Take our Bible, if you will, and turn with me to Zechariah chapter 3. Zechariah chapter 3, verses 1 to 10, brings us to the next vision in the visions of Zechariah.
One of the greatest promises recorded in the Bible is recorded in the eleventh chapter of Romans. And in Romans chapter 11, several places, I want to call your attention to what the Spirit of God has to say. Romans 11:1, “I say then, ‘Hath God cast away His people? No, no, not at all. God forbid.” Verse 2, “God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew.”
Then over to verse 25, “For I would not, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, ‘There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. This is my covenant unto them, when I shall their sins. As concerning the Gospel, they are enemies for your sakes; but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.”
Now, what Paul is saying in that wonderful reiteration of the promise of God in the eleventh chapter of Romans is that God has not changed toward Israel, toward the people which He predetermined to love, toward His election nation. He will save them. His promise is valid and will not change. So, there is coming salvation to Israel through the Deliver that comes out of Zion, none other than the Messiah the Christ.
The great restoration of Israel, then, is a reality. God has indeed made this promise, and it’s kind of interest, I think, to be alive when we’re alive, because we can begin to see some things happening in history that make it all the more believable. In 1897, for example, the first Zionist Congress was convened at Basel. The first colony had arrived in the land of Palestine by 1873, and by 1914, there were 90,000 Jews in the land. And everything went very well. It became a popular place to be, and it grew, and colonization occurred.
Then in 1941, World War II hit, and six million Jews were exterminated. And some people thought it was the end, but it wasn’t, because here we are in 1977, and more than ever they’re in the land. And something over 14 million of them around the world. They’re being regathered as the preliminaries to God’s final restoration of His people take place before our very eyes. God has a marvelous future for God’s special people Israel. And no book of the Bible makes it more clear what this future is than the book of Zechariah. God gives eight visions to Zechariah, beginning in chapter 1, verse 7. And we’ve been looking at these eight visions. And all eight of them concern Israel’s future restoration.
Oh, yes, they have a – an historical meaning as well. They relate to the time in which they were penned, but they have a future significance also. They’re all millennial or kingdom or Messianic as well as being historical.
And we’ve been looking at these visions, beginning with the first, the second, and the third. And tonight we come to the fourth of the eighth visions. And just to remind you that in the first three visions, the purpose of God was revealed in three areas. The people will be restored; the enemies will be judged; and the city will be built. That was primarily it.
In fact, in summing that up, we would say that the first three visions dealt with the externals. They dealt with the physical elements, the restoring of the people, the building of the city, and the judgment of the enemies. Now, that had a historical significance in the time of Zechariah, but has a prophetic significance way into the future that is far more exciting, far more fulfilling yet to come.
But a crucial question arrives after the third vision, at least in the mind of anyone who studies carefully. Because history tells us that the reason God sent them into captivity was because of their sinfulness. And while they were in captivity, there wasn’t necessarily any great sweeping revival, although there was some beginnings of revival. They came back to the land which is still rubble for all intents and purposes by Zechariah’s time, and the efforts to rebuild the temple are moving along a little faster now, but there isn’t much progress there. And the people are somewhat discouraged, and somewhat despairing, and somewhat wondering whether their country will ever be what it once was and ever again know the glories of Solomon.
And God comes along and says, in those first three visions, “I want to comfort you with the promise your city will be rebuilt, your people will be restored, your enemies will be judged, both now and in a great future fulfillment.” But the question that immediately arises is how can God do this to a sinful people? Are there no conditions involved? How can a holy God restore a sinful, unbelieving people and be consistent with His own righteous character in so doing?
Well, the fourth vision answers that question. That’s precisely the juncture at which we come to the fourth vision in chapter 3. And here we have the transformation of the nation Israel from sinfulness to righteousness that allows God to fulfill His covenant promise. God is going to save Israel. God is going to rebuild and restore Israel. God is going to judge the enemies of Israel in the great final conflagration that is known as Armageddon. But that can’t happen; God can’t move in to fulfill His covenant until such a time as Israel’s righteousness occurs. And so, there has to be salvation in the land before there’s going to be restoration to the land. And that’s precisely what is discussed in the fourth vision, the third chapter.
In Exodus chapter 19 and verse 6, we read these words, “And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.” God says, “You’re going to be a holy nation, and you’re going to be a kingdom of priests.” That is you’re going to be the connection between God and man. You’re going to be the priestly nation.
As a priest connected God to man, a priestly nation connects humanity to God. Israel was to be the channel through which God’s Word came to man, through which access to God was made available. They were the preaching, proclaiming, witnessing nation. They were to be a holy nation, a kingdom of priests. But that promise in verse 6 is predicated on verse 5. So, that Exodus 19:5 says, “If you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant.” As long as Israel was obedient, as long as Israel was faithful to the promise that Israel was a priest nation and Israel was a holy nation.
Once again, in the future - it’s exciting to think about – Israel will be a holy nation. Israel will be God’s priests in the world. But it won’t be until they obey His voice and until they keep His covenant. And it won’t be the old covenant then; it’ll be – what? – the new covenant. They haven’t done this. They haven’t done it today. Israel is not a religious nation. I would have to say that I doubt whether I’ve ever been in a more irreligious nation in my life than Israel. It’s an irreligious nation. Their God is the God of armies, the God of strength, the God of surprise, the God of might, the God of racial identity, which is the big thing, but not the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and not the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God.
And so, for a time, Israel is not God’s priest nation. In fact, it has been replaced by the Church. And now the liaison between the world and God is the Church. And we are priests. That’s the marvelous message of 1 Peter, that we are the ones who take people to God. First Peter 2:5, we are a holy priesthood. First Peter 2:9, we are a royal priesthood. We are the ones now who stand for God in the world, not Israel. But the day is coming when the Church is raptured. And after the Church is raptured, God redeems Israel, and Israel becomes again a holy nation, a priest nation. And who is it in the tribulation that goes out to evangelize? It’s 144,000 Jews, 12,000 from every tribe. And they again are restored to the place of being God’s priest nation. It’s coming.
That’s precisely what Zechariah wants to talk about here. And he wants to show us how the transformation takes place from ungodliness to godliness, from sin to righteousness. Now, this is important in the time of Zechariah, because the Jews knew they had sinned. And it’s for sure that they feared there was no basis for which God was to bless them because of their sin. They knew God couldn’t tolerate vile, evil, faithless hearts. And they knew they were guilty. And no doubt they were questioning, “Well, it’s all wonderful, Zechariah, these visions about what God’s going to do, but how can He do it for a sinful people?
And Zechariah’s answer comes in the fourth vision, where God shows him that God isn’t going to do it with a sinful people; He’s going to save that sinful people, transform them and then do it.
Now, there are five elements in this that I want you to see, and we’ll alliterate them so you’ll hopefully remember them. The divine choice, the divine condemnation, the divine cleansing, the divine covenant, and lastly, but not least, the divine Christ. And you’ll notice that each one is divine, each one involves God because the only personality in the universe that could ever transform anybody is God. It’s all Him from beginning to end.
Let’s begin at the divine choice. Fascinating vision. You’re going to enjoy this. Verse 1, “He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” Now stop there for a minute. Now here we see Joshua the high priest. Now, he’s having another vision. “He showed me.” “He” can refer to interpreting angel again, or some say to the Angel of the Lord, either one.
But another time he is pointed to a vision. And this time he sees Joshua the high priest. Now, don’t confuse this with Joshua who led the children of Israel into the land; that’s a whole different thing, different Joshua. Joshua the high priest here is mentioned in Haggai 1:1, and he’s mentioned in Ezra 5:2, and he’s mentioned later in Zechariah 6:11. So, he’s a very common name. He was actually the current high priest at that time. It is indicated in Haggai that he is the high priest, the son of Jehozadak. And Jehozadak was one of the contemporaries of Zerubbabel, who when they came back from the Babylonian captivity had led some of the people.
So, Jehozadak was the one who came back with Zerubbabel, and here his son Joshua is the high priest at the time of Zechariah. But notice, as we look at Joshua the high priest, we’re seeing more than Joshua. Because in a vision, just like the rider on the red horse was a symbol, and the hammerers and the horns and everything else has had significance much broader than just its own identity. So, Joshua is a much broader symbol. In fact, Joshua stands for Israel. He is the nation Israel.
You say, “Where do you get that?”
Well, let me give you four reasons. Reason number 1 that I believe he refers to Israel here is because, in the other seven visions, they all have a broad bearing on the nation. None of them has a relationship to one man so that in this situation it is consistent with all of the rest that this individual symbolized the nation. And by the way, as a high priest himself, he was totally insignificant. His only significance comes as he’s identified in this way.
Secondly, the high priest is always known as the representative of the people. When the high priest goes into the Holy of Holies on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and makes atonement, he is acting in behalf of the whole nation. He is identified as if he were the whole people. For them he prayed, for them he sacrificed, and what happens to him happens to the nation.
And as we see the vision move along, we’ll see this. Third reason is that where it talks about Joshua in verse 1, it immediately switches and talks about Jerusalem in verse 2. And Jerusalem is one of God’s favorite titles for His people Israel. He calls them by the name of their city, so that in verse 2, he says, “O Satan is rebuked; even the Lord rebukes you who has chosen Jerusalem,” – not chosen Joshua. In fact, Joshua just kind of fades away and is identified as Jerusalem in the next verse.
And also the key is the fourth reason, verse 8, “Her now, O Joshua, the high priest, thou and thy fellows who sit before thee: for they are men wondered at” – the Hebrew word means they are symbolic. They are symbols. So, Joshua and the other priests are symbols. They are symbols of what? Of the nation that Joshua represents.
Now then, here we see in the scene this high priest symbolizing Israel. He is standing before the Angel of the Lord. And who is that? It’s Christ, the second person of the Trinity, called – incidentally, a very wonderful truth here, the Angel of the Lord, in verse 2, is just called Jehovah, which is wonderful to know, that the Angel of the Lord was Christ and was none other than God Himself.
And incidentally, the Angel of the Lord is also involved in the act of forgiving sin in verse 4, which means again that He is deity. So then here we see Joshua the high priest representing Israel, standing before the Angel of the Lord. And the angel of the Jehovah is all through these visions always standing next to Israel because He’s Israel’s Deliverer, and He’s Israel’s Protector, and He is the one who will return as the deliverer out of Zion, in Paul’s words in Romans 11 to save His people. Only then not in the form of the Angel of the Lord but in the form of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And so, again the people are encouraged because standing by is the Angel of the Lord. And you remember I told you they hadn’t heard a thing about the Angel of the Lord for at least 200 years and now He’s back. Our Protector is back; our Deliverer is back. What an encouragement.
Now, the terms “standing before” are very interesting. Here is Joshua standing before the Angel of the Lord. You might not think they’re so interesting, but let me explain something. Those terms right there, in the Hebrew, are used to describe priestly function. In fact, in Deuteronomy 10:8, in Judges 20:28, Ezekiel 44:15, and 2 Chronicles 29:11 – I know you didn’t get those, but they’ll be on the tape in those verses – in those verses, the same exact word is used to describe a priestly function.
So, here is Joshua, and he’s just doing his priestly thing. He is ministering as the high priest before Jehovah. In fact, if you look closely, he is actually ministering to the Angel of the Lord, and that’s exciting, because again it vindicates the fact that the Angel of the Lord is none other than the second person of the Trinity, who’s none other than Jehovah Himself.
In fact, in Revelation 19:10, when John tried to worship an angel, what did the angel say? “Get up and worship only God.” And so, here is this priest ministering to God, the second person of the Trinity, the Angel of the Lord, none other than Christ.
Now, there’s somebody else in the scene, of course. The end of the verse, “and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” There’s another character here: Satan. Interesting thing about the word “Satan.” In the Hebrew it means adversary. And he – the actual phrasing is with a definite article “the” adversary. “The” Satan. And the literal Hebrew reads this way, “And Satan – and the Satan standing at his right hand to satanize him.” Or, “The adversary standing there to be adverse,” - to fight, resist.
You know, Satan has been in the business of doing this, hasn’t he? Satan’s up there saying to God, “What are You having anything to do with this crummy bunch for; these filthy people; these vile, sinful people?” Always accusing Satan, the adversary, the accuser.
In Job chapter 1, he enters into the presence of God – doesn’t he? – and starts saying, “You don’t have any righteous people.” Satan, for some reason, in God’s plan, this great angelic super-human adversary can enter into God’s presence and there plead against God’s people. And there he is doing it. And he’s opposing, and he’s resisting Joshua. Satan, the once great archangel of God, who fell through pride, amazingly still permitted to enter God’s presence and make his accusation. But he won’t always be. Read Revelation 12:10 and it tells you he gets kicked out of heaven. The time of the tribulation, he’s kicked out. That’s all; God’s heard enough, had enough; it’s over.
But the malicious enemy stands, and he’s proclaiming to God Israel’s unworthiness. And he’s telling God that they don’t deserve anything. You don’t want to redeem this people; You want to set them aside.” Now listen. Here is Joshua, and he’s ministering to the Lord, and he represents his people, and his people are bowing even though they’re sinful. They’re beginning to make a move toward God. And Satan is saying, “But you don’t want that crummy bunch.”
And, beloved, the situation is very crucial, because what happens here is absolutely definitive. If Joshua gets vindicated, and Joshua’s priestly function is accepted, then Israel is accepted. But if Joshua is condemned and cast off, then Israel is cast off. So, we’re right at the crux right here. This is where the covenant theologians and the dispensationalists meet. Something’s got to give. Either Israel gets it in the neck and gets blasted or blessed. The issue is not a person but the nation. The entire plan of God for history hinges right on that thought. What’s going to happen?
I remember reading Dr. Feinberg’s commentary here, and, being Jewish, he went on and on about this. He set the stage for the kill. The Angel of the Lord is about to speak. What is He going to say? “You’re rejected,” or, “You’re accepted.”
Verse 2, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan; even the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you,’” and here you can see Joshua all of a sudden gets turned into Jerusalem. And now we understand of whom He speaks. “‘Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’” Well, guess who won. God vindicated Israel. No, He didn’t set them aside, not at all. God still has a plan for His people. That plan has not been obviated. That plan has not been set aside. That plan has not been done away with. Why in the twelfth of Revelation, that whole chapter describes the future of God dealing with Israel, how even in the tribulation time He’s going to protect those people. How when the armies of the beast chased them into the wilderness, the ground will open up and swallow the whole foreign army.
No, God said, “I rebuke you, Satan. I don’t hear your accusation because these are My people. They have been chosen. But you notice that it says at the beginning of verse 2 you have Joshua, the Angel of the Lord, and Satan. And then it says, “And the Lord said to Satan...” This is the Angel of the Lord. But notice what he says, “And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan.’” Now, how many Lords have we got there? How many? Two.
People say, “Well, you certainly can’t find the Trinity in the Old Testament.”
Oh? Here’s two of them. And the Lord said, ‘The Lord rebuke you.’” That is the second person of the Trinity passing on the ultimate responsibility for judgment to the first person. Somehow in the wonderful workings of the Trinity, they all have their area. And at this point in time, it was for the Son to ask the Father to do the rebuking, “The Lord rebuke you.”
Incidentally, I would add an interesting note. I was studying in – I’m not that much of a Hebrew scholar, but just barely enough to get by. And I noted that “The Lord rebuke thee” is best translated as a future tense, “The Lord shall rebuke you.” Now, that’s interesting. It’s a future. And do you know the Lord is going to rebuke Satan in the future? Did you k now that? Read the twentieth chapter of Revelation. The Lord’s going to take Satan, cast him into a pit for a thousand years in chains. He’s going to let him loose for a little while as sort of a last gasp, and then He’s going to cast him into the lake of fire prepared for him. He’s going to get it. And he knows it.
People say, “Well, if he knows it, why does he fight?”
Wouldn’t you? But I like to remind him of it now and then. And in a sense, the historical element here is that Satan was rebuked in history because they did build a wall. They did build the temple. There was a restoration there, but that can’t begin to see what is going to happen in the future. What does He identify here? He says, “Even the Lord who hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke you.” You see, that’s the key. God is immutable. God is sovereign. God has chosen, and that doesn’t change.
Whenever people ask me why I believe still in the restoration of Israel, I simply say it’s all founded on the character of God. God doesn’t change. And when God chooses the calling and election of God is without – what? – repentance. Doesn’t change. Israel’s not set aside. I’m glad that that side won in this little deal here in chapter 3, because the whole of human history was dependent on the way that little thing turned.
And then to supply a reason – I love this – “The Lord says to Satan” – and the Lord puts him down all the time – “The Lord said to him, ‘Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?’” Now what did He mean by that? Well, a stick grabbed before it could be consumed in a fire. It’s a phrase used in Amos 4:11, “I have overthrown some of you, as God overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah, and you were like a firebrand plucked out of the burning.”
Well, God did pluck some people out of the burning of Sodom and Gomorrah, didn’t He? He saved some folks. It means someone being rescued from a dangerous situation. And He’s saying to them, “Look, you were in Babylon. You were right in the fire. You were right in the middle of it.” This is the historical aspect. “You were in the middle of a fire, and I brought you back. You think I brought you back here to cast you off?”
He says to Satan, “You think I brought them back here to cast them away? Do you think I brought them back here to have you give me this big argument about their sinfulness and then buy what you’re selling me and say, “All right, you’re done with. Listen, if I pluck a brand out of a fire, I do it because I want to keep that brand, that stick. I could have let them die in Babylon if that was all. I wasn’t going to bring them over here to make them die. If I was going to leave them alone, I’d of just left them there.”
One of the strong arguments of dispensational theology or that which allows for the assignment of Israel is the fact that God bothered to bring them back out of captivity. Why did He bother to do that unless He had a future for them? That’s exactly what He’s saying here. And even Joshua, the high priest, who is kind of the symbol here had had a narrow escape in the exile. His grandfather’s name was Seraiah, and in 2 Kings chapter 25, it tells us that Seraiah, his grandfather, was killed by Nebuchadnezzar. His father that I mentioned earlier, Jehozadak, was dragged off as a prisoner in 1 Chronicles chapter 5. So, both of his – his father and his grandfather had known some terrible times, persecution and fire And anybody who survived the exile could be considered a brand plucked out of the fire.
And so, as Joshua was brought back, when neither his father or grandfather was so fortunate, so he represents the nation brought back, a small remnant indicating that God is not finished with Israel, that there is yet a plan, an ultimate purpose. And I think there’s a future element in that statement of a brand plucked out of the fire, because that fire might represent all the persecution of the Jews throughout history. Someday, when God gets them back in the land, and they’re wonderfully saved, and they become His holy nation, and they become His priest nation again, God can say, “This is a brand plucked out of the fire,” because they’ve been in the fires of persecution all through the years, haven’t they?
And, you see, the whole point here is that God’s salvation of Israel is based on a divine choice, “I have chosen Jerusalem.” Not because they’re better, not because they’re more intelligent, but because God chose them.
Now, that brings us to the second part of the vision, the divine condemnation. Look at verse 3, most fascinating. Now, we get a better look at the high priest, and he is “clothed with” – literally in the Hebrew – “excrement-covered clothes and stood before the angel.” Now, that’s a strange scene. He is standing there, and he is clothed, but his clothes are filthy. Just to show you how filthy they are, the root word for filthy here, the root verb means to go forth, and it’s speaking of human waste that goes forth from the body. And it is that that is all over his garments, dirty and smelly. Now, that’s a pretty ugly scene.
You say, “What is the high priest doing like that?”
You know what that is? That is the filth of Israel’s sin that has spotted them as God’s priestly nation. You want a good idea of what God thinks about sin? Try that one. That’s what He thinks about it. You see, the sins of the people have spattered all over their clothes. They are foul; they are smelly. And, you know, the very fact that Joshua never says a single word in the whole vision indicates that there’s no argument. Guilt. And Satan must feel so secure in his accusation. But the point is he underestimates God’s grace, doesn’t he?
And people today say the same thing. They say, “Well, look at Israel. They forfeited everything. Look at their excrement-spattered garments. God set them aside. God is done with them. The Church is the new Israel.”
And I say, “Well, wait a minute, I think you just underestimated God’s grace.”
You say, “Well, how in the world is God going to deal graciously with a priest who looks like that?”
Well, I would suggest the first thing would be a divine cleansing, and that’s point three. You’ve got to clean that guy up. Verse 4. Point 3, verse 4, here we go, “And He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him” – and incidentally, He is Jehovah, and those who stood before Him are whom? Who stands before Jehovah to do His work? Angels.
So, “He said to His angels, ‘Take away those excrement-covered clothes from him.’ And unto him He said, ‘Behold, I’ve caused thine iniquity to pas from thee, and I’ll clothe thee with a change of raiment.’”
Now wait a minute; you can’t just do that. See? You can’t just say, “Hey, you know those sins? I’ve just forgiven them all.” Don’t I have to do anything?
“No, I just did that for you.” That’s sovereignty. That’s marvelous grace. That’s undeserved grace. That’s mercy. Nothing of human works. Only God can say, “I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee.” Well, that’s amazing. “Take away the filthy garments. I just cleaned you, and I got a whole new change of raiment for you.”
You know what God is saying to Israel? He’s saying, “Look, you know how I’m going to be able to make you my holy nation again? You know how I’m going to be able to make you my priest nation again? I’m going to regenerate you, that’s what I’m doing to do. I’m going to clean you up. I don’t know about you, but I can get excited about what’s going to happen in Israel. I wish I could get them to understand what’s going to happen to them when God’s Spirit comes in saving grace.
The key thing – I love it at the end of verse 4, “I’ll clothe thee with change of raiment.” Literally the Hebrew says, “I’ll put on you festival garments.” Let me give you a little history. The high priest had some interesting clothes. You know? Get into Exodus 28, Leviticus chapter 8, and some of those places – Exodus – particularly Exodus 28.
You read a lot about the priest’s clothes, but let me give you a little idea, a little bit of high priestly fashion here. Basically, the high priest wore some linen things. He had a – he had a base – just your basic linen outfit. Right? Linen pants and a linen coat. Nothing fancy, but it was white, and it represented purity and so forth.
Well, undoubtedly that’s what he was wearing as he was there in the vision in verse 1. He had on his linen. But it was filthy, just vile. And the Lord says, “Get rid of it, you angels. And I got a whole change of raiment for him.”
Now, the priest also had what were called his holy garments for glory and beauty. In Exodus 28, Leviticus 8 talks about them. They were made of gold. Real gold. Beautiful blue cloth, purple, scarlet, fine linen. They were onyx stones engraved with the 12 tribes of Israel. There was a breastplate with 12 precious stones, and inscriptions on that. There was a fantastic turban on his head, something that was wrapped on his head, and on the front it had a gold plate. And do you remember what it said? It said Holiness Unto the Lord. I mean that’s some kind of outfit. Fantastic.
And He says, “Look, get rid of that old dirty stuff. I’m going to put on his robes of glory and beauty, and his Holiness to the Lord hat.” And right now Zechariah can’t stand it any longer, and he jumps into the vision, verse 5, “And I said, ‘Well, let them set a clean hat on his head.’”
“Do it,” is what he’s saying. “Do the whole shot. Give them every bit of it.” Zechariah just gets right in there.
You want to hear something? On the Day of Atonement, when Aaron when in to offer the sacrifices – listen – he wore his simple linen outfit. And when atonement had been made, he came out and put on his festival garments. See? So, the Lord is saying, “I’m going to make atonement for them. And when atonement is over, I’m going to put on their festival clothes.” That’s the kingdom, folks. That’s what God has planned for His people. It’s exciting.
You see, God’s going to clean His people up. Marvelous salvation, holiness to the Lord. They’re going to be His priests again. Israel will be the high priestly nation. Their place of priesthood will return. And you know what I like? Verse 5, “So they set a clean turban on his head, and they clothed him with garments.” And I love this statement, “And the Angel of the Lord stood by.” And I would like to add – comma – smiling. You see, He was approving, wasn’t He?
Why did they say, “And the Angel of the Lord stood by”? Just so everybody knew this was what was right. Don’t you think it’ll be a great day for Christ when He sees the people that turned their back on Him turn their face to Him? Don’t you think it’ll be an exciting day for Him when He recognizes that they will look on Him with love whom they once looked on with hatred? “The Angel of the Lord stood by.”
A divine choice, a divine condemnation, but a divine cleansing leads to a divine covenant, number four. The divine covenant. This is easy. Look at this one, verse 6, “And the Angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying” – and the word “protested” is probably not the best translation; it’s not as if He’s arguing with him. He’s simply giving testimony to him. He said this – “‘Thus says the Lord of Armies’” – the Lord of Hosts – “‘“If thou wilt walk in My ways, if thou will keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and keep My courts, and I’ll give thee places to walk among these who stand by.”‘” Now, you can’t believe how wonderful that is.
Now listen. He says to Joshua, or to the nation Israel, “Now listen, I’ve got two conditions. I just made you a wonderful promise about cleansing, but there are two conditions coming your way. I told you that it was because of My sovereignty and because of My choice.” But mark this, people, throughout the Bible salvation is always a matter of God’s sovereignty and man’s response. Always. And it isn’t saying, “Now, you just stand around until it happens, guys.” No. God has chosen, “It will happen, and it will happen when you walk in My ways and keep My charge.” You see? There is a covenant here. “And then I will do...”
So, notice, first of all, two conditions. Number one, “If you walk in My ways.” What does that mean? What are God’s ways? What does it mean to walk in God’s ways? I can simplify it. To be like God. He says, “When you begin to live like Me, live a life like Me.”
You say, “Um, that’s a little difficult.”
Yes, but from our vantage point, is that possible? Humanly speaking, no, but for the Christian with the indwelling Spirit, yes. Paul said, “Be followers of me as I am of Christ.” In the day when Israel receives the indwelling Spirit and can pattern their life after God, they will begin to fulfill their part of the covenant of being like Him.
And the second element is, the second condition, “And keep My charge.” And that means a faithful performance of obedience to His will. So, when Israel becomes like God and obedient to God, that’s the condition upon which the cleansing takes place. From God’s sovereignty, it’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen when God graciously moves on the hearts of His people; and they turn to Him, and they receive salvation; the Spirit of God indwells them; they have a new capacity to be like God and a new desire to obey His will.
And then He says, “I’m going to give you two wonderful blessings. Blessing number one, you can judge My house and keep My courts. In other words, you will get back to where you belong as My priest nation. You’ll come back into My house, and you’ll take care of My house. You’ll be My priestly nation.”
If you study the Old Testament and study anything about the kingdom, the millennial kingdom, who is it that brings the people to Christ during the kingdom? It’s Israel, isn’t it? It’s Israel that brings the nations into the presence of God. It’s Israel that serves as the priests. Even in the tribulation, it is Israel who has sealed on its forehead 12,000 tribes to go out and convert so many Gentiles that they can’t even be numbered from every people and tongue and tribe and nation. It’s going to be Israel, the priest nation. Israel’s going to go back into the temple and going to be His priest again, as it were, going to be the one that brings men to God. They’re going to keep His courts and judge His temple.
And then secondly – this is beautiful – “I’ll give you places to walk among those who stand by,” – or, “these who stand by.” Who were the ones who stood by God to do His bidding? Angels. So, He says, “I’m going to let you roam the places where the angels roam.” Now, what’s that talking about? That’s talking about the eternal state, isn’t it? “You’re not only going to be special as My priest nation, but when that’s all over, you’re going to come be with Me and roam My heavens like My angels do.”
Now, if you know any Jewish people, would you please pass this on? This is wonderful. Exciting. But it’s a covenant, you see. Because, you see, at the beginning of 7, “If.” And then you see again, “if.” And then you see “then.” You see, it’s a covenant. God will keep His promise Israel will be fully reinstated as His priestly nation to serve His house and keep His courts and have free access to His presence like the angels do forever. But it doesn’t mean that they don’t have to respond to God, because they do, and they will.
Now, I want to stop here for a minute, and I want to tell you something wonderful. To me this is the most beautiful picture of the Gospel just as a parallel. Because look at it; it shows the sinner’s filthy rags of unrighteousness, doesn’t it? And Isaiah said, “All our righteousness is as” – what? – “filthy rags.” We see the sinner filthy, and then all of a sudden we see the Angel of the Lord, Jesus Christ, come in, takes away the filthy garments, gives him a new robe of righteousness, a marvelous transformation takes place. That sinner is plucked from the burning of hell, as it were, cleansed with salvation, and then offered a life of service to God as a priest and the promise of eternally being in the dwelling of God. What a tremendous, tremendous message.
So, the divine choice, the divine condemnation, the divine cleansing, the divine covenant – and listen, the one who makes it all possible – the divine Christ. Without Him, none of it could happen. Who’s going to do this? A Jew might be standing there, and Zechariah’s telling them about the vision, and he’s, “But who’s going to do this?”
Verse 8, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou and thank you fellows who sit before thee” – that would be other priests – “for they are” – literally – “they are a symbol” - I think it says that in the New American – “they are a symbol.” The Hebrew word means they are a sign of a future event. He’s not just talking about the men, but it tells you they are a symbol. They are symbols of future Israel. This is a future thing, people. We’re looking way down the road to the end time. “For, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch.” You have any idea who that might be? Who’s going to do this? The Branch. My servant the Branch. He will be the Redeemer. This title is a fantastic title. The Branch speaks of His humiliation; it speaks of His rejection and His death. Literally it means the sprout or the shoot.
Isaiah 53, right? He is a root out of Jesse. Isaiah 11:1, the same thing. He comes from the earth. It’s humiliation, rather obscure. But He manifests growth and vitality until finally He becomes King.
In the Old Testament – I’ll give you a little footnote, this is just free, just have this – in the Old Testament, the Branch is used of Messiah in four ways. And this is beautiful; now watch this. The Branch is used of Messiah in four ways. Number one, Messiah is called a Branch of David, which speaks of His place as King. A Branch of David, speaking of His place as King; and He’s called that in Isaiah 11:1, a Branch of David speaks of His place as King. What Gospel describes that? Matthew.
The second, here in our text He is called My servant the Branch. What Gospel describes Him as the servant? Mark. In the sixth chapter of Zechariah, verse 12 and 13, He is called the Man whose name is the Branch. What Gospel presents Christ as the perfect Man? Luke. And in Isaiah 4:2, He is called the Branch of Jehovah. What Gospel presents Him as God? John. The Branch. None other than Jesus Christ.
“It can’t be.”
Got to be. He has another name, verse 9. Watch this one. “‘For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the engraving of it,’ saith the Lord of Hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.’” Who is the stone? Christ. What are the seven eyes? Eyes speak of knowledge. Seven would be the number of – what? – perfection. Perfect knowledge. Omniscient. The omniscient stone. And He has an engraving. And what is engraved on Him? I got to hunch it’s like the high priest, it’s not the names of the tribes, though; it’s the names of His children, the elect.
The concept of stone was very important to Israel. In Isaiah 8:14, the Messiah was called a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense. But in Isaiah 28:16, He was called a stone of refuge. So, He was either a stone of refuge or a stumbling stone to Israel. Stone is important to the nations. In Daniel chapter 2, we saw that He’s called the stone cut out without hands that smashes the Gentile world powers. Stone is important to the Church, because in Ephesians 2:20, Jesus Christ is the chief cornerstone. The stone is Christ. He’s the only one that could do this. And He says, “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” And, beloved, Calvary was that one day, when the Lamb of God took away the sins of the world. And the one day – Israel’s one day will be appropriated in the day when they look on Him whom they have pierced and mourned for Him as an only son. That’s Zechariah 12:10. That’s their day. “And in that day” - says 13:1 – “here shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness.”
There is a day, and a day when Israel believes and the fountain floods from Israel to the world. And when that happens, “‘In that day’” - verse 10 says – “says the Lord of Hosts, ‘shall you call ever man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree.’” Which being interpreted means nobody’s going to fight any more. Peace all over the earth in the kingdom.
And do you want to know something interesting? The vine and the fig tree are associated with peace. And people sitting under vines and fig trees are associated with peaceful times. In 1 Kings 4 – I think it’s verse 24, in the reign of Solomon, it says, “He had dominion over all the region on the side of the river, from Tipsah to Gaza, over all the kings on this side of the river; he had peace on all sides. And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig tree from Dan to Beersheba all the days of Solomon.”
So, the vine and the fig tree were used to speak of the peace of Solomon’s time. And here the vine and the fig tree are used to speak of Messiah’s time and the peace that will be there. God has a wonderful plan for Israel. It consummates in a glorious kingdom of peace It’s coming when God saves His people.
But the lesson here that we can apply to ourselves, beyond the lesson of historical Israel, is that the same salvation is offered to us, isn’t it? Wasn’t the Lamb of God offered to take away the sins of the whole world? Aren’t you and I standing before God filthy?
And isn’t Satan the accuser saying, “He’s vile; You don’t want him”?
And isn’t Jesus Christ saying, “But I do want him.” And out of His elective love, His gracious love chooses those to salvation, who by faith trust and embrace Him? And then says, “Take away His filthy garments and put on His festival robes, the robes of righteousness. And tell him he’s now a priest for Me, and he’ll spend eternity walking through My palaces of heaven.” Isn’t that a message to all of us? Do you think Israel was comforted by this vision? They still should be. Let’s pray.
Father, thank You for time tonight. Whatever happens in this world, whether it’s in Israel, in California, none of it can change Your plan. Because You have Your people. And I like what You said in Malachi, “And they shall be Mine in the day when I make up My jewels.”
And I’m comforted by what Jesus said, when He said, “All that the Father give to Me shall come to Me, and I have lost none of them.”
Father, for Your immutable character, Your unchanging grace, Your marvelous eternal salvation, we’re grateful. Both for the nation Israel, as we see the plan of history unfold and the grace of God that’s coming to them, and for the fact of every man and woman, boy and girl who has the opportunity to receive that same salvation even now, we are thankful and grateful. God, help us to know You’re the God of history, and You’re our God.
While your heads are bowed for just a closing thought, some of you here tonight have never received this salvation. You stand before God now; your robes are filthy. Even your righteousness is as filthy rags. Satan is accusing you before God, and Jesus is offering you salvation, offering you the taking away of the old robes and the granting of new robes of righteousness, offering you the place of being a priest in His house and a dweller in His eternal heavens, and waiting for you to say yes. Have you said that? No better time than now.
Thank You, Father, for a good time tonight. Thank You for all You’ve meant to us. Thank You for what You have done as we see You work in history and strengthen our confidence. And now, as we have opportunity to give out of the heart of our love, for brothers and sisters in Christ, to help these young men, we pray that You’ll reward our faithfulness with Your blessing, and our love with the joy of giving. And especially bless them, in Jesus’ name, amen.
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