This blessed Chapter, like the former, contains much of Christ. Under the type of Joshua, the High Priest, the cleansing and glory of the Church are set forth.
(Zechariah 3:1) "And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him."
This is a most blessed and highly instructive vision, for the doctrine of it is very plain, and like the vision of another Prophet, he that runs may read it. Habakkuk 2:2. Joshua, the high priest, was probably one of the captives that returned with the Church from Babylon. Now there can be no doubt but that he was personally known to Zechariah; yet, to know him as he stood before the Lord, when ministering in his priestly office, he must be shown to him by the Lord himself. Hence we learn, that when the servants of the Lord stand before the Lord, and minister in his name, Satan wilt also come to resist their persons, and their services.
But we are not informed what the accusations of Satan were. Some have thought (but this can only be conjecture,) that this Joshua is the same mentioned Ezra 10:18. whose sons had taken strange wives, and therefore the Father in permitting it, gave Satan an handle to accuse. But, I rather think, Joshua here is not to be considered in his person, but rather as a type of the whole Church.
Yet, by the way, we may draw a short improvement from hence. With what earnestness ought believers to pray for their ministers, who have such a law adversary as Satan always accusing them, and whose infirmities give but too much occasion for that cursed foe to raise but too just charges against them when considered as they are in themselves, Hebrews 7:28; James 5:17; Acts 14:14-15. Oh! precious, precious Lord Jesus! how truly blessed is it to recollect, that thou art the righteousness of thy people, and their sanctification is in thee. 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Corinthians 1:30.
There is one thing more to be observed in this account, Satan stood at the right hand. It is the custom in all courts of justice, for the person accused to stand on the left hand of the advocate, and the accuser on the right. Hence it is so said of Satan. Psalms 140:6. Reader! think how Satan opposeth and resisteth the Church, and even before God. Hence he is properly styled the Accuser of the Brethren; and hence the joy in heaven when he was cast out. Revelation 12:10-11. Do not overlook the principal part in these sweet verses, how they overcame him.
"And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?"
Who is the Speaker here but Christ? Surely he that is called in the first verse the angel of the Lord, before whom Joshua stood, is the same person here called the Lord. And so he was, who is the angel of the covenant. And do observe the graciousness of the expressions. Satan is not only rebuked, but reasoned with. Jerusalem is the chosen of the Lord. And did not the Lord know what Jerusalem is, and would be? Moreover, coming out of the fire, and smoke, and furnace, could she appear otherwise than as a smoking brand, saved by sovereign grace?
Reader! do not fail to observe whose province it is to rebuke Satan, and to counteract all his devices. And do not overlook also, how the Lord Jesus is unceasingly engaged to do so. What, though Satan stand day and night to accuse, Jesus is always on the throne to justify. No accusation of Satan can escape his knowledge, or be unanswered by Christ's advocacy. Sweet thought!
"Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel."
This is a most striking verse. It was the command, under the Levitical dispensation, that the high priests should appear before the Lord in holy garments, for glory and for beauty, see Exodus 28:2. And so to human observation they did appear. Had the Prophet Zechariah not seen these things in vision, by which the Lord gave him a spirit of discernment, he would not have beheld the filthiness of Joshua.
Reader! I beseech you to attend to the doctrine contained in this view of things. Here we see what the law, and what the priesthood was, in their best dress. No doubt Joshua, like all the other priests under the law were what the world would call good men, set apart to the sacred office. Yet, when looked at under the spirit of prophecy, behold, amidst the ephod, and breast-plate, what filthiness they appeared in. Well might the Prophet Isaiah, under a sense of it, when he had once seen the vision of God, cry out, all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags. Isaiah 64:6. Reader! and do all the ministrations of fallen sinful men, as they are in themselves, and without an eye to Christ, thus appear? Do the most upright of men, like this Joshua, come before God polluted and defiled? Oh! then think of the preciousness of Him, who taketh away the iniquity of our holy things, and whose blood, and righteousness, and everlasting priesthood, become the only safety for our persons, and for the acceptation of both persons and offerings before God!
"And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment."
Who is this that answered and spake? Surely the Lord Jesus Christ, for none but Jesus could be said to have taken away sin by the sacrifice of himself; and he alone could use this language. He, who hath washed the Church from all her sins in his blood, might say, behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee. And He who hath clothed his redeemed with the white robes of his own righteousness, might also say, I will clothe thee with change of raiment. Sweet is that song of the Church, in the contemplation of it. Revelation 1:5-6. Reader! what saith the soundings of your heart, in the review of these things? I would say, Lord! take away all the filthy garments of our own fancied goodness, both of priest, and people; yea, the iniquity of all priests and people; that the person, work, and righteousness of that One High Priest, who is holy, harmless, and undefiled, may be the everlasting covering of thy people!
"And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by."
In the first reading of this verse, one might be led to suppose that Zechariah is the speaker. And I said, let them set a fair mitre upon his head. But Zechariah is a spectator, not an actor, in this wonderful vision. The command here given when Joshua was made clean, and fitted by Christ himself for the priestly office, must have been the Lord. And this is most agreeable to the general sense of the covenant. It is Jesus who makes his people Kings and Priests unto God and the Father. Revelation 1:6.
"And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, (7) Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by."
We have here Joshua in his office as priest, and solemnly ordained in it by the Lord himself. Oh! that such blessed ordinations were more frequent in the Church in the present hour. The protestation of the angel of the covenant is striking. But, I beg to make one observation upon the manner in which the Lord declares himself upon the occasion. If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge. I apprehend that these words are not made use of as a condition, or as a procuring cause of the blessedness promised, but as the evidences of the things themselves. The filthy garments of Joshua were taken away, and the fair mitre was actually put upon his head. Where Jesus hath taken away sin, that sin can be no more charged. It is similar to what the Apostle saith in the Hebrews. For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end. Hebrews 3:14. Surely our being made partakers of Christ doth not depend upon our holding; for this would be to make the grace of God to rest in its efficacy upon the merit of man. In both instances, the blessing spoken of, is a blessing already obtained, and the effect therefore becomes an evidence, and not the cause.
"Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH."
The first part of this verse we must attend to, before we enter upon the consideration of the latter. And here we must forget the Joshua we have been looking at in the former part of the Chapter, to consider One infinitely higher, concerning whom we may truly say, a greater than Joshua is here. If the Reader will turn to Isaiah 8:18, he will find Christ spoken of by the Spirit of prophecy, under this significance of character. And the Apostle Paul expressly refers the same to Christ. Hebrews 2:13. Hence, therefore, Christ and his people are one. See Psalms 45:7; Hebrews 1:9; 1 John 1:8.
But how, on what account are Christ and his fellows wondered at? Oh! what a mystery of mysteries is that, which opens to our view the Son of God taking our nature, and becoming man for us, to make us sons of God in him! His people are also men wondered at; for angels are astonished at the love of the holy Jesus towards unholy sinners. The world is astonished, that they should forego all the pleasures of life, and bear afflictions, persecutions, yea, death itself, in its most frightful form, out of love to One whom they have never seen, and for whom they cheerfully endure the loss of all things. And they are the greatest wonder to themselves, that God the Father should have loved them, and chosen them in Christ Jesus before the world began; that God the Son should have loved them, and given himself for them, an offering and a sacrifice to God, for a sweet smelling savor; that God the Holy Ghost should have loved them, called them with an holy calling, regenerated, illuminated, convinced them of sin, and of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus; and brought them to the love of that which their own nature once abhorred. So that they are a world of wonders in themselves, and to themselves; and what yet tends more to heighten the wonderful mystery, is, that they live so unthankful, so unworthy, and so little to his glory, who by his distinguishing grace, hath called them out of darkness, into his marvellous light, while thousands all around are left to the blindness and ignorance of their hearts.
Reader! think of these things, and if so be the Lord hath, by his grace, made you one of the world's wonder, you will enter much further into the meditation of this miracle of grace, than all the writing of men or angels can furnish you with matter for the subject. But this verse records a promise also of God the Father, who saith, for behold, I will bring forth my servant the Branch. Many of the Prophets were directed to speak of this glorious person. Isaiah 4:2. And the same Prophet calls him elsewhere, the Branch of the Lord. Isaiah 11:1. Jeremiah also had the same commission. Jeremiah 23:5; Jer_33:15.
But the most eminent is Zechariah 6:12. because the Prophet there adds, and he shall grow up out of his place. Now the place was Nazareth, from Netzar, a plant. This defines Christ. This is the plant of renown. Ezekiel 34:29. This is the Branch which God's right hand planted. Isaiah 60:1-2. A man of Nazareth. Hence the Evangelist had it in commission to say, that he came and dwelt in Nazareth, that he might be called a Nazarene. So that never was there a more direct reference to one identical person, than by all these prophecies. I beg the Reader to consult them. Matthew 2:23; Judges 13:5; 1 Samuel 1:11; Numbers 6:5.
"For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day."
The glorious stone which Jehovah laid, we read of, Isaiah 28:16. Paul tells us, that this is the foundation on which the Apostles and Prophets are built, and that other foundation can no man lay. Ephesians 2:20; 1 Corinthians 3:11. And Peter confirms the same, when quoting Isaiah's words, he adds, Christ is precious to those that come to this living Stone, and are built upon it. 1 Peter 2:4-8. And well might the Prophet say, that on this one stone should be seven eyes; for all eyes are fixed on Him, and He is the one glorious object of eternity. The eyes of God the Father are centered on Him. The eyes of God the Holy Ghost are fixed on Him. Angels eternally feast their raptured souls in looking on him. The Church in heaven, of the spirits of just men made perfect, are fixed on him. Old Testament Saints, New Testament believers, Jesus is the one glorious object of all. And even devils, enemies, and the ungodly, are compelled to look, and tremble while they look on him. Yea, every eye shall see him, and they also that pierced him, and all nations shall wail because of him. Even so. Amen. Revelation 1:7.
But what engraving is this? Perhaps in allusion to the High Priest, who had the stones of his breast-plate to represent the twelve tribes of Israel; so Christ shall have engraven on his hands, and on his heart, the names of all his redeemed. Compare Exodus 28:9-12; Isaiah 49:16. Hence the Church cries out, Set me as a seal upon thine heart, as a seal upon thine arm. Song of Solomon 8:6. And what can more fully and satisfactorily prove the whole as referring to the Lord Jesus Christ, as in that blessed promise of Jehovah, to remove the iniquity of that land in one day. Who could remove this but Christ? And what day could this have been done in, but in that glorious, awful day, when on the cross Jesus finished transgression, made an end of sin, and by one offering of himself, once offered, perfected forever them that are sanctified. 1 John 1:7; Daniel 9:24; Hebrews 10:14; Revelation 5:9.
"In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree."
Here are the blessed consequences, and the gracious and glorious effects of the whole. Believers in Christ brought into a state of grace, mercy, and peace, sit down as under their own vine, and their fig-tree, for none can make them afraid. Sin cannot, for it is done away. Hell cannot, for Christ hath conquered hell, death, and the grave. And corruption cannot, for Christ's holiness is the holiness of his redeemed. What he is, he is for his people; and is made of God to them, wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption. 1 Corinthians 1:30. And as the people of God thus sit down to a constant feast of love, and joy, and peace, in believing, abounding in hope through the power of the Holy Ghost; so they gladly invite their fellows to join in their triumphs in Jesus. Every follower of the Lord is anxious to promote the Lord's glory, and to proclaim the blessedness of that grace he himself hath found. So that these are the blessed fruits of salvation. Reader! the Lord gives us daily sweet testimonies of the same in our own hearts. Amen. Isaiah 2:2-4; Micah 4:4.
Reader! look up with thankfulness to God the Holy Ghost, for the blessed information given in this Chapter, of the state in which poor sinners, both ministers and people, as they are in themselves, appear before God. Thank the Lord the Spirit, that since we have such an accuser of the brethren before God, we are made acquainted with his devices, And oh! bless the Great and Almighty Glorifier of the Lord Jesus, for the blessed view he hath here afforded the Church of the everlasting and all-prevailing Advocacy of Jesus. Yes! thou glorious Intercessor, thou complete justifying righteousness of thy people! Thou hast rebuked Satan. Thou dost, thou wilt rebuke him. Neither shall he prevail against us. We are indeed clothed with filthy garments; for our best robes, our prayer robes, our sacramental robes, all are unclean, unless washed from their impurities in thy blood. Do thou, O Lord, say concerning all thy redeemed now, as of Joshua, the high priest of old; behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, I will clothe thee with change of raiment!
And oh, thou blessed Lord! Do I not behold in thee the Branch Jehovah hath brought forth, raised up, and made blessed to all thy people? How fragrant, how everlastingly filled with verdure! How fruitful in all redemption blessings to thy redeemed! Under thee, Lord, and thy shadow, would my soul forever sit with delight, and thy fruit will be sweet to my taste. On thee, O Lord, as the Stone Jehovah hath laid in Zion, would my soul forever gaze, and feast my ravished eyes! Blessed, and Almighty Jehovah! On this signet, this High Priest of my soul, grave my poor name, and give me to see my soul's interest, and everlasting security in that unspeakable mercy, since thou hast removed the iniquity of that land in one day; so that; now if the iniquity of Israel be sought for, there shall be none; and the sons of Judah, and they shall not be found. Blessed! blessed forever be God, for Jesus Christ! In him shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory. Amen.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Zechariah 3". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Easter