By J.R. Miller
The visions of Zechariah all have a meaning. This one is of a candlestick supplied by olive trees. "Then the angel who had been talking with me returned and woke me, as though I had been asleep." It is a good thing to have anyone wake us up. We ought always to be awake. We will miss a great deal if we are not. It is a good thing to be awakened by an angel. An angel's touch is soft, gentle, and inspiring. It does not rouse us roughly and rudely. It was an angel that touched Peter and awoke him when he lay sleeping in the prison, between the guards, expecting to be called to execution in the morning. The angels awake us to joy, to gladness, to beauty--not to alarms, to sorrow, to pain, to anxiety.
This is a book of visions. We are not prophets, and God does not reveal His will to us as He did to Zechariah. But every earnest soul has visions, glimpses of better things, of nobler life. Whenever we ponder deeply some Word of God--there opens out in it a vision of spiritual beauty. Every time we read the biography of a noble life--we have a vision which should inspire ns to longings for like nobleness. In godly people--we have visions of qualities of character, and acts of self-denying love, which are like visions. We shall be always seeing visions if we live as we may. Heaven lies about us always, close to us; we are on its borders, and we see the rarest beauty at every turn if we will. Really it is a matter of eyes--the beauty is always there, if only we have eyes to see.
"What do you see?" asked the angel. We should learn to see things. The world is full of lovely objects, which only a few people really see. There are those who will walk through gardens and over fields filled with flowers and plants--and yet never see any beautiful thing that makes appeal to them, never have their souls stirred. There are those who walk under the starry skies every night through the years--and are never moved to any sense of wonder or any feeling of admiration, much less of adoration. Moses saw God in the burning bush and took off his shoes. Many people would only have seen a common bush. We should train ourselves to see nature in all its beauty of form and color--the highest beauty that is everywhere in God's works.
When the angel awakened the prophet--he looked and at once saw something which caught his attention. "I have seen, and, behold, a candlestick all of gold." Every Christian should be a light-bearer. God wants us to shine. The world is dark, and we are to pour light into its darkness. There are many ways to do this. The first always is in our own life. Our character must shine. That means, to put it very simply, that we must be holy. A pure, good, loving heart--will make the light shine. Nothing but love shines. We are, therefore, to be obedient, trustful, and reverent toward God--and gentle, unselfish, kind, thoughtful, patient, and helpful toward others. The candle wastes, burns itself up, in shining. We must burn--to shine. It costs to be unselfish, patient, thoughtful, and useful. We must be forgiving; we must bear injuries; we must do good to unworthy people; we must deny ourselves and make personal sacrifices; we must be gentle and kind--when others are rude to us.
As the prophet looked the vision became clear and distinct. "I see a candlestick all of gold . . . and seven lamps on it, with seven pipes to the lights. Also there are two olive trees by it." The meaning is that the lamps which burned brightly were supplied with oil--without the help of human hands--from the live olive trees through the golden pipes. The lamps themselves would not give light--they must have oil in them. They must also be continually refilled, so that they will continue to shine.
Just so, our lives are only empty lamps which must be supplied with oil from Christ's own fullness. That is, we must abide in Christ--so as to receive of His life continually. We can shine--only when the oil of divine love and grace is in us.
"Then I asked the angel: What are these, my lord? What do they mean?" The prophet wished to know the meaning of the vision he saw. He was of an eager, inquiring mind. He was not content to let anything pass, which he did not understand. This is a good rule for all of us. Some people get tired answering children's questions. They are annoyed by their desire to know what things are for. But children ought to ask questions. The world is all new to them. They have a right to learn what things are--and why they are. We ought to encourage a child's inquisitiveness and take delight in telling it every new thing we can. Moreover, we should be children ourselves, all through our life, in this--the desire to know the meaning of every new thing we come upon.
The answer the angel gave the prophet, contained the whole wonderful meaning of the vision. "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!" If the completion of the temple had depended on human might or power--it never would have been finished. The people were few, poor, and weak--and the work was great, and enemies were on every side. The temple never could have risen from amid the old ruins--if it had depended on the human might that was in the field. But it did not. God's Spirit was in the work, and there is no power in the universe that can withstand God or successfully resist Him. He could do the work with small means or with great. He could not be hindered by opposition of enemies, for He is omnipotent!
It is still true in God's world, that it is not by might nor by power--but by the Holy Spirit, that things are done. God does not need human strength to work with Him; He would rather work with human weakness. When He sends us out to do anything for Him--He will always provide the means and open the way, that we may not fail--if only we trust Him. God uses little things to accomplish His great purposes. At this time the people were discouraged. It seemed that their work of building the temple could not go on. Human power was faint. The vision was a revelation of God working with His almighty power to accomplish the work. The candlesticks drew the oil from the olive trees. Human agency was unnecessary. "Not by might, nor by power--says the LORD Almighty!"
Enemies were boasting--but their power would be as nothing before the strength of God. "Who are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel, you shall become a plain." Zerubbabel was God's chosen builder, and before Him all hindrances and obstacles would melt away. Zechariah was an encourager, and he was giving assurance of success in spite of all opposition. All mountains of difficulty which stand in the way of God's order--shall be leveled down by faith's advance. When we go anywhere for God--it is as if God Himself went.