The worldview of the godly Jew at the time of Christ was steeped in the prophecies of Zechariah. At every point in the unfolding story of Jesus in the four gospels, loomed the large shadow of Zechariah the prophet.
Zechariah’s Link to the Christmas story
The Holy Spirit is the olive oil that fuels the lampstand. The golden lampstand is the people of God through whom the Spirit of God flows. The seven lamps represent the testimony of God to the “whole world,” illuminating the truth of God in witness to the peoples of the world. The temple in Jerusalem anchored that testimony to the messianic plan and purposes of God. God’s supposed presence in the temple at Jerusalem kept hope alive for many as they awaited the coming of the Messiah.
When the vision was given initially to Zechariah, the feeble post-exilic Jewish community in Jerusalem and those Jewish people remaining in the countries of their exile, constituted the lampstand of God’s testimony to the world. The influence of God’s chosen people appeared small and ineffective, but in reality, it was mighty and vibrant as shown in the Christmas temple testimonies of Simeon and Anna to the baby Jesus.
Simeon and Anna Bear Testimony to the Promised Messiah
500 years after the visions of Zechariah, Joseph and Mary brought the newborn baby Jesus into the temple. When Simeon placed his eyes upon the baby, he exclaimed, “…my eyes have seen your salvation that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light to the Gentiles, and for glory to your people Israel” (Luke 30-32). Anna, the aged widow of 84 years who was continually in the temple, “began to give thanks to God and to speak of him to all who were waiting for the redemption of Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38). Simeon, Anna, and others were well-informed in the teachings of the prophets, especially the prophecies reported by Zechariah in the eight visions given to him on February 15, 519 B.C.
The Father of John the Baptist Gave Witness to the Promised Messiah
Six months before the birth of Jesus, John the Baptist was born. Upon John’s birth, Zechariah the father of John gave witness to the imminent coming of the Messiah in the spirit of the visions of his namesake Zechariah, who lived 500 years before him.
Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people and raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us; to show mercy promised to our fathers and to remember his holy covenant, the oath that he swore to our father Abraham, to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; and you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death…. (Luke 1:68-79)
The messianic prophecies of Zechariah are no less true today than they were when Zechariah wrote them in 519 BC or when Simeon, Anna, the father of John the Baptist, and others gave testimony to Jesus as the Messiah in accord with the visions of Zechariah.