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§ 6. The fourth vision: Joshua the high priest before the angel.
He showed me. The Septuagint and Vulgate give, "The Lord showed me." Some suppose that it was the interpreting angel who showed this vision; but his duty was to explain, not to present, the visions. So in Zechariah 1:20 it is the Lord who shows the "four craftsmen." This vision is closely connected with the last. In that it was declared that the Lord would again dwell in Jerusalem, and visit his people with blessings. But to fit them for the presence and favour of Jehovah they must be pure. To this end they must have a holy priesthood to train them in righteous ways, to oppose the attacks of the adversary, and to intercede for them effectually. The removal of their impurity is represented in the fourth vision. Joshua the high priest (see note on Haggai 1:1). The name is written Joshua in Ezra 2:2, etc. He was the first of the high priests after the Captivity, succeeding, as by hereditary right, his father Josedech, who died in Babylon. For his services in restoring the temple he is praised among great men in Ecclesiasticus 49:12. Standing before the angel of the Lord. Joshua is the representative of the priesthoood, and through that also of the whole people. The angel of Jehovah (see notes on Zechariah 1:11, Zechariah 1:13) is the representative of and endowed with attributes of Jehovah, the Friend and Leader of Israel. The phrase, "standing before," is used in a ministerial sense, as of a servant rendering service to a superior (Genesis 41:46; 1 Kings 12:6, 1 Kings 12:8), and a priest or Levite performing his official duties (Deuteronomy 10:8; Ezekiel 44:15) : also, in a judicial sense, of a person appearing before a judge, either as plaintiff (Numbers 27:2; 1 Kings 3:16) or defendant (Numbers 35:12). Many commentators find in this scene a judicial process, Joshua appearing before the angel as before his judge; and Ewald supposes that it adumbrates his actual accusation at the Persian court, The mention of the adversary at the right hand (Psalms 109:6) is supposed to confirm this interpretation. But it is obvious that the adversary might stand at the right hand, not as a formal accuser in a trial, but in order to resist and hinder Joshua's proceedings; the angel, too, is not represented as sitting on a throne of judgment, but standing by (verse 5), and there is no further intimation of any judicial process in the vision. It is therefore best to conceive that Joshua is interceding for the people in his official capacity in the presence of the representative of Jehovah. The locality is not specified; it may have been before the altar, which, we know, was built and used at this time. The special mention of his garments implies that he was engaged in official duties in a consecrated spot; but the place is immaterial. Satan; the adversary, or accuser. The personality of Satan is here plainly recognized, as in Job 1:6, etc.; Job 2:1, etc; rendered by the LXX. in all these places, ὁ διάβολος (see Appendix B, in Archdeacon Perowne's 'Commentary on Zechariah'). At his (Joshua's) right hand. Not as a judicial accuser, but as an enemy to resist his efforts for the good of the people, and to thwart his interests with the angel of the Lord. To resist him; to act the adversary to him. The verb is cognate to, the noun above. From what follows we must suppose that Satan objects against Joshua both his own personal sin and the transgressions of the people whose burden he bore (comp. verse 9, where his sin is called "the iniquity of the land," which would include the guilt which had led to the Captivity, their dilatoriness in building the temple, and all their backslidings since the return).
The Lord said. The Angel of Jehovah speaks. The appellations are often here used interchangeably. The Lord rebuke thee. The Lord's rebuke falls with effect where it is directed; it paralyzes the hostile power (comp. Psalms 106:9; Nahum 1:4). Satan's accusation may have been well founded, but it sprang from malice, and was directed against the people whom God was receiving into favour, and therefore it was rejected and rendered innocuous. Some commentators have supposed that St. Jude is alluding to this passage when (Jude 1:9) he quotes the words of Michael contending about the body of Moses, "The Lord rebuke thee:" but it is more probable that Jude is referring to some rabbinical tradition, or to the apocryphal 'Assumption of Moses' (see the matter examined in Dissertation I. of Dr. Gloag's 'Introduction to the Catholic Epistles'). That hath chosen Jerusalem (Zechariah 1:17; Zechariah 2:12). God's election of Israel and renewed acceptance of her is the reason why Satan's accusation is rejected (Deuteronomy 7:7, Deuteronomy 7:8). She is not to be abandoned to the consequences of her sins, nor were God's gracious purposes towards her to be frustrated. "God hath not cast away his people, which he foreknew;" and, "Who shall lay anything to the charge of God's elect?" (Romans 8:33; Romans 11:2, Romans 11:29). This. This man, Joshua, saved from his father's and grandfather's fate (see on Haggai 1:1), a type of the deliverance of Israel. A brand plucked out of the fire. Israel had been already punished by defeat, captivity, distress, and misery. From these evils, which had almost destroyed her, she had been delivered; and the deliverance would be completed; she should not be cast again into the fire (see Amos 4:11, and note there). The expression is proverbial.
Clothed with filthy garments. The soiled, or dark mourning garments represent not so much the low estate to which the Aaronic priesthood had been reduced, as the defilements of sin with which Joshua was encompassed, especially, perhaps, his error in allowing his descendants to intermarry with heathens (Ezra 10:18). But the sin was not only personal; he appeared laden with the guilt of the priesthood and his people. He is a type of Christ in this. Christ, indeed, was without sin; yet he bare our sins in his own body on the tree, and was made sin for us (Romans 8:3; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Some consider that the soiled garments denote the mean address in which an accused person appeared in court. But this is to import a Roman custom (comp. Livy, 2:54; Joshua 6:20) into Hebrew practice. Others deem it incongruous to make a high priest violate the decency of his office by officiating in unclean apparel. But the violation of propriety was a requirement of the vision, that thus the defilement of sin might be symbolical. He stood before the angel. To ask his aid and protection (verse 4).
He answered. The Angel of Jehovah answered the mute petition of Joshua. Those that stood before him. The attendant angels, who waited on the Angel of Jehovah to do his pleasure (see note on verse 1). Take away the filthy garments. This symbolized remission of sins and restoration to favour, as the following words explain, I will clothe thee with change of raiment; Revised Version, with rich apparel. The word machalatsoth occurs also in Isaiah 3:22, and may mean either "change of raiment," or "costly raiment;" or the meanings may be combined in the sense of "festal robes," only worn on great occasions and changed after the occasion. They are used here as symbols of righteousness and glory. Not only is the sin pardoned, but the wearer is restored to the full glory of his state. The LXX. makes the words to be addressed to the attendants, "Clothe ye him in a robe flowing to the feet" (ποδήρη, the word used for Aaron's priestly garment, Exodus 28:4; Ecclesiasticus 45:8).
I said. If this is the true reading (which Ewald doubts), we must consider that the prophet, excited by what has passed, cannot stand by as a mere spectator, but feels constrained to take part in the scene, and to request that the change of garments may be completed by the addition of the fair head dress. The LXX. omits the word, continuing the address to the attendant. The Vulgate has, et dixit. So the Syriac and the Targum and some few manuscripts. But the received reading is confirmed, as Dr. Alexander points out, by the change in the mood of the following verb from the imperative to the optative, "let them put," "would that they put." There is nothing incongruous in the prophet thus intervening in his own person. Thus Isaiah, in the midst of a solemn vision, gives vent to his feelings (Isaiah 6:5), and St. John in the Apocalypse often mingles his own sentiments and actions with what he beheld (comp. Revelation 5:4; Revelation 10:9; Revelation 11:1). Mitre (tsaniph); Septuagint, κίδαριν: so the Vulgate, cidarim. This is not the same word as that used in Exodus 28:4, etc. (which is mitsnepheth), for the official head dress of Aaron, though it is probably a synonym for it; and the prophet's wish is to see Joshua not only reinstated in his office and dignity, but found holy also. For the fair linen mitre, or tiara, was that which bore upon its front the golden plate inscribed, "Holiness unto the Lord" (Exodus 28:36-38), and therefore showed that he was qualified to intercede for the people. Stood by. The Angel of Jehovah continued standing in his place, contemplating, sanctioning, and directing what was being done.
Protested. Solemnly and earnestly admonished, adjured. Διεμαρτίρατο; Genesis 43:3; 2 Kings 17:13. The Angel sets before Joshua his duties, and urges him to keep in the right way, promising to him and to the nation blessing and honour, and proceeding to prophesy of a great future.
Walk in my ways. God's ways are his commandments, as the next words explain. Keep my charge. The Vulgate retains the Hebraism, Custodiam meam custodieris (comp. Genesis 26:5; Malachi 3:14). The charge means the laws and ordinances of the Mosaic institution. Then. The apodosis rightly begins here, though Kimchi and others make it commence at "I will give thee," taking the following two clauses as denoting parts of his duties, the observance of which conditioned his acceptance. Thou shalt also judge my house. The mention of "my courts" in the following clause requires that "house" here should mean, not people or family, but, in a more restricted sense, the temple, looked upon as the spiritual centre of the nation. If the high priest kept the ordinances and commandments, he should rule and order Divine worship, and "judge," i.e. govern, the ministers of the sanctuary. Keep my courts. He was to preserve the temple, and that which the temple represented, from all idolatry and ungodliness. This duty, as Hengstenberg observes, is introduced as a reward, because it was an honour and a privilege to be entrusted with such an office, and the greatest favour which God could confer upon man. Places to walk. The LXX. takes the word as a participle, translating, ἀναστερεφομένους, "persons walking;" so the Syriac; Vulgate, ambulantes. This is explained to mean that God will give him out of the band of angels (Zechariah 3:4), some to accompany and aid him in his ministrationS. But the word is best taken as a noun meaning "walks," "goings." The Revised Version gives, "a place of access" in the text, restoring the Authorized Version in the margin; but there seems to be no good reason for the Revised rendering. The translation, "goings," "walks," gives much the same signification, and is consonant with the use of the word elsewhere (comp. Nehemiah 2:6; Ezekiel 42:4; Jonah 3:9, Jonah 3:4). It means that Joshua should have free access to God. The gloss of the Targum, that it is here intimated that the high priest should be admitted to the company of the angels after the resurrection, is unsuitable, as the other parts of the promise have respect to this present world. Among these that stand by; i.e. among the attendant angels who wait upon God to do his will, and a company of whom were gathered round the Angel of Jehovah in the vision (see verse 4). It is natural piety to believe that the hosts of heaven join in the worship of the Church on earth, and assist godly ministers with their presence and fellowship. Here is adumbrated that access to God which the Christian enjoys in Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). This is more fully revealed in the next verse.
Hear now; ἄκουε δή. Joshua is called upon to give all his attention to the important announcement that follows, which promises a very great boon in the future. Thy fellows that sit before thee. His fellow priests, who took their orders from him and sat with him in council. These priests were not seen in the vision. Keil considers that the address, to which Joshua's attention is called, begins at "Thou and thy fellows." For (or, yea) they are men wondered at; Septuagint, διότι ἄνδρες τερατοσκόποι εἰσί, "men observers of wonders;" Vulgate, Quia viri portendentes sunt (see Isaiah 8:18). The phrase would be better rendered, "men of portent, sign, or type." Revised Version gives, "men which are a sign," i.e. who foreshadow some future events, whose persons, office, duties, typify and look forward to good things to come. I will bring forth my Servant the BRANCH. This is why they are called typical men, because God is making the antitype to appear. The word rendered "branch" (tsemach) is translated by the Septuagint ἀνατολήν, which is used in the sense of "shoot" as well as "sunrise" (see Jeremiah 23:5; Ezekiel 16:7; Ezekiel 17:10), and by the Vulgate, orientem. So the Syriac and Arabic (comp. Luke 1:78). Most interpreters rightly see here a reference to the Messiah. Some few have fancied that Zerubbabel and Nehemiah are meant; but the appellation, "my Servant Branch," has already been applied in prophetical language to Messiah, and cannot be distorted to any inferior subject, such as a mere civil ruler. Messiah is often called the Lord's "Servant," e.g. Isaiah 42:1; Isaiah 43:10; Isaiah 52:13, etc. And the terms, "Branch," or "Rod," or "Shoot," referring to Messiah, are found in Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1; Jeremiah 23:5; Jeremiah 33:15. From the depressed house of David a scion should spring, in whom all that was prophesied concerning the priesthood and kingdom of Israel should find its accomplishment.
For behold. This gives the reason why the "Branch" is brought forth; the Church is to be firmly established and all iniquity to be abolished. The stone that I have laid (set) before Joshua. In the vision a stone is seen lying at the feet of Joshua, either the foundationstone of the temple, say the commentators, or the cornerstone, or the coping; or, as the Talmud testifies, a stone that rose some three fingers' measure above the ground, and upon which the high priest used to set the censer of incense. But it was more probably none of these, but some rough, unhewed block, not yet polished or fitted into its place. What does it represent? Many critics of note answer at once, the Messiah. He who was above called "Branch" is now called the "Stone." And certainly this term in applied unto him in prophetical language, as in Isaiah 28:16; Psalms 118:22; and references are made to the appellation is the New Testament as to a well known title, e.g. Matthew 21:42; Ephesians 2:20. But there are objections to taking this as the primary sense. As Knabenbauer points out, it is not likely that in one verse the Lord's Servant Branch is said to be destined to be brought forth, and in the next the same is called the stone which is set before Joshua and has to be graven by a hand Divine. Besides, if both terms mean Messiah, we have the very lame conclusion: I will bring Messiah because I have already placed him before Joshua. The stone, too, is represented as somewhat under the management of Joshua, and needing graving and polishing, neither of which facts apply to the Messiah. Putting out of sight other interpretations which are all more or less inadmissible, we shall be safest in considering the stone to represent the theocracy, the spiritual kingdom of Israel, now indeed lying imperfect and unpolished before Joshua, but ordained to become beautiful and extensive and admirable. So Daniel (Daniel 2:35, Daniel 2:45) speaks of the stone cut out of the mountains without hands, which filled the whole earth, a figure of the Church and kingdom of God, small in its beginning, but in the end establishing its rule over the world. Upon one stone; LXX; ἐπὶ τὸν λίθον τὸν ἕνα, "upon the one stone." The stone is termed "one" in contrast with the number seven that follows. Shall be (are) seven eyes. Upon this stone the eyes of God are directed in watchful care (comp. Zechariah 4:10; and for the phrase, see 1 Kings 8:29; Psalms 33:18; Psalms 34:15; Jeremiah 39:12). "Seven" is the number of perfection, and may denote here the infinite care which God takes of his Church, even as St. John in the Revelation (Revelation 1:4; Revelation 5:6) beheld the Lamb "having seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth." The expression is metaphorical, and we are not to suppose, with Ewald, that the eyes were graven on the stone, or that Zechariah derived his notion from the tenets of Zoroaster or the degrees of rank in the Persian court. There may be an allusion to the seven gifts of the Spirit with which Messiah is anointed (Isaiah 11:2), and which animate and strengthen his body, the Church. I will engrave the graving thereof. As God engraved the tables of the Law (Exodus 32:16). I will out and polish this rough stone to fit it for its place in the temple. The verb is used of the bold engraving and ornamentation of stonework, the finishing which it undergoes to perfect its preparation. Those who regard the stone as typifying the Messiah, see in this clause an intimation of the Passion of Christ, who "was wounded for our transgressions." The LXX. has, "I dig a trench," which Jerome explains of the wounds of Christ on the cross. I will remove the iniquity of that land. The shaping of the stone involves the bestowal of purity and holiness. God will pardon the inhabitants of the land of Israel, and make them a holy nation (Jeremiah 33:7, Jeremiah 33:8). But the promise stretches far beyond the limits primarily assigned to it. In one day. The day when Christ died for the sins of men. There is an allusion to the great Day of Atonement, when the high priest went once a year into the holy of holies with the blood of sacrifice. This, however, was an imperfect reconciliation, and had to be repeated annually. "But Christ being come an High Priest of the good things to come … through his own blood entered in once for all (ἐφάπαξ) into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption Now once at the end of the ages hath he been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself" (Hebrews 9:11-26; comp. Hebrews 7:27; Hebrews 10:10).
Shall ye call every man his neighbour, etc. In this cleansed and purified kingdom shall be found peace, happiness, and plenty, recalling the prosperous days of Solomon (1 Kings 4:25). (For a similar picture of prosperity, see Micah 4:4, and note there.) This is fulfilled in Christ, who says to his true disciples, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you" (John 14:27). Dr. Wright notes, "We are told in the Talmud ('Yoma,' Zechariah 7:4) that when, on the great Day of Atonement, the high priest had performed the various duties of that solemn day, he was escorted home in a festive manner, and was accustomed to give a festal entertainment to his friends. The maidens and youths of the people went forth to their gardens and vineyards with songs and dances; social entertainments took place on all sides, and universal gladness closed the festival of that solemn day."
The priesthood restored.
"And he showed me Joshua the high priest," etc. Here begins a new vision, which, like that described in Zechariah 2:1-4, takes us back to the date of utterance. In that we saw the restoration of the ancient city Jerusalem. In this we seem shown the restoration of the ancient Levitical priesthood. For seventy years the functions of that priesthood appear to have been in abeyance. Nowhere in Daniel and Ezekiel do we read of sacrifices being offered by the children of the Captivity. It was desirable, therefore—possibly necessary—to have those functions restored (compare, perhaps, the restoration of Peter's apostleship in John 21:15-17). Understood as describing a kind of heavenly council called for this purpose, the present vision sets before us
(1) the offender;
(2) the adversary;
(3) the Advocate; and
(4) the decision.
I. THE OFFENDER; Viz. Joshua the son of Josedech, the lineally descended high priest of that day (1 Chronicles 6:3-15; Ezra 3:2), and, therefore, the proper and natural representative of the priesthood which had lapsed. As such we see him here: 1. Appearing in guilt. This shown, of course, by the "filthy garments" (Isaiah 64:6) in which he is clothed, and by which may be understood more especially those sins of himself and of his predecessors and people by which, in a measure and for a season, the former priesthood had been forfeited. 2. Coming up to be judge. This shown by his "standing" (as noticed both in verses 1 and 3; comp. Acts 25:10; Romans 14:10) before the Angel-Jehovah, his proper Judge (comp. John 5:22; Romans 14:10). Such, be it remembered, in each respect, if without a Saviour, is the condition of us all.
II. THE ADVERSARY. As his name (margin of verse 2), so his work in this place (comp. Job 1:9-11; Job 2:4, Job 2:5; Revelation 12:10). This a great aggravation of the evil of Joshua's case. It is one thing to be guilty and deserving of punishment. It is another, and even worse, to have a powerful and malignant adversary claiming, as it were, the actual infliction of that punishment upon us. Sin itself cries out for justice against the offender (Genesis 4:10; Hebrews 12:24). The adversary cries out against the injustice of allowing him to be spared (2 Samuel 19:21).
III. THE ADVOCATE; viz. the Judge—i.e. Jehovah himself (see beginning of verse 2). This greatly to be admired (comp. Psalms 32:7, "Thou art my Hiding place;" also Psalms 119:114). Note, also, the two cogent pleas which this great Advocate (1 John 2:1) urges. These are:
1. The settled purpose of God in this matter. God had long ago "chosen Jerusalem." He must not now be asked to reject it.
2. The past action of God in this matter. Having already so far begun to deliver as to "pluck this brand from the burning," it would be inconsistent of him now to go back. Even to ask anything opposed to that is to incur the "rebuke" of Jehovah.
IV. THE DECISION. It is very complete. It embraces, as we should describe it in New Testament language:
1. The "justification" of Joshua, or the acceptance of his person. This signified, as we are expressly told here, by the change of his raiment (see also Isaiah 61:10; Luke 15:22; Revelation 19:8).
2. The "sanctification" of Joshua, or the acceptance of his ministrations. This represented by that "fair mitre," which—either at the request of the prophet, or, as some take it, of the great Angel himself, who, in any case, is described as "standing by" and assenting—was next placed on Joshua's head; and in which mitre also (though the word is different) there seems (see Pusey, in loc.) a reference to that "beauty of holiness" described in Exodus 28:36-38. So completely now was that fulfilled of which we read in Ezekiel 20:41, and which was afterwards described in Malachi 3:4.
Two very remarkable omissions may be noted, to conclude. These illustrate:
1. The wonderful freeness of God's mercy. We find nothing whatever offered to God by Joshua and Israel towards recovering these lapsed privileges. Nothing whatever, also, is demanded of them as a necessary condition thereto. The whole thing is spoken of as a matter of grace or favour from beginning to end.
2. The wonderful fulness of God's mercy. No mention is made, in the account of this great transaction, of the precise nature of the accusations and charges brought by the adversary against Joshua. Whatever they are, they are treated as done with; and done with altogether. Their very memory, as it were, is to perish. So, "I will not remember their sins," in Isaiah 43:25 (see Jeremiah 31:34; also, in a somewhat different connection, Ezekiel 18:22; Ezekiel 33:16). "To err is human; to forgive, Divine." Especially so to forgive in this manner (compare, "Who is a God like unto thee?" in Micah 7:18-20).
The priesthood eclipsed.
"And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua," etc. The ancient Jewish priesthood, as we saw in our last, being fully restored, what was to become of it in process of time? The answer to this was partly conditional, partly not so. If faithfully discharged by Joshua and his fellows and successors, that priesthood would be for many generations a thing of honour and blessing. In any case, it would ultimately be altogether eclipsed by another priesthood of a far more glorious kind. Such seems to be the full purport of the rest of this chapter. We may consider the conditional promise in the first place, and the unconditional in the second.
I. THE CONDITIONAL PROMISE. (Verses 6, 7.) Under this head we may notice:
1. The marked solemnity of its manner. By whom made? The Angel-Jehovah. In what attitude? That of standing, as most impressive (see Pusey, in loc.). With what language? That of protestation, and protestation in God's name.
2. Its twofold condition. Being, on the one hand, apparently personals" walking in God's ways," and, on the other, apparently ministerial—keeping God's "charge" or ordinances (compare "Take heed to thyself, and to the doctrine," of 1 Timothy 4:16; also Acts 20:28).
3. Its threefold blessing. The preceding conditions beings observed, Joshua and those after him, representing the restored priesthood, should have the honour and privilege
(1) of administering justice, and so being a blessing to God's people or "house" (compare the semi-civil position occupied afterwards by Ezra the priest, Ezra 8:11, etc; specially Ezra 8:25, Ezra 8:26; also Ezra 10:4; also, in New Testament, by Caiaphas and others, and, in the history of Josephus, by Jaddua and others);
(2) of taking charge of God's courts, and leading his worship and service—a blessing this, indeed, as shown by such passages as 1 Samuel 2:28; Psalms 134:1-3.; also Psalms 84:10 and Psalms 27:4; and,
(3) as we understand it, of taking rank, after death, even with those holy angels who were then in attendance, and whose appointed place of honour and dignity was close to God's throne (see Zechariah 4:14; Zechariah 6:5; Luke 1:19; Matthew 18:10).
II. THE UNCONDITIONAL PROMISE. However things might turn out with this Joshua (or Jesus) and his successors regarding this restored Levitical priesthood, they were but "men of marvellous signs" (so Pusey and others). In other words, they were but types and figures of a far greater and holier "Jesus"—a Priest who was some day to be "brought forth." This Priest, while like these in some respects, was to differ from them in many others. For example besides being a Priest who was to be "brought forth" and to supersede these, he was also to be:
1. From a wholly different line; viz. that of "David" and Judah (see Hebrews 7:13, Hebrews 7:14).
2. In a very different position. Not merely a Judge (see supra) as well as Priest, under Persian or other chief rulers, but a King (compare what is said of the "Branch" in Jeremiah 23:5; also Zechariah 6:12, Zechariah 6:13).
3. Of a far superior nature. Divine, i.e; as well as human (compare, once again, what is said of the "Branch" in Jeremiah 23:1-40; as "Jehovah our Righteousness;" also what is said here of the "stone" and the "seven eyes," with Daniel 2:34, Daniel 2:35, Daniel 2:44, Daniel 2:45; Zechariah 4:10; Revelation 4:5; Colossians 2:9).
4. Doing a far higher work; viz. partly because suffering in his own glorious Person (as shown by the "graving" engraven on this "Stone"), and not merely offering sacrifice; partly, also, because "removing iniquity" fully and once for all ("in one day"), and not merely partially and for a time (Hebrews 10:11-14; Hebrews 9:13, Hebrews 9:14); and partly because, by so doing, he brought in perpetual peace.
The whole passage, thus interpreted, serves to illustrate:
1. A peculiar feature of Holy Writ. We can hardly believe that the prophet himself understood all that we have now gathered from his words. This taught us about the Old Testament prophets generally in 1 Peter 1:10, 1 Peter 1:11, and almost necessarily implied, in fact, in the Divine inspiration of Scripture. Tills exemplified also in the case of bad men (Numbers 22-24.; John 11:51, John 11:52) when "carried away" (φερόμενοι, 2 Peter 1:21) by the Spirit of God. Even in the case of demoniac inspiration (so to describe it), something like this is true, the speech of the man or woman possessed expressing more than they themselves can be supposed to mean or to know.
2. The great object of Holy Writ; viz. to testify of the "Branch," the "Day spring", the "Lord our Righteousness" (comp. John 5:39; Luke 24:25-27; 1 Peter 1:11, as before; 1 Timothy 3:15). Always, as here, the Scriptures seem to hasten away from what is temporary and conditional to what is eternal and, in one sense, unconditional, viz. to those sufferings and subsequent glories of the Incarnate Word which the apostle seems to understand by that remarkable expression, "the sure mercies of David" (Isaiah 55:3; Acts 13:34). So true is that which we find written in Acts 10:43 and in the end of Revelation 19:10.
HOMILIES BY W. FORSYTH
Satan and Christ.
Joshua was the representative of the people, not personally, but in his public character. What was done to him in a figure was to be done to them and for them in fact. The great object was to restore confidence in God and in his servants, and to raise the hopes of the people that the work of grace would triumph in spite of all opposition.
I. THE POWER OF SATAN TO RESIST. The adversary. Cunning and strong. Maliciously working as he has done from the beginning, to keep man apart from God. But his power is usurped, and his devices are doomed to exposure and defeat. He may plead in the guise of justice, but it is not from love of right. He may work upon a guilty conscience, but it is not to lead to penitence, but to engender fear and distrust, and to widen the breach between the soul and God.
II. THE POWER OF CHRIST TO REDEEM.
1. Founded in righteousness. He is the true "Daystnan."
2. Inspired by love. He has vindicated his claim to plead for us because he died for us. Whom he "chooses" he will never forsake.
3. Adequate to the greatest emergency. He is able to "rebuke" the adversary; to "rescue" the prey from the hands of the mighty; to "restore" the lost purity, and the failing confidence, and the faltering service. He was manifested to "destroy the works of the devil." In this there is hope for the sinner, comfort for the downcast believer, encouragement to all true servants of the Lord.—F.
Three things which concern the soul.
I. GUILT. "Filthy." The outward symbolizes the inward. Satan pleads that there is no remedy. He would anticipate the day of doom. "Let him that is filthy be filthy still? But all is not lost.
II. MEDIATION. Christ our Representative. Pleads for us on the ground of his sacrifice. Pledges himself to raise us from our low and lost estate. Not only removal of guilt, but restoration of character. He is stronger than the strong man, and rejoices to rescue the prey from his hands.
III. HOLY SERVICE. Begins with conversion. But there must be renewed consecration. Satan resists. Pleads at the bar of conscience, to crush the rising hopes of the heart; at the bar of God, to hinder, if he can, the return of the soul to its true allegiance and service. All obstacles to good are of the devil Christ is for us, therefore let us not be afraid. Highest encouragements. God's love. Christ's work of grace. The Holy Spirit the Sanctifier.—F.
We may take this as
A picture of Christ and the soul.
I. TENDER CONCERN. The beginnings of life are full of interest. So it is with the budding of the flower; the lispings of infancy; the first tokens of love. How carefully the gardener watches the germinating of some rare seed! With what tender solicitude friends wait for the signs of returning health to the loved one brought low by disease! So in an infinitely higher way as to our Lord. Our souls are precious in his sight (Luke 15:20; John 1:48).
II. HOLY SATISFACTION IN THE DEFEAT OF THE GREAT ENEMY. Sympathetic. Ever on the alert. Ready to interpose effectively at the right moment. The wilderness, Gethsemane, Calvary, testify to his love and mighty power. His victory was our victory. Every sinner converted, every backslider restored, every believer strengthened and fitted for higher service, is to the shame of Satan and to the glory of Christ.
III. EXULTING JOY IN THE RESCUE OF SOULS. "Standing" implies continued interest. Lasts all through, from the first struggle to the final victory (cf. Stephen, Acts 7:36). Christ's love never faileth, and his joy is the joy of eternity and of God. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied."—F.
Zechariah 3:6, Zechariah 3:7
If and them; or, the great things of God's promises.
I. THE GREAT IN CHARACTER. How described.
1. Obedience. Life regulated by the Divine will. "Walk in my ways."
2. Fidelity of service. Life devoted to God's glory. So Moses (Hebrews 3:5).
II. THE GREAT IN HONOUR. Not place, or outward distinction, or arbitrary rewards. "Knighthoods and honours borne without desert are titles but of scorn" (Shakespeare). Three things.
1. "Judge my house."
2. "Keep my courts."
3. "Walks among those that stand by."
Dignity. Power with God and power with man. Society of the noblest.
III. THE GREAT IN BLESSEDNESS. Freedom of soul. Holy living. Harmonious development. Grandest fellowship. Immortal hope. The promises of God are gracious in character, elevating in purpose, faithful in fulfilment.—F.
"Men wondered at." There are times when there are signs in the heavens and on the earth—prodigies which rouse attention. So in society. There are men who stand out from others. Their characters have a special significance. Their lives are prophecies. Perhaps most of the great men of the Bible were of thin sort. So here—
I. REPRESENTATIVE OF THEIR GENERATION. They breathe the spirit of the age. The evil and the good, of their times, are seen in them at the highest. "There were giants in those days"
II. ADUMBRATE GREAT FORCES. Powers have been at work for long that come out. Embodied. We see the height to which corruption may rise. Intellect without conscience, passion without principle, power without God. Or it may be otherwise. Men of genius and resolution faithful to the truth, ardent for the good of their brethren—reformers, professors, martyrs, whose glory was to live not to themselves, but to God.
III. FORESHADOW COMING JUDGMENT. Like Pharaoh, they have been raised up for God's glory. Like the Jews, they are "ensamples" of God's judgments. What they do, what they suffer, what they enjoy, are as forecasts and foreshadowings of what will be, on to the perfect end. Often such men obtain a certain worship. "There is so much of chance in warfare, and such vast events are connected with the acts of the single individual, that the proper temperament for generating and receiving superstitious impressions is naturally produced" (Coleridge). But they are "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come."—F.
I. THE TIME OF HIS COMING DIVINELY FIXED. There was the ancient promise, and long waiting generations came and went. Manifold changes. Overturning of kingdoms and dynasties. The old stock of David seemed as good as dead. But life preserved. "Branch" destined to spring and bud in his season. There is "a time to every purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Christ. came "in the fulness of time."
II. THE CHARACTER OF HIS WORK DIVINELY APPOINTED. "Servant." Christ came to do the will of the Father. As the Law was hidden in the ark, so the law of God was hidden in his heart. What God ordained, he freely chose. What God commanded, he delighted to carry out. He never wavered, never wearied. Why? Because the work given him to do accorded both with eternal righteousness and the highest good of man. Faithful even to the death of the cross.
III. THE RESULTS OF HIS MINISTRY DIVINELY SETTLED. Removal of sin. Upbuilding of the Church of God in the strength of righteousness and the beauty Of holiness and the joys of love. What he began he would surely finish. Solomon's temple was "finished," and king and people rejoiced with great joy. Zerubbabel's temple was also to be "finished," and this should be a sign and seal of the forgiveness of past iniquity, and of the outshining of God's favour on the land. So these prophesy of greater things to come. Christ's exulting cry on the cross, "It is finished!" proclaimed the opening of heaven to all believers, the new heaven and the new earth, and the restitution of all things.—F.
HOMILIES BY D. THOMAS
The good man on earth in his intercessory function.
"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," etc. Our prophet here delivers to the Jews who had been restored from Babylon a vision which he had witnessed, in order to encourage them in the work of rebuilding the temple. The scene of the vision seems to have been the precincts, of the temple. He saw Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Lord on their behalf, robed in "filthy garments." He saw "Satan," the great enemy of humanity, oppose him in his intercessory engagements; but Satan was, nevertheless, rebuked by Jehovah; and the seer heard a Divine voice commanding the "filthy garments" to be taken away from the priest, declaring the removal of his iniquity, commending a "mitre" to be put on his head, ordering him to be clothed in a new raiment, and promising him other blessings if he would but "walk" in the "ways" of God. Regarding the vision as a symbolical revelation of Joshua, in his representative aspect as the high priest of the Jewish people then existing, we feel authorized to infer from it two or three ideas touching the intercessory functions of good men while on earth.
I. THAT THE GOOD MAN, IN HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS TO BEAR BEFORE GOD THE MORAL IMPERFECTIONS OF HIS RACE. Joshua had on "filthy garments." This was evidently intended to represent the corrupt state of the Jewish people. The seventy years' captivity had not purified them; for now, instead of setting themselves to the work of rebuilding the house of the Lord, they were taken up with their own personal concerns, and excusing themselves by saying, "The time is not come" (Haggai 1:2). Here, then, is a characteristic feature of a good man's intercession while on earth. He has to bear the imperfections of his fellow creatures before God. Intercession itself we consider to be an obligation resting on all minds, in all worlds, forever. Prayer, either for self or others, is not confined to earth. What is prayer for self but a living sense of dependence upon God? And where is there a virtuous mind in the universe without this sense? This, indeed, lies at the root of all true religion. And what is prayer for others, or intercession, but a deep, loving sympathy with them, a desire for their highest interests? And does not this benevolent feeling lie at the basis of all moral excellence? There is not a saint nor an angel in heaven, we suppose, who does not desire the progress of kindred spirits; and what is this but intercession? But that which distinguishes the intercession on earth is that we have to remember the moral corruption of our race. In heaven there is no defilement. All there are clad either in the robes of pristine holiness or in garments washed and made white by the cleansing influences of redemptive love. But here all are in "filthy garments"—garments stained by sensuality, worldliness, idolatry, falsehood, and dishonesty. Here the pious parent has to appear before God for sinful children, the minister for sinful people, and the pious sovereign for a sinful nation.
II. THAT THE GOOD MAN, IN HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS TO CONTEND WITH A MIGHTY SPIRITUAL ANTAGONIST. The prophet saw Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. The existence of some mighty spirit or spirits, who are determined foes of truth, virtue, and the happiness of man, is rendered more than probable by a number of considerations, independent of the testimony of the Bible. Such, for example, as the general belief of the race, the conflicting phenomena of the moral world, the unaccountable opposite impressions of which all are conscious. But the Bible is most clear on this subject. Under various names, "the serpent," "the devil," "the god of this world," "the prince of the power of the air," this great enemy of the race is brought under our notice. Now, this enemy stood up to resist Joshua in his intercessions. And who will say that he is not now specially active with the good man, when he draws near to God? In how many ways may he hinder our prayers? Sometimes he may suggest to us, even in the very time of our prayers, doubts as to the existence of God; we may be tempted to ask—Are we sure there is a God? May not the idea be a delusion, for who has ever seen or heard him? Or, granting his existence, he may suggest whether he would condescend to attend to the affairs of an individual. We may be tempted to the supposition that he takes care of the great but overlooks the little; or that the universe is so thoroughly and absolutely under a system of laws, that he will not interpose on behalf of any of his creatures. Or, granting that he does exist, and that he attends to the prayers of some, Satan may suggest that I am too worthless for his notice, that it is presumptuous for me to address his awful majesty; I am too great a sinner ever to be attended to. In such suggestions as these Satan may be said to stand up against us when we appear before the Lord. This, again, is a peculiarity of our intercessory functions on earth. In heaven, we presume, no enemy will intrude on our devotions, no Satan will stand up to resist as we appear before God. No power there to darken our faith with cloudy doubts, nor to cool the ardour of our devotions!
III. THAT THE GOOD MAN, IN HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS THE SPECIAL ASSISTANCE OF A DIVINE HELPER. Whilst Satan stood up against Joshua, there was One who stood up for him—the Lord, called also "the Angel of the Lord." Who is this? All acknowledged expositors are agreed in concluding this to be Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. And he, indeed, is man's great spiritual Helper. He is our Advocate, our Intercessor. He helps us in our prayers, he attracts us to the throne of grace. "Seeing that we have a great High Priest, who has passed into the heavens." His Spirit makes intercession within us, awakens in us those desires which agree with the will of God. The scene illustrates two thoughts concerning the help rendered.
1. It was rendered sympathetically. "Is not this a brand?" etc. Consider the suffering to which the petitioners have been subject. Christ is full of sympathy. "We have not a high priest," etc.; "Him that cometh unto God through him he will in no wise cast out."
2. The help was rendered effectualist. The old "filthy garments," the emblems of impurity and guilt, were taken away, and he was clothed in other garments; that is, their guilt was removed, they were restored from their degradation. And the "mitre," the emblem of dignity, was put on his head. They were raised once more to the glory of an independent nation. See:
(1) That if you would effectually help your race, you must appear before God as an intercessor. Other means are also to be employed. Promote general knowledge, advance the arts, help on commerce, above all, diffuse the gospel of Jesus; but, in connection with all, you must appear before God, as Joshua did for Israel. It is in this way you will change the world's "filthy garments," and get for them the "raiment" of purity and the "mitre" of honour.
(2) That if you would effectually appear before God, you must have the help of Jesus Christ. What is the vision before us but an adumbration of a common fact in the spiritual history of every praying man? Ever as we attempt to approach the everlasting Father in devout thought and worship, do we not find some opposing force like this Satan, or rather, this Satan himself, "standing" "at our right hand to resist" us? What is to be done? Are we to retire?—cease all endeavour to commune with the loving Parent of our souls? God forbid! Our doom is sealed in midnight and anguish, should this be so. There is no happiness for any finite spirit but that which flows from intercourse with the eternal Fountain of good. Our only hope is in getting him, the great Mediator, with us, who shall repel our foe—drive him from our presence with the words, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan!"—D.T.
The Bible and true greatness.
"Thus saith the Lard 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." The words direct us to the Bible and true greatness.
I. THE BIBLE DIRECTS US TO THE SPHERE OF TRUE GREATNESS. The promise made to Joshua here is, "Thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts." The words convey this idea: Great authority. By the house of God is here probably meant the people of Israel; and the keeping of God's courts, the regulation of the temple. The literal meaning here is that Joshua's piety should be rewarded by the long continuance of his exalted office of. High Priest. Godliness raises:
(1) To dignified positions. It makes us "kings and priests unto God."
(2) To high fellowship. "I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." With the general consent of commentators, the angels of God are meant by "these that stand by." The angels of God minister in his house. They are "ministering servants." We are come "to an innumerable company of angels." Good men are brought by religion into fellowship with those lofty intelligences.
II. THE BIBLE PRESENTS TO US THE PATH OF TRUE GREATNESS. "If thou wilt walk in my ways," etc. Two things are stated here as the conditions of elevation.
1. Obedience. "If thou wilt walk in my ways." God has ways for men to walk in. His ways are his laws. "Blessed are they who walk in the Law of the Lord." Walking in his ways implies:
(1) The abandonment of our own ways. "Let the wicked forsake his way."
(2) The entrance on God's ways. Walking in them implies that we are on them, and the way into them is by faith in Christ. He is the "Door."
(3) Progress in God's ways. We must add to our faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge, etc. (2 Peter 1:5).
2. Fidelity. "Keep my charge." We have all a trust committed to us. Our time, talents, and possessions are all given in trust. We are not owners of them, but stewards. "It is required of a steward that he be found faithful." Paul felt, as he was leaving the world, that he had finished his course, and kept the faith. Such is the path to greatness—the only path, the sure path.
III. THE BIBLE GIVES US A GUARANTEE FOR TRUE GREATNESS. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts." The word of God is the pledge.
1. His word has been fulfilled in the experience of the good in all ages. All who have walked in God's ways and kept his charge have reached this sublime elevation. They are the illustrious heroes of the ages; and they have high authority in the empire of God.
2. His word can never fail of its accomplishment. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," etc.
Brother, art thou walking in the ways of God? If so, grand distinctions await thee. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life."—D.T.
The world's wants and God's provisions.
"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," etc. It is admitted by most acknowledged expositors of Holy Scripture that the sacerdotal institutions of the Mosaic system were typical of gospel realities; they were, as St. Paul has it, the "shadows of good things to come." This passage undoubtedly points to the Messiah and his times. Joshua, here called "the high priest," is a type of Christ, who is represented as "my Servant the BRANCH." A name by which he is designated in other parts of the Bible. Thus, for example: "There shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots," etc, Again, "In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful," etc. And again, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I wilt raise unto David a righteous Branch," etc. Indeed, the men who are here spoken of as those who "sit before" Joshua, "men wondered at," are typical men. This, indeed, is the meaning of the expression, "men wondered at," which some translate, "men appointed" (Isaiah 8:18), that is, typical men. Literally, the reference is to the members of the subordinate priesthood; and as the high priest, Joshua, was the type of Christ, these men were the types of his disciples in every age. I shall take the words as presenting the world's wants and God's provisions.
I. THE WORLD WANTS A MORAL HELPER, AND IN THE GOSPEL ONE IS PROVIDED. Morally, man is enslaved, diseased, exiled, lost to the great uses and purposes of his being. God has provided a great Helper, here called his "Servant the BRANCH." In Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1) we have these words, "Behold my Servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth." He is the "Branch," God is the Root, and all holy souls are branches, deriving their life, beauty, and fruitfulness from him; but Christ is the "Branch," the oldest Branch, the largest Branch, the strongest Branch, the most fruitful Branch, etc. He is the Branch on which there hang clusters of perennial fruits for the "healing of the nations."
II. THE WORLD WANTS DIVINE GUARDIANSHIP. "Behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes." What is here meant by the "stone"? Not the foundationstone of the temple, which was now being rebuilt, for that had been laid long before. "The stone," says Keil," is the symbol of the kingdom of God, and is laid by Jehovah before Joshua, by God's transferring to him the regeneration of his house and the keeping of his courts (before, liphne in a spiritual sense, as in 1 Kings 9:6, for example). The seven eyes which watch with protecting care over this stone are not a figurative representation of the all-embracing providence of God; but, in harmony with the seven eyes of the Lamb, 'which are the seven Spirits of God' (Revelation 5:6), and with the seven eyes of Jehovah (Zechariah 4:10), they are the sevenfold radiation of the Spirit of Jehovah (after Isaiah 11:2), which show themselves in vigorous action upon this stone, to prepare it for its destination." Perhaps the meaning is that upon the kingdom of Christ, here symbolized by the stone, God's eyes are fixed (engraven) with deep and settled interest, "The eye 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." Two thoughts are suggested.
1. God has a special interest in Christ and his followers. His eyes are on the "stone," there in all their completeness—seven. He has a general interest in the universe, but a special interest here. His eyes, which "run to and fro through all the earth," glance with a wonderful tenderness upon the "stone."
2. God has a settled interest in Christ and his followers. The eyes are said to be engraven on the stone, not written in ink, not painted with colour which time would erase, but cut into its very heart; the stone itself must moulder before the engraving is destroyed. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed," etc.
III. THE WORLD WANTS MORAL PURIFICATION, AND IN THE GOSPEL IT IS PROVIDED. "I will remove the iniquity of that [this] land [that is, Palestine] in one day." The "iniquity of that laud," the land of the Jews, was multiform, aggravated, immeasurable; but in one day provision should be made for its removal, the day on which Christ died upon the cross. "The work of the Messiah had a primary respect to Israel. The offer of salvation was to the Jew first." "Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities" (Act 3:1-26 :36). These words of Peter to the Jews of his day are a commentary on those before us. The great want of man is moral purification. Thank God, "Christ came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
IV. THE WORLD WANTS SPIRITUAL REPOSE, AND IN THE GOSPEL IT IS PROVIDED. "In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree." "When iniquity is taken away," says Matthew Henry,
"(1) We reap precious benefits and privileges from our justification, more precious than the products of the vine or the fig tree (Romans 5:1).
(2) We repose in a sweet tranquility, and are quiet from the fear of evil. What should terrify us when iniquity is taken away, when nothing can hurt us? We sit down under Christ's shadow with delight, and by it are sheltered from the scorching heat of the curse of the Law. We live as Israel in the peaceable reign of Solomon (1 Kings 4:24, 1 Kings 4:25), for he is the Prince of Peace."—D.T.
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Exell, Joseph S; Spence-Jones, Henry Donald Maurice. "Commentary on Zechariah 3". The Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30