Zechariah 3 : 6 – 10
MY SERVANT BRANCH
One of the most wonderful attributes of the prophetic writings of Zechariah is how he foretells the NT. Hundreds of years ahead of time. The message of salvation in/through Jesus Christ that is spelled out in the NT, was foretold centuries before by Zechariah. And Zechariah is 100% perfectly aligned with the rest of the OT. And everything that he is saying, is fulfilled with the greatest perfection in the NT. In fact, EVERYTHING is fulfilled in one single Person: Jesus of Nazareth.
That is the wonder of the Scriptures. And it confirms the unquestionable primary Divine authorship of the entire Bible.
In the 4th vision, Zechariah saw a video of how Joshua, the High priest, was standing before the Angel of the Lord (Jesus before He became man) dressed in filthy clothes, how satan was accusing him, but how the Angel of the Lord gave instructions that Joshua’s filthy clothes had to be taken off, and that he had to be clothed with clean garments. Instead of the Angel of the Lord rebuking Joshua, He rebuked satan.
Of course, Joshua represents the covenant-nation Israel, who returned from exile in Babylon. Their temple will presently be restored and in this vision God is showing how He will reconcile His people with Himself and remove their burden of sin in order to enable them to resume their temple duties in a way worthy of God.
But the vision also had a further, future fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, and shows the way in which all sinners who are redeemed by God, are saved by Him through the removal of the burden of sin, and are clothed with Christ’s perfect robe of righteousness.
In other words, it is nothing less than a picture of how the evangelical salvation of a sinner works: The person who casts himself/herself in faith-trust upon Christ Jesus’s atoning-blood for salvation and redemption. SUCH a person is saved like THIS: Like Joshua – in spite of satan’s accusations (all of which are the truth!) – based on Jesus’s blood on the cross – receives a new robe of righteousness from God. And is suddenly standing in a right relationship with God.
The question is, though: HOW is something like that possible? HOW exactly does God deal with sin? Zechariah 3: 6-10 provides the answer. And the NT confirms all of it!
This paragraph is still part of the 4th vision Zechariah received.
Just after Joshua received the new clothes (symbolic of the robes of Christ’s righteousness) and consequently is placed in a right relationship with God, he hears these words from the Angel of the Lord:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says: “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here”.
Now we must understand very well: This command to an obedient life, was not a condition that God gave Joshua to FIRST try to comply with BEFORE he could be saved and made righteous. Justification had already happened. It had already been settled. The Angel of the Lord had done it by grace before Joshua could move a finger. The Lord did not take into consideration ANY effort for obedience or a better life. He only considered Joshua’s filthy clothes. And satan’s accusations. NEVERTHELESS, He acquitted (forgave) him and placed a clean turban on his head – a symbol of holiness. The basis upon which the Angel of the Lord could do that, we will soon see from verses 8-10.
But first the question: How should we now understand that Joshua – a moment after he was saved and forgiven by grace – received the injunction to obey God’s will AND that obedience was made a condition of his further successful and blessed servitude as High Priest AND that obedience was made a condition of his continuing uninterrupted access into God’s presence?
How must that be understood? The one moment his salvation is pure grace, without the condition of obedience. And the next moment obedience is set as a condition for his – AS AN ALREADY FORGIVEN AND RIGHTEOUS PERSON – future life with God? Must he now for the rest of his life try to live righteously in order to retain his righteousness with God (his clean garments and new turban) – so that he might not lose it somewhere along the way?
Does that mean that – should he in the future fail to live obedient and devoted and committed (and he surely will fail) – that he will lose his position as being saved and as God’s child? Could he destroy his own salvation through possible disobedience?
The matter is really not that complicated. Verses 6-7 merely state what the entire Bible says, namely that
A) When a person becomes His child by pure grace alone, God’s Law (which is an expression of His perfect moral will) starts to become a guiding principle of a life of thankfulness. You now have a reborn new nature and have a desire to follow and serve Him. How? Obedient to His will.
B) The life of the person who has received forgiveness and salvation changes visibly, and that is exactly the proof THAT he/she truly is saved. The desire to follow the Lord in obedience, is at the same time also proof that rebirth has taken place. That is what James 2 teaches: True faith-trust produces GOOD WORKS. And those GOOD WORKS are the proof that there is faith-trust. Your being awake at night because it worries you that you are not up to scratch with your life of devotion to your Saviour, is not a bad sign. Indeed it is a good sign! The fact that you are troubled and vexed in your failing in obedience, drives you to a deeper repentance. The person who is not yet saved and redeemed and has not received a new heart, simply does not know this kind of sleepless sessions and remorse. The desire and longing for obedience to the Lord is exactly the sign THAT the new life has truly taken place. In the language of Zechariah 3: That the new garment was put on and that the clean turban was placed in position. The person who has not yet received the new garment and the clean turban, is not at all concerned about obedience and devotion. He falsely believes that he is a child of the Lord and continues undisturbed under the influence of that false peace of mind.
And then the thrilling verses 8-10: A direct foretelling of the coming Messiah. And at the same time also a declaration about the BASIS UPON WHICH Joshua’s burden of sin could just be wiped out. BASED ON WHAT could he receive a clean turban on his head? BASED ON WHAT could his heart be changed for him to start living in obedience to the Lord?
The answer is: ON THE BASIS of Messiah who was to come – sometime in the future. It is based on HIS coming and what HE was going to do, that all these wonderful things could happen to a hell-deserving sinner – like Joshua – like Israel.
The Lord Almighty (that is God the Father) inscribes the following words upon Joshua’s heart – an absolute assurance God is giving him…
The Lord Almighty gives Joshua the following FIVE assurances that he could depend on with his whole heart:
FIRST ASSURANCE >> JOSHUA AND HIS ASSOCIATES SEATED BEFORE HIM, ARE SYMBOLS/SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME >> They are a living sign of what the future holds. Joshua – as high priest – is a symbol of the final High Priest who is to appear on the scene – also called God’s Servant, the Branch. And the other priests are a symbol of all the believers who will be reconciled with God through this servant Branch – together they will all be the priesthood of God.
We know all this because the NT explains it to us. In the same way that the OT High Priest represented the nation before God and had to intercede for them (particularly on the Day of Atonement where he had to take the blood of the scapegoat into the Holy of Holies of the temple to do atonement for the people) in the same way Jesus would be it and do it. The entire Hebrews letter explains that to us.
Joshua the high priest was therefore a symbol of the Messiah who was to come. In the next verse called: God’s servant, the Branch. Whose Name would also be Joshua (Hebrew) or Jesus (Greek). Hebrews 8-10 tells us how Jesus would enter the holy place of God once only – with His own blood – to deal with sin – once and forever (as Daniel 9:24 already foretold would happen). And everyone – throughout all the centuries – whom He had reconciled with God in this way, will be a holy priesthood themselves (1 Pet 2:5) – that is all true believers, the NT church.
SECOND ASSURANCE >> GOD WILL MOST CERTAINLY BRING HIS SERVANT “BRANCH” >> From chapter 6 and also Jeremiah 23:5 we see that this Branch is a Royal figure – a king. In chapter 6 a crown is symbolically placed on Joshua’s head. He is not only a priest, but also a king. Two-in-one. Something that was forbidden. A king could not be a priest. Or the other way round. When king Saul brought sacrifices himself (which only a priest could do) God took the kingship away from him. But now suddenly, here is talk of someone who would be both king and priest. Zechariah could never have fudged these words, because he was well aware of the impossibility that God would make someone both king and priest. But Zechariah is speaking words that the Holy Spirit is putting in his mouth. And the Holy Spirit is saying: My servant, the Branch will be king. And priest. Jesus Christ will be both King and Priest. For ever.
Zechariah is combining two OT Messianic titles with each other, namely MY SERVANT (Ezek 34 and Is 42, 49, 52, 53) (that refers to the Messiah’s absolute obedience and humility) and Branch (Is 4, Jer 23, Is 11) which indicates the Messiah’s spiritual fruitfulness and humble appearance.
Jeremiah 23:5 also speaks of the coming Messiah as the Branch. And He will be king. And He will be the righteous One. His name will be: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. He will be Lord. He will be God. He will be KING of kings. And He will be our righteousness. He himself will be our righteousness-with-God. The righteousness that we can never and will never have in ourselves – HE (the Branch) will be our righteousness. Is it not wonderful? And the OT prophets foretold it all to the last letter!
THIRD ASSURANCE >> IN FRONT OF JOSHUA, GOD IS GOING TO SET A STONE – WITH SEVEN EYES – CONTAINING AN INSCRIPTION >> The question now is: How can there be certainty THAT God will keep His word, and THAT this Messiah will come – this priest-king?
The Lord gives Joshua a visible sign to give him the assurance he needs. Like a sacrament. The stone with 7 eyes and the inscription thereon are a covenant-sign. Of course there was no literal visible stone with 7 eyes – it is code language used in a apocalyptic vision. But the MESSAGE that the Lord is giving Zechariah by it, is very clear.
It is as if the Lord is providing a contract AND signs it with his own signature – to give the assurance that He will most certainly send His servant, the Branch!
Throughout the OT we see that a covenant is always accompanied by the erection of a memorial. Usually a stone (cf Gen 28, 35:14, 31:46; Jos 4, Jos 15, Jos 18, Deut 27:2-3). It is nothing new to Joshua. The OT-church nation knew it well. Joshua therefore knows: God is erecting a memorial, because He is now guaranteeing everything that He has promised before – that it WILL come to fruition. He will see to it without any human help. He will take care THAT Messiah will come.
We also know that Messiah (Christ) himself is often indicated as a stone. There are several passages in Scripture where Christ is spoken of as a stone that is rejected, as a stumbling block, that gives offence, that provides protection, that crushes, and is a cornerstone.
You see how breathtakingly brilliant the Scriptures are. God the Father comes to show Zechariah a stone that serves as a covenant-sign – in order to give him the assurance THAT Messiah (Branch) really will come. And at the same time the stone itself prefigures the Messiah. Do you see how absolutely interwoven the entire prophetic text is of the CHRIST who was to come? No wonder that Jesus told the Jews on one occasion: THE ENTIRE SCRIPTURE (OT) bears testimony of ME!
The number SEVEN and the EYES and the INSCRIPTION point to one thing: It says this: This promise and assurance are perfect and flawless (number 7). God will never forget it, He will always see it (eyes). Seven eyes indicate His perfect omnipotence and intelligence. And He will remain faithful to His Word (the inscription) – therefore He adds His signature to it.
And we, who are looking back and who have the entire Bible – we know how perfectly faithful the Lord was and brought everything to fruition. The memorial stone with the 7 eyes and the inscription guaranteed the full execution of the promise. No one needed to remind God or give Him a hand. He brought it all to perfect completion. Our NT is a perfect testimony thereof.
FOURTH ASSURANCE >> GOD WILL REMOVE THE SIN OF THE NATION IN A SINGLE DAY >> What exactly will God’s Servant, the Branch come to do? Something that no one could ever contemplate or expect. The servant Branch will fulfil what the angel Gabriel made known to Daniel about what would happen in the coming Messiah. In Daniel 9:24 it is foretold that – in one moment – sin will be ended and eternal righteousness will be established. The prophet Isaiah also tends in this direction when he says in 66:8: “Who has ever heard of such a thing? Who has ever seen such things? Can a country be born in a day or a nation be brought forth in a moment?” Yes, that birth is given to a new nation in one moment’s time!
When were the sins of God’s people going to be dealt with in a moment? Well, the Servant Branch will come to do it. That is when the annual Jewish Day of Atonement finally will come to fulfilment. When the veil in the temple rends from top to bottom and access to God is no longer forbidden. THEN the sins of the land will be removed for ever within one moment. With THE LAND he means God’s people. The sins of everyone who would ever come to faith in Christ (yes, even up to the year 2020 and further), were taken away in the moment when the Servant Branch called out IT IS FINISHED and breathed His last and died.
Can you see how firm as a rock the Gospel-message is anchored in OT prophecy? Indelibly true and sure. What Zechariah saw about what was to come, literally did take place. The Servant Branch DID come in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. And by His death on the cross, God the Father was true to His Word and took away the sins of His people. THAT is the only single reason why a person in 2020 may live reconciled with God.
FIFTH ASSURANCE >> THEN THOSE WHOSE SINS WERE REMOVED, CAN LIVE IN PEACE AND INVITE OTHERS TO SHARE IN THE ABUNDANCE >> Verse 10: IN THAT DAY you will invite your neighbour to sit under your fig tree. It was a familiar expression in Israel for peace and prosperity (Micah 4:4; 1 Kings 4:25).
What day? The day of the previous verses, of course. The day when God’s Servant Branch (who is priest and king) take away the sins of God’s people. THEN people will experience complete salvation and freedom and KNOW that they have been saved. THEN people will start to invite other people: “Come experience the shade and rest and coolness of the peace and abundance that I enjoy. My sin and blame are reconciled and taken away”.
This 5th assurance is nothing else but what the NT calls THE GREAT COMMISSION. GO AND INVITE THE PEOPLE! All who personally know and experience the sin-removing work of the Messiah ARE evangelists and missionaries to invite others to come in.
I hope you can see how brilliant Zechariah 3:6-10 is and how it assists us to obtain a firm trust in the Scriptures.
Translated by Marthie Wilson