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Not by might or power but by My Spirit says the Lord
As we go into Zechariah chapter 4, an angel is waking him from the vision he had in chapter 3. He does so only to show him yet another vision which they then discuss. In the discussion though, the angel brings up things from the vision in chapter 3 as well.
Also remember that Ezra at this same basic time was a scribe who was skilled in the law of Moses, Zerubbabel was the governor of Judah as well as the primary architect of the temple, Joshua was the High Priest and Haggai and Zechariah were the prophets.
Each of these men played integral roles in the restoration projects of the temple and of the city.
Last week in chapter 3 we ended with a vision in which Joshua the High Priest was to be crowned. This was not literal of course, in the vision it served as a type and shadow of Christ Who would be High Priest and King over the house of God, though from the tribe of Judah. Remember that the Hebrew name for Joshua means God is Deliverance and was etymologically related to the Greek name Jesus.
This week Zerubbabel is the one being spoken about in the vision for he too was of primary importance in God’s plans for Israel.
“(1) The angel who was speaking with me then returned and roused me as one awakened out of sleep.
(2) He asked me, “What do you see?”
I replied, “I see a solid gold lampstand there with a bowl on its top. It has seven lamps on it and seven channels for each of the lamps on its top. (3) There are also two olive trees beside it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
(4) Then I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “What are these, my lord?”
(5) “Don’t you know what they are?” replied the angel who was speaking with me.
I said, “No, my lord.”
(6) So he answered me, “This is the word of the LORD to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of Hosts. (7) ‘What are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become a plain. And he will bring out the capstone accompanied by shouts of: Grace, grace to it!'”
(8) Then the word of the LORD came to me: (9) “Zerubbabel’s hands have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of Hosts has sent me to you. (10) For who scorns the day of small things?
These seven eyes of the LORD, which scan throughout the whole earth, will rejoice when they see the plumb line in Zerubbabel’s hand.”
Now while I cannot say with 100% certainty what this mountain before Zerubbabel was, it seems obvious that it was one of two things. Either it represented the task of rebuilding the temple, which even with the support of king Darius and the provision of his resources was still an insurmountable task. Or it could be that it was a reference to the opposition they had received from those over the trans-euphrates who had stopped the progression of the work between the reigns of Cyrus and Darius I.
The only reason why I question if it was really regarding this opposition they had received is because by the beginning of the book of Zechariah, Darius I was already reigning and had already given the order to continue the work with his provisions and support. [See Ezra 6:1-15]
The 7 eyes brought up here, come from their mention in last week’s vision concerning Joshua. These eyes were said to be in a stone.
“(6) Then the Angel of the LORD charged Joshua: (7) “This is what the LORD of Hosts says: If you walk in My ways and keep My instructions, you will both rule My house and take care of My courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here. (8) “Listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring My servant, the Branch.
(9) Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it”–the declaration of the LORD of Hosts–“and I will take away the guilt of this land in a single day.
(10) On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the LORD of Hosts.”
I do not know what they represent together. The stone is a bit of a mystery to me, but the 7 eyes could, in my opinion, could refer to God’s omniscience – that He is constantly aware of all that goes on in the earth.
The word “plumbline” used in the Holman translation, which is the translation I am teaching from tonight, is translated as “tin plate” in other translations. This is due to questions about the root of the word which could be “divide” or “tin”. The wonderful thing is that either root would still deliver the same point.
The capstone mentioned in verse 7 is the flat stone which sits atop various structures. It provides a type of drip edge, like those at the end of modern shingles. It is to keep water erosion from wearing away at the structure and was the last thing typically done to a building and so can be used to mark its completion.
Also typical of that day were dedication plaques which were made of TIN.
So in either case the “plumbline” used for the finishing touches of the structure or the tin plate BOTH mark the completion of the temple.
“(11) I asked him, “What are the twoolive trees on the right and left of the lampstand?” (12) And I questioned him further, “What are the two olive branches beside the two gold conduits, from which golden oil pours out?”
(13) Then he inquired of me, “Don’t you know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.
(14) “These are the two anointed ones,” he said, “who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”
As we progress in these prophecies, some of the visions seem a little more obscure than others.
What I have learned to do is to first attempt to stay rooted in the present day of the prophecy. Be sensitive to the spiritual atmosphere of their present.
In this case, you have Israelite families who had spent most, if not all, of their lives in Babylonian exile. During that time they learned some of their ways which they, no doubt, carried back with them to Judah.
God in His goodness does not typically deal with all sins of ignorance at once. His work is generally progressive and merciful. He seeks first to own the heart before laying down the law.
Also of note are those who are the main players on the field at the time of any given prophecy.
Here in the book of Zechariah, we have identified Zechariah & Haggai as the prophets and therefore the spiritual eyes [Isaiah 29:10] of Israel during this time period. Ezra, though a bit later, served as scribe and teacher, so served as their rabbi towards spiritual understanding. Joshua was their High Priest of the lineage of Aaron who was their connection to God. While Zerubbabel was their natural leader, acting as governor over Judah and so represented the governing authority of God in Judah.
So the spiritual and natural condition of the Jewish people, the nations who had influenced them and all those in positions of influence or authority in their lives HAVE to be kept close in mind while interpreting the meaning of visions, dreams and prophetic words.
The use of the Golden lampstand is interesting. Its construction sounds much like the Menorah in the tabernacle of meeting of the temple, only this lampstand has 7 branches and a bowl.
When used in the New Testament book of Revelation, the lampstands are not so clearly described, but they are said to represent the 7 churches of Asia Minor, which Jesus addresses in Revelation 2-3. So it is not unreasonable to assume that this lampstand represents Israel itself. As such, the two olive trees on either side, they could represent people who are anointed in relation to Israel.
The only candidates I can think of would be either the two prophets Haggai & Zechariah who both were spiritually anointed of God by His Spirit. Or Joshua the High Priest and Zerubbabel the governor who would both be in positions of having been physically anointed into their respective positions of leadership.
In this vision the two anointed ones are not anointed for their own benefit, but OUT of them pours anointing oil.
Of course the oil is a type of the Holy Spirit of God Who alone empowers all the work of God in the earth. Thus the phrase, ‘Not by strength or by might, but by My Spirit,’ says the LORD of Hosts.
“(1) I looked up again and saw a flying scroll.
(2) “What do you see?” he asked me.
“I see a flying scroll,” I replied, “30 feet long and 15 feet wide.”
(3) Then he said to me, “This is the curse that is going out over the whole land, for every thief will be removed according to what is written on one side, and everyone who swears falsely will be removed according to what is written on the other side. (4) I will send it out,”–the declaration of the LORD of Hosts–“and it will enter the house of the thief and the house of the one who swears falsely by My name. It will stay inside his house and destroy it along with its timbers and stones.”
One of the first thoughts one might have about this scroll is its odd dimensions. A typical scroll in Israeli antiquity was much like a sheet of paper today in height, though its width could vary greatly. This is because most of these ancient scrolls rolled up from side to side rather than like the early Roman style which unscrolled vertically.
So the width of a Jewish scroll would always be many times that of its height. This scroll however, is presented with a length (or height) which is literally double that of its width which is just odd.
The second oddity is that it has writing on both sides. This was not common with scrolls for obvious reasons. Nevertheless, we have seen a two sided scroll before in Ezekiel’s vision [Ezekiel 2:9,10] and now here in Zechariah’s.
I personally could make little of it, but I knew something sounded off.
Now I have recently warned you of the overuse of commentators since they can in fact steer you into misunderstanding. So it is only appropriate that tonight I also encourage in the opposite direction with caution, for they do in fact serve a purpose. In this case I knew there was something to the shape since its dimensions are specifically given, but I was stumped as to why this information was given.
I found it helpful therefore that David Guzik points out that these dimensions of the scroll just happen to be the same as the tabernacle’s holy of holies and as the porch of Solomon’s temple.
The translators of the New English translation however point out something else as a possible explanation.
“These dimensions (“thirty feet long and fifteen feet wide”) can hardly be referring to the scroll when unrolled since that would be all out of proportion to the normal ratio, in which the scroll would be 10 to 15 times as long as it was wide. More likely, the scroll is 15 feet thick when rolled, a hyperbole expressing the enormous amount and the profound significance of the information it contains.”
I find both of these to be interesting possibilities regarding its shape.
Regarding the content of the scroll containing a single curse which applies to those who steal and those who swear falsely by God’s name I had to really give that some time to develop in my heart.
Having read the opinion of commentators I was left unsatisfied. So employing some of the methods I mentioned earlier which help in interpretation, I came to one conclusion, though no doubt there may be others which were intended by God in the giving of the vision.
If you remember back with Amos, the Israelites were guilty of these two sins and they stood out among the other sins they were guilty of. The people had descended into a class system much like we have had in America. You have the ultra rich and the poor with very little in between. The rich grew in wealth due to the exploitation of the poor. They perverted justice and evoked the name of the Lord even though their actions were evil. In these ways they stole and swore falsely.
The prophecies result was exile and the destruction of their homes.
Here are a few excerpts from Amos to remind you…
‘(6) The LORD says: I will not relent from punishing Israel for three crimes, even four,
because they sell a righteous person for silver and a needy person for a pair of sandals. (7) They trample the heads of the poor on the dust of the ground and block the path of the needy. A man and his father have sexual relations with the same girl, profaning My holy name. (8) They stretch out beside every altar on garments taken as collateral, and they drink in the house of their God wine obtained through fines.”
“(9) He brings destruction on the strong, and it falls on the stronghold.
(10) They hate the one who convicts the guilty at the city gate and despise the one who speaks with integrity.
(11) Therefore, because you trample on the poor and exact a grain tax from him, you will never live in the houses of cut stone you have built; you will never drink the wine from the lush vineyards you have planted. (12) For I know your crimes are many and your sins innumerable. They oppress the righteous, take a bribe, and deprive the poor of justice at the gates.”
“(4) They lie on beds inlaid with ivory, sprawled out on their couches, and dine on lambs from the flock and calves from the stall. (5) They improvise songs to the sound of the harp and invent their own musical instruments like David.
(6) They drink wine by the bowlful and anoint themselves with the finest oils but do not grieve over the ruin of Joseph.
(7) Therefore, they will now go into exile as the first of the captives, and the feasting of those who sprawl out will come to an end.
(8) The Lord GOD has sworn by Himself–the declaration of Yahweh, the God of Hosts: I loathe Jacob’s pride and hate his citadels, so I will hand over the city and everything in it. (9) And if there are 10 men left in one house, they will die.
(10) A close relative and a burner will remove his corpse from the house.
He will call to someone in the inner recesses of the house, “Any more with you?”
That person will reply, “None.”
Then he will say, “Silence, because Yahweh’s name must not be invoked.”
(11) For the LORD commands: The large house will be smashed to pieces, and the small house to rubble.”
Now granted this was at the height of the Northern Kingdom’s decadence and sin just before their Assyrian Exile, but Israel has always exhibited these tendencies as do all humankind in every place a civilization grows.
So consider that Judah was starting over as it were and fresh in their ears was the encouragement to turn their attention and devotion towards the house of the Lord rather than their own houses. Then God inspires Zechariah with this word to the people to steer them away from these sins. We later see in the book of Nehemiah that similar warnings had to be repeated later.
Knowing God is a God of justice, it seems reasonable that these two commands, which in some ways imply all of the law, were spoken over the people to remind them of what happened to the Northern Kingdom and warn them that it would happen to each one in Judah who pursues the same course of theft and taking or speaking the name of the Lord in vain.
Woman in a Basket
“(5) Then the angel who was speaking with me came forward and told me, “Look up and see what this is that is approaching.”
(6) So I asked, “What is it?”
He responded, “It’s a measuring basket that is approaching.” And he continued, “This is their iniquity in all the land.”
(7) Then a lead cover was lifted, and there was a woman sitting inside the basket. (8) “This is Wickedness,” he said. He shoved her down into the basket and pushed the lead weight over its opening.
(9) Then I looked up and saw two women approaching with the wind in their wings. Their wings were like those of a stork, and they lifted up the basket between earth and sky.”
“(10) So I asked the angel who was speaking with me, “Where are they taking the basket?”
(11) “To build a shrine for it in the land of Shinar,” he told me. “When that is ready, the basket will be placed there on its pedestal.”
Grammar is a very odd thing, I’ll say that. In this passage, wickedness is the focus of this passage and the Hebrew word for “wickedness” here is (רִשְׁעָה, rishʿah) and is grammatically feminine. As such the whole scene is feminine in nature and so employs feminine imagery. Thus it is that we have two women appearing as winged agents of the LORD carrying the basket containing wickedness to Shinar.
If these winged women represent any real spiritual being, the fact that they were following the command of the Lord does NOT make them good. The imagery of creatures with the wings of storks would have marked them as unclean in Zechariah’s eyes. Storks were among those animals on Israel’s “naughty list” of unclean animals. So, IF these represent real beings of any sort they were probably fallen beings and not part of God’s kingdom. We saw something very similar to this in the angel of death at Israel’s exodus from Egypt and in the lying spirits with Ahab in 2Chron. 18:18-22 [See Ahab… King, Warrior, Big Baby].
The basket is a MEASURING BASKET and what’s in the basket is WICKEDNESS. This type of phraseology is used somewhat often in scripture. God talks about waiting until the “full measure” of a nation’s wickedness has been achieved before judgment.
The idea is often presented as a time of reaping a harvest. As such the reaping does not take place until the harvest is completely ripe. We saw this metaphorical use of words in Amos. [See Amos …for three Crimes, even four]
“(1) The Lord GOD showed me this: A basket of summer fruit.
(2) He asked me, “What do you see, Amos?”
I replied, “A basket of summer fruit.”
The LORD said to me, “The end has come for My people Israel; I will no longer spare them.”
However, the first place we probably saw this notion of filling up the full measure of sin before judgment in our trek ‘Thru the Bible’ was with the Amorites in Genesis 15. Let’s read it! [See God Confirms and Man Subverts]
Genesis 15:12-21, “(12) As the sun was setting, a deep sleep fell on Abram, and suddenly a terror and great darkness descended on him. (13) Then the LORD said to Abram, “Know this for certain: Your offspring will be strangers in a land that does not belong to them; they will be enslaved and oppressed 400 years. (14) However, I will judge the nation they serve, and afterwards they will go out with many possessions. (15) But you will go to your fathers in peace and be buried at a ripe old age.
(16) In the fourth generation they will return here, FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE AMORITES HAS NOT YET REACHED ITS FULL MEASURE.”
(17) When the sun had set and it was dark, a smoking fire pot and a flaming torch appeared and passed between the divided animals. (18) On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “I give this land to your offspring, from the brook of Egypt to the Euphrates River: (19) the land of the Kenites, Kenizzites, Kadmonites, (20) Hittites, Perizzites, Rephaim, (21) Amorites, Canaanites, Girgashites, and Jebusites.”
We also saw it in Daniel 8:22-23 regarding the four kingdoms that would arise following Alexander the Great, [See Daniel’s vision of Future Kingdoms]
“(22) The four horns that took the place of the shattered horn represent four kingdoms. They will rise from that nation, but without its power. (23) Near the end of their kingdoms, when the rebels have reached the FULL MEASURE OF THEIR SIN, an insolent king, skilled in intrigue, will come to the throne.”
The lid was mentioned specifically as being lead which is used metaphorically in scripture as something heavy, just as it is today. You may be familiar with the phrase “it went over like a lead balloon.” It is a descriptive phrase of something being a dismal failure or something very unpopular. In traditional British style humor there was a British comedy television series by that name.
Most likely the “wickedness” within this basket were the sins of Israel, though they are quite possibly sins they learned while in Babylon. If so, this is talking about the purification of Israel and the carrying off of their sins back to Shinar in Babylon.
Remember that the biblical concept of judgment is all about separation. So for the world, judgment means to be further separated from the life and person of God. For those in covenant with God however, judgment means to separate their sins from them, thus reconciling them TO God and His life.
So naturally here we see the sins in Israel, lifted from them and carried away, presumably to those they learned those sins from which in this case would be Babylon. The fact that it was destined to be placed upon a pedestal in a shrine says much!