This passage contains a vision that Zechariah received. The vision is primarily given for the benefit of Zerubabbel, the man who was organizing the effort to rebuild the Jewish temple after the Jews had returned from captivity in Babylon, but we can draw interesting and appropriate conclusions for our life based on the principles conveyed. In this passage, God supplies the interpretation of the vision as well as the vision itself.
One of the key phrases of this vision is, " 'Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,' says the Lord of hosts." Israel didn't have any might (wealth and armies) or power (strength, courage, and valor of individuals). God was going to accomplish the rebuilding through Zerubabbel, by the power of His Spirit, not by earthly strength. In the same way, God accomplishes great things through us, by His Spirit, not ours.
There were many at that time who were "despising the day of small things." The new temple they was building was smaller and less impressive than the previous one. But that was the wrong attitude. This temple was where God had chosen to shine His revelation.
This vision was a message of encouragement to Zerubabbel, and a word for all Israel: Get up and get busy! Finish the temple! God had called them to do the work, and was telling them that He would do it, through His strength. In the same way, we are called to do things in the Kingdom, and we shouldn't get discouraged at their smallness or at the difficulties. We should be reminded that God will finish the works He begins.
We can make a few observations from what we read about this vision:
- The Lord came to Zechariah -- the vision didn't come from Zechariah's entreaty. God comes to us through His gracious desire to make Himself known.
- Zechariah was wakened out of his sleep. God has to awaken us, to put us into our right minds. God has to clear away what is affecting our minds. He makes an appeal directly to our intellectual understanding.
- Zechariah was asked what he saw. Zechariah was responsible for passing the vision on to Zerubabbel, and God wanted to make sure he could accurately represent the word given. In the same way, we should be careful to accurately represent the Word God has given us.
- Zechariah asked, "What does this mean?" He was willing to say, "I don't know." He was a humble man. We should be humble as he was: if you don't know something, ask God to make His Word plain to you.
Some particulars from the vision:
- Candlestick -- represents the nation of Israel. It is gold, showing that they are special.
- The Seven Lamps -- like the seven eyes of the stone in the previous chapter, these represent the eyes of God. God will have His eyes on His people; they will have His presence and His guidance.
- The Oil -- represents the Holy Spirit
- The two olive trees are a topic of some contention, but I believe they represent Zerubabbel and the high priest Joshua, the men who were responsible for the rebuilding of the temple. They were guiding and leading the nation of Israel, bringing forth good fruit by the Spirit.
From a New Covenant perspective, we see Joshua and Zerubabbel as representatives of Christ and the Spirit. And the candlestick represents the true Israel, the people of God: the church.