IF THE FIRST AND SECOND VISIONS teach us that God is amongst His people and that He can destroy the enemies of His people, then the third and fourth visions teach us that God can protect His people and that He can cleanse them.
The third vision expands some of the ‘good words and comfortable words’ given in connection with the first vision. In particular, the following: ‘I am returned to Jerusalern with mercies: my house shall be built in it, saith the Lord of hosts, and a line shall be stretched forth upon Jerusalem … my cities through prosperity shall yet be spread abroad; and the Lord shall yet comfort Zion, and shall yet choose Jerusalem’, 1. 16-17. But now we have additional information: ‘Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls … for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about’, vv. 4-5.
The vision refers, firstly, to the immediate circumstanccs of God’s people: the city would be rebuilt, and the Jews remaining in Babylon were to flee. The vision refers, secondly, to the distant future of God’s people: the city will enjoy divine protection and divine presence, and the Jews will be the centre of divine blessing which will extend to ‘many nations’.
We must remember that the work of the Old Testament prophet was to address the present in the light of the future. Future events are to influence us. They are never taught in a vacuum. They are intended to encourage and warn us during the interval before their fulfilment.
Chapter 2 divides into two sections:
We must remember that if we are building for God, He will give every encouragement. The work proceeded under Nehemiah, not, admittedly, without a great deal of discouragement and difficulty, but it was finally accomplished. This is a good time to ask ourselves what, if anything, we are building, and where we are building. Jerusalem was ‘the place which the Lord thy God shall choose to place his name in’, Deut. 16. 6, and there could not be a better place in which to be busy for Him. Where does He place His name today? Read Matthew 18. 20: it is in the place where we ‘gather unto His name’.
But the absence of walls does not mean that there is no protection: ‘I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her’. In the millennial age, Jerusalem will enjoy GOD’S PROTECTION WITHOUT, and GOD’S PRESENCE WITHIN. But this is not limited to the future. We can enjoy God’s prolection and presence today, see 2 Thess. 3. 3 - ‘But the Lord is faithful, who shall stablish you, and keep you from evil’. This passage, and similar passages, do not teach that we are immune from persecution and trial. But they do teach that God can preserve us from the spiritual harm that Satan intends through persecution and trial. No wonder then that one angel told the other, ‘Run speak to this young man …’ That was, of course, Zechariah, although, believe it or not, the Mormons believe that it was Joseph Smith! The news was good, and it was to be carried rapidly. God’s good news should speed us too, see Rom. 10.15.
The Jews who returned to Jerusalem didn’t have it easy: it meant a difficult journey for a start, and reproach, privation and hard work. They certainly hadn’t joined a social club! The Jews who remained in Babylonia were evidently at ease, and had little interest in what was happening at Jerusalem.
Notice the words used in 2 Corinthians 6. 14-18: ‘Fellowship … communion . .. concord … part … agreement’. It was not a case of ‘no contact’ but of ‘no sharing in cornmon’. We have to live and work amongst unsaved people, but we do not find our fellowship there – or do we? But there is another side to this: the phrase in verse 7, ‘deliver thyself’, is rendered ‘escape’ by the R.V. and JND’s Translation. ‘The land of the north’ – Babylonia – would be judged. It was therefore folly to build hopes, aspirations and relationships in a society soon to be judged by God. The lesson for us now is quite obvious.
The fourth and fifth visions bring us to the temple courts. The first three were evidently set outside the city of Jerusalem: perhaps all three were seen by Zechariah in the valley of chapter 1. 8 (‘in the bottom’). If you compare the fourth vision with the other seven, you will discover that it is the only occasion on which Zechariah didn’t ask questions! The identity of Joshua is known from the start, and no explanation from the interpreting angel is needed. The significance of the vision is explained as it unfolds.
What is the general significance of the fourth vision? The preceding visions have told us about God’s judgement on the Gentile nations that have oppressed Israel, and about Israel’s national restoration. But how could Israel possibly enjoy God’s presence and blessing? The sad position in which God’s people were found in Zechariah’s day, let along their previous captivity, was the direct result of their own sinfulness and waywardness. The beauty of this chapter is that God can cleanse His people. He alone can make them fit for His presence, and restore them to divine favour. This vision is therefore most important: the fulfilment of the promises already made in this prophecy is dependent on the cleansing and restoration of His people. The vision is very clearly in two parts:
Notice the parties involved: Joshua, Satan, and the Lord:
What the Lord does, vv. 3-5. ‘Take away the filthy garments from him … I will clothe thee with change of raiment’. Notice again, Joshua says nothing and does nothing. The Lord does it all- and says it all! He cleanses Joshua: He fits Joshua for His presence; He makes the declaration - ‘I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee’. What can Satan say now? God fits His people for His own presence. We are immediately reminded of Romans 8: ‘Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth (or, better, ‘shall God that justifieth?’). Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died … (or, better, ‘shall Christ that died … ?) yea rather, that is risen again’, vv. 33-34. In the context of Zechariah 3, God is dealing with His earthly people: but we must not forget that He has dealt with us in the same way, as Romans 3 has proved. Once ‘all our righteousnesses’ were ‘as filthy rags’, Isa. 64. 6. But now we are ‘the righteousness of God in Him’, 2 Cor. 5. 21, see also Phil. 3. 19, etc. Isaiah 60. 21 and chapters 61 and 62, amongst other passages, describe Israel when God accomplishes her ultimate cleansing and restoration. The words, ‘ye shall be named the Priests of the Lord: men shall call you the Ministers of our God’, 61.6 amplify the Zechariah passage, where the reference to the ‘fair mitre’ and to the ‘garments’ is to the attire of the high priest. Read Exodus 28 and note particularly verses 36-38. The mitre supported ‘a plate of pure gold’ on which was inscribed ‘HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD’. What a change in the picture! Once ‘clothed with filthy garments’; now clothed in garments ‘for glory and for beauty’, Exod. 28.2. What the Lord requires, vv. 6-7. How should people behave who have been cleansed and suited for the presence of God? First of all, they are people who ‘walk in my ways’. Secondly, they are people who ‘keep my charge’. So it is a question of how we walk and how we work. Faithfulness will bring authority on earth - ‘then thou shalt also judge (probably in the sense of ‘administer’) my house, and shalt also keep my courts’ – and direct access to God Himself - ‘and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by’. The words, ‘these that stand by’, evidently refer to angelic beings, see vv. 4-5. This brings us to the second part of the vision.
Whilst the first section of the chapter undoubtedly anticipates the ultimate cleansing and restoration of Israel, it was, equally, very relevant to the immediate circumstances. There can be no doubt however, that the remaining verses concern the future alone, This is reflected in the interesting name given to Joshua and his colleagues in verse 8: ‘men wondered at’ or, ‘men of portent. The R,V. translates’ for they are men which are a sign’. The word means, ‘a token of a future event’. That is, these men who had been delivered as ‘a brand plucked out of the fire’ and restored to priestly service, were a picture of coming deliverance, cleansing and restoration.
‘Behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch’. This is a most interesting and wonderful title of the Lord Jesus Christ. The word ‘Branch’ means ‘shoot’ or ‘sprout’. It is significant that He is not described as a stately tree, but as a shoot from the roots. This indicates the simple but important fact that God will bring new life to the nation of Israel when, humanly speaking, all seems lost. That new life will be in my servant the Branch’. There are several references to the Lord Jesus under this title in the Old Testament: Isaiah 4. 2; 11. 1; Jer. 23. 5; 33.15, Zech. 3. 8 and 6: 12. This is a study in itself. But He is not only ‘the Branch’. The passage continues: ‘Behold the Stone … ‘. If by ‘the Branch’, God teaches us that when Israel seems dead and finished, new life will be given in Christ, then by ‘Stone’, He teaches us that Christ will complete the work of restoration Himself. The Stone appears to have the meaning of ‘headstone’ as in chapter 4,7, i.e. the final stone in completing the temple, see Matt. 21. 42. We are told in Revelation 5 that the Lord Jesus, as the Lamb, has ‘seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth’, v. 6. There are not, of course, seven Holy Spirits! The words mean, bearing in mind that ‘seven’ in Scripture indicates perfection and completeness, the perfect knowledge – the omniscience – of the Holy Spirit of God. The statements therefore in verses 9-10 may be understood to mean that when the Lord Jesus reigns as ‘the head of the corner’, His reign will be one of perfect knowledge and understanding: it will be over a cleansed and purified people: it will be marked by perfect peace.
There is a parallel passage in Isaiah chapter 11. It begins with reference to the ‘Branch’, v. I; it speaks of His reign in the sevenfold power of the Holy Spirit, v. 2; and describes planet earth free from the baneful influences of sin – even in the animal kingdom – and presents peace among men.
No wonder Zechariah 2. 12 says, ‘And the Lord shall inherit Judah His portion in the holy land’. He will ‘remove the iniquity of that land in one day’. v. 9, see also Isa. 66. 8. The nation will be born again by divine power through the word of God, see Ezek. 36. 25-27. The final verse of this chapter must be read in conjunction with Micah 4. 1-4. ‘That day’ will be wonderful!
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