Zechariah 4:11


Then answered I, and said unto him, etc. This is not another vision, but an explanation of the one recorded in the preceding verses. The explanation is that the two branches of the olive tree which, by means of the two tubes of gold empty their oil, is that they represented "two anointed ones," or sons of oil. Perhaps Joshua and Zerubbabel are particularly referred to. "Because," says Henderson, "when installed into office they had oil poured upon their heads as a symbol of the gifts and influences of the Holy Spirit, which alone could fit them rightly to discharge their important functions. Their services to the new state were of such value that they might well be represented as furnishing it, instrumentally, with what was necessary for enabling it to answer the purpose of its establishment." I shall take these two "anointed ones" as types of model religious teachers. Three things are suggested.

I. THEY HAVE A HIGH ORDER OF LIFE IN THEM. They are represented by the olive branches. There are few productions of the vegetable kingdom that are of such a high order as the olive. Though not large, seldom rising higher than thirty feet, it has a rich foliage, beautiful flowers, abundant fruit, and withal is filled with precious oil. One tree contains often not less than a thousand pounds of precious oil. Its fatness was proverbial (Judges 9:9); it is an evergreen, and most enduring. In short, it is marked by great beauty, perpetual freshness, and immense utility. It was one of the sources of wealth in Judaea, and its failure was the cause of famine. The emblems of a true teacher are not dead timber or some frail vegetable life, but an olive tree. Religious teachers should not only have life, but life of the highest order. They should be full of animal spirits, full of creative genius, full of fertile thought, full of Divine inspiration. Men whose vitality is of a low order are utterly disqualified to be public religious teachers. They should not be reeds, fragile, and with temporary foliage, but like a "green olive tree in the house of God." The curse of the modern pulpit is its lack of vitality, freshness, and power.

II. THEY COMMUNICATE THE MOST PRECIOUS ELEMENTS OF KNOWLEDGE. They "empty the golden oil out of themselves." Whether the expression "golden" here signifies merely the richness of its colour or the preciousness of its property, it scarcely matters. It has been observed by modern travellers that the natives of olive countries manifest more attachment to olive oil than to any other article of food, and find nothing adequate to supply its place. Genuine religious teachers feed the lamp of universal knowledge with the most golden elements of truth. They not only give the true theory of morals and worship, but the true theory of moral restoration. What a high value Paul set on this knowledge! "I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord." What are the true genuine religious teachers doing? They are pouring into the lamps of the world's knowledge the choicest elements of truth.

III. THEY LIVE NEAR TO THE GOD OF ALL TRUTH. "Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." They "stand," a position of dignity; "stand," a position of waiting - waiting to receive infallable instructions, ready to execute the Divine behests. All true religious teachers live consciously near to God. To "stand by the Lord of the whole earth" is one thing, to be conscious of it is another. All "stand by" him; but few of the race are practically conscious o! the position and these few alone are the true teachers.

CONCLUSION. Let us, who are engaged in the office of public teaching, try ourselves by these criteria. The olive tree gave what it had in it - gave out its nature. So must we. Manufactured discourses, intellectual speculations, rhetorical flourishes, - these have no oil. - D.T.









What are these two olive trees
In the parable of Zechariah we have the picture of a lamp supplied not by a limited quantity of oil contained in metal or earthenware vessels, but by an unlimited Unfailing quantity from a living source. It was not part of the produce of an olive harvest that kept the candlestick burning brightly; for that supply would in course of time have been exhausted: even the whole crop of olives of one year would in course of time have failed. And what a beautiful symbol of the bountifulness and enduringness of grace this is! We do not get a limited, carefully measured supply from Christ, but an unlimited, ever-flowing fulness. He will supply all our need; not according to our own sense of need, but according to His riches in glory. Christ came not that we might have a bare life, snatched from the condemnation of the law, but that we might have more abundant life than man originally possessed in his unfallen state. It is not pardon and acquittal only that He gives us, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Ghost. Where our sin abounds His grace doth much more abound. God carefully measures His afflictive dispensations, and sends trials and sorrows in small doses, as it were; just as the apothecary measures out in a carefully graduated medicine glass the bitter or poisonous medicines that are necessary to cure our sicknesses. But God pours His joys and blessings into our souls in such lavish bountifulness that there is not room in them to contain them. He wishes not only that His joy may be in us, but that our joy may be full. The two olive trees that feed the visionary candlestick, one on each side, may be said to represent the twofold character of Christ's personality, — His Divine and human natures. Another idea implied in the symbol of the text besides this of exhaustless abundance is spontaneity — freeness. The olive trees pour their oil into the lamps freely as well as fully. The oil that feeds the candlestick has not to be first gathered in the berries, extracted in the oil press, manufactured by the art of man, sold by the merchant, bought and earned by the sweat of the face. Not in this roundabout, laborious, artificial way, but directly, by a spontaneous, natural process, do the olive trees contribute of their fulness to the supply of the lamps; and thus it is that the grace of God is freely given to us. Not by laborious mechanical arts and efforts, but by a living faith, a simple trust, do we obtain the supplies of our spiritual need from Christ. We have not to work for them, but only to freely receive them as they are freely offered to us. How striking is the contrast between the way in which we get the fruits of sin and the tree of life! We stretch out our hand to pluck the forbidden fruit. We take it ourselves, in defiance of God's command — by force, by deceit, by trouble, by methods that cost us toil and pain. But God gives to us to eat of the tree of life. We have not to stretch forth the hand to pluck it; it is given into our hand, into our mouth. God's unspeakable gift is freely bestowed. The olive trees that feed the lamp of your faith and love are planted in no earthly soil, and are dependent upon no earthly means of culture. They grow without your toil or care in heavenly light and air. Their harvests are regulated by the unchanging laws of God's covenant of grace. Your Father is the husbandman. Your Saviour has finished the whole work of grace, and you do not require to add to it. The less you interfere with its working the better. The Kingdom of Heaven is indeed as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of itself — first the blade, then the ear, and after that the full corn in the ear. He who is the author of your faith will be the finisher of it; and having begun the good work of grace in you, He will carry it on and complete it; and therefore the more poor in spirit you are, the more empty and destitute, the more will the Kingdom of Heaven be yours, the more room and freedom will it have to work out in you the good pleasure of God's goodness as the work of faith.

(Hugh Macmillan, D. D. , LL. D.)

The picture that the prophet saw is set before us with distinctness, and the meaning of the symbol is not obscure. The significance of the central figure — the candlestick or candelabrum, all of gold, — the prophet knows perfectly. Concerning that he asks no questions. Is the meaning equally clear to all of us? The golden lampstand always symbolises the Church. The Church is represented, not as the light of the world, but as the receptacle or support of the light. The light is Divine. The candelabrum all of gold was to the prophet the symbol of the Church of God in its latter-day glory. To him the Jewish Church and the Jewish nation were not twain, but one. That sharp discrimination which we make between things sacred and things secular, the devout Jew did not make at all. Between politics and religion he drew no line. It must be admitted that this old Hebrew conception is a little nobler and finer than the theory of life that generally prevails among us. We have come to make a broad distinction between that part of life which is sacred, and that part which is secular. The complete divorce between the Church and the State which exists among us is the result of sectarian divisions. That a practical unity is one day to be realised I have no doubt. It can never be realised until the different sects all learn to exalt that which is essential above that which is secondary. The things that are essential are the values of character, righteousness, purity, and love; the things that are secondary are rites and forms and dogmas. When the Church of God shall be one it will be possible to bring it into the closest relations with the State. The prophet did need to inquire concerning the two olive trees growing on either side of the candelabrum, connected with it by golden pipes and pouring a perennial supply of golden oil, pure and precious, into the golden bowl — what did they symbolise? The oil thus provided must be taken to represent the Divine inspiration, which is the power that moves and the life that energises the Kingdom of God in the world. It is the immanent and perennial grace of "Him whose light is truth, whose warmth is love." The two olive trees are the "two anointed ones," Zerubbabel and Joshua — the two men in whom the Spirit of the Lord was dwelling; the men who were working together to rebuild the temple, and fully restore the worship. They were the living sources of inspiration and help to the restored and glorified kingdom. We have no kings or priests. All who believe, says Peter, are a royal priesthood. The grace that was specialised in the old time is generalised in the new. The right of standing before the Lord, receiving His messages, and transmitting His truth and love and power, is not restricted to a few; it belongs to all faithful and loyal souls.

(W. Gladden.)

Homilist.
This is not another vision, but an explanation of the one recorded in the preceding verses. Take the "two anointed ones" as types of model religious teachers.

I. THEY HAVE A HIGH ORDER OF LIFE IN THEM. They are represented by the olive branches. Few productions of the vegetable kingdom are of such a high order as those of the olive. Its fatness was proverbial (Judges 7:9); it is an evergreen, and most enduring. In short, it is marked by great beauty, perpetual freshness, and immense utility. It was one of the sources of wealth in Judea, and its failure was the cause of famine. The emblems of a true teacher are not dead timber or some frail vegetable life, but an olive tree. Religious teachers should not only have life, but life of the highest order. They should be full of animal spirits, full of creative genius, full of fertile thought, full of Divine inspiration.

II. They COMMUNICATE THE MOST PRECIOUS ELEMENTS OF KNOWLEDGE. They "empty the golden oil out of themselves." It has been observed by modern travellers that the natives of olive countries manifest more attachment to olive oil than to any other article of food, and find nothing adequate to supply its place. Genuine religious teachers feed the lamp of universal knowledge with the most golden elements of truth. They not only give the true theory of morals and worship, but the true theory of moral restoration. What are the true genuine religious teachers doing? They are pouring into the lamps of the world's know ledge the choicest elements of truth.

III. THEY LIVE NEAR TO THE GOD OF ALL TRUTH. "Then said he, These are the two anointed ones that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." They "stand"; a position of dignity, "stand," a position of waiting — waiting to receive infallible instructions, ready to execute the Divine behests. All true religious teachers live consciously near to God.

(Homilist.)

Consider —

1. That by the two olive trees it is not clear to understand only the graces of God poured out on His Church. That is indeed signified by oil in such Scripture as Psalm 45:7. Here the resolution is concerning the trees that furnished the oil. Nor yet are we to understand them of a fountain of bounty in God; for there can be no reason given why that should be compared to two trees, and be said to "stand before the Lord." But by them we are to understand Christ anointed in His priestly (which includes His prophetical) and kingly office, who was chief in this work, and in furnishing all instruments; who furnishes His Church, and serves His Father in the work of redemption, and is cared for by Him.

2. That the angel, answering both the prophet's questions in one, leads us to understand the one by the others so far as is needful; and therefore we may conceive that either that of the branches is not touched as needless, or pointing out only the fit ways of communicating Himself to His people's capacity, the pipes not being able to receive the oil of the whole tree at once, or that branches only now furnishing, imported Christ's communicating Himself in a small measure in this typical work of building the temple in respect of what He had and was to communicate in the building of His Church under the Gospel; or if we will stretch it further, it may take in Joshua and Zerubbabel, the one anointed priest, the other a successor of their anointed kings, who, however, as instruments in the work, they were resembled by the burning lamps, getting furniture from the bowl, yet in respect of their office among that people, and their influence upon all instruments of building the temple, they were types of Christ, and so might be represented by two little branches, resembling Him, the great olive tree..."standing before the God of the earth," as being instrumental to keep in life in the Church when all power shall be opposite to her.

(George Hutcheson.)

Who are these? They refer to some standing channel of blessing from God, and are alluded to again in Revelation 11:3, 4, in terms that cannot be mistaken. Without entering at length into the reasons for this opinion, we simply affirm that they refer to a duality of gracious manifestation from God, corresponding to a duality of necessity in the nature of man. There are two grand evils to be overcome, guilt and pollution, and they demand two standing sources of blessing, the one to remove the guilt by atonement, the other to remove the power of sin by giving a higher power of holiness. These two sources are embodied in two official forms, the only two that were connected with the theocracy as permanent elements, the sacerdotal and regal orders, This duality marked all the manifestations of God, for it rested on a deep necessity of human nature, and it was then embodied in the persons of Joshua and Zerubbabel. Since, then, they were so essential to the theocracy, the people need not suppose that God would allow them to perish, but would continue them in existence until He should come who was a priest after the order of Melchizedek. Learn —

1. That the Church is the same under both dispensations, for the promises made to her then are only fulfilling now, showing that then and now she was the same Church. The candlestick is the same, though the tubes may be changed; and the Church is the same, though her official channels be totally altered.

2. God has provided an unfailing source of strength for His people. Their supply comes not from a dead reservoir of oil, but a living olive tree, that is ever drawing from the rich earth its generous furnishings, and then distilling them by seven pipes, a perfect number, to those who are to be burning and shining lights.

3. The whole work of religion in the heart of the individual, and throughout the world, is of grace. Christ is at once the cornerstone and the copestone of the Church; and as He was greeted with "shoutings of grace" when He came the first time, much more shall He when He comes the second time, without sin unto salvation.

4. We are prone to judge of God's work by man's standard; and because we see but a narrow stream from the fountain, doubt or deny the river.

5. It is not only unwise, it is wicked, to be disheartened because of the external feebleness of the Church, compared with the work she has to do and the enemies she has to encounter. God is her strength, her glory, and her hope, and to despair of her is to deny God.

6. The doctrine and discipline of the Church, the truth and power that God has lodged in her organisation and in her ordinances, are still the standing channels through which the Spirit pours the oil of grace and strength, and hence should both be kept pure and unclogged.

(T. V. Moore, D. D.)

Beware, also, that nothing chokes the golden pipes of obedience to His kingliness, and trust in His priesthood; else the entrance of the golden oil will be arrested. They may soon become stopped by neglect, inattention, or disuse.

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

The prophet manifests great concern to understand what is meant by these two olive trees.

I. THE UNIVERSAL DOMINION OF THE LORD JESUS CHRIST. "The Lord of the whole earth." Not to be understood in an abstract, but in a relative sense. The Lord Jesus is the last Adam, and He came and acquired universal dominion on behalf of His people. He obtained universal dominion by prevailing with God. This He did by His obedient life. Whatever perfection — whether of love, or holiness, or wisdom, or integrity — you may name, the Saviour possessed them all. And "the Lord is well pleased for His righteousness' sake." This righteousness, this obedient life of the Lord Jesus, hath prevailed with God's law, hath prevailed with justice. This is one step towards the Saviour's universal dominion, God's unexceptional approbation of His righteousness, God's deep and eternal interest in His righteousness. When the Saviour came to die, was there in the whole universal Church one sin that He did not conquer? Was there one demand of justice that He did not meet? See some of the symptoms of this dominion while the Saviour was in the world. He cast out devils, — there is power over hell. Need I remind you of sin? Why, He pardoned one and another. Then diseases, — what disease was ever too hard for Him? Then the sea, — He walks on it. Whatever dominion He possesses, He will give to you.

II. THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENT CHURCHES. The two anointed ones. In the Book of Revelation called the "two witnesses." These represent the Old Testament Church and the New Testament Church. In this passage, then, is given Christ's entire dominion; the river of the Gospel; the Old and New Testament Churches sweetly united in the same theme; a clear note of time when these wonders were to be mediatorially accomplished; and the faithfulness of the Old and of the New Testament Churches.

(James Wells.).

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