Scripture Focus: Zechariah 4.5
5 He answered, “Do you not know what these are?”
“No, my lord,” I replied.

Reflection: Confused Along with the Prophets
By Erin Newton

Zechariah is one of the more difficult texts of the Old Testament. Like the prophet, I read these passages and think, “I have no idea what he’s talking about.” Thankfully, Zechariah was equally confused.

The setting for Zechariah is after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. Solomon’s Temple was a pile of rubble (perhaps even the mountain mentioned in verse 7). Zechariah’s visions were of hope and restoration in the midst of suffering and doubt.

The imagery is somewhat mysterious—golden lampstands with branches and channels. The lampstand is representative of God, whose eyes are on the work of the people.

A message was also given to Zerubbabel. These additional statements interrupt Zechariah’s vision and the conversation he was having with the angel. Despite the erratic conversation bouncing from one topic to the next, the interruptions add to the overall message. There are answers within the chaos. Zerubbabel will finish the temple. The work of restoration that seems insurmountable will indeed find completion.

I tried to look through various commentaries, hoping to find scholars far more skilled and familiar with Zechariah to help explain exactly what these images mean. You know what? Everyone is a little bit perplexed. Part of me gets frustrated when I read passages that make me scratch my head. Looking for clarity here, I find whole crowds of biblically trained headscratchers.

Nevertheless, this head-scratching scene is one of hope—and the hope part of the vision is clear. The temple will be completed. God is present. God is watching over them. The presence of God with his people in this restored temple is prophesied as a certain future.  

Isn’t this the beauty of Scripture sometimes? The vision that is vague in some places and clear in others coincides with the complexity and confusion of our lives.

Zechariah looks out on the piles of stones that once formed the magnificent temple. Zerubbabel was stirred by the Holy Spirit to work on rebuilding the temple (Haggai 1.14), but the work is fraught with difficulties. Zechariah declares, however, it is by God’s power that the work gets done.

In a strange way, I am thankful for these complicated and confusing passages. The vision of our future is always filled with questions. What we see as a mess, God sees as a future of hope. What we fear is up to us, God knows he can empower.

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
The Lord is in his holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before him. Amen. 

– From The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

​Today’s Readings
Zechariah 4 (Listen 1:53)
Luke 13 (Listen 5:02)

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