Zechariah needs a wakeup call today. Yesterday was exhausting, eh? There’s a state called ‘waked’ these days, which few of us can claim. “Sometimes I Wish My Eyes Had Never Been Opened” is a feminist anthem of the 1970’s, written by Carole Etzler – listen to it online sometime.
Visualize a lampstand flanked by a pair of olive trees. You might start with a menorah, the Jewish symbol of Hanukkah, (December 2-10 this year, but December 22-30 in 2019). That festival celebrates a miracle of a bit of olive oil continuing to burn in the temple when it should have run out – part of the Maccabbean reclamation of the temple after Hasmonean desecration.
This lampstand is fed by olive oil from the pair of olive trees – it won’t run out of fuel either. Call me lazy, but I associate the Persian-appointed governor Zerubabbel, and the high priest Joshua, with the trees feeding the lampstand. This is a jurisprudential and ecclesiological model, in our petty modern terms: Zerubabbel is not ruling by might or power, but by God’s will. Revolutionary.
In Zechariah’s vision of cosmic context, the civil authority during the reconstruction of the temple is legitimized as a partner of the religious authority. What’s your vision of religious and political legitimacy, in relation to cosmic or divine order? That’s the scale of today’s reading.
Zechariah 4 (NRSV)
1 The angel who talked with me came again, and wakened me, as one is wakened from sleep.
2He said to me, ‘What do you see?’ And I said, ‘I see a lampstand all of gold, with a bowl on the top of it; there are seven lamps on it, with seven lips on each of the lamps that are on the top of it.
3And by it there are two olive trees, one on the right of the bowl and the other on its left.’
4I said to the angel who talked with me, ‘What are these, my lord?’
5Then the angel who talked with me answered me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’
6He 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 of hosts.
7What are you, O great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain; and he shall bring out the top stone amid shouts of “Grace, grace to it!” ’
8 Moreover, the word of the LORD came to me, saying,
9‘The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it. Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you.
10For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel. ‘These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.’
11Then I said to him, ‘What are these two olive trees on the right and the left of the lampstand?’
12And a second time I said to him, ‘What are these two branches of the olive trees, which pour out the oil* through the two golden pipes?’
13He said to me, ‘Do you not know what these are?’ I said, ‘No, my lord.’
14Then he said, ‘These are the two anointed ones who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.’