1 I was given another vision. This time Joshua the high priest was standing in front of the Lord's angel. And there was Satan, standing at Joshua's right side, ready to accuse him. 2 But the Lord said, “Satan, you are wrong. Jerusalem is my chosen city, and this man was rescued like a stick from a flaming fire.”
3Joshua's clothes were filthy. 4So the angel told some of the people to remove Joshua's filthy clothes. Then he said to Joshua, “This means you are forgiven. Now I will dress you in priestly clothes.”
5I spoke up and said, “Also put a clean priestly turban on his head.” Then they dressed him in priestly clothes and put the turban on him, while the Lord's angel stood there watching.
6After this, the angel encouraged Joshua by telling him that the Lord All-Powerful had promised:
7If you truly obey me, I will put you in charge of my temple, including the courtyard around it, and you will be allowed to speak at any time with the angels standing beside me. 8 Listen carefully, High Priest Joshua and all of you other priests. You are a sign of things to come, because I am going to bring my servant, the Chosen King.
9Joshua, I have placed in front of you a stone with seven sides. I will engrave something on that stone, and in a single day I will forgive this guilty country. 10 Then each of you will live at peace and entertain your friends in your own vineyard and under your own fig trees.
1The angel who explained the visions woke me from what seemed like sleep. 2Then he asked, “What do you see?”
“A solid gold lampstand with an oil container above it,” I answered. “On the stand are seven lamps, each with seven flames. 3 One olive tree is on the right side and another on the left of the oil container. 4But, sir, what do these mean?”
5Then he asked, “Don't you know?”
“No sir,” I replied.
6 So the angel explained that it was the following message of the Lord to Zerubbabel:
I am the Lord All-Powerful. So don't depend on your own power or strength, but on my Spirit. 7Zerubbabel, that mountain in front of you will be leveled to the ground. Then you will bring out the temple's most important stone and shout, “God has been very kind.”
8The Lord spoke to me again and said:
9Zerubbabel laid the foundation for the temple, and he will complete it. Then everyone will know that you were sent by me, the Lord All-Powerful. 10 Those who have made fun of this day of small beginnings will celebrate when they see Zerubbabel holding this important stone.
Those seven lamps represent my eyes—the eyes of the Lord—and they see everything on this earth.
11 Then I asked the angel, “What about the olive trees on each side of the lampstand? What do they represent? 12And what is the meaning of the two branches from which golden olive oil flows through the two gold pipes?”
13“Don't you know?” he asked.
“No sir, I don't,” was my answer.
14Then he told me, “These branches are the two chosen leaders who stand beside the Lord of all the earth.”
“But, sir, what do these mean?” (4:4). These two chapters of the book describe the fourth and fifth (of eight) visions given to the prophet Zechariah. The style is often called “apocalyptic,” from the Greek word meaning “uncover” or “expose.” The idea is that an image is being presented that has an underlying meaning that must be revealed if it is to be understood. This kind of literature is hard to figure out. But this is what makes it so effective, for in trying to puzzle out the truth that lies behind the symbols, the listener is made to think imaginatively about God’s plan and work in the world.
At one level, these two visions address two dimensions of the people of Zion: the religious and the civic, represented by the high priest, Joshua, and the governor, Zerubbabel. In a sense, Joshua personifies the dirty and defiled returnees, plucked, as it were, from the embers of the defeated Babylon. In the first vision he is now re-clothed by God and charged to stay true to him (3:4,7).The Lord’s address to Joshua applies to all who would seek fellowship with God. No one is fit to be in His presence unless they have accepted His forgiveness (3:4).
Similarly, Zechariah has this vision of Zerubbabel facing a mountain of obstacles in completing the rebuilding of the temple (4:7). Some were ridiculing his puny efforts (4:10). Such obstacles are impervious to human force or might, but they cannot withstand the power of God’s Spirit (4:6), and in 516 bc Zerubbabel completed the restoration.
The lessons of these two visions are relevant to all who seek to worship God and do His will. But the power of apocalyptic oracles is that they can point to truths beyond the immediate context, as we shall see.
Teach us not to despise small things, O Lord, but to see your hand at work in hidden and miraculous ways; for the sake of our eternal Priest and Governor, Jesus Christ. Amen.