Zechariah is remindful of the donkey, bringing to mind his famous prophecy of the Lord coming in peace, riding on a donkey.
Vision 1 – God’s pity for God’s people | Zechariah 1:7‑17
Vision 2 – God’s protection of God’s people | Zechariah 1:18‑21
Vision 3 – God’s purpose for God’s people | Zechariah 2:1-13
Vision 4 – God’s purification of God’s people | Zechariah 3:1-10
Vision 5 – God’s empowering of God’s people | Zechariah 4:1-14
Vision 6 – God’s perfecting of God’s people | Zechariah 5:1-4
Vision 7 – God’s purging of God’s people | Zechariah 5:5-11
Vision 8 – God’s protecting of God’s people | Zechariah 6:1-8
An angelic guide helped Zechariah understand what God was showing him, throughout the night.
Vision 5, The Lampstand and the Olive Trees
The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep. He said to me, “What do you see?”
And I said, “I see
– a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it;
– there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.
– And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
I said to the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
Then the angel who talked with me answered me, “Do you not know what these are?”
I said, “No, my lord.”
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 of hosts. What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of ‘Grace, grace to it!’”
Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying,
“The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you. For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel.
– “These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth.”
Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?”
And a second time I said to him, “What are these two branches of the olive trees, which pour out the oil through the two golden pipes?”
He said to me, “Do you not know what these are?”
I said, “No, my lord.”
Then he said,
– “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”Zechariah 4:1-14 (NRSV)
What Does it Mean?
- The lamp stand was meant to stand inside the Holy Place of the temple. Here, it was a picture of what God wanted Judah to be, a light to show all the world Who God is.
- The bowl represented the work and care that went into keeping the lampstand lit day and night.
- The seven lamps, as the angel told Zechariah, symbolized the omniscience of God.
- The seven lips are also translated as pipes, or conduits for the oil to be poured into the lamps.
- The oil always represents the Holy Spirit.
- The two olive trees, are, as the angel said, “the two anointed ones, who stand by the Lord.”
A Light on a Hill
All throughout the Bible the world is depicted as a dark place and God’s people as beacons of light, reflecting God’s glory. In particular for God’s chosen people, the Hebrews, there was an especially holy place—God’s holy habitation upon God’s holy hill—the Holy of Holies within the temple upon Mount Zion. This was the very temple the people had returned from exile to rebuild.
When God had inaugurated their first temple, built by Solomon, God’s Shekinah, blazing glory, had settled upon it, literally shining the brilliance of Almighty God out into the nations.
And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.1 Kings 8:10-11 (NRSV)
The lamp shining in the Holy Place represented, in part, the indwelling glory of God in the sacred temple of the Lord, and with the people of God.
Jesus referred to this foundational truth in his Sermon on the Mount.
You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount, Matthew 5:14-16 (NRSV)
Those of Jewish faith were very familiar with this teaching. The prophet Isaiah had quoted God as saying: “I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles.”
They also called their famous rabbis “lamps of Israel.”
But they knew that it was God Who lit the lamp. They understood that Jesus was saying they must shine with God’s light to all the world.
So it was four hundred years before Jesus’ day, as well. For Zechariah, and the people who would hear his oracle, this part of the vision would have been easy to understand. The truth of it still holds true for you and me today who believe in and follow the Lord Jesus Christ.
You and I have the presence of Christ within us, The Light of the World.
Wherever we go, there will be the presence of Christ. Think about how profound that is.
In his vision, Zechariah also saw a golden bowl seemingly continuously being filled with oil, and to each of the seven lamps there were also seven conduits to supply them oil. This abundant reservoir, never overflowing yet lavish in quantity, depicted such generosity there would be no question the lamps’ flames would always be burning.
For the Levites, this work in real life was never ending, both securing enough fine oil to burn in the lampstand kept in the Holy Place, and also keeping that lamp clean, the wicks fresh and lit, and the oil furnished. It was a night-and-day commission—not without privilege and honor, yet still labor and time intensive.
But for the Lord, Who is infinite and eternal, this is the very nature of God.
God is omnipresent, as the lamp is always lit.
God is omniscient, as the seven lamps represent the “eyes of the Lord, which range through the whole earth” see all.
God is omnipotent, for the lamp is richly furnished with an ever-flowing supply.
Anointing Oil and Two Olive Trees
However, for all the richness in symbolism the lamp offered to Zechariah, it was the two trees that he focused on, and that prompted the Lord’s prophetic word to him. (Coming next time)
[Stone with menorah that was found in the archaeological site Magdala. | By Hanay – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23042838%5D