Description
Zechariah sees a vision of a golden menorah with seven lamps, each lamp being fed by a pipe from a receptacle, and the receptacle in turn being fed with oil from two olive trees. It is an encouragement to persevere in the power of God's Holy Spirit.
Commentary
Vision Five - The Menorah
In Zechariah's fifth vision, he sees a golden menorah with seven lamps, with each lamp being fed by a pipe from a receptacle, and the receptacle in turn being fed with oil from two olive trees (v2-3).
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Zechariah is asked if he knows what these mean, to which he replies, "No, sir". God expects us to engage with biblical symbolism and to try to understand it. He is told that the vision contains a message for Zerubbabel, Israel's Jewish governor. The message is "'Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD who rules over all.” At this point in time (519 BC), Zerubbabel was leading the temple rebuilding project. The Jews had resumed the temple rebuilding several months earlier under the preaching and encouragement of the prophet Haggai (Haggai 1:14). Clearly the message of this vision is intended as an encouragement to Zerubbabel to persevere. Zerubbabel was to look primarily to God's Spirit for strength and provision, not to the might and power of the Persian Empire. At about this same time, the might and power of the Persian Empire did play a significant part. According to Ezra 5, when Zerubbabel and Joshua began to rebuild, Tatternai, the local Persian governor, wrote to King Darius expressing concerns about the building work. According to Ezra 6, Darius wrote back to Tattenai telling him not to hinder the building work, but to support and even finance it from the royal treasury, using locally collected taxes. Despite this human provision, Zerubbabel was to put his trust in God's Spirit.

In verses 8 to 10, it is not entirely clear who is speaking, whether it is Zechariah in response to the message, or whether it is the angel continuing to speak, or whether it is a combination of both. Verse 7 asks, "What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain!" (v7). This mountain may describe the enormous pile of rubble that remained from the first temple. It first needed to be cleared and the site levelled. Alternatively, it may be a metaphorical mountain, describing the seemingly enormous task that Zerubbabel faced in trying to rebuild the temple. Whichever the case, Zerubbabel is promised that just as his hands laid the foundations of the temple, so will his hands complete it (v9). When it is complete, Zerubbabel will bring forth the temple capstone with shouts of 'Grace! Grace!' (v7b). The capstone is the stone upon which an inscription was often written when the building was completed. Zechariah declared that the fulfilment of this promise would prove God had sent him as a prophet to Zerubbabel. In verse 10, the speaker asks, "For who dares make light of small beginnings? These seven eyes will joyfully look on the tin tablet in Zerubbabel’s hand". It might have looked like Zerubbabel had made small progress with the temple, but God wanted him to rejoice in what had already been accomplished and to trust God for its completion. The seven eyes refer again to God's omniscient eyes, as seen on the stone in the previous vision. We are told that they constantly range across the whole earth (v10b). God sees every small thing that we do for him. The 'tin tablet' in Zerubbabel's hand is traditionally translated 'plumb line'. Whichever is the correct translation, the plumb line was used in the early stages of a building project. And the tin tablets were inscribed with a dedication and set into the foundation when the foundations were being laid (see NET bible notes). God looks on joyfully when we begin a project for him, not just when we complete it.

In verses 11 to 14, Zechariah asks the angel for deeper insight into the meaning of the vision. He wants to understand the meaning of the two olive trees on each side of the menorah, and of the two extension pipes that channel oil from the olive trees into the receptacle. Zechariah is told that they represent 'the two anointed ones (literally 'sons of oil') who stand by the Lord of the whole earth'. In context, these were Zerubbabel, who was effectively Israel's 'acting king' at the time, and Joshua who was Israel's high priest. The King and the High Priest were the only two people in Israel who were publicly anointed when appointed to their roles. During the Great Tribulation, according to Revelation 11:3-6, God will raise up Two Witnesses who will have a public prophetic ministry to Israel and the nations. Verse 11:4 tells us, "These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth". In other words, Zerubbabel and Joshua prophetically foreshadow these two end-time individuals. In the Millennium, Jesus will rebuild the temple in Jerusalem (Zechariah 6:12), but before that, the Two Witnesses will effectively lay foundations, so that Jesus can come and complete the work.

Zechariah does not ask for more insight into the meaning of the menorah. Being a priest, perhaps this was already clear to him. In Exodus 25:31-40, Moses was commanded to make a golden menorah to light up the holy place in the Tabernacle. The menorah symbolises Israel's intended role as a light to the nations of the world (Isaiah 60:1-3 and 62:1-2). This is a role that is shared by Jesus as Messiah (Isaiah 42:6, 49:6, Luke 2:32, John 1:4-8, 8:12, 9:5, 12:46), by John the Baptist (John 5:35), by the Church (Matthew 5:14-16, 6:22-23, Mark 4:21, Luke 8:16, 11:33, 12:35, Ephesians 5:8, Philippians 2:15, 1 Thessalonians 5:5, Revelation 1:20), and by the Two Witnesses (Revelation 11:4).

The olive oil that feeds the lamps symbolises the power and provision of God's Spirit in our lives. In Luke 12:35-36, Jesus tells us, "Get dressed for service and keep your lamps burning; be like people waiting for their master to come back from the wedding celebration, so that when he comes and knocks they can immediately open the door for him". In Matthew 25:1-12, he also told the parable of the ten virgins, encouraging us to ensure that we don't run out of oil. We need the fullness of God's Holy Spirit in order to remain prepared and ready for Christ's return.
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Places:
Symbols: Menorah, Light, Olive trees, Olive oil
Tags: Light to the nations, Two witnesses, Holy Spirit like oil, Reliance upon the Holy Spirit, Small beginnings, Perseverance
Vision Five: The Menorah
1 The angelic messenger who had been speaking with me then returned and woke me, as a person is wakened from sleep.
2 He asked me, “What do you see?” I replied, “I see a menorah of pure gold with a receptacle at the top. There are seven lamps at the top, with seven pipes going to the lamps.
3 There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the receptacle and the other on the left.”
4 Then I asked the messenger who spoke with me, “What are these, sir?”
5 He replied, “Don’t you know what these are?” So I responded, “No, sir.”
6 Therefore he told me, “This is the Lord’s message to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength and not by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord of Heaven’s Armies.”

Oracle of Response

7 “What are you, you great mountain? Because of Zerubbabel you will become a level plain! And he will bring forth the temple capstone with shoutings of ‘Grace! Grace!’ because of this.”
8 Moreover, the Lord’s message came to me as follows:
9 “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundations of this temple, and his hands will complete it.” Then you will know that the Lord of Heaven’s Armies has sent me to you.
10 For who dares make light of small beginnings? These seven eyes will joyfully look on the tin tablet in Zerubbabel’s hand. (These are the eyes of the Lord, which constantly range across the whole earth.)
11 Next I asked the messenger, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the menorah?”
12 Before he could reply I asked again, “What are these two extensions of the olive trees, which are emptying out the golden oil through the two golden pipes?”
13 He replied, “Don’t you know what these are?” And I said, “No, sir.”
14 So he said, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
(NET)