Zechariah is still receiving his repeated visions from the Lord. In the first three chapters we saw the visions speak of encouragement for the present, then move to encouragement in the promise of the Messiah. In chapters 4-6 I believe we see the same movement. The early visions of chapter four are going to give encouragement to the people for the present fulfillment of God’s blessings. But as we move closer to chapter 6, we will see the visions begin to give encouragement concerning the promised future fulfillment of God’s blessings through Jesus Christ.
Chapter 4 – Vision of the Gold Lampstand and Two Olive Trees
The lampstand (4:1-10)
Chapter 4 opens with the angel who had been talking with Zechariah in the previous visions returning to him and asking him what he sees. Zechariah responds that he sees a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it. Further, Zechariah sees two olive trees by it, one on each side. Zechariah then asks the angel what these things are, or more correctly, what do these things mean. The lampstand here is something that would have been well known to the Jews. The Hebrew word for “lampstand” is menorah and it is the word used of the lampstand that was to be placed in the tabernacle as instructed by God in Exodus 25 and 37. However, there are a couple of distinguishing attributes of this lampstand that Zechariah sees versus that which was in the tabernacle. The lampstand that Zechariah sees has a bowl at the top of it. Further, this lampstand has seven channels feeding into it so that oil could be poured into it from the two olive branches (4:12).
The angel gives to answer to Zechariah this is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel (4:6). The lampstand and its oil represents the word of the Lord. In this case it is the word of the Lord which is to be given to Zerubbabel. The message of the word of the Lord is “not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.” The vision to Zechariah is a message of encouragement to Zerubbabel. Remember that Zerubbabel was the leader of the first return of the exiles from captivity in 536 B.C. Under his leadership he was working with the people to rebuild the temple. The temple foundation was quickly laid, but because of political problems the temple was never completed. Sixteen years have now passed and the temple is still not completed. Imagine the discouragement Zerubbabel must have felt in trying to get the people to work for 16 years without any success. The word of the Lord has come to tell Zerubbabel it is God’s will to complete the work. The temple will be finished not because of human might or power, but through the will of God. The Lord proves His point in verse 7 by saying that the mighty mountain has been level ground. Thus, all of the obstacles which were standing in the way of the temple’s completion are now removed. Further, Zerubbabel will be part of the finishing process, for he will lay the capstone of the temple. In verses 8-10 we see that the word of the Lord explicitly tells us that this is the meaning of the lampstand. Zerubbabel had laid the foundation to the temple and now he will be able to finish the work. Nothing will stop the work for God has purposed its completion. There would be great joy and the shouts of “grace to it” when Zerubbabel pick up the plumb line and finished the work.
The two olive trees (4:11-14)
But Zechariah wants to know the meaning of the two olive branches which are standing to the right and left of the lampstand. The angel responds that these two branches are “the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” The general consensus among commentators is that these two anointed ones are Joshua and Zerubbabel. Joshua, acting as the high priest for the people, was to be anointed according to the law. The king, inferred to be Zerubbabel who was acting as governor, was also to be anointed according to the law. I believe this interpretation has some difficulties, which James Burton Coffman expresses in his commentary. The difficulties to me are twofold. First, Zerubbabel was not king and was not an anointed one in the sense of the vision. Further, how can it be that Zerubbabel and Joshua are the branches feeding the oil to the lampstand, which we have noticed is the word of God? Second, Revelation 11:4-6 uses the same description of the two olive branches but gives us more description. There we see that the two who stand before the Lord are those who “have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have the power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire” (Revelation 11:6). These seem to be obvious descriptions of powers exerted by Elijah and Moses, respectively. These two are a representation of the law and prophets. This makes more sense that these two are the ones providing the oil into the lampstand in the vision. The law and the prophets are the word of God and the promises of God’s word were now going to come to pass. That which had been prophesied by previous prophets like Ezekiel and Daniel concerning a rebuilding is now in the process of taking place. This understanding helps round out the meaning of the vision. God’s word would come to pass and the promises of God would be upheld. Zerubbabel’s work would be accomplished. God was leveling the obstacles that stood in the way of His people serving Him.
Vision of the flying scroll (5:1-4)
Zechariah now looks and sees a flying scroll. The scroll’s length was 30 feet and its width was 15 feet. It is interesting to note at the least that these are the same dimensions as the porch of Solomon built before the entrance of the temple. The flying scroll is also the same dimensions as the Holy Place of the tabernacle. Since the size is the same as these two things, we are likely seeing the communication of the law and holiness in these dimensions. The flying scroll represents the curse that goes over the whole land against those who steal and those who swear falsely. In this vision we have a reminder that sin will not be tolerated and warning against those who would be careless with the law of God. The people of Israel had been in captivity for 70 years because of such carelessness and it seems that some of the people were relapsing into those same errors.
Vision of a woman in a basket (5:5-11)
Zechariah now looks and sees a basket that is going out. This basket represented the iniquity in the land. As Zechariah is looking, he sees the lead lid of the basket lifted and inside is a woman. The woman represents wickedness, is thrust back into the basket, and the lid is thrust back down. Two women come and lifted up the basket between heaven and earth. Zechariah asks where the two women are taking the basket. The angel responds that it is going to the land of Shinar, to build a house for it.
This vision has a couple of points to understand. First, we see the removal of the sins of the people. Their sins had been very great and grievous against the Lord, causing His anger to burn hot and destroy them. The people have returned from their punishment in captivity and now God is showing them that those sins have been removed and taken to a far away land. The other point that seems to be made in the vision is that there is a growing wickedness developing in Shinar. Shinar is known as the first world kingdom found by Nimrod in Genesis 10:10-11. But Shinar was also a reference to Babylon. Though by this point Babylon had been conquered by Persia, Shinar and Babylon still stood as a reference for the world nations of wickedness that stand against God. In Revelation we see the use of the name Babylon to represent a wicked world power that stood against God’s kingdom. In this vision we are getting a glimpse that the evil powers have not been destroyed completely yet, even though the people’s sins are removed and they are building in Jerusalem.
The vision of four chariots (6:1-8)
Zechariah now looks and sees four chariots coming from between two mountains of bronze. The first chariot had red horse, the second had black horses, the third had white horses, and the fourth had dappled horses. Zechariah asks the angel what these are. The angel responds that these are the going out of the four winds of heaven. They are also described as those who patrol the earth, as seen earlier in Zechariah 1. The use of the four winds of heaven is an image of judgment. Jeremiah 49:36, “Against Elam I will bring the four winds from the four quarters of heaven, and scatter them toward all those winds.” In Revelation 7:1 we see the four angels standing at the four corners of the earth restraining the four winds until the servants of God were sealed. Again this was an image of holding off judgment until the people of God were marked for protection. Therefore in this vision we are seeing the judgments of God going out against the world nations. In the last vision of the woman in the basket, we saw that the wicked nations would not be shattered yet. Now, in the vision of the four chariots, we see the judgments going out against these wicked nations. In Zechariah 1 we see the horsemen patrolling the earth and reporting that all is at rest. Now we see the report that the judgments of God are being poured out. The rest of this chapter shows us how God’s judgments were coming.
The crown for Joshua (6:9-15)
We are not told that Zechariah is seeing a vision in this section. Therefore, Zechariah is performing a picture sermon, such as Ezekiel did by laying on his side for 390 days and 40 days for the sins of Israel and Judah. Zechariah is going to act out some things to represent a future glory. Zechariah is told to take silver and gold from the exiles and make a crown. Then he is to set the crown on the head of Joshua the high priest. In performing this act, Zechariah would say, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.” We have already seen the name of the Branch used in Zechariah 3:8 who would remove the sins of the people in a single day. The Branch is therefore a very clear reference to the Messiah, Jesus. Notice the descriptions of the Branch in this passage.
He shall branch out from this place. The prophecy says that the Messiah would come from among His own people. This would be a reminder of the prophecy of Isaiah who said, “For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, and as a root out of dry ground” (Isaiah 53:2). God is reiterating His promise of the Messiah.
He shall build the temple of the Lord. Now Zechariah had already prophesied that Zerubbabel would place the capstone on the temple and complete its building. Therefore, Zechariah is prophesying of a spiritual temple that the Messiah would build. Ephesians 2:19-22 says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
He shall bear royal honor/clothed in majesty. Hebrews 2:9 says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Through His sacrifice, the Messiah would receive great glory and honor.
He shall sit and rule on His throne. Acts 2:30 says, “Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne.” When Christ resurrected, He sat down on the throne and began to rule in His kingdom.
He shall be a priest on His throne. This is the meaning of the action sermon of Zechariah. To place the crown on Joshua was a sign that there would be a high priest who would reign as king. Of course, under the old covenant this was not possible. The king came from the tribe of Judah and the priests came from the tribe of Levi. However, Zechariah prophesied that there would be a high priest to rule on the throne. In Hebrews 5:5-10 the writer shows us that Christ was high priest after the order of Melchizedek. Melchizedek was high priest of God and king of Salem, and after this order Jesus Christ would rule as king and as high priest in the house of God. This would not cause a state of war, but there would be peace and harmony as Christ would unite the two offices.
Those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord. The phrase “those who are far off” is a reference to the Gentiles. In Acts 2:39 Peter said, “The promise is to you and your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” Jews and Gentiles would take part in the building of the Lord’s house as all who would come to Him would be spiritual stones (1 Peter 2:5).
The chapter concludes with “and you shall know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.” This is the same structure that we saw in Zechariah 2:11. It is the Messiah speaking that the people would know that the Lord had sent him to them. This again proves that these promises were messianic and were fulfilled in the days of the Messiah.
Jesus, the perfect fulfillment of prophecy
In these chapters we see that Jesus is the only person who could fulfill the prophecies made concerning the messiah. Jesus had to fulfill the law so that no curse could be placed upon Him, rendering His sacrifice ineffective. Jesus is the only person who could trace His lineage back and reign as a king and yet still offer mediation for us as a high priest. We ought to not only be in awe of the perfect life that He led, but we truly need to in awe that there was a person who could come and fulfill all of these things. The Jews did not think that the Messiah could be embodied in one person because there were so many prophecies concerning what He would do. Yet Jesus was able to be born in a little town of Bethlehem, grow up in Nazareth, accurately teaching concerning the kingdom of God, living according to the law of Moses, teach as someone who had authority from God, establish God’s kingdom through His death, resurrection, ascension, sending the Holy Spirit, and shattering the world nations. Jesus, who could ascend to heaven itself and enter the true tabernacle of God and make sacrifice for our sins on the mercy seat of God. Jesus, who could ascend into heaven itself and sit down on the throne of God and be given all power and rule. Jesus, as the only answer to the mystery of how Jews could have salvation from their sins and how Gentiles could be brought near to God, creating a new humanity and creation known as the Christian. Who else could fulfill all of these prophecies? Who else could possibly have dared to try? We see the hand of God working miraculously and providentially to bring about the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.
Jesus, the perfect judge of the enemies
Chapter 6 also depicts the judgment upon the enemies of God. Jesus has established His kingdom and it has already been prophesied that He will rule until all the enemies are destroyed. Many of the enemies of God have already been destroyed. History has shown the fall of Assyria, the fall of Babylon, the fall of Persian, the fall of Greece, the fall of Jewish kingdom, and the fall of Rome. All of these events were prophesied in the scriptures. Who would be crazy enough to stand against the kingdom of Jesus Christ? The outcome is sure–defeat. It is the same as what we think in our minds when we saw Iraqi armies going against the armies of the United States. Iraq was outmanned, outgunned, and resoundingly lost the battle. Those that were wise surrendered to the forces of the United States. We are outgunned and outmanned by the kingdom of God. We cannot stand against it and succeed. We may think that we are succeeding right now in living the way we like. But the outcome is assured and the battle is won. Will we be wise and surrender to the Lord? Zechariah 6:15 says, “…if you will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.” Surrender is not defeat. Surrender is victory for the Lord has promised to give us the spoils of His victory in Ephesians 4:7-8. Obey the Lord today and be joined with the Messiah in victory.