Then the angel who talked with me returned and woke me up, like someone awakened from sleep. He asked me, “What do you see?”
I answered, “I see a solid gold lampstand with a bowl at the top and seven lamps on it, with seven channels to the lamps. Also there are two olive trees by it, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.”
I asked the angel who talked with me, “What are these, my lord?”
He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.
So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.
“What are you, mighty mountain? Before Zerubbabel you will become level ground. Then he will bring out the capstone to shouts of ‘God bless it! God bless it!’”
Reflection We are in some kind of dreamland this time. Zechariah is shown a golden lampstand with seven lamps, similar to menorah lamps of today. This probably refers to the large lampstand that would have been part of the temple ‘furniture’, constantly kept burning to symbolize the light of God. In the vision there are olive trees, one either side of the lamp, representing the oil needed to fuel it. The temple is not yet rebuilt, so Zechariah isn’t seeing reality. The message being conveyed confirms that God (the lampstand) will return to dwell in the temple when the work is complete. It depicts both the High Priest and the Governor (the trees) as servants of God, working together as co-leaders in Jerusalem to sustain the covenant relationship between God and people. It’s a picture of religious and civil authorities with shared responsibility for community wellbeing and a shared awareness of their own dependence upon God.
Zechariah asks what the vision means but the response implies that he ought to be able to understand. He’s given an oracle to convey to Zerubbabel: he will oversee rebuilding the temple and ceremonially add its top stone; but only if he acts in the power of God without any attempt at self-aggrandizement. This prophecy wasn’t fulfilled, we don’t know what happened to Zerubbabel.
The vision of a God centred society in which religious and political figures co-operate as equals towards a common goal may seem idealistic and unrealizable in today’s world; but it’s a vision of the kingdom of heaven come on earth for which we pray in the Lord’s prayer. As Christian we are commissioned to bring this kingdom nearer, empowered by the Holy Spirit. Let’s ensure we don’t try to take any credit for ourselves – lest our work comes to nothing.
Prayer Eternal God, the world says religion and politics shouldn’t mix; but you teach they belong together in your kingdom.
The Rev’d Dr Janet Tollington is a retired minister living in Cambridgeshire; she is a member of Downing Place URC in Cambridge.