God’s prophetic message for Zechariah and his people offers an encouraging word for us as well. The world may never notice or even care about us, but if what we do is done for the Lord and in His power, we can be sure He will notice and approve of our efforts.
Night Visions of Future Glory
Well, I hope you are up for a challenge, because these next four visions in chapters 4 to 6 of Zechariah are going to make you think.
Last time we looked at the first four visions given to Zechariah. The fifth vision is now described in chapter 4.
The angel who had spoken to Zechariah before (see 1:9, 13) alerts him to this next vision. Here is what Zechariah sees: “a lampstand all of gold . . . and seven lamps on it” (verse 2). Verse 3 adds, “There are two olive trees by it, one on the right . . . and the other on its left.” Verse 12 describes pipes carrying a constant flow of olive oil from the trees to the lampstand. This lampstand, or menorah, is a symbol of Israel, which was meant to be a light to the nations.
Zechariah needs some help understanding the vision. So, the angel explains that it is a message for Zerubbabel, the governor of Jerusalem. He is the one who led the first return of Jewish people back to Judah and initiated the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem.
Here is the message for him in verse 6—and you might recognize it: “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says the Lord of hosts.”
This is given to Zerubbabel, but the principle is an important one for all of us. We will not find satisfaction in any work we do just for ourselves and only by ourselves. It is only when we invite God to get involved and we depend on the power of His Spirit that we find true joy and satisfaction.
The Lord then speaks to Zechariah in verse 9: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it.” How encouraging this promise must be to Governor Zerubbabel: he is going to see the temple rebuilt in his lifetime. But he is not going to take the credit because this will be accomplished by the protection and power of God’s Spirit.
In verse 10 the Lord says, “Whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice.” Some people who had seen Solomon’s temple before it was destroyed wept at the small foundation of this new temple (Ezra 3:12). But when empowered by the Spirit, “small things” are worth rejoicing over. Even though this temple will be smaller and less magnificent than Solomon’s temple, God will be honored—and that is what matters most.
Now Zechariah is a little confused about these two olive trees. So, the angel explains, “These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth” (verse 14).
We’re not told their meaning, but as one commentator notes, these anointed ones probably represent “Joshua [the high priest] and Zerubbabel . . . as God’s channels through whom the Spirit of God [blesses] the whole nation.”
So, this vision is incredibly encouraging to these hardworking, former exiles and their governor, Zerubbabel. God is going to complete the temple through them. Keep in mind that this vision also points to a future Jerusalem in the coming kingdom of Christ, when Jesus, both king and priest, will reign; in His kingdom, Israel will become the light to the world it was intended to be.
Vision number six is briefly recorded in the first four verses of chapter 5. Here Zechariah sees a huge flying scroll. The angel explains that one side of the scroll contains a curse on those who steal, and the other side has a curse on those who swear falsely. This vision promises that God’s justice will fall on those who practice these sins.
You might wonder why these sins are singled out. I personally think they represent sins we do against others (that’s stealing) and sins we commit against God (that’s swearing falsely).
This vision also points to the end times, when unbelievers are removed from Israel before the Messiah’s reign begins.
The rest of chapter 5 presents the seventh of Zechariah’s night visions. It is another vision of God’s judgment on sin, but it doesn’t focus on the individual sinner, but on the entire nation as guilty of sin.
The angel directs the prophet to a large basket and tells him, “This is their iniquity in all the land” (verse 6). When the lid is removed from the basket, Zechariah sees a woman inside. The angel explains in verse 8 that her name is “Wickedness,” and he quickly puts the lid back on the basket.
Then, rather suddenly, two women—with wings—lift up the basket and fly away. When Zechariah asks about this, the angel says they are taking the basket to “Shinar, to build a house for it” (verse 11).
What in the world is going on here? Obviously, the woman in the basket represents sin, and she is removed from the land and taken to Shinar, which is Babylonia. This is a more appropriate place for her, and a house is built for her there, which more than likely refers to a pagan temple. This vision may point to the rebuilding of Babylon during the tribulation period and the false religion there that defies the Messiah (Revelation 17–18).
In chapter 6, we have the final night vision. Here Zechariah sees four chariots. One chariot is pulled by red horses, another is pulled by black horses, another by white horses, and the last one by dappled horses. That must have been a commanding sight. The angel explains in verse 5, “These are going out to the four winds of heaven, after presenting themselves before the Lord of all the earth.”
This means they are going out as agents of God’s judgment on all the earth. The Lord says here in verse 8, “Those who go toward the north country have set my Spirit at rest.” In other words, God is pleased with the judgment they have carried out.
Not only will Israel be purged of sinners, but the pagan nations around the world will be subjected to the wrath of a just God. Again, this describes the tribulation period preceding Christ’s return to earth.
Now with these night visions completed, Zechariah hears directly from the Lord, who tells him in verse 11 to make a crown of silver and gold and “set it on the head of Joshua . . . the high priest.” This is not just a recognition of Joshua as God’s chosen high priest; it is a prophetic message to all Israel. Here is what Zechariah is to say to Joshua:
“Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. . . . and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne.”
This is fascinating. Israel’s kings were to be from the tribe of Judah, Jesus’ tribe. Priests came from the tribe of Levi. But here the Levitical priest is crowned like a king and addressed as “the Branch,” a title for the Messiah (see 3:9).
So, here in this humble setting of an incomplete temple building, God is telling His people that He is paving the way for the promised Messiah, who will reign as King one day—and serve as our Great High Priest.
What we see in these visions five hundred years before Christ’s birth is God calling these Jewish people to see everything in their lives—their labor, their hopes, their future—as connected to the coming Christ and His kingdom. And so it is for us, beloved. Everything we are and do in this life, no matter how insignificant it might seem, is to be connected to Him. Whatever it is you are doing, do it, not depending on your own power or strength, but in the power of God’s Spirit. And as the apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” That is our purpose in life today.
 Charles L. Feinberg, The Minor Prophets (Moody Press, 1990), 292.