Zechariah Chapter Four

By My Spirit, Says the Lord

Zechariah’s vision

1 Now the angel who talked with me came back and wakened me, as a man who is wakened out of his sleep.
2 And he said to me, “What do you see?”
So I said, “I am looking, and there is a lampstand of solid gold with a bowl on top of it, and on the stand seven lamps with seven pipes to the seven lamps.
3 Two olive trees are by it, one at the right of the bowl and the other at its left.”

As Zechariah rubs his eyes trying to wake up, he sees a solid gold lampstand with seven lamps. This image was familiar as it was part of the temple furniture.
In addition to the lampstand, Zechariah saw something that was never in the temple - two olive trees that supplied oil for a large bowl which in turn fed the seven lamps with oil through seven pipes. Now in the temple the lampstands had to be continually refilled with oil, but in this vision, Zechariah sees “self-filling” lamps, fed directly from two olive trees.

Zechariah asks for an explanation of the vision.

4:4,5 So I answered and spoke to the angel who talked with me, saying, “What are these, my lord?” Then the angel who talked with me answered and said to me, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.”

What are these, my lord? Zechariah saw the vision, but didn’t understand what it meant.

Zechariah lived in a time of uncertainty; the remnant of Israel had returned from exile, they had attempted to rebuild the temple but adversity discouraged them and the work had stopped and actually regressed as their former work was destroyed by their adversaries. The people were gripped with discouragement and fear. God called the prophet Zechariah to give them hope and courage to renew their work in building the temple and re-establishing its services. The visions emphasized that it wasn’t by their might or power, but by the Holy Spirit that the work would be accomplished – Also, the task of preparing each heart as a purified temple for the Lord’s indwelling can ultimately be accomplished only by cooperating with Him; His Spirit accomplishes that which human effort is powerless to achieve.

B. The meaning of the vision

So he answered and 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 forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!”

Zerubbabel was the governor of the returned exiles, and had the responsibility to direct the finishing of the work of rebuilding the temple. To Zerubbabel the work of rebuilding the temple was so massive it seemed like a great mountain. Here God promises that by His Spirit, that great mountain will be leveled into a plain.
Zerubbabel would bring forth the capstone with shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” This is God’s assurance to Zerubbabel that not only will the work be finished, but Zerubbabel , himself shall finish it, setting the capstone and declaring that it was all a work of grace.

Might and power focuses on human resources, on collective and individual strength. God says, --not by the resources of many or one, but by My Spirit. It will not be by your cleverness, your ability, or your physical strength that the temple will be rebuilt, but by the Spirit of God.

“There is nothing that Satan fears so much as that the people of God shall clear the way by removing every hindrance, so that the Lord can pour out His Spirit upon a languishing church and an impenitent congregation. If Satan had his way, there would never be another awakening, great or small, to the end of time. But we are not ignorant of his devices. It is possible to resist his power. When the way is prepared for the Spirit of God, the blessing will come. Satan can no more hinder a shower of blessing from descending upon God’s people than he can close the windows of heaven that rain cannot come upon the earth. Wicked men and devils cannot hinder the work of God, or shut out His presence from the assemblies of His people, if they will, with subdued, contrite hearts, confess and put away their sins, and in faith claim His promises.—(Selected Messages, bk. 1, 124.)

God wanted Zerubbabel (as well as all His faithful followers) to know that the Holy Spirit would continually supply his need, just as the oil trees in the vision continually supplied oil to the lamps on the lampstand. God wants His supply and our reliance on the Holy Spirit to be continual.

"Those who bear responsibilities need to place themselves where they will be deeply impressed by the Spirit of God. You should have as much greater anxiety than do others for the aid of the Holy Spirit and for a knowledge of God as your position of trust is more responsible than that of others. Nothing is more needed in our work than the practical results of communion with God." {HDL 59.2}

When the work is done through human might or power we tend to take credit for it, but when the work is done by the continual supply of the Spirit, then it is all to the glory of God’s grace.

More encouragement for Zerubbabel.

4:8-10 Moreover the word of the Lord came to me, saying: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands shall also finish it. Then you will know that the Lord of hosts has sent Me to you. For who has despised the day of small things? For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. They are the eyes of the Lord, which scan to and fro throughout the whole earth.”

His hands shall finish it: When the work is done by God’s Spirit there are not only resources to begin the work, but also to finish the work. God is a finisher “Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform [it] until the day of Jesus Christ” ( Philippians 1:6).

For who has despised the day of small things?
God does not despise the day of small things. He can take our consecrated smallness and with His Spirit perform big things. Consecrating our littles to Him will bring a wonderful increase.

For these seven rejoice to see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel.

The seven are the eyes of the Lord mentioned in this same passage. They rejoice when they see Zerubbabel take up the plumb line and move forward with the building work. The eyes of the Lord see it all, and He rejoices to see His people by faith engaged in the work.

Do we despised the day of small things? Thinking it is impossible to do God’s work because the resources aren’t there, the opposition too strong, the talent lacking-- or do we neglect doing our part because we think it’s “too little” and insignificant?

“Those who have the smallest gifts are not excused from using the very best gifts they have, and in so doing their talents will be increased. It is not safe to trifle with moral responsibilities nor to despise the day of small things”. 4T 618

Though the work was empowered by the Spirit of God, Zerubbabel still needed to take up his plumb line and move forward with the work. God could have instantly, miraculously finished the work, but that isn’t God’s way of doing things. He desires to build our characters by inviting us to co-operate with Him.

C. Deeper Understanding of the Vision

Zechariah apparently understood the message of encouragement to Zerubbabel, but he wondered how it connected to the vision of the olive trees and the lampstand, so he asks another question:

4:11-14 Then I answered and said to him, “What are these two olive trees; at the right of the lampstand and at its left?” And I further answered and said to him, “What are these two olive branches that drip into the receptacles of the two gold pipes from which the golden oil drains?” Then he answered me and said, “Do you not know what these are?” And I said, “No, my lord.” So he said, “These are the two anointed ones, who stand beside the Lord of the whole earth.”


What are these two olive trees each with a branch (or tube) supplying the bowl above the candlesticks with oil? They are two anointed ones.
The angel did not tell Zechariah who “the two anointed ones” are. He simply identified them as the source of the “oil” and therefore the source of light;
AND that they stand in the presence of God.

How does Revelation 11:3-4 explain the two olive trees?

There the two anointed ones are called “two witnesses” in Revelation 11, and they are none other than God's Word, written by Old and New Testament prophets. God’s Word prophesied in “sackcloth” for 1260 years, during the "middle ages" as the Bible was largely withheld from the people, and faithful believers often risked their very lives to bring God's word to the people.

“The two witnesses represent the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament. Both are important testimonies to the origin and perpetuity of the law of God. Both are witnesses also to the plan of salvation. The types, sacrifices, and prophecies of the Old Testament point forward to a Saviour to come. The Gospels and Epistles of the New Testament tell of a Saviour who has come” GC 267

So in this vision we see God’s Word (two olive trees) with truth flowing through two tubes into a bowl from which seven tubes supply seven candlesticks with oil so they have light.


In this vision the candlestick symbolizes Zerubbabel in particular, as he is to move forward by the power of the Holy Spirit.

However, it also represents the church or the people of Christ.
We know from Revelation chapter one that the seven candle sticks represent the churches.

Revelation 1:20 “The seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.”

The oil in the candlestick of the sanctuary was directed seven ways, representing the fact that the Holy Spirit does a perfect work for God’s people around the world. The lampstands represent God’s people, who are to be reflectors of His glory.
Matt. 5:14 “Ye are the light of the world.”


These represent pastors or ministers and teachers who are to feed the church with God’s Word.
Again we turn to Revelation Chapter one and see this represented as seven stars or messengers to the seven churches, to which the apostle John sends his seven letters to the churches who are then to share these letters with their congregations.

However, we must not depend upon ministers and teachers to partake of the oil of the Holy Spirit. Each individual must be sure their own lives are filled with that precious oil.

"We all need to study as never before the parable of the ten virgins. Five of them were wise, and five were foolish. The wise took oil in their vessels with their lamps. This is the holy oil represented in Zechariah [Zechariah 4:11-14 quoted]. This representation is of the highest consequence to those who claim to know the truth. But if we do not practise the truth, we have not received the holy oil, which the two golden pipes empty out of themselves. The oil is received into vessels prepared for the oil. It is the Holy Spirit in the heart which works by love and purifies the soul.{EGW comment 4SDABC p.1179}


Yet the oil must flow through two pipes for it to be effective.

“The Holy Spirit is doing its work on the hearts. But if the ministers have not first received their message from heaven, if they have not drawn their own supplies from the refreshing, life-giving stream, how can they let that flow forth which they have not received? What a thought, that hungry, thirsty souls are sent away empty! A man may lavish all the treasures of his learning, he may exhaust the moral energies of his nature, and yet accomplish nothing, because he himself has not received the golden oil from the heavenly messengers; therefore it cannot flow forth from him, imparting spiritual life to the needy. The tidings of joy and hope must come from heaven. Learn, oh, learn of Jesus what it means to abide in Christ! {TM 338.1}

Who then can turn the written Word of God into life giving oil ?
No, it's not any human being, for all humans must first receive the truth through this life giving source.

It's not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord.

Who are the ones who stand in the Presence of God yet communicate heavenly truth home to the hearts, minds and souls of mankind?

Now turn to Revelation One once more:

Who is it that stands by the candlesticks in Revelation chapter one?

There we see Christ standing among the candlesticks, there is a sword emanating from Christ’s mouth. Paul speaks of the “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God”. Eph. 6:17 compares with Hebrews 4:12.

Hebrews 1:2 also tells us that in these last days God has spoken to us by His Son. It is by beholding Christ that the truths of God’s Word become a living reality to us.

The other ONE Who stands in the Presence of God, is the Holy Spirit.

“Without the Spirit of God a knowledge of His word is of no avail. The theory of truth, unaccompanied by the Holy Spirit, cannot quicken the soul or sanctify the heart”: COL 408

The truth of God's Word is brought to life in the hearts and minds of people by Christ through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.


The oil is that which the presence of the Holy Spirit imparts to us, it is “the oil of the Spirit”. The Holy Spirit Himself is a person, as God is a person, He is “(the third person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit”.--Special Testimonies, Series A, No. 10, p. 37. (1897) {Ev 617.2}

His presence fills us with conviction, truth, wisdom and understanding, steadfastness, discernment, commitment, courage to stand true to God, and changes our carnal natures into Christ-like characters to shine for God!

That is the oil which His presence in our lives imparts. To be filled with the “oil of the Spirit” is what we all need if we will be part of the five wise bridesmaids awaiting the coming of the Christ.

The Two Witnesses

There is a danger in our world today to bypass the Bible and think our impressions are the Holy Spirit. This study shows that we definitely need the Holy Spirit to understand scripture, Who will bring its message to life in our lives; yet also notice from this vision that the oil is drawn from, and based on the testimony of the two witnesses, the old and new testament scriptures. God's Holy Spirit will not lead you to depart from this testimony. Any "spirit" that leads away from the testimony of the two witnesses, is not the Holy Spirit.

Yet, reading scriptures without the Holy Spirit, also gives the wrong spirits opportunity to lead us astray.

Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be continually liable to wrest the Scriptures or to misinterpret them. There is much reading of the Bible that is without profit and in many cases is a positive injury. When the word of God is opened without reverence and without prayer; when the thoughts and affections are not fixed upon God or in harmony with His will, the mind is clouded with doubt; and in the very study of the Bible, skepticism strengthens. The enemy takes control of the thoughts, and he suggests interpretations that are not correct.

Thus we need to study the two witnesses, comparing scripture with scripture in prayerful attitude, asking the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

So What is in the Bowl above the Lampstand?

The Old Testament Scriptures are blended with the New in an explanation of Jehovah's eternal purpose. This is given life giving power by the Holy Spirit.
These truths the Holy Spirit brings home to our hearts establishing the kingdom of grace within, and fitting us to spend eternity with our Redeemer.

That oil flows
Not by any human might, nor power, but by God's Spirit.

The Holy Spirit has been given to us to guide us in the study of the word. Jesus promises, "The Comforter, which is the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you." Those who are under the training of the Holy Spirit will be able to teach the word intelligently. And when it is made the study book, with earnest supplication for the Spirit's guidance, and a full surrender of the heart to be sanctified through the truth, it will accomplish all that Christ has promised.

Not by might, nor by power
But by my Spirit says the Lord.