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Zechariah 2 shows the intention of the LORD in grace in the future restoration of Jerusalem and His people. Zechariah 3 explains how He fulfills this intention in accordance with His righteousness. Zechariah 3 is a special message for the high priest Joshua, while Zechariah 4 contains a special message for Zerubbabel. Together with Zerubbabel, Joshua is the leader and together they represent the two sides of the Messiah, who is King and Priest. The perfect picture is Melchizedek, King of Salem and Priest of the Most High God (Hebrews 7:1-Exodus :).
With the Lord Jesus everything is perfect, but the practice of the people as a people of priests is very miserable. Zechariah 3 is about the priestly condition of the people. Here we see the restoration of Israel as a priestly nation, according to God’s intention (Exodus 19:6). For us, the question is how the situation with the priesthood of God’s people now is.
This fourth vision is different from the three previous visions. There are no questions asked by the prophet here and there is no explanation by an angel. The reasons for this are that Joshua’s identity is known from the beginning and that the actions are explained as the vision unfolds. No one doubts that Joshua is a true priest.
The High Priest and Satan
After the encouraging night visions in Zechariah 1-2 we see in the fourth night vision what it really looks like in practice. In the one priest, the high priest, the state of the people is shown that is predestined by God to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” for Him (Exodus 19:6). However, their condition is not in accordance with the position given to them by God. Before the glorious things of the previous night visions can become reality, something must first happen with the people themselves. It has to undergo a spiritual change.
The LORD Himself shows this night vision to Zechariah. Zechariah sees in it a lawsuit with a judge, an accused and an accuser. The Angel of the LORD – that is the LORD Himself (Zechariah 3:2) – is the Judge; the high priest Joshua – he represents the people – is the accused; Satan is the accuser. Satan does not accuse unbelievers, he accuses believers. He is called “the accuser of our brethren” (Revelation 12:10). The “right hand” is both the place of the accuser (Psalms 109:6) and the place of the defender (Psalms 109:31).
Here we get an impression of what is happening outside our field of vision. We also have that in the history of Balaam who wants to curse God’s people (Numbers 22-24). The accuser wants to paralyze us by pointing out everything that is not right. And he doesn’t make that up. It is right. But there is a solution. The accuser is completely proved to be wrong. We see how that is possible in the rest of the vision.
The LORD Rebukes Satan
Here it appears that the Angel of the LORD of Zechariah 3:1 is the LORD Himself. Satan has gained access to the presence of God to accuse Joshua. But before he can open his mouth to express his accusation and bring the LORD to judgment, the LORD rebukes him for his evil plan. We also hear no defense from the mouth of Joshua. The LORD defends him against the accusation of Satan. How is this possible? Is the accusation not justified? The answer is yes and no.
There is enough unfaithfulness and there are enough sins that demand condemnation. God cannot simply ignore them. But there is also a perfectly adequate solution, a solution provided by God Himself. That solution is the sacrificial blood of His Son Jesus Christ. In this way God has been able to pass over the sins committed by His people in a completely righteous way (Romans 3:25). He looks forward here to the sacrifice of His Son.
God has been able to choose Jerusalem by grace (Romans 11:5) because He has seen the work of His Son ahead. Every election is always connected to the Lord Jesus. Therefore, every accusation has no chance of success. Through Christ the full right of God is fulfilled. With that proof, every accusation can be refuted, because through Him the guilt has been fulfilled.
If Satan is interested in us, that is a favorable sign. The evil one always tries to accuse. But “God is the one who justifies” (Romans 8:33). The supreme court acquits us. We have the proof in our pocket. Any accusation can be refuted with that evidence. The basis is: “Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us” (Romans 8:34).
The picture of the “brand plucked from the fire”, indicates that the salvation barely happened, at the last minute (cf. Amos 4:11). He who has been taken from the fire is saved from total destruction. This has happened for a certain purpose. God’s people would almost have been completely destroyed. God has punished Israel with the exile to Babylon. But He saved a remnant from that exile and thus prevented the total disappearance of the people. The fire here represents Babylon.
Filthy Garments – Festal Robes
God’s Spirit does not hide the fact that Joshua is “clothed with filthy garments” (Zechariah 3:3). The word for “filth” in Hebrew is a word that indicates filth of the most filthy and disgusting kind (Proverbs 30:12; Isaiah 4:4; Isaiah 64:6). As mentioned before, God cannot condone the sins of His people. Joshua, however, does not stand before Satan in those dirty clothes, but before God. It is, as it were, an acknowledgment of his filth, that is, the people acknowledge the guilt of the dirty state of the priesthood.
Israel was saved from exile, but as a priestly nation it is an unclean people. The priesthood has been tainted by a long stay in a foreign country, the after-effects of which can still be seen, or again be seen. The priesthood is not exercised in the way God wants it to be exercised. Heathen elements have made it unclean.
Joshua is not told to take off those filthy garments himself (Zechariah 3:4). The LORD takes the word and commands His angels to take off Joshua’s filthy garments. It is a symbol of getting rid of iniquity. In it forgiveness is suggested (cf. 2 Samuel 12:13).
In Paul’s letters we see how in a spiritual sense the filthy garments have been taken away from us. In every letter those garments have become filthy by something else. This can be the filthiness of legalism, about which is spoken of in the letter to the Galatians. It also can be about the filthiness of philosophy, spoken of in the letter to the Colossians. The ultimate goal of Paul’s service is to “present every man complete in Christ” (Colossians 1:28). This means that every person who has come to repentance sees his new position in Christ, which is represented here by the “festal robes”.
Such a work can only be done by those who live in God’s presence, and whose lives are in accordance with it. God’s mercy provides new robes. He commands to bring out “the best robe” and put it on the repentant man (Luke 15:20-Jeremiah :). For everyone who belongs to the church, this means that he may know that he is favored by God “in the Beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).
This is presented in the adoption and restoration in the position of the high priest Joshua. In this way God takes away the iniquities of His people and gives them festal robes. Festal robes – a word found only here and in Isaiah 3 (Isaiah 3:22) – speak of purity, joy, and glory. Here they symbolize the restoration of Israel to its original calling (Isaiah 61:10).
A Clean Turban and Garments
The prophet – ‘I’ here is not the LORD, but Zechariah – is so involved in this scene and so aware of God’s thoughts, that he makes a request to which the angels respond. He says that they must put on a clean turban on the high priest’s head. Is there also a willingness with us to help, so that our brother or sister can return to the holy fellowship with the Lord?
The Angel of the LORD is standing by. All this takes place in His presence as proof that He is in complete agreement with it. The clean turban on the head suggests that Joshua – and in him the people – have new thoughts about the priesthood, thoughts that are in accordance with God’s intent of it.
Conditions to Govern the House of God
A renewed priesthood needs a new command. There is talk of ‘admonish’ which refers to solemnly declare, a term also used for the affirmation of an oath. God solemnly declares here that He restores the priesthood for the people and the conditions that go with it. The conditions come from “the LORD of hosts”. He is the same as “the Angel of the LORD”, but the emphasis is here on His authority over all things.
Here we speak of ‘if’, which indicates a condition. This is not an issue with cleansing. There everything is grace. But when it comes to service, conditions must be met. There are first two conditions – twice ‘if you’ – and then three results – ‘then you … and … and’. The first thing that is important in this new position is personal Godliness and obedience in a walk in the ways of the LORD. If that is good, Joshua will be assigned a service. For us it also applies that the Lord gives us a task when we have been given the new state and when injustice in practice no longer clings to us and we remain faithful in that way.
If the conditions are met, the people will
1. govern the house of God, that is to say, that He gives insight to supervise how the service is done;
2. have charge of the courts of God’s house, that is to say, supervise those who may do service;
3. be granted free access given by the LORD among the company of priests.
The Promise of the Branch
After the command comes another promise. With the call “now listen”, the special attention of Joshua is asked for this. It also underlines the importance of what follows. The friends of Joshua, his fellow priests, must also listen carefully, because the promise is also for them. They sit “in front of” him, that is, in his presence, before his face (cf. Ezekiel 8:1). We can see here in Joshua a type of the Lord Jesus in the company of His disciples, whom He calls “friends”, because He has revealed to them everything He has heard from His Father (John 15:15).
The friends are “a symbol” –or: men to be observed as a sign (foot note Darby Translation) – which means that in their priestly function they are meant to be a symbol or sign of God, Who made the priesthood possible again. They are also a sign that refers to the great Priest, Jesus Christ. They are signs with a prophetic meaning, signs of a future event (cf. Isaiah 8:18). Joshua and his friends also refer to something else and that is that God, through cleansing, will always maintain a priestly generation. God is a God of wonders, of which the maintenance of the priesthood is one. This may be an encouragement to us.
God points Joshua and his friends to His Servant Whom He will send. That Servant is presented as an encouragement of the cleansed Joshua and his fellow priests. A God-cleansed priesthood always rejoices over the Lord Jesus. The Lord Jesus is the Branch or Sprout, the Servant, Whom God is going to bring in (Zechariah 6:12; Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1Isaiah 53:2; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15; Luke 1:78). He is the Branch or Sprout from the stem of Jesse. The kingship seemed dead, but it lives in Him.
His Name Branch or Sprout shows the humility, the tenderness of the coming Messiah and that He is Man. There is also the thought of freshness and the power of a life that sprouts. It speaks of Christ with Whose coming something totally new arises. That Christ is introduced here is because God wants us to understand that nothing is right if it is not introduced by Christ. Something is only right if it is connected to Him and that is only the case if it has been processed by Him.
He is also the source of all future blessings. In the future, God will restore these conditions among His people when the priestly service will take place again before the Antichrist will stop it. Their hearts will be turned toward the coming Branch or Sprout. Also for us, the priesthood only functions well when our eye is focused on the Lord Jesus.
After Knecht and Branch or Sprout, “stone” is the third name for the Messiah (Psalms 118:22; Isaiah 28:16; Matthew 21:42; Acts 4:11; 1 Peter 2:6). Christ is the foundation of a building that bears His mark. Whoever sees Him knows that the foundation is in order, even though everything is still so weak. The “seven eyes” are the “seven Spirits of God” (Revelation 4:5) and point to His omniscience, His complete understanding of all things. Through God’s Spirit the work will be accomplished.
Through the engraving that God Himself does, it is a beautiful Stone, a splendor that becomes visible in His whole life, His whole Person, in everything He has done and still does and will do. There is infinitely more inscribed on this Stone than on the two stone tablets of the Law. It contains the names of all those who belong to His people (cf. Exodus 28:9; Exodus 28:11Exodus 28:21).
In one day the iniquity will be removed, that is at the coming of Christ. It is symbolically represented in the removal of the filthy garments in Zechariah 3:4. By the power of the Spirit of God all this will already be realized. Here we can see a reference to the Day of Atonement which is held once a year. But the annual repetition makes it clear that the blood sacrificed on that day cannot take away sins.
Getting rid of iniquity is connected with the Stone, Christ, the foundation. That foundation is what He did on the cross. Through Him the iniquity of the people is taken away. This happened on the cross, on that one, unique day that is central to eternity, when He died there. Getting rid of the sins is not a process. He has accomplished it in His work. It is finished once and for all, repetition is not necessary (Hebrews 10:10; Hebrews 10:12Hebrews 10:14).
Every One Under His Vine and His Fig Tree
When to Israel the full result of Christ’s work will be attributed, it will also have an effect on their relationship with each other. This will be fully the case in the realm of peace, where peace, freedom and security will be enjoyed (1 Kings 4:25; Micah 4:4). The result will be enjoyed in fellowship with each other. The vine speaks of joy and the fig tree speaks of righteousness.
We can also invite others to enjoy what we have received ourselves. It is a part of the joy (1 John 1:3). This joy is based on righteousness. This joy is given to us by the Holy Spirit. The kingdom of God, which will be established on earth under the reign of the Lord Jesus, is already a spiritual reality for believers. What will soon apply to Israel and the whole earth already applies to the believers of the church. For them “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17).
Kingcomments on the Whole Bible © 2021 Author: G. de Koning. All rights reserved. Used with the permission of the author
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de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Zechariah 3". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
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