Pastor Aaron’s Sermon Series - Matthew 28
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Text – Zechariah 4
Beloved, during the summer I was preparing the curriculum for this year and Zechariah appeared to be the perfect book for us because it’s so much fun and has so much awesome symbolism and teaches so much, but when I came to chapter four I almost scrapped that idea all together. This is a HARD chapter to explain and understand and so I’m going to start out teaching a little differently today than I normally do so that you get the major point and not the exact details.
Before we go too far in, let’s just look at verse 1 of chapter 4, then we’ll talk about context.
v.1-2 And the angel who talked with me came again and woke me, like a man who is awakened out of his sleep. And he said to me, "What do you see?"
We find Zechariah in deep thought; why is he that way? What just happened in Zechariah 3? In Zechariah 3 we see God covering and cleansing the sin of Israel, stating that in a single day he will put their sin away. This was a huge event for Zechariah and he is contemplating what exactly it means and how God might do it.
What was wrong with Joshua when he stood before God? He was filthy. What did that filth represent? The sin of Israel. Could Joshua stand in the presence of God in that state? Absolutely not. So what did God do? He changes Joshua’s clothing with brand new ones.
It is amazing that God takes what is so disgusting, our sin and sinful nature, and radically transforms us to be pleasing to him. A verse that beautifully shows that we’ve put off our old nature and have inherited a new nature is:
2 Corinthians 2:14-17 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things? For we are not, like so many, peddlers of God’s word, but as men of sincerity, as commissioned by God, in the sight of God we speak in Christ.
Zechariah is concentrating so hard on how amazing it is that God is putting off the sin of Israel in a single day that he misses that there is a new vision to see. The angel gets his attention, and instead of Zechariah asking a question, the angel asks him, “What do you see?”
I imagine that this is a little like Paul and John in Heaven, that they couldn’t describe what they saw. Zechariah sees something amazing, and it’s so amazing that describing it is difficult. So if you don’t understand exactly what we’re looking at, know that the ambiguity is probably intended, and that we’re only supposed to understand a very complicated contraption with a very definitive purpose.
v.2 I said, "I see, and behold, a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it, and seven lamps on it,
This part is straightforward enough, he sees a menorah like lampstand, with seven candles. This is a fixture in the temple which lights the holy place. Daily the priests had to refill the oil wells in order that they wouldn’t be in the dark. What is different about this lampstand from the temple is that this one has a bowl on top,
v.2 with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.
Here’s where it gets confusing. The Hebrew here is not at all clear as to exactly how these lamps are fed from the bowl. Every translation says something a bit different that radically changes how we see this lampstand. It has at least seven tubes which bring oil from the bowl to the lamps, and as many as forty-nine. I think the best way to understand it is that there are seven tubes from the bowl, and also seven connecting tubes between the candle reservoirs. However, there could be tubes running every which way.
This is significantly different from the lampstand in the temple which needed each reservoir to be filled individually by a priest. These are self filling as long as there is oil in the bowl. Let’s jump forward a few verses to see who refills this bowl:
v.3,12 “And there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.” “the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out…”
There are two olive trees on either side of the lamp. Do you know off-hand what kind of oil these lamps burned? Olive oil. So the people would take the olives, and through very specific processes make oil out of them, then take them to the priests, and they would put it in the lamps, and then they would have light. The work involved was incredibly tedious and time consuming. This represents the Old Covenant.
But here we see the New Covenant, a completely automated light system, the candles are fed directly from a bowl of oil, and the bowl of oil is fed directly from olive trees. There is no human involvement at all. Confused yet? You’re not alone, let’s go back to verse 4,
v.4-5 And I said to the angel who talked with me, "What are these, my lord?" Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord."
Zechariah asks a question, and for the first time he doesn’t get a straight answer, instead Jesus is pretty sharp with him, basically asking the question in admonition wondering that Zechariah doesn’t know what he’s looking at. Obviously this is the lampstand from the temple. Zechariah is honest and says he still doesn’t understand. Jesus goes on a tangent which seems unimportant until we realize that this lampstand is fully automated.
v.6-7 Then 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 of hosts. Who are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain. And he shall bring forward the top stone amid shouts of 'Grace, grace to it!'"
Zerubbabel, for context and reminder, is the governor of Jerusalem. He is a descendant of David and a great-great grandfather of Jesus Christ. He is actually in the place of the king, though because Judah has been conquered by so many nations they are not allowed to have a king.
Zerubbabel has accomplished and is going to accomplish some amazing things, he brought many exiles back to Judah, he built an altar to offer sacrifices to God, he commissioned the rebuilding of the temple, Haggai announced that God recognized Zerubbabel as king of Jerusalem, and here we see that he will be the one who places the final stone on the temple to complete it. Based on his influence Nehemiah would then be able to rebuild the walls around Jerusalem.
Zerubbabel did some outright amazing things, but God is quick to point out that it’s not because of Zerubbabel’s might or power that these things got done, but because of God’s power and might. God is saying he can take the greatest problem and make it a non-issue for his people. God makes molehills out of mountains. Let’s read three verses that support this idea from elsewhere in the Bible:
John 3:27 John answered, "A person cannot receive even one thing unless it is given him from heaven.”
2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.
Psalm 127:1-2 Unless the LORD builds the house, those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain. It is in vain that you rise up early and go late to rest, eating the bread of anxious toil; for he gives to his beloved sleep.
The rejoicing that would ensue at the completion of the temple would be very tempting for Zerubbabel to become prideful, but this is a call here for him to remain humble and realize that God is the one who equipped him and gave him the strength to do what he has done. We must give the glory to God, so that others see it and give the glory to God.
v.8-9 Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
This is a little veracity check in the middle of Zechariah’s book for the people he is directly preaching to. It doesn’t much apply to us now because we look back and see that Zerubbabel did commission and finish the temple. But at the time of the writing of this the temple was not yet finished. The people must have been asking, “How do we know God is actually talking to Zechariah and that it’s not the devil, or maybe Zechariah just ate some bad olives or bad pizza and is having nightmares?” Well here we have a check for them, that God not only guaranteed that the temple would be completed, but that the topstone would be put in place by Zerubbabel. When they saw this happen they would know that Zechariah was a true prophet. We have an infinitely better check because Zechariah is so perfectly describing the Messiah whom we can compare and see a perfect fulfillment in many places.
v.10 For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.
I LOVE this verse, it’s the greatest verse ever. I also heard some outright TERRIBLE sermons on this verse because people aren’t looking at the context. At the beginning of this temple some people were excited, but those who had seen Solomon’s old beautiful temple were sad because this temple was not nearly as glorious, and they were also hoping for the huge extravagant temple that Ezekiel describes in chapters 40-48. It could be said that they DESPISED the small temple because it wasn’t what they were hoping for.
One of the silliest verses in the Bible, if it wasn’t so tragic (but then redeemed here in verse 10) is,
Ezra 3:12-13 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid, though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout, and the sound was heard far away.
But we see that those who despised the small temple would rejoice because they’ve seen that God had returned to their midst, that he had reappointed his king in Zerubbabel, that he’s cleansed his priest in Joshua, that he has welcomed Judah back into fellowship, and that there is a continued promise for a coming Messiah. Here we have an incidental prophecy for the King of Glory who would be born into such a poor family as to be born in a manger.
Mark 7:2-3 On the Sabbath he began to teach in the synagogue, and many who heard him were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things? What is the wisdom given to him? How are such mighty works done by his hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon? And are not his sisters here with us?" And they took offense at him.
Just as the Israelites in Zechariah’s day were disgusted with a small temple when they were expecting a great temple, so were the people in Jesus’ day disgusted with a carpenter when they were expecting a warrior. But when we see Christ risen from the dead, we rejoice, we see that Christ is vindicated by the Spirit as perfect, that though we expected something different, we see that what we expected was incorrect because Christ is perfect and what we needed all along. Zerubbabel would finish the temple, drop the plum line from the top to check the perfection of the temple, and then Haggai tells us that God would fill the whole temple with his glory. This is worth rejoicing over, especially since we’ve seen the glory as of the only Son from the Father.
God answers a question now which Zechariah didn’t even ask from chapter 3, because Zechariah was so caught up in the amazingness of God forgiving sins. This is what the seven eyes on the cornerstone represent:
v.10 "These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth."
For time’s sake let me just remind you that this represents the omniscient (all knowing) Jesus as ultimately being the temple of God, not this building that Zerubbabel is overseeing work on. Christ is the cornerstone and the capstone of God, and that everything here said about the temple is ultimately prophecy for his body as the temple. Let’s just read one verse so you see that I’m not making this up:
John 2:19-21 Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up." The Jews then said, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and will you raise it up in three days?" But he was speaking about the temple of his body.
v.11-13 Then I said to him, "What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?" And a second time I answered and said to him, "What are these two branches of the olive trees, which are beside the two golden pipes from which the golden oil is poured out?" He said to me, "Do you not know what these are?" I said, "No, my lord."
Zechariah really wants to know what these are, so he’s asked now three times, and again Jesus says he should already know, but fortunately for us God answers us in our persistence.
v.14 Then he said, "These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth."
These two olive trees represent two things, one temporal, and one eternal. We know this through many references to anointing in the Bible. First of all, Zechariah would instantly recognize this language as referring to the High Priest and the King, they were anointed and authorized to stand with God. These two were the conduits by which God was blessing his people.
However, when we read Revelation we see that this lampstand represents the church, which was established after Christ’s sacrifice on that one day at Calvary, and we know that Christ and the Holy Spirit are the ones who anoint/bless/strengthen the church. Consider this really, quick: there is one church, but there are many church buildings. There was only one Israel and only one temple. In Zechariah’s day there was only one lampstand here, only one light source, but under the church we have many lampstands described in the New Testament. Read Revelation 1-3 to see that, I wish I had time to show it to you.
We see that the church is sustained not by the works of men, but by the free grace of God. Again, many verses say this, but I really want to get to Christ’s further exposition on this topic. Have you ever heard of the two witnesses of Revelation? These are two preachers in Jerusalem during the tribulation who are given supernatural powers. Have you ever heard who some people think they are? Elijah and Enoch. Do you know why? It’s because those two never died, and if it’s appointed for a man once to die, some people think they have an appointment to keep. But that doesn’t make sense because Paul says there are many who won’t die but will see Christ return. I know who these two witnesses are, at least I’m pretty sure.
Let me set this up for you, in Second Thessalonians it says that Christ won’t return until the Man of Lawlessness, the Antichrist, sets himself as God in the temple. In order for Jerusalem to have a temple, they will need to build one, and then they will appoint a High Priest. I believe that these two witnesses will be the converted High Priest and the leader of Jerusalem, will we call him a King or Governor or Mayor? I don’t know, but these two witnesses will be recent Jewish converts to Christianity, the king and high priest of Jerusalem.
Revelation 11:2-13 And I will grant authority to my two witnesses, and they will prophesy for 1,260 days, clothed in sackcloth." These are the two olive trees and the two lampstands that stand before the Lord of the earth. And if anyone would harm them, fire pours from their mouth and consumes their foes. If anyone would harm them, this is how he is doomed to be killed. They have the power to shut the sky, that no rain may fall during the days of their prophesying, and they have power over the waters to turn them into blood and to strike the earth with every kind of plague, as often as they desire. And when they have finished their testimony, the beast that rises from the bottomless pit will make war on them and conquer them and kill them, and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the great city that symbolically is called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified. For three and a half days some from the peoples and tribes and languages and nations will gaze at their dead bodies and refuse to let them be placed in a tomb, and those who dwell on the earth will rejoice over them and make merry and exchange presents, because these two prophets had been a torment to those who dwell on the earth. But after the three and a half days a breath of life from God entered them, and they stood up on their feet, and great fear fell on those who saw them. Then they heard a loud voice from heaven saying to them, "Come up here!" And they went up to heaven in a cloud, and their enemies watched them. And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell. Seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.
So your application is that Zechariah was under an Old Covenant, one which required works to maintain; in order to have light, the people and priests needed to refill the lampstand. But under our New Covenant we do not maintain our faith, Christ maintains us, and his light will shine forth. Let’s read two last verses to draw this all to conclusion,
John 12:46 I have come into the world as light, so that whoever believes in me may not remain in darkness.
Philippians 2:14-16 Do all things without grumbling or questioning, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.
And beloved, in all of this, remember that it is not by your power or your might that you do these things, but by the Spirit of God, so that people may see it and give glory to the God of Heaven.