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God’s Word for You

Zechariah 4:11-14 The branches of the olive trees

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Monday, July 11, 2022

11 Then I said to him, “What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?” 12 And after that I said to him, “What are these two olive branches beside the two gold channels that the oil is poured out from?” 13 He said to me, “Don’t you know what these are?” I said, “No, my lord.” 14 Then he said, “These are the two who are anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.”

The prophet’s two questions (verses 11-12) are an example of the true history of this account. He asks a question in the way that anyone trying to depict a vision would write it, but then he asks another before the angel has answered the first one.

At first, one might suspect that the olive trees might have something to do with peace, since an olive branch was the signal to Noah that peace had returned to the world as the great flood was abating (Genesis 8:11), and the olive branch is still a symbol for peace: “Peace puts forth her olives everywhere” (Henry IV Part 2, IV:4). But these are not mere olive branches, they are olive trees, and for some reason they stand by the lamp in the holy place of the temple. Zechariah was right to ask what they were, for there were no such things growing in the inner chamber of the temple. The olive trees are the two administrations of the people, at this time Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor. They were both anointed into their offices, as all of Israel’s priests and kings were anointed. But trees have a longer lifespan than men, and these offices belong truly to Christ, whose very title means “the Anointed.” So the high priest and the governor were only types for Christ, the true Priest and King of the true Israel. And the vision was a depiction of the gospel of God’s forgiveness and favor, because the trees were in the middle of the temple. God was telling them: “Here I am, with you, giving you my light and my grace.”

The second question calls up a detail that wasn’t described at first. The olive trees have branches that pour out their oil into the channels that enter the candlestick. The oil is called “gold” in Hebrew because of the appearance of olive oil. The best olive oil, like the Filippo Berio in the grocery store that’s about $50 a pint (or maybe less), is a rich golden color. Here is the way God blesses his people. Temporally, that is, in this moment, he blesses us through our leaders, such as Joshua and the governor, and through our parents. Their policies, their charity, their concern for us blesses us. This is the safety that is secured by the government and the preaching and teaching of our pastors and ministers. Spiritually, God blesses us through Christ and sends his blessings in many ways to us, through spouse and family, church and Christian school, and one by one, each of us to one another.

But remember that we said that these two servants are really types or examples that point ahead to Jesus Christ our Lord. The administration of God’s people would continue under these men with God’s blessing until the coming of the Savior, and this is really the immediate meaning of the vision. But we can also take it to heart, since God dwells in us all, all who have faith, for each Christian, Paul says, “is the temple of the Holy Spirit” (1 Corinthians 6:19), and since I have been crucified with Christ, “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). So we stand firm in our simple faith, loving our Savior, relying on him, and knowing that our salvation is not up to us in the least, but falls entirely on the shoulders of the Lord Jesus, and his golden blessings sustain us now and always, to the end of days and into life eternal.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith
About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please visit the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church website.


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