I The Eight Symbolic Visions, B The Communication of the Visions, 5 The Vision of the Help, Text: 4:1-14, Title: The Prime Mover


The Prime Mover is well known to some as a film, or a computer game, or a comic book character, or a band, I use the term however in the philosophical sense of a first cause. The uncaused cause of other things. In the Bible God is the prime mover and in our history and experience it is primarily the third person of the blessed trinity, the Holy Spirit who does the moving. It is He who joins us to Christ and in union with Christ we experience regeneration, justification, sanctification and glorification. In John 3:8 when speaking of being born anew, Jesus says, The wind blows wherever it pleases. You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going. So it is with everyone born of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is sovereign and He is the prime mover. Today in our text we are being shown the vital importance of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Zechariah’s contemporaries and in our lives as well. The vision of the golden lampstand and the two olive trees is a vision reminding us that we are utterly dependent on the Spirit of God. A Presbyterian minister used to watch a TV church service just for the humor. He described it like this: “It was as if “Ma and Pa Kettle” from the old Hollywood comedy series had been dusted off and called in from central casting. Speaking with a high-pitched hillbilly twang, she butchered her grammar. Her theology was tortured and her sermons shallow. It seemed that every other word was a “Praise Jesus!” or “Hallelujah!”—as if she was buying time to make up what she would say next.” he did notice that the church was overflowing the people enthusiastic, and they went out in the community to minister, things that were not true of his congregation. His conclusion was, “Shallow folks might be attracted to a loud show with the soda fizz theology, but we’re the real deal,” until one day he was invited to appear on a TV program with some other preachers. He walked in and guess who was there? While he was primping for the cameras he noticed them off in a corner and scared to death praying. The time came and the woman preacher was asked to share the secret of their growth. She answered, “Me and my husband ain’t very educated. We didn’t even finish high school, and never went to Bible College. But God called us to start up this church among folks like us in West Tulsa. So we do the only two things we know how to do. We get up at four in the morning, get down on our tired old knees and cry out to the Lord. Most times we don’t stop praying until we’ve been going at it for three or four hours. Then we spend the rest of the day going door to door telling folks that Jesus loves them, and so do we. Other than praying and going out, we don’t hardly know what else to do.” You get the point. The Presbyterian preacher was ashamed and so should we be that we do not believe the message of Zechariah 4, “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the Lord Almighty. Keep that in mind as we learn from this text which gives us the picture, the presence, the power and the proceeding of the Holy Spirit.

I The Picture of the Spirit

The scene is set in verses 1-3, Then the angel who talked with me returned and wakened me, as a man is wakened from his sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?” I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lights on it, with seven channels to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” Speculation abounds on exactly what is the right description of this vision as deduced from the Hebrew. I believe our translators have it right and as usual the simplest explanation is the best. One bowl feeding oil to seven lamps and the two olive trees feeding fuel into the bowl. The candlestick has variations from the seven branched candle which burned nightly in the temple as the priests cared for it, and which is replicated in the Jewish Menorahs of today. The number seven is a number signifying perfection in Scripture and is therefore used to symbolize the light of God shining in the darkness of this sinful world. God dwells in light unapproachable, and David writes,”The Lord is my light and my salvation,” in Psalm 27. Jesus said He was the light of the world. However it is the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, who brings light into our lives. All the preaching and teaching in the world is useless apart from the Holy Spirit’s illuminating work, for it would fall on deaf ears and hard hearts. The olive trees and pipes guarantee the continual feeding of the light which is necessary for any work in the kingdom of God. In Jewish history there was a time when the temple was profaned by Antiochus Epiphanes and the light in the temple could not be kept lit by the priests who were unable to trim the lamps and replenish the oil. Today the Jewish people still celebrate an alleged miracle in the feast of Chanukah which celebrates the fact that when the priests finally reentered the temple the lights were miraculously still burning. This story is not in the Bible and so we don’t know whether it is true or not, but clearly in Zechariah’s vision the light never goes out.

II The Presence of the Spirit

The presence of the “menorah” in Zechariah’s vision is exceedingly important because the furnishings of the temple were carried off to Babylon by their captors. It was, after all, made of gold. Now God is showing His people that His Spirit is still with them. In John 15:5 Jesus tells His disciples, “apart from me you can do nothing.” This is the same chapter where he says in verse 26, When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father —the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. Thus the Holy Spirit is not an accessory. It’s not good without Him  and better with Him: it is impossible without Him and guaranteed with Him. Thus Zechariah asks the significance of what he sees in verses 4-7, I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?” He answered, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I replied. So 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 Almighty. “What are you, O mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’ ” Zerubbabel and the temple builders of Zechariah’s day were surrounded by the might and power of other nations. If God is present with them they have nothing to fear from those who oppose them or oppress them. Secular might and power mean nothing in the face of God’s almighty Spirit. And by the way we often fall into this trap. We think problems can be solved by the power of money and the might of numbers. In the long term they cannot. We are like Moses who killed the Egyptian overseer and thought that he had solved the problem. All that it obtained was that he ended up a stranger in a foreign land sitting by a well. That is where God found him, and when he did, Moses said he was no good for the job of leading God’s people, please find somebody else. Of course that was what God wanted to hear because it is not by might nor by power but by His Spirit, and Moses had the one quality that counted, he was meek. So God would build the earthly temple through Zerubbabel and our text prophesies that from the foundation to the top stone it would be completed. And when the top stone was laid they would shout “Grace, grace.” That is the translation of the King James Version and I much prefer it to the New International version rendering of “God bless it, God bless it.” In the Hebrew there is no indication of a prayer to bless the work of building. Rather I think it is a proclamation and celebration by all who witness the placing of the capstone that it is the work of God’s grace. This is a reasonable assumption since the capstone is Jesus Christ and the ultimate temple in view here is much greater than that of the days of Solomon, or Zechariah, or Herod. It is a temple that cannot be destroyed. It is the church of the living God, the temple which Jesus builds by His blood and through His Spirit.

III The Power of the Spirit

The manifestation of God’s power through His Spirit is seen throughout this passage, but in verses 8-10 we see God’s overall supervision of the outcome. Then the word of the Lord came to me: The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. “Who despises the day of small things? Men will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. (These seven are the eyes of the Lord, which range throughout the earth.) In rendering the Hebrew in English words are often supplied by the translators, and that is so here. Let me give you my literal translation of our text. “Whoever despises the day of small things will rejoice when they see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel, seven eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth.” So this text is a reminder that the Lord is watching everything that occurs including the rebuilding and they can be sure that He will bring to pass that which he has promised regarding the temple. It will be completed. In some ways this is what Jesus is saying to His disciples after His resurrection when he commissions them to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything He has commanded. He concludes with the promise, “And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Jesus is the temple builder and His eyes are on the action throughout the earth. He never leaves us alone or on our own. These are the seven, or perfect, eyes of the true temple builder that follow us to the end of the age. It is His power that builds the temple.

IV The Proceeding of the Spirit

The Holy Spirit is active throughout the Bible beginning with creation, but he does not come in His fullness until the day of Pentecost. The Spirit has many works, but He has one truly great central work. The great work of the Son was to accomplish redemption and the great work of the Spirit is to apply that redemption to God’s people. Thus the Spirit did not come in His fullness until Jesus resurrection as Peter declares on the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:32 and 33, God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of it. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. Verses 11-14 explain how the work of the Holy Spirit provides the fuel for our progress in building, both in our lives and in the kingdom of God at large, Then I asked the angel, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” Again I asked him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold pipes that pour out golden oil?” He replied, “Do you not know what these are?” “No, my lord,” I said. So he said, “These are the two who are anointed to serve the Lord of all the earth.” We ask, who are these two? The obvious answer is Joshua and Zerubbabel, but they are only representatives of a class of individuals. Zerubbabel is the governor and represents the royal authority of the House of David. Joshua represents the priesthood. Together they are the king and the priest leading and governing. In the Old Testament the throne and the priesthood were separated. It was not that way at the beginning. Adam was created to rule in God’s stead and to offer up sacrifice and worship to God as a priest. Moses was a priest and a ruler, but later these two offices were separated. Even as late as  the time of Abraham we read of the mysterious Melchizedek who was a king and a priest of the most high God. In the theocracy this union was rent asunder. However one came who was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. One who was a prince of the house of David, destined to be king of all and he is also our great high Priest, Jesus Christ. Thus the Holy Spirit anointed the kings and priests in the Old Testament for their office and for their service, but when Jesus came the Holy Spirit anointed Him without measure. In Zechariah’s vision he asks who are the olive trees which pour out the oil of the Holy Spirit. The reply is literally "these are the two sons of oil" meaning oil bearers to serve the Lord throughout the earth. Immediately we know that Joshua and Zerubbabel are only the current incumbents. The text expressly avoids naming any human agents in order to show that the symbol must not be limited to individuals, nor, indeed, to the Jewish Church and state. In this we are reminded that the work of the kingdom today, as well as in former times, can only be done in the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.