"What will these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves?" Zechariah 4:12.
Oil From the Olive Trees
"Godís people are to be channels for the outworking of the highest influence in the universe. In Zechariahís vision the two olive trees which stand before God are represented as emptying the golden oil out of themselves through golden tubes into the bowl of the sanctuary. From this the lamps of the sanctuary are fed, that they may give a continuous bright and shining light. So from the anointed ones that stand in Godís presence the fullness of divine light and love and power is imparted to His people, that they may impart to others light and joy and refreshing. They are to become channels through which divine instrumentalities communicate to the world the tide of Godís love."óTestimonies, vol. 6, pp. 11, 12.
To Godís beleaguered people, struggling against the weight of inherited and acquired traits which tend to keep them from meeting His standards, Zechariahs vision of the two olive trees affords a promise that is precious indeed.
"I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: and two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof." "And I answered again, and said unto him, What be these two olive branches which through the two golden pipes empty the golden oil out of themselves? ... Then said he, These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth." Zechariah 4:2, 3,12-14.
Originally the message was sent through the prophet to Zerubbabel, who was entrusted with the task of restoring not only the city of Jerusalem and the Judean countryside, but also the morale of the chosen people. He was their governor attending to the resettlement of Israel upon their return from the Babylonian captivity. The number willing to tear up the roots they had put down into Chaldean soil for some seventy years was not large in comparison with the hordes who had been carried away into captivity. The Promised Land had lain waste during their absence. Return meant hard work with little material gain until Jerusalem could be rebuilt and the land brought back into productivity. Only those to whom the word of God meant more than personal prosperity responded to Zerubbabelís call. Undoubtedly many of those with the greatest personal wealth chose to remain in Babylon. Hence the resources of the returning pilgrims were comparatively modest and the result of their handiwork insignificant when contrasted with the ancient splendor the oldest of them could still recall. The glory which Jerusalem knew during the reigns of David and Solomon had departed.
"Behold, we are servants this day, and for the land that Thou gavest unto our fathers to eat the fruit thereof and the good thereof, behold, we are servants in it: and it yieldeth much increase unto the kings whom Thou hast set over us because of our sins: also they have dominion over our bodies, and over our cattle, at their pleasure, and we are in great distress." Nehemiah 9:36, 37.
Human nature tends to reckon progress by the standards of the world. Outward appearance, material wealth, political alliances, the prestige of armed mightóthese all count high in manís estimate of importance and power. So it was with ancient Israel and so it still is with spiritual Israel, unless the Spirit of God leads the way.
In Zerubbabelís day the people mourned because the temple they were able to erect with the means at hand was a far cry from the glorious and world-famous structure built by Solomon some five hundred years before. They viewed the modest building with sinking hearts and wondered how God could ever fulfill His promise, under existing circumstances, to make Israel "the head, and not the tail."
"And the Lord shall make thee the head, and not the tail; and thou shalt be above only, and thou shalt not be beneath; if that thou hearken unto the commandments of the Lord thy God, which I command thee this day, to observe and to do them." Deuteronomy 28:13.
They had forgotten that Godís promises to Israel were conditional and that the fulfillment thereof depended on their obedience to their covenant obligations. They had forgotten, too, the lesson God sought to teach them in Zechariahís vision of the olive trees, that the source of the power Godís people were to display to the world did not lie in worldly might, but His Spirit. The angel stated plainly: "This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts.... For who hath despised the day of small things" Zechariah 4:6-10.
"Throughout the history of Godís people great mountains of difficulty, apparently insurmountable, have loomed up before those who were trying to carry out the purposes of Heaven. Such obstacles are permitted by the Lord as a test of faith. When we are hedged about on every side, this is the time above all others to trust in God and in the power of His Spirit. The exercise of a living faith means an increase of spiritual strength and the development of an unfaltering trust. It is thus that the soul becomes a conquering power." óProphets and Kings, pages 594, 595.
Spiritual Israel in the twentieth century might well ponder the lesson presented through the prophet Zechariah. Her might to accomplish Godís commission lies not in intellectual prowess, important as this is; nor in material possessions, as necessary as they may be; nor yet in hardheaded common-sense planning, valuable as this undoubtedly is. Godís purposes are to be divulged by His Holy Spirit, to be comprehended by men after earnest seasons of united prayer, as they leave their minds open to the mind of God. Intellectual prowess, material wealth, and hardheaded common sense all have their placeóbut in the carrying out of Godís directives, not in the formulating of them. The work is the Lordís, and His Viceregent is among His people to make known to them Godís will. There must be more tarrying before the Lord until His will is plainly seen.
"Let the Lordís messengers go unto the mercy seat, that they may receive wisdom and grace to know God, to understand His workings. Knowledge of God will give them well-balanced minds and sound judgment, that they will not move impulsively at this critical, important time of earthís history. …
"Our only safety will be found in constantly seeking wisdom from God, in carefully weighing every matter with much fear and trembling, lest there should be brought into the work not the light of heaven, but the weakness of man."
"Let there be more dependence upon the efficiency of the Holy Spirit, and far less upon human agencies. …
"When human agents choose the will of God, and are conformed to the character of Christ, Jesus acts through their organs and faculties. They put aside all selfish pride, all manifestation of superiority, all arbitrary exactions, and manifest the meekness and lowliness of Christ. It is no more themselves that live and act, but it is Christ that lives and acts through them."óTestimonies to Ministers, pages 210, 211, 215.
This alone is the secret of spiritual power, symbolized by the oil which, though in short supply in the Lamps of the foolish virgins, is represented in Zechariahís vision as being continually poured out in ample measure into the bowl from which the sanctuary lamps are fed. The constant supply of this golden oil, the prophet saw as two olive trees standing close by the throne of God, receiving and transmitting all that men need in order to become the children of Cod.
Centuries later, in another age, John the revelator had a similar vision. He saw "two witnesses" "clothed in sackcloth," and was informed by an angel that "these are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth." Revelation 11:3, 4. In Zechariahís day there was but one candlestick, but in Johnís day there were two.
"Concerning the two witnesses the prophet declares further: ĎThese are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth.í ĎThy word,í said the psalmist, Ďis a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.í Revelation 11:4; Psalm 119:105. The two witnesses represent the Scriptures of the Old and the New Testament."óThe Great Controversy, page 267.
In New Testament days there are two candlesticks to furnish light on the pathway of the saints, while in the Old Testament era there was but one such source of light. Yet whether before Christís day or since, the two holy ones stand by Godís throne, ready to receive His blessings and communicate them to men. These are heavenly intelligences commissioned to impart the will of God to mankindóHis angels. Lucifer might still occupy this place of high rank in Godís redemptive work, as covering cherub standing next to the throne of God. No longer permitted access to the presence of God, Lucifer has been replaced by the angel Gabriel, we are told. We do not know he name of the covering cherub who stands on the other side of the throne.
The messages received directly from the throne of the universe have been poured into the receptacle whence they are made available to all mankind. In the long centuries before the advent of Christ, "holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost." 2 Peter 1:21. What God needed to reveal to sinful man "He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began." Luke 1:70. Gradually the bowl of the Old Testament filled with the writings of Moses, Samuel, David, Isaiah, Daniel, Ezra, and others. The lamps of individual men and women were fed from this source and kept burning steadily through the centuries before Christ. Angels winged their way to and from this earth, bringing light and encouragement to those whose lives showed the way for others to know and follow God. The precious words in the books that slowly accumulated were watched over and made clear to menís minds by these heavenly guardians. Literal Israel, undependable as the nation proved to be, was nevertheless a depository for the golden oil of Godís word, that future generations might walk in the light it kindled.
Then the Wonderful One, whose identity was clearly limned in the glow of that one candlestick, came to tabernacle among men. Never before had the golden oil afforded such a brilliant light as that which shone in Galilee and in Judea. Soon there was another candlestick with its brimming bowl to fuel the little lamps that were increasing throughout the earth. Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, James, Peter, and Jude each poured into it the living words that have stirred the world since the time of Christ. Still the two olive trees receive fresh supplies from God to communicate to man, so that light on manís pathway may grow increasingly brighter. Godís supply is limitless, and He is willing to impart. Why, then, are there so many stumbling along dark pathways with unlighted lamps? Why are half of the virgins defeated in their quest for entrance into the kingdom because of a short supply of the precious oil?
The hindrance in the flow of the oil lies not in the golden pipes through which the oil flows from the olive trees into the bowls of the candlesticks. These are clear channels which come straight from the throne of God. But the flow is obstructed on its way into the individual lamps of our hearts. No matter how accessible the Bible may be, when men and women are clinging to self, plainest truths seem obscure and garbled.
"Each person has his own light to keep burning; and if the heavenly oil is emptied into these lamps through the golden pipes; if the vessels are emptied of self, and prepared to receive the holy oil, light will be shed on the sinnerís path to some purpose. More light will be shed on the pathway of the wanderer by one such lamp than by a whole procession of torchlights gotten up for show. Personal consecration and sanctification to God will bring better results than the most imposing display... . Each consecrated vessel will daily have the holy oil emptied into it to be emptied out into other vessels."óTestimonies, vol. 6, p.116.
What is this divine endowment so necessary to our spiritual growth, and how may it be obtained?
"There is no time now for self-pleasing. The lamps of the soul must be trimmed. They must be supplied with the oil of grace.... We should daily obtain a deep and living experience in the work of perfecting Christian character. We should daily receive the holy oil, that we may impart to others.... From the two olive trees the golden oil flowing through the golden pipes has been communicated to us. But those who do not cultivate the spirit and habit of prayer cannot expect to receive the golden oil of goodness, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, love."óTestimonies to Ministers, pages 510, 511.
Here are the characteristics of the Godhead. What God is, He delights to impart to us, if we but make room to receive it. Such pure qualities can never mix with the tainted stuff of selfishness. It is Godís avowed purpose that we be "filled with all the fullness of God." Ephesians 3:19. Thus would men be endowed "that they might have life . . . more abundantly." John 10:10.
This precious heritage available to His adopted children is the more important since it is intended not only for their personal growth but also to enable them to further enlarge the heavenly family. Only as the individual lamps are alight will Godís church finish her task of carrying Christ to the world. It is for this twofold purpose that the elaborate system of supply direct from the throne of God has been set up. When the virgins are careless in their individual lives, they are responsible for delaying Christís return and prolonging human misery.
"From the two olive trees, the golden oil was emptied through golden pipes into the bowl of the candlestick and thence into the golden lamps that gave light to the sanctuary. So from the holy ones that stand in Godís presence, His Spirit is imparted to human instrumentalities that are consecrated to His service. The mission of the two anointed ones is to communicate light and power to Godís people. It is to receive blessing for us that they stand in Godís presence. As the olive trees empty themselves into the golden pipes, so the heavenly messengers seek to communicate all that they receive from God. The whole heavenly treasure awaits our demand and reception; and as we receive the blessing, we in our turn are to impart it. Thus it is that the holy lamps are fed, and the church becomes a light bearer in the world."óibid., p. 510.
When once Godís people awaken to the marvelous results to themselves and to the church resulting from this plentiful supply of "the golden oil of goodness, patience, long-suffering, gentleness, love," they will set store by these qualities that can come only from a daily close association with the Spirit of God. Morning by morning they will consecrate themselves to His keeping, and will see developing within themselves a sanctified spirit which will declare a kinship between themselves and their heavenly Father. There will be a marked difference in their witnessing. Where once the words of truth spoken in human wisdom have cut and exasperated the hearts of others, now these words will be given with such love and compassion that hearts will be moved and tendered and won by the mighty power of God.
"Every sermon you preach, every article you write, may all be true; but one drop of gall in it will be poison to the hearer or the reader. Because of that drop of poison, one will discard all your good and acceptable words. Another will feed on the poison; for he loves such harsh words; he follows your example, and talks just as you talk. Thus the evil is multiplied.
"Those who present the eternal principles of truth need the holy oil emptied from the two olive branches into the heart. This will flow forth in words that will reform, but not exasperate. The truth is to be spoken in love. Then the Lord Jesus by His Spirit will supply the force and the power. That is His work."óTestimonies, vol. 6, p.123.
"Many seem to think the time lost that is devoted to seeking the Lord. But when He comes in to co-operate with human effort, and men and women co-operate with Him, a marked change will be seen in the work and in the results. Every heart that has been visited by he bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness will reveal the working of the Spirit of God in voice, mind, and character. The machinery will move as if oiled and guided by a masterly hand. There will be less friction when the spirit of the worker receives the oil from the two olive branches. The holy influences will be imparted to others in words of kindness, tenderness, love, and encouragement."óibid., vol. 7, pp. 195, 196.
This then is the demonstration of Godís power for which the world is waiting. Not until this experience is held aloft for all to see, can the world recognize that Godís plan for manís redemption was really worth the tremendous cost. Then and then only can our earth be lightened with the glory of the "fourth angel."
"And after these things I saw another angel come down from heaven, having great power; and the earth was lightened with his glory." Revelation 18:1.
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