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The "Branch" Promised
The next vision that came before the prophet Zechariah is that of "Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him" ( Zec 3:1 ). We are to understand by the pronoun in this verse God, and to read thus: And God showed me Joshua the high priest. The prophet was attended by an angel; it is important to notice the function of that angel, and to remember that it was limited to the explanation, and not to the revelation of the visions. God himself is the revealer of vision, the source of all true dream and imagination; all that even angels can do is of the nature of explanation. This is particularly true even of the Christian ministry. Ministers do not invent their facts, or formulate their own doctrines, or originate their own ideas of redemption and sanctification. In proportion as they are true and faithful ministers they will go to the Bible itself to see what God has shown the human family, and will ask of God power to explain the vision to those who wonder as to its meaning. Joshua the high priest must be regarded here as standing representatively when we read of him that he was "clothed with filthy garments." The picture of Joshua and the angel is one of vivid and impressive contrast; the one was a priestly man representing all the iniquity of his people, and the other was the radiant angel, typifying in a limited degree the holiness and beauty of God. A remarkable incident is that of Satan standing at the right hand of the high priest to resist him, or to be his adversary. These things are an allegory. We can understand them better by looking at the painful facts of our own experience. We cannot account for it, but we are bound to acknowledge that there are in life two wholly different personalities or ministries; we may even call them influences, and still we shall not lose the effect of the appalling and instructive doctrine. Satan is always standing at the right hand of the good man. For some purpose of education, which lies now completely beyond our apprehension, it would seem to be needful that the devil should accompany us throughout the whole journey of life. The consolatory reflection is that this hated companion, this hated shadow, is continually under the rebuke of God.
"The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee" ( Zec 3:2 ).
Yet the enemy is not destroyed. We are bound, therefore, upon a large survey of divine thought and action, to believe that this evil shadow, this tormenting presence, this desolating ministry, is in some sense part of the agency created and controlled by God for the full development of human nature. We must either look upon Satan as an accident, or as an appointment; if as an accident, it would seem to charge God with some measure of weakness or inability; if as an appointment, though we cannot escape the suggestion of mystery, yet we are able to see in that mystery the concealment of the highest beneficence.
The filthy garments with which Joshua was clothed were but for a time. The angel said:
"Take away the filthy garments from him, and unto Joshua he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment" ( Zec 3:4 ).
Here is the great action of pardon. It does not lie within human power to forgive in any but a most superficial sense; with God alone is the prerogative of forgiveness. The Lord said unto David, by the mouth of the prophet Nathan, "The Lord also hath put away thy sin." When the high priest is clothed with raiment of glory and beauty, he represents the ideal state of the Church. Unless we are filled with ideals, and especially with the ideal of Christ, it will be impossible for us to save ourselves from the enfeebling and corrupting influence of fear. Let us keep our eyes therefore upon the High Priest, even upon Christ. "He is clothed with the glory of God"; as he is so are we to be, though at present we are conscious of guilt within and without. What we are in reality, we may see by looking upon Christ in the days of his humiliation, when he who knew no sin was made sin for us, when he took upon him our iniquities and carried our sins, and was clothed with all the filthiness of our corruptness. In both aspects Christ is to be regarded as purely priestly or typical: in the one case, we see what we are; in the other case, we see what we may be.
In the eighth verse we come upon the familiar title of the Branch, "I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH." Isaiah had said, "In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious for the escaped of Israel." Again: "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots." Jeremiah exclaims, "Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch.... In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of righteousness to grow up unto David, and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land." As the branch proceeds from the vine, so the Son proceeds from the Father. By that sovereignty of action which is characteristic of the Divine Being, Jesus Christ changed the relation when speaking to his disciples, and called himself the Vine, and the disciples the branches. The change is only one of metaphor, it is not one of reality. Christ is both root and stem, both vine and branch; yet he who called himself the Light of the world was not ashamed to look upon his disciples, and describe them in their ideal relations as being themselves the light of the world.
The stone spoken of in the ninth verse it is impossible fully to explain: the stone is one, but upon the one stone is seven eyes, and the stone is filled with engraving, done by the very hand of God himself. It has pleased God often to use the image of the stone; he laid in Sion a stone, elect, precious, tried. Jesus Christ was the stone of stumbling and the rock of offence. Jesus Christ as the living Stone is imaged before us as One who is gifted with omniscience; he has "seven eyes," indicative of the fact that he looks everywhere through all space and upon all circumstances. This may be regarded as an element of terror, for all things must be naked and open unto his vision. On the other hand, it is an element and an assurance of the highest joy, for whatever we do that is good will be seen as certainly as every action that is evil. Who can read the graving that is engraved upon this living Stone? Who can fully read all the meaning of God's beloved Son? There is always more to be read, more ground of mystery to be covered, more music of eternity to be heard and answered. Who can read the graving of the wounds, on the right hand and on the left, and on the feet, and on the temples, and in the side? Behold this graving is done in blood, and every red stain hides some mystery of love.
In the ninth verse we are further told that God "will remove the iniquity of that land in one day." We wonder sometimes how God can find opportunity for the accomplishment of all his miracles. We forget that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. That which is sudden to us is not sudden to him. In eternity he prepared for time. Everything comes with measure, with due relation, and is in the nature of musical action; all the processes of Providence are rhythmic and harmonious. What pregnant days there are to be upon the earth! How much is to be done between the rising and the setting sun! But all this means large preparation, careful introduction, and balancing of all manner of contrary and conflicting elements. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, God shall consummate his miracles, and make the heavens and the earth new in beauty and in glory. We are not to trust to these great days of miracle, saying, Whatever we be or do, all will be well when the Lord arises to cleanse the earth. The detail is being done now. Now, whilst we breathe over this page, stone is being brought to stone in the individual and in the national life, and it is in one day that the topstone is to be brought on, and the whole building completed amid shoutings of angelic satisfaction and joy.
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Parker, Joseph. "Commentary on Zechariah 3". The People's Bible by Joseph Parker. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 19 / Ordinary 24