Despite its importance as the first structure wherein God made His presence manifest among the people of Israel, the tabernacle was only a temporary dwelling that King Solomon later replaced with the temple (2 Chron. 7:1–3). Solomon’s temple, however, stood only about four hundred years, being destroyed by the Babylonians in 586 BC. At that point, the vessels used in the temple, including the golden lampstand, were also carried off to Babylon (2 Kings 24:10–17).
We could by no means overestimate the importance of the exile to redemptive history, nor could we overestimate the joy the people felt when, in 538 BC, God appointed King Cyrus of Persia to return His people to their land (2 Chron. 36:22–23). Once in the land, the nation began rebuilding the temple and its furniture, including the lampstand first mentioned in Exodus 25:31–40.
Zechariah the prophet was commissioned during this restoration period to encourage the returned exiles to complete the rebuilding of the temple, which had run into difficulties because of Israel’s lack of faithfulness (Hag. 1:1–6) and opposition from neighboring peoples (Neh. 4:1–14). The immensity of the task and the paltry resources of the Israelites did not help, and the people despaired over the inglorious nature of the kingdom.
Yet the Lord’s determination to build His temple was not thwarted, which is one of the main points of today’s passage. Zechariah’s vision of a new lampstand (Zech. 4:1–3) meant that God would certainly build His house, for the lampstand would be useless without the temple. Though the restoration was troubled and it was a day of meager beginnings, Israel would one day rejoice in fullness (vv. 8–10a).
The restoration, in fact, would be so great that the light of the lampstand would never go out. Zechariah also saw two olive trees, one on either side of the lampstand, which continually dispensed oil to the stand via golden pipes (vv. 10b–14). With a continual supply of oil, the wicks would always burn and the light would continually shine. Ultimately, this points to the true Light who came into the world to shine forth God’s grace and build a living temple to honor our Father (John 1:1–18; 1 Peter 2:1–5). By His Spirit, this Light would restore glory to His covenant people (Zech. 4:4–7).