our great High Priest, constantly supplies his church with grace and light by his blessed Spirit, shining forth through us the light of the glorious gospel of Christ to perishing sinners, showing us the Way to God. And he who is our Light is our Priest-King, our almighty Zerubbabel, who rules the world for the salvation of his elect.
All hail, great Zerubbabel! The Holy One of God, our all-glorious Christ! By your omnipotent hand and equally omnipotent grace every mountain shall be made low, the crooked places shall be made straight, and the rough places shall be made plain! Christ, the Little Stone cut out without hands, is the Foundation Stone, and he is the Headstone of the corner that shall be brought forth for everlasting praise when time shall be no more.
By his own wisdom, sovereignty, and power, our mighty Zerubbabel has broken in pieces every empire that opposed his church. And he has become a great Mountain filling the whole earth. I am nothing. You are nothing. All of us combined are a combination of nothing! We have nothing! We can do nothing! Christ is everything! And this great, almighty, wise, and good God, our Savior, condescends to use us nothings to hold forth his great Light in this world to saving of his people for the glory of his name (1 Cor. 1:26-31).
(1 Corinthians 1:26-31) “For ye see your calling, brethren, how that not many wise men after the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called: (27) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; (28) And base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are: (29) That no flesh should glory in his presence. (30) But of him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption: (31) That, according as it is written, He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”
May he ever give us grace to shine forth the Light of his grace and glory in this dark world.
Let us ever look to him for light and grace, convinced that nothing is done, or can be done by our might, or by our power, but by the Spirit of the Lord. O Mighty Zerubbabel, blessed Son of God, so reign in us and over us, so and guide and direct all things, that at the appointed day of your glory the head-stone may be brought forth “with shoutings, crying grace, grace unto it” to the praise of the glory of your grace!
“The whole world was lost
In the darkness of sin,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Like sunshine at noonday,
His glory shone in.
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Ye dwellers in darkness
With sin blinded eyes,
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Go, wash, at His bidding,
And light will arise.
The Light of the world is Jesus!
Oh! Come to the light, ’tis shining for thee;
Sweetly the light has dawned upon me.
Once I was blind, but now I can see:
The Light of the world is Jesus!”