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CRITICAL NOTES.] He] The interpreting angel. Standing] As before a judge (Numbers 35:12; Deuteronomy 19:17; 1 Kings 3:16). A judicial transaction represented, say some. But the high priest is described as having entered the new temple, taken his position before the altar, and was about to offer sacrifice for the people, when he was opposed by Satan [Henderson]. Satan] No human adversary; lit. the adversary. Right] The side of the accuser (Psalms 109:6; Job 30:12). Resist] Impede or oppose, by dwelling upon the sins of high priest and people (cf. Zechariah 3:3).
Zechariah 3:2. Jehovah] i.e. the angel of, said. Rebuke] Twice repeated, “for the sake of emphasis, and with the repetition the motive which led Jehovah to reject the accuser is added” [Keil]. God will not only nonsuit, but reprove by act, and overcome the accuser (Psalms 9:5; Psalms 119:21). Plucked] Delivered from Babylon. God will not desert them; though defiled by sin, he will cleanse them.
Zechariah 3:3. Filthy] garments worn generally by those on trial among the Romans, but here represent the guilt and punishment of the Jews, as removal, and investment of splendid attire, indicate restoration to enjoyment and privileges.
Zechariah 3:4. Stood] Ministering angels, honoured with standing continually before the great King (cf. 1 Kings 10:8; Daniel 1:5). To pass] i.e. removed its guilt; remit, forgive, and justify (2 Samuel 12:13; 2 Samuel 24:10).
Zechariah 3:5.] The nation not only to be forgiven but glorified. Let] The prophet asks help. Mitre] The priesthood restored; and its fair colour symbolizes its official purity and order—so the wish complied with.
JOSHUA RESISTED AND ESTABLISHED IN HIS WORK.—Zechariah 3:1-5
This fourth vision is an encouragement to the people in their work. In the person of the high priest they stand before Jehovah opposed by Satan, assisted by Christ, and restored to covenant blessings.
I. Joshua resisted in his work. The condition was critical, but God made it known to the prophet. “He showed me Joshua.”
1. Joshua resisted in his service. “The high priest standing,” not as a criminal, but officiating as priest, and ministering to Jehovah (Deuteronomy 10:8). He is engaged in prayer, anxious for the people; but opposed in his work. Honourable duty and nearness to God will not exempt from opposition and temptation. Satan presented himself with the sons of God (Job 1:6).
2. Joshua resisted in his filthy garments. Filth is caused by sin. The soiled robes were emblematic of his own and the sins of the people—of their unworthy and abject state before God. The nation had been chastised, but its guilt was not cleansed. Gross wickedness may be forsaken, but the power of sin, self-righteousness, and refined idolatry remain. The garments of all Christians should be clean, “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2). If stained with filth they taint the dignity of office, and bring accusation against it. How God bears with our manifold infirmities! “We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags.”
3. Joshua resisted by Satan. “And Satan standing at his (Joshua’s) right hand.” Satan, one of the highest created spirits, has become the tempter and accuser of men—the most finished example of perverted will and unsanctified power in the universe. He would probably be mortified at the return of Divine favour to the Jews—plead their sinfulness and unfitness for the work, and desire that God would cast them off and recall his grace. This was a vital issue for that day, and for the history of redemption in all ages. It touched the existence of God’s kingdom and the coming of the Messiah on earth.
(1) He resisted with energy. He is strong and experienced in his work, diligent in mischief, and ever seeking opportunities to do it (1 Peter 5:8).
(2) He resisted in the fittest place. The right hand is advantageous ground for one who impedes or opposes another. When the enemy can choose his position in fight, it is of great service to him. The subtlety and power of the adversary, the guilt and weakness of men, give every opportunity for success. Satan often gets the advantage, and seems likely to triumph over us. “Let Satan stand at his right hand” (Psalms 109:6).
(3) He resisted at the fittest time. The Jews had only just returned from captivity, were few and weak, and not very earnest in their work. God’s people are attacked, like Christ, when weakened by nature (Matthew 4:2), when resistance seems impossible. When a man is down, little will crush or overcome him. Occasions of trial are chosen that the fall may be more disgraceful (Isaiah 21:4). “In the greatest calm provide for a storm,” said Elizabeth. “A day may have a fair beginning and a foul ending.”
II. Joshua established in his work. He had a defender who confounded and rebuked the adversary in his evil design. “The Lord said unto Satan,” &c.
1. His adversary is defeated. (a) Defeated by the Lord. “The Lord rebuke thee.” Satan was checked by one who silenced him without arguments. Christ himself gave him into the hand of God, and effectually withered him with rebuke (Mark 1:25-26; Luke 4:35). “We have an Advocate with the Father.” (b) Defeated by the Lord in love to his people. They had no merit in themselves. It was enough that he had chosen them. “The Lord hath chosen Jerusalem,” and maintained his choice in all its integrity. The nation is acquitted, not because the charges of Satan were false, but out of God’s free love to them. “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth?”
2. His sins are forgiven. “I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee.” The filthy garments were taken away, and sin completely and freely forgiven. In Christ Divine wrath is appeased, polluted nature cleansed, and guilty man justified before a holy God. “Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy.”
3. His privileges are restored. God not only acquits but restores to all the honours and duties of office, justifies and sanctifies.
(1) The priesthood was restored. He was clothed with change of raiment. The robes of the high priest were put upon him, and he ministered for the people.
(2) Its official qualification was given. Priestly vestments did not complete the attire. The “mitre,” the turban of pure white linen, with its holy crown, was wanting. “Set a fair mitre upon his head.” Men are washed and decorated to be qualified for work. Ministers and teachers must be holy and adorned with the crown. Engraven on their breast-plate must be the title of their office, and the aim of their life, “Holiness to the Lord” (Exodus 28:36). “Thou shalt put the mitre upon his head, and put the holy crown upon the mitre.”
We may take Joshua as a type of all the people of God, as they stand in their sense of sin and natural faultiness, subject to the accusation of Satan, but delivered by their gracious Lord; and the change of raiment as setting forth the forgiveness of sin and the imputation of the Saviour’s righteousness, which is the joy of all believers. Let us take each particular separately. I. To begin where the vision begins—with the believer himself, represented by Joshua. He is described as a priest, standing before the angel of the Lord. Mark this. He is a priest. Certain sons of Korah claim to be legitimate descendants of apostles, and pretend to be priests in a special sense. But the apostles claimed no priority beyond others (1 Peter 2:5). Every humble man and woman that knows Christ’s power in the soul—that has been cleansed from dead works—is appointed to serve as a priest unto God. But observe, the high priest is “standing before the angel of the Lord—” standing to minister. This should be the perpetual position of the believer; not in a bed of sloth, or wandering about for private business. He is appointed priest for ever; should always be offering sacrifice, and attending to the duties of his high calling. He ministers before the angel of Jehovah. He can never stand to minister before Moses, the mediator under the law; much less before Jehovah himself, for our God is a consuming fire. It is only through a Mediator that we poor defiled ones can ever become priests unto God. Read the next word in the light of your own experience. “Clothed with filthy garments.” Did you ever feel this in coming to God? Perhaps at evening prayer, unable as the head of the household to pray—in your business kept up late, and distracted in the house of God. How can we hope for a blessing on anything we do, with a heart of unbelief! But do not let a sense of unfitness keep you from service—lead you to renounce your priesthood. Stand where you are, and remember it is the only place where sin can be washed and prayer accepted. II. Let us turn to another individual. An adversary. Satan stood before the angel to resist Joshua. Observe the name, Satan, which signifies an adversary. An adversary by nature, who is so vile that he cannot help being the adversary of everything good. This adversary selected a most fitting place. He accused him before the angel—before God’s own Son. He does not attack Joshua first, but seeks to prevent his acceptance. If once persuaded that you are not God’s children and not accepted before him, he knows that serious injury is done us. He selected a fit opportunity—when Joshua had his filthy garments on. Expect, when you have lost your sense of justification, when conscious of sin, and you feel unfit to minister before God, that he will come to accuse you. III. Here is a very gloomy picture—the believer willing, but quite unable, to minister unto the Lord; but the Angel speaks. He has been silent till now. This rebuke comes at the right season. When Satan accuses, Christ pleads. He does not wait until the case has gone against us—then express regret; but is always a present help. He knows the heart, of Satan, being omniscient; and long before he can accuse, puts in the plea on our behalf, and stays the action till he gives the answer to silence every accusation. This rebuke came from the very highest authority. “Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan.” If God hath chosen his people, it is no use for Satan to attempt their overthrow. The rebuke is forcibly applicable to the case in hand. Satan says, “The man’s garments are filthy.” “Well,” says Jesus, “how do you expect them to be otherwise? When you pull a brand out of the fire, do you expect it milk-white or polished?” This plea did not require a single word to be added to it from Joshua. This so silenced the devil that he was speechless. He has often made out a case against us, but been nonplussed! “I will sift him like wheat in my sieve.” His plans would succeed, but there is a “but” in the way (unfortunate for him, fortunate for us). “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not.”
IV. A matchless deed of grace, is the soul of the text. Sin is removed. “Take away the filthy garments from him.” The order is given to clothe him. “I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” The righteousness of Christ is given to the believer. One thing more. The prophet was so astonished to see the change that he broke out and spake himself. “And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head.” Some of God’s people get as far as imputed righteousness, believe themselves to be accepted in the Beloved, but tarry there. Put on your mitre, and praise the covenant angel, who in Jehovah’s name has taken away your filthy garments. Notice the closing sentence. “The angel of the Lord stood by.” We want him always to stand by, though clothed with new garments, and crowned with the mitre. We want his strength, comfort, and the light of his countenance. “Abide with us,” must be our daily prayer [From Spurgeon].
HOMILETIC HINTS AND SUGGESTIONS
Zechariah 3:2. There are two grounds on which the rebuke of Satan proceeds.
1. Jehovah’s choice of, or delight in, Jerusalem. “The Lord that hath chosen (or that delighteth in Jerusalem) rebuke thee.” Satan knew full well that in his opposition to Joshua, to prevent his officiating as priest, he was opposing Jehovah, who had returned in loving-kindness to Jerusalem. He would have that loving-kindness kept back and turned away, and the punishment of their sins continued; and would thus have interdicted the blessing of Jehovah. Since it was the pleasure of Jehovah he was seeking to hinder, it was appropriate that the rebuke should come from him.
2. The malice—the envious and deadly spite of the devil, stands here in contrast with the benevolence—the relenting forbearance and love of Jehovah. “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” The question must be understood, not of Joshua considered only personally, but representatively—as relating to the rescue of the people as well as himself from oppression and wrong, and, if their enemies had had their will, extinction; and the deliverance and restoration of the very office of Joshua—the priestly office—which, without such Divine interposition, might have been lost. Satan would have had the brand kept in the fire till it was consumed. But Jehovah’s power, and goodness, and faithfulness, had plucked it out of the flames—rescued it from such consumption. The rebuke is evidently that of indignant supremacy and offended benevolence, directed at once against malignity and presumption [Wardlaw].
Is not this a brand? &c.
1. If delivered once, is it reasonable to cast them into the furnace again? Persecutors in the days of Queen Mary were cruel enough for this; but we must have compassion upon men, “pulling them out of the fire” (Jude 1:22). How much more will God have pity!
2. If God loves his people, shall he change? Never! Though stained with dirt and scorched with fire, he will never cast them off. Like the three worthies (Daniel 3:20), they will be delivered from fire and promoted to honour The gifts and calling of God are without repentance. Rebuke thee.
1. This a warning against the sarcastic, bitter, and virulent spirit which so often shows itself in speaking and writing against others [Wordsworth].
2. A lesson not to argue with the tempter, but refer him to the Saviour, whose rebuke is powerful and successful (Psalms 80:6; Matthew 4:10).
Zechariah 3:3-5. Two things are here said to belong to free acceptance with God.
(1) The taking away of the guilt of our sin, our filthy robes; this is done by the death of Christ, the proper fruit of which is the remission of sin.
(2) But more is required; even a collation of righteousness, and thereby a right to eternal life. This is called a change of raiment, or, as in Isaiah 61:10, the garments of salvation, the robe of righteousness. This is made ours only by the obedience of Christ, as the other is by his death [Owen].
We may learn from the whole—
1. That those whom God redeems he will cause to serve him.
2. That though sin may pollute, God freely forgives them.
3. That God’s deliverance and forgiveness, cleansing and love, should be a reason for confidence in prayer, a support in temptation, and a motive to activity in service.
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Zechariah 3:1-5. Satan, “the accuser of our brethren,” (Revelation 12:10). Accusation is the element of his being. He accuses God to men (cf. Genesis 3:4-5), and he accuses men to God (as in Job and in this passage). Hence his name in the N. T., Diabolus, from diaballein = to set at variance, namely, by slander,—a descriptive title quite as strong as the Hebrew term, Satan = opposer, the inherent and everlasting adversary of God and man, and of all that is good. In the end, the kingdom of our God and the power of his Christ will be too much for the craft and malice of Satan. Still that malignant being opposes the truth, and leaves no stone unturned to turn away God’s favour from his people, and thus overthrow the entire redemptive economy [Lange]. Resist. Against whom does Satan multiply his malicious assaults? Against those in whom God has multiplied his graces. He is too crafty a pirate to attack an empty vessel; he seeks to rob those vessels which are richly laden [Wilson].
Zechariah 3:2. Brand. A poor Hindoo convert was once taunted by a European infidel, who asked him What Jesus had done for him. The Hindoo took a worm, put it inside a circle of dried leaves and grass, and set fire to them. When the fire approached the worm, he snatched it up and put it into his bosom, exclaiming, “That is what Jesus has done for me.” I was once exposed to eternal fire. The flames had even touched me, and I was a scorched and blackened brand; when God in his matchless grace plucked me forth! [Sacred Garland].
Zechariah 3:5. Mitre. Some act with their mitres as our kings and queens do with their crowns; they only put them on upon state occasions—do not wear them always, because they are too heavy. Christians, your state occasion should be always: you are always dear to Christ, and always near the Father’s heart [Spurgeon].
Zechariah 3:6-10.] Here the symbolic act of reclothing is made the occasion of a prophetic address through the high priest to the nation. Protested] Testified, made a solemn declaration as one on oath (Genesis 43:3; Deuteronomy 8:19). Walk] God’s promise was connected with their observance of his ordinances. Then] Certain privileges. Judge] Administer right, viz. “in relation to the duties devolving upon the high priest in the sanctuary as such: hence, right administration of the service in the holy place and Holy of Holies” [Keil]. The priestly family of Joshua would take a part in the future government of the nation. Places] Guides. Stand by] Angels. “The import of the promise is, that he and his successors in office should enjoy the care, direction, and aid of celestial spirits in the management of the national affairs” [Henderson].
Zechariah 3:8. Fellows] Thy associates in the priesthood. Wondered] Men of wonder, of sign or portent; typical men, foreshadowing future persons or events (cf. Isaiah 8:18; Ezekiel 12:6). Branch] All expositors admit this to be the Messiah, the servant (Isaiah 42:1): the sprout from the stem of Jesse (Jeremiah 23:5; Isaiah 2:1-2; Isaiah 53:2).
Zechariah 3:9. Stone] Foundation by God, the chief builder, which should be the object of his special care. Eyes] upon a thing denote vigilance and care (cf. Psalms 32:8). Seven] denotes perfection; these not carved upon the stone [Calvin], but directed towards; fixed upon the covenant people (cf. Revelation 5:6). Engrave] Lit. “I will open the opening of it.” What kind of ornaments it does not say, “but that they were cut out or engraven in the foundation-stone, the exigency of the place requires, except we regard the stone as here used by synecdoche for the whole temple, in which case reference will be had to the finishing off of the structure, the foundation of which had been laid in the presence of Joshua” [Henderson]. Land] of Israel with its inhabitants representative of the Christian Church. Remove] the punishment to which Jews had been exposed. Day] The day of national atonement celebrated after completion of the temple (Leviticus 23:27); typical of day of atonement by Christ (Hebrews 10:10-12; Hebrews 7:27).
Zechariah 3:10. Under] A proverbial description of a happy period (1 Kings 4:25); an emblem of tranquil prosperity (Micah 4:4); of personal and social peace in the gospel; and of the blessed condition flowing from a purified Church.
GREAT PROMISES ON SPECIFIED CONDITIONS.—Zechariah 3:6-7
We have here three things promised, or engaged for—and the promise made to depend on certain conditions. It matters not which of the two we notice first; we may take them as they stand.
I. The specified conditions. The stipulations are these: “If thou wilt walk in my ways, and keep my charge” (marg., ordinance). These two conditions are closely connected.
1. Personal holiness. The former relates to personal character and conduct. He was to be found obedient to God’s precepts; exemplifying in his own character the sanctity and moral rectitude which it was part of the duty of the priest to inculcate on the people: “for the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the Lord of hosts.”
2. Official faithfulness. He was to keep the charge of Jehovah, i.e. faithfully to perform all official duties, punctually to attend to every enjoined function of his commission; keeping all the ordinances, as God had delivered them to Moses (Leviticus 8:35).
II. The great promises. Three things depended upon these conditions.
1. Thou shalt “judge my house.” The word house does not mean temple, but household. “The house of Jacob” is a designation of Israel, who were regarded and repeatedly spoken of as the family of Jehovah. “I am a father to Israel.” To judge his house, then, is the same thing as to rule his people. This, you think, did not pertain to the priesthood; but it is remarkable how it thus turned out, in regard to the priestly lineage in the family of Joshua. Not in the person of Joshua himself; but after Nehemiah’s death, a large portion of the management of the civil affairs of Judea was committed by the Syrian prefects into the hands of the high priest; and it was more fully realized in the time of the Maccabean high priests, in whom the civil and the sacred were eminently united. When these princely priests failed in the conditions here specified in the arrangements of providence, the glory departed.
2. Thou shalt “also keep my courts.” He was to continue to have the charge of God’s house, to minister in the holy place, and superintend the entire system of the sacerdotal and Levitical services. His continuance in this high and honourable office,—that is, in the way of succession in his lineage, depended on the conditions mentioned, of personal obedience and official fidelity. It is the same style of conditionality with that on which Jehovah promised to Israel generally, and took them into covenant: “Now, therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”
3. I will give thee “places to walk among these that stand by.” By “these that stand by” are meant, the attendant angels. The difficulty here is with the word rendered “places to walk” (marg., walks). The original in some degree is ambiguous. But from the conjugation of the verb to which as a participle it belongs, we are disposed to acquiesce in the judgment of Henderson, who makes it to signify, neither walks nor walkers, but those who guide or conduct in walking:—“I will give thee ministering guides among these that stand by.” No sense can correspond better than this with all that we learn from the previous history of the Jewish people from the call of Abraham onwards, respecting the ministration of angels. It is a promise, then, of the aid and direction of those who surround the Divine throne, “the ministerings spirits sent forth to minister to the heirs of salvation.” If the rendering “walks,” or “places to walk,” be retained (though we feel doubtful), then the promise will be a higher one still—namely, that of an association with angelic spirits from heaven [Adapted from Wardlaw].
MEN OF WONDER.—Zechariah 3:8
The Jewish economy was typical in its aim. Its sacerdotal institutions were “shadows of good things to come.” Hence, “Joshua and his fellows that sat before him”—inferior priests, who officially ministered to the high priest—are termed men of signs. They typified the Messiah here promised, and those whom the Messiah admits to share his priesthood (1 Peter 2:5; Revelation 5:10). These words might be taken—First, as a pledge to the desponding Jews that the priesthood would be preserved until Christ came. Secondly, as a reproof to the unbelieving multitude, who wonder at God’s people with incredulity (Psalms 71:7; Isaiah 8:18). Apply the words to Christians.
I. They are a wonder to themselves. They are astonished at God’s love to them—amazed to think of his grace and goodness. Why are they called, while others refuse to come? They were chosen not because better than others, not on account of their foreseen repentance and faith. “I am a wonder to myself,” said one. “I am a miracle of grace,” said another. “By the grace of God, I am what I am.”
II. They are a wonder to their fellow-men. Believers are “to thousand eyes a mark and gaze.” They are not understood in their spirit, habits, and employments. To the wicked, they are a puzzle. They are often feared, despised, and persecuted. Their spiritual birth is a mystery of mercy, their life a constant reproof to the ungodly, and their death a triumph of grace. “I am as a wonder unto many.” “Behold I, and the children whom the Lord hath given me, are for signs and wonders in Israel, from the Lord of hosts.”
III. They are a wonder to angels. Angels take deep interest in redeemed men, and wonder at their characters and pursuits. As Jesus was “seen of angels,” so are his people. “Last” in the judgment of the world, they are deemed by heavenly hosts worthy of intense regard. “For we are made a spectacle (theatrical exhibition) unto the world, and to angels (good and bad), and to men” (1 Corinthians 4:9).
MY SERVANT, THE BRANCH.—Zechariah 3:9
Only one person is here typified by the Jewish high priests, and most commentators admit this person to be the Messiah, under the titles of the text.
I. My Servant.
1. Under this title was Christ predicted. This was the characteristic name of the Messiah. “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth” (Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 49:3; Isaiah 53:11; Ezekiel 34:23).
2. Under this capacity he appeared on earth. “I am among you as one that serveth.” Thus honouring service, and dignifying the humblest calling. “Who made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”
3. In this capacity he rendered most eminent service. No one ever merited this title like him. He rendered a service most signal and gracious, which no one in the universe could perform beside. “Being formed in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
II. The Branch. He is “the branch of the Lord” (Isaiah 4:2); “a righteous branch” (Jeremiah 23:5); “the branch of righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:15). He is the tender branch from the almost extinct royal line of David. Not “a limb, in the sense of one among many on the same tree, but a shoot which springs up from the root; and which, though small at first, becomes a tree of wonderful qualities” [Cowles]. This marks—
(1) His humble origin;
(2) gradual growth; and
(3) ultimate prosperity. In course of time the tender shoot would become the monarch of the forest, and under its mighty branches and beautiful foliage the nations of the earth would take shelter.
THE MISSION OF THE MESSIAH AND ITS RESULTS.—Zechariah 3:8-10
These words point to the author of the blessings promised—to him by whom sin was to be expiated, and the kingdom of God flourish. They set forth the mission of the “servant, the Branch,” and the results of that mission in the building of a more glorious temple than that of Solomon or Zerubabbel.
I. The method of his coming. He comes as a servant, and as the sprout.
1. As a branch. “According to which the Messiah is to spring up as a rod out of the stem of Jesse that has been hewn down, or as a root-shoot out of a dry ground. Tsemach, therefore, denotes the Messiah in his origin from the family of David, that has fallen into humiliation, as a sprout which will grow up from its original state of humiliation to exaltation and glory, and answers therefore to the train of thought in this passage, in which the deeply humiliated priesthood is exalted by the grace of the Lord into a type of the Messiah” [Keil].
2. A branch Divinely caused to grow. “I will bring forth my servant, the Branch.” God himself undertakes to bring him forth. He is God’s servant, and will have to do God’s work. He came from the bosom of the Father, and was upheld until he had done the will of the Father. “Thus speaketh the Lord of Hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord.”
II. The nature of his work.
1. To prepare the kingdom of God. “I will engrave the graving thereof” (Zechariah 3:9), i.e. engrave it so as to prepare it for a beautiful and costly stone. “The preparation of this stone, i.e. the preparation of the kingdom of God, established in Israel by the powers of the Spirit of the Lord, is one feature in which the bringing in of the tsemach will show itself” [Keil].
2. To remove iniquity. “And I will remove the iniquity of that land.” The removal of punishment from the Jews was typical of the remission of sins by the atonement of Jesus Christ.
(1) From the Jews. From “that land”—multiform and aggravated as that was (Jeremiah 50:20).
(2) From all nations. To the Jew first, then the Gentile (Acts 3:26).
(3) “In one day.” The wiping away will not be imperfect and continually repeated; but once and for ever taken away. “By one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (Hebrews 10:12; Hebrews 9:26; Hebrews 7:27).
III. The results which flow from the completion of his work. When guilt is taken away, discontent and misery will be swept away; peace and prosperity will be enjoyed by a purified Church. We have a figure (Zechariah 3:10) for a state of repose—peace, security, personal and social. The peaceful influence of the gospel was felt from the first—individually, in the soul of each subject of it; socially, in the intercourse of all. Jew dwelt in peace with fellow-Jew; and even Gentiles were numbered among neighbours and brethren, who before were aliens and outcasts, “hated with perfect hatred.” The proclamation was to be, “Peace, peace to him that is far off, and to him that is nigh”—and the corresponding effect of it was, “He is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition” [Wardlaw.] “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig-tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the Lord of hosts hath spoken it.”
“No sound of war is heard—no thought of sin,
But one sole word, ‘Peace—Peace.’ ”
HOMILETIC HINTS AND OUTLINES
Zechariah 3:8. Sign men.
1. Wonderful in and restored to God and duty.
2. their experience. Delivered, pardoned, Wonderful in their manners. Despising pleasures which others esteem; pursuing paths which others term folly. “They think it strange that ye run not with them into the same excess of riot; speaking evil of you.”
3. Wonderful in their character. Redeemed and made holy—types of future converts, and of all priests unto God.
Zechariah 3:9. The stone. Taking it as the foundation-stone of the temple.
1. Its laying. By God, before Joshua 2:0. Its protection. “Upon one stone, seven eyes.” “The eye,” says Wardlaw, “is the natural hieroglyphic for knowledge; and seven, as every reader of the Bible is aware, is the number used to denote completeness, perfection. ‘seven eyes’ denote the perfection of observant knowledge: and as ‘the eyes of Jehovah’ mean Jehovah’s observation and knowledge, his ‘seven eyes’ express the perfection of both—omniscient observation”—(cf. chap. Zechariah 4:10). Hence this is a proof of—
(1) Providential care; and
(2) an encouragement to the Jews in work. Taking the stone with many as representing Christ, notice—
1. God declares that he lays (Heb.), that he gives a stone before Joshua, lit. before his face, to defend him, and in order that he may place it as the foundation and corner-stone of his building, which symbolized the Church, of which the corner-stone is Christ (Isaiah 28:16; Ephesians 2:20; 1 Peter 2:6).
2. The stone is graven, like the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest, with the names of the tribes upon them (Exodus 28:21 : cf. original in 2 Timothy 2:19; and Revelation 21:14).
3. The figure here is of eyes, emblems of light (cf. Matthew 6:22; Ezekiel 1:18; Revelation 4:4-6). The stone is not a dark, lifeless stone, like other stones, but a living, seeing stone.
4. Those eyes are seven, signifying completeness, representing the sevenfold gifts of the Spirit with which the Messiah was anointed, animated, strengthened, and enlightened (Isaiah 11:2); indicating the perfection of the spiritual illumination and perpetual watchfulness of Christ [Words.]. The language is future: “I will engrave the graving (or the sculpture) thereof.” As the stone is a figure, so is the engraving that of hieroglyphic eyes, which may convey a twofold meaning. The first, certainly, that the eyes of Jehovah should be continually upon it, with intense and delighted interest; and upon the glorious spiritual structure that was to rest upon it, marking its progressive advancement to its final completion. The idea is the same as that expressed respecting the land of Canaan: “The eyes of the Lord thy God are always upon it, from the beginning of the year to the end.” The second, one which I express with hesitation, because not sure about the propriety of assigning two meanings to one hieroglyphic. I cannot forget that the stone represents a person, and that person Divine. Jesus Christ himself is the “chief corner-stone.” May not the engraving of the seven eyes, then, convey the additional idea of the Deity of him whom the stone represented—as himself the possessor of Divine omniscience; which could say—“All the churches shall know, that I am he that search th the reins and the hearts” [Wardlaw].
Seven eyes upon one stone. Observe the notice that Christ was to excite and engage. The eye of God was upon him. He had complacency in contemplating him in the redemption of his people. The eyes of angels were upon him. They announced and sang his birth, and ministered to him in the wilderness. The eye of Satan was upon him. He watched him through life, hoping to make a prey of him, as he had done of the first Adam. But he was the Lord of heaven, and found nothing in him. The eyes of men were upon him. Simeon saw him, blind Bartimæus followed him. Judas followed him closely for three years, and Pilate saw him judicially. The centurion watched his death, and all the people gathered at the sight. The disciples saw the Lord after his resurrection and were glad. Paul saw him at mid-day. How many millions and millions have seen him since, not with the eye of sense, but of faith! In another world he is all in all—he draws every eye and employs every tongue. We shall see him as he is [Jay].
Zechariah 3:10. The reign of the Messiah is distinguished by three things.
(1) Enjoyment. The very image of the vine and the fig-tree is delightful.
(2) Liberty. Slaves and captives did not sit under their vines and fig-trees, nor did proprietors in time of war.
(3) Benevolence. “Ye shall call every man,” &c. There is no selfishness, no envy. All are anxious that others should partake of their privileges [Jay].
ILLUSTRATIONS TO CHAPTER 3
Zechariah 3:7. Keep. Godliness is the highway to happiness; the good old way that hath ever been beaten by all those saints that now find rest to their souls [Trapp]. Consult duty, not events [Annesley]. Perish discretion when it interferes with duty [H. More].
“Devotion when lukewarm is undevout” [Young].
Zechariah 3:8. Men of signs. So were the primitive Christians. They were like so many pieces of immortality, dropped down from heaven, and tending thitherward—all full of God, and full of Christ, and full of heaven, and full of glory: and this world was nothing to them; trampled upon as a despicable, contemptible thing [Howe].
Zechariah 3:9. Stone. The excellence of the foundation is for the building that rests on it. And so, whatever gives Christ value, so to speak, in the sight of God and angels—as the union in him of the glories and virtues of the two natures, Divine and human; his filial zeal, and perfect obedience, and efficacious atonement, and priestly intercession, and royal might and majesty—all, all redounds to the honour and blessing of “them that are Christ’s” (1 Corinthians 15:23), through faith in his name [Dr. Lillie].
Iniquity. Christ, with his holy suffering, love, and perfect obedience, is the only one thing wherein God can have infinite pleasure, and for the sake of which he can look graciously on the race of men [Dr. Heubner].
Zechariah 3:10. Sit. Mankind have always clung to the hope of better times of the text. We give a passage from the famous Eclogue
(4) of Virgil.
“The last great age, foretold by sacred rhyme,
Renews its finished course; Saturnian times
Roll round again; and mighty years, begun
From their first orb, in radiant circles run.
The base, degenerate, iron offspring ends,
A golden progeny from heaven descends.…
See, labouring nature calls thee to sustain
The nodding frame of heaven and earth and main!
See, to their base restored earth, seas, and air,
And joyful ages from behind in crowding ranks appear. [Dryden’s Virgil.]
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Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on Zechariah 3". Preacher's Complete Homiletical Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Fourth Week after Epiphany