Reading: Zech. 4; Rom. 8:9,14,16; Gal. 4:6.
"These are the two sons of oil."
"...if so be that the Spirit of God dwells in you. But if any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. "
"As many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God."
"The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit, that we are children of God."
That little clause at the end of Zechariah 4 - "sons of oil" - there is no need for us to stay with the detail, but what is important at the moment is that we should realize that there is a message here which is a message of very great importance to us at this very moment.
The visions of Zechariah, this one among them, can, of course, be regarded as Old Testament types and figures and mysteries, and therefore a subject for interesting study if you are so disposed. It can stand there vaguely in the background as just something in the Bible. The question which must press right to the fore with us now is this - Is this something which really stands related to our own lives in the thought of God now? Unless it is, then let us put it away; life is too short and too full of problems and considerations for us to be occupied with things that really do not count in any real way. We do not want to be even occupied with the Bible as a book, however great a book it may be. The thing that really does concern us is whether God is saying anything to us now as to His mind. If so, let us listen with all the ears that we have inside and outside to know what it is that He has to say. And there is no doubt whatever - if only we will pause, stop, be quiet, and let Him speak - that there is a message from God in this chapter. It is not something of the past; it is something which goes on through this age and comes up again and again.
When you get to the eleventh chapter of the book of the Revelation, which chapter takes us very far on towards the end of the age, you find these very symbols used again: two olive trees, two witnesses. And they are standing there in Revelation to do tremendous things in relation to the Lord. This is something which governs, altogether apart from past, present and future. It is a spiritual thing which stands back of all things that are seen, and that is the thing that we have got to get hold of right away before we go any further with interpretation. The Word of God states it positively and precisely, that the things which are seen are the result of things which are not seen. There is something going on behind all that is seen which is producing the seen, and all that we are seeing, what we call history, is simply the outcome and outworking of what is going on in the unseen. A tremendous thing is going on behind the scenes; God is working things out there. Satan is fighting terrifically in the unseen to withstand the purposes of God, and what is taking place here is simply the repercussion of that unseen activity.
So you come to this chapter, and it is quite clear when you think of it, that that is where the chapter is. Here is an illustration given; it is only an illustration. It is just what we would do. We would say, "Now, it is like this..." and we would take an illustration, but the illustration only points to something other, something set forth in a figure, in a parable, in a type, and we say, "Now, let this represent so-and-so". And that is what God is saying here: "This that you see as in a vision is something which represents something else". Then you read the details, and you see that it does represent something else and it is not just an interesting figure.
Here then, is the candlestick with its seven branches, the bowl on the top of it, and seven pipes connecting with each of the seven lamps; on either side of the bowl two olive trees with two golden pipes emptying golden oil out of themselves, presumably, though not stated, into the bowl. And that is God's illustration of something that is in His mind and something that He is doing out of sight.
The Son of Oil
What is the candlestick? The answer precisely is that the candlestick is Christ. Christ is illustrated by a candlestick all of gold. What is a candlestick for? What is the effect and value of this candlestick? Well, it is Light and Life. You can see how all of a piece this is with Scripture. You come to the writings by John and you are right in the presence of this very thing. He begins his Gospel with Christ. "The Word was with God"; "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" - tabernacled among us, made His tabernacle among us. You go back to the tabernacle and right in the centre of the tabernacle is the lamp-stand or the candlestick with its seven branches. "He tabernacled among us" - and then what? - "the light and life of men".
You pass to the last thing that John wrote, the book of the Revelation, and at once you come upon seven golden lampstands, not one lampstand now, but a lampstand represented in a sevenfold way.
You go on with John again and you come to the two olive trees in the Revelation. It is all of a piece, this revelation, and what is it? It is Christ.
But here in this chapter - "...that stand by the Lord of the whole earth". The two olive trees stand by the Lord of all the earth. Where do they stand? One on one side and one on the other of the lampstand or candlestick. So this candlestick represents Christ as the Lord of all the earth, and that as Light and Life. Men cannot live without light and they cannot live without life, so He stands here as Lord to govern the very existence of men. He stands right over the very existence of men and men cannot live without Him, cannot know without Him. In that sense of the very virtue and value of what He is, man's life depends upon Him. He is Lord.
He is not Lord as a despot. He is Lord by what He is in His essential value. Suppose we were in an awful predicament which was a matter of life and death, so that just a crust of bread would save our life. Supposing a very puny little man we would heartily despise and hate in himself in his physical appearance and in what he is in himself, had a crust of bread to give. By reason of what he had to give, he is lord of our life. Whatever we may think of him in himself, by reason of what he is in his resource for us, he is our lord and master; our life depends on him. The Lord Jesus is not in Himself despicable, but what I am trying to impress is that it is in virtue of what He has and what He has is in virtue of what He is. He is Lord of all the earth. So the candlestick is the Lord Jesus, the Lord of Life and Lord of Light for all the earth.
Sons of Oil
But while this candlestick is one, it is a collective oneness, a collective unity. That is what is meant by bringing these passages together, for these two olive trees are two sons of oil. Now, undoubtedly that refers to the Lord Jesus Himself, two aspects of Christ as Lord of all. Sons of oil. But when you come over to Romans and Galatians as we have read, "If any man hath not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His"; "as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God." "Because ye are sons, God sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts." We know that the oil is always a type of the Holy Spirit, so that in Romans and Galatians there are other sons of oil. He is the great Son of oil. The anointing, the fulness of the Spirit, is with Him. But there are other sons of oil that have the Spirit also. They are sons because they have the Spirit. That is the collective aspect of the candlestick. It is a big thing with many branches, and you and I are branches if we have the Spirit of Christ, parts of Christ through whom His Spirit moves to make the testimony many-sided, far-reaching, with a wide range. That is, the whole testimony of the Lord Jesus demands the whole church, demands the members of Christ. It is a collective thing: sons in the Son, all possessing the Spirit and giving the value of the Spirit in Light and Life. That is the proof that we have the Spirit: that Light and Life in Christ is working through us, that men behold our good works and glorify our Father which is in heaven (Matt. 5:16). The proof that we have the Spirit, that we are sons of oil, is that the same effect is the result of our being here as was in His case. In other words, what the Lord Jesus is, is being expressed and manifested through us: Light and Life, Life and Light. That is the proof of sonship, that is the proof that we have the Spirit, that is the test.
Of course, in the actual setting of this for Israel at the moment, these two olive trees related to the two men with whom these prophecies are concerned, Joshua and Zerubbabel, two sides of one. Joshua was the High Priest, as you see by the context; Zerubbabel was the governor, the governor of Judah. Speak unto Joshua, the high priest, and to Zerubbabel the governor. These are the two sons of oil in Israel; that is, the governor and the high priest, the ruler and the mediator, the lord and the saviour. Transferred to Christ, that is exactly the double aspect of Christ as expressed in the power of the Holy Spirit: Lord and Saviour, Ruler and Mediator. It is His work as God's exalted One to the throne at His right hand. "God hath made Him a prince" (Acts 5:31) - that is where you start; "and a Saviour" - His work in grace. The Holy Spirit, then, is occupied with this twofold expression and manifestation of Christ in this age as Lord and Saviour, as Ruler and Mediator, as having all rights in authority and of grace. Joshua, Zerubbabel, both having their counterpart in Christ - Prince and Saviour.
The Oil of the Spirit
Now when you come to the oil here, you find two or three things that are connected with the oil, for what God is doing is to recover - and especially in a remnant - His full testimony. That is the history here. The captivity had taken place, a remnant had come back, they had set themselves to rebuild the house. They met many discouragements, many diversions, and so on, and the situation for Joshua and Zerubbabel was an exceedingly difficult one and they were tempted to give up, to lose heart, and then the Lord gives this vision that He, in the Unseen, is working. He is giving Himself to this end, to recover His full testimony in the midst of this remnant, this little company, the day of small things, a little remnant but not to be despised, because with them is God's full thought. So He gives this vision of the embodiment of His thought in the candlestick - Christ, and then the way in which He will realise it - by the oil of the Spirit.
And the first thing here, and this is very interesting to note, is that the prophet interrogates the interpreting angel with this question, "What are these?" What are these two olive trees? And the angel does not answer him directly, he evades the actual question and gives a larger answer. "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit". That is what these olive trees are; not a direct answer but a very much better one than saying, "These olive trees represent so-and-so". "The word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel". He is losing heart, he is feeling how impossible it is to recover all that has been lost and to establish it, how difficult the situation is, and then the word of the Lord is, "It is all going to be met, answered, solved and achieved by My Spirit, by the oil. The oil will do it, My Spirit will do it. 'Not by might', 'not by an army'" (margin). Zerubbabel might have said, "If only we had a mighty enough army, a great enough military force, if only we could overpower the opposition, establish things by force of arms! We have nothing, we are a weakened people, a wholly emaciated small company". "Not by an army" - an army is not necessary; "nor by power" - that is, temporal power, our own natural might; - "but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts".
The Power of the Spirit
We know how true that has proved in the church. Look at the church in its history in its earliest days. Was it a great temporal force on the earth? No, it was a small company, a weak, despised company. It had nothing of standing in this world, and it was right up against the greatest world empires that have been known, up against that mighty empire of Rome which was setting itself in all its power to quench this newborn church with all the persecutions and martyrdoms and imprisonments and scatterings, and yet where is the Roman Empire and where is the church? How was it done? "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit". The Spirit of God has done it and done it through small things.
We can make a personal application. What am I, what are you, what are we as individuals and as companies? What can we do in this thing - God's fullest thought concerning Christ? If we look at ourselves and our resources, our position, our standing, we might very well lose heart and give up. But "by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts". The first thing about the oil in this chapter and about the Spirit in the Word of God is that it is more powerful than all temporal and natural forces. The Spirit can do what seems impossible to man; the Holy Spirit can do it. That is the thing about the oil here - its mighty power to accomplish. It is only saying what Christ proved to be - the Light and the Life of men. Well, there may be many millions yet who are not saved, but go down through the twenty centuries of Christianity and see what Christ has become on this earth and how increasing a force He has become - the Light and the Life. There is no doubt about it. But how? Never by force of arms, never by any compulsion, but simply by the quiet, deep, unseen activity of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit, the oil, has done it. The power of the Spirit is the first thing that is here.
We mentioned one particular difficulty just now which is hinted at by that word "Who art thou, O great mountain?"; suddenly at that point. "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain." Suddenly the Divine interpreter breaks in with that interrogation to an unseen mountain, a very real mountain, not just a hypothetical mountain, but not a literal mountain of rock. These people knew what was meant, and Zerubbabel knew what was meant. This mountain is not an alien, a foreign power in this world. No, at this time those foreign powers who had taken them into captivity and exile had let the remnant go back, for Cyrus had given his decree for return and rebuilding. What was the great mountain? It was the set system of Judaism in its unbelief; the great religious system represented by the Jews in their unbelief. That was the great mountain; the same mountain as that to which the Lord Jesus Himself referred when He said to His disciples, "if you have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove" (Matt. 17:20). What is this mountain? The terrific force of organised Judaism, traditional religion.
There is no greater force in the way of the true testimony of Jesus and the pure working of the Holy Spirit than set and organised traditional religion. Nothing is a greater mountain. But to that great religious thing which is not of the Spirit, is not governed by the Holy Spirit, is not led by the Holy Spirit, is not a spiritual thing, which is such a menace and obstruction to what is of the Spirit, the Lord says, "Thou shalt become a plain before Zerubbabel, before Jesus as Lord". Jesus as Lord, the Zerubbabel aspect, the prince on the throne; before Him even this thing has got to yield. Some of us do know the terrible power of a set, fixed, established Christianity in its earthly form as a system, against the thing that is really spiritual, of the Holy Spirit, and how impossible it seems to get on in the presence of that. But here is the word - "Before Zerubbabel, before Jesus as Lord, thou shalt become a plain. Thou shalt say to this mountain, Be removed!" This is surely a word of heartening. You may have mountains, though not that particular mountain. You cannot have a mountain bigger than this one, all your mountains come within this same range. If Jesus is Lord, there is no mountain too much for Him. What is the mountain that is troubling you just now? That mountain can be made a plain when Jesus is Lord in your faith. When your faith lays hold of Him as Lord, there is nothing that cannot be levelled and be as nothing before Him. Power is a mark of the Spirit.
The Sufficiency of the Spirit
Look at all the things in this chapter which speak of sufficiency. Seven golden pipes with seven lamps and two olive trees, and then, strangely, the figure is changed and it is two branches. The olive trees had two branches that emptied oil from tree through branch into the great bowl upon the top, this emptying itself through all the pipes. It is a picture of fulness. Seven in Scripture is the number of spiritual fulness. It is not just a reservoir. Here are olive trees: there is no end to the supply. The Holy Spirit is sufficient, that is the point, sufficient for everything that God wants. If we are in what the Lord wants, then the Holy Spirit is all-sufficient for that; there is fulness.
The Spirit of Grace
Then another thing about the oil is that it is the oil of grace. The Holy Spirit is the grace of God in all sufficiency for whatever we need; grace however much we need grace, in whatever way we need grace. He is called "the Spirit of grace and supplication" (Zech. 12:10).
The Spirit's Work a Hidden One
I must not stop with all the details, but that is sufficient with, perhaps, one closing word. We must remember that the work that the Lord is doing, this testimony concerning His Son, this manifestation of the greatness, fulness and sufficiency of Christ is all spiritual. Zerubbabel thought in his difficulty, if only there were more temporal forces to count upon and natural resources to draw upon, if only he could see things happening and see God coming out and doing things before his eyes, if only it were in that realm of natural, sentient appreciation and apprehension, how much easier it would be. But the Lord says, "by My Spirit". We are not going to see God coming out in mighty manifestations of His power as we might see things done by a great army, temporal forces. It is going to be hidden, secret, quiet, without demonstration. We are not going to see much at all in that realm, but the most tremendous, the most terrific thing that is happening in this universe will be going on. That is why that little phrase, that little question, is put in - "Who hath despised the day of small things?" "By my Spirit", says the Lord of hosts, before whom the great mountain comes down and is like a plain.
That tremendous thing, that mountain-removing, levelling power, is done in a day of small things, a remnant despised, laughed at. You know how they laughed at them when Nehemiah started to build the wall. They laughed, scoffed, made jokes. "If a fox go up, he shall break down their stone wall"! - that sort of thing. Little, despised people, and yet this infinite power of God working through that despised people, and the result was that it was more than a match for all the powers that be. That is the history of anything that God has done. It may not seem like that, and this word is to recall us, perhaps rebuke us, but also to enhearten us and to encourage.
The Lord is set upon something. Are we sure about it? What is He set upon? If what I am saying now is not true, we had better quit. God's concern is Jesus Christ - to have Him established in this universe as Lord of all. Now, is that true? But there is another thing which goes with it - is God bent upon having that through us, through a people? Are we bound up with that? Have we been called for that very purpose - to be the means, the instrument, the channel, of establishing the testimony of Jesus, that is, the Lordship of Christ and the sovereignty of Christ? If we are not in it, let us quit, I say. This is either true or not true. Then, if it is true, what about the difficulties, difficulties in ourselves, difficulties outside, a mighty enemy, all set against it? How are we going to meet this great mountain? "By My Spirit". We also are sons of oil. The whole point upon which this turns for us is this: He is the fulness and we are partakers of His fulness. The same thing is said of us as of Jesus Christ; the difference is in measure - He is the fulness and we are partakers of His fulness. We are not Christ personally, we are not God's Son in that essential sense, but the same thing is said about us. "Sons of oil"; that is, joined to the Lord like those branches to the stem, one with the centre, joined to Him in organic union. The same Spirit as was in Him, flowed through Him, worked through Him and triumphed through Him, is in us. We are sons in that sense, we have the Spirit of Christ.
The same Spirit that has triumphed through Him is working and going to work out His triumph through us. "Not by might". What might are you looking for, what power? "By My Spirit" - there is nothing that can match that. The difficulty is we always want to feel and see, and the Lord works so quietly. See what man's workings are like, trying to blast a way with terrific force, a way to power, to pre-eminence. How long will it last if they get it? See what man does to get his dominion; the crash, and noise, and thunder of it all, the power demonstrated; to nature it is awful, a shattering thing. That is man's way of getting pre-eminence. Go out into the garden. See what that little buried seed has to contend with, maybe tons of soil, surrounded by stones and rock and the forces of death working upon it. Slowly it comes up; the tons of soil give way, even the rock has to yield. It comes up: you hear no sound, you will not hear splitting and rending rocks, but up it comes. Eventually it will be a mighty tree. You heard nothing, there was no demonstration, no shouting. It was just the power of life quietly at work, but it has done the thing, it is there, it is triumphant. That is what we have to be satisfied with, and it is so difficult for these souls of ours to be satisfied with that. We must have display, we must have something that speaks of power, position, so that we are somebody. The Lord says, "No, none of that; My way is the quiet way of the Spirit".
The greatest power in this universe is that quiet working of the Spirit; the end will be with that. The Lord give us grace to accept this as His own word to us.