Zechariah 3:1 – 4:14
The vision of the surveyor gave assurances of the reestablishing of the Jewish nation.
The Vision of Joshua the High Priest (3:1-10).
The angel that talked with Zechariah showed him Joshua the high priest. It is possible Zechariah saw Joshua many times, spoke to him, and there was a close friendship between Zechariah and Joshua, but Zechariah only saw how Joshua appeared before men. If Zechariah is to know how Joshua stands before the Lord, he must see him standing before the Lord.
In this vision, Satan is standing at Joshua’s right hand as the prosecutor, or witness stands at the right hand of the prisoner. Satan being an unfaithful servant accuses Joshua. There are those who believe Satan has brought the charge of unfaithfulness against Joshua because the priests under his authority were marrying foreign women (Ezra 9:1, 2; Nehemiah 3:28). When God is about to reestablish the priesthood Satan brings a charge against the high priest that would render him unworthy of the honor bestowed upon him.
It is by our own foolishness that we give Satan advantage against us and furnish him with matters for reproach and accusation. If there is, any fault found in us, Satan uses it against us in the complaints he files against us. In this vision, Satan stood before the Lord with Joshua to oppose the service Joshua was doing for the public good. He stood at Joshua’s right hand, the hand of action, to discourage Joshua and place obstacles in his way.
When we are fulfilling our call to serve the Lord we must expect to meet with all the resistance that Satan’s subtlety and malice can give us. We must resist him that resists us in the performance of our duty and he will flee from us. We must never let the obstacles placed in our paths discourage us or turn us away from the course the Lord has set for us.
In verse two, a victorious defense:
Verse two – “The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan!’ Indeed the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’”
The One who has authority over him silences Satan. His indictment quashed, and his charge against Joshua declared malicious and frivolous. Those that belong to Christ He vigorously defend them when Satan viciously attacks them. He does not plea bargain with Satan but shuts his mouth immediately with this sharp reprimand, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan.” This is the best way to deal with a furious enemy.
The Lord lets Satan know his charge against Joshua will be fruitless; it will serve no purpose to attempt any thing against Jerusalem or His chosen high priest. He has chosen Jerusalem to be His dwelling place and Joshua to be the head servant in His house and He will abide by his choice. The Lord said Joshua is a “brand plucked from the fire,” delivered out of the fire of captivity that God might be glorified and He will not cast him off or abandon him. A converted soul is a brand plucked out of the fire by a miracle of free grace and not left to be a prey to Satan.
Joshua appears before the Lord as one polluted. He was clothed in garments that were not fitting of his office and the sanctity of his work. By the Law of Moses, the garments of the high priest were to be “for glory and for beauty” (Exodus 28:2), Joshua’s garments were a shame and reproach to him. He had no clean linen wherein to minister and to do the duty of his office. This conveys the idea that the priesthood was not only poor, despised, and loaded with contempt, but that there was a great deal of iniquity cleaving to the holy things.
The returned Jews thought they did not need to confess their sins, and were not aware that they were hindrances of the progress of the Lord’s work among them. Because they had turned from idolatry, they thought they were no longer chargeable with iniquity. God showed them there were many things wrong in them, which hindered the bestowing of the Lord’s favor towards them. Their sins were spiritual enemies warring against them and more dangerous than any of the neighboring nations.
Joshua had sons who married foreign women (Ezra 10:18). Though his children did not do as they should, yet the covenant of priesthood was not broken.
Christ bears with his people, whose hearts are right with Him, and admits them into communion with Himself, notwithstanding their many infirmities. The Lord gave orders to the angels that attended Him, and were ready to do His pleasure, to put Joshua into a better state. Joshua presented himself before the Lord in his filthy garments and the Lord graciously looked upon him with compassion, and not as He might have justly done. Although He loathed the filthiness of Joshua’s garments, yet the Lord did not put him away, but put them away. This is what the Lord by His grace does with those whom He chooses to be priests to Himself. He parts them from their sins and this prevents their sins from parting them from their Lord. He reconciles Himself to the sinner, but not to the sin.
Two things happened, representing a double work of divine grace wrought in and for believers, filthy garments taken from him and clean garments given to him.
His guilt taken away by pardoning mercy, the stench and stain of it by peace spoken to the conscience, and the power of it broken by renewing grace. When the Lord forgives our sins, He causes our iniquity to pass from us, that it may not appear against us, to condemn us; it passes from us as far as the east is from the west. When He sanctifies the nature, He enables us to put off the old man. He cast away from us the filthy rags of our corrupt affections and lusts, as things we will never have any thing more to do with or appear in us. Christ washes away our sins in His own blood.
Cleansed from the pollution of sin, clothed in clean garments, Joshua has not only the shame of his filthiness removed, but also the shame of his nakedness covered. Joshua had no clean linen of his own, but Christ provided for him clean garments, because He will not let a priesthood of His own instituting be lost, contemptible before men or unacceptable before God. The change of raiment is rich costly raiment, such as worn on high days. Joshua shall appear as lovely as he appeared loathsome.
Those that minister in holy things shall not only cease to do evil, but also learn to do well. The Lord will make them wise, and humble, diligent, and faithful, and examples of every thing that is good. Those whom Christ makes spiritual priests are clothed with the spotless robe of His righteousness and appear before God in them, and with the graces of His Spirit, which are ornaments to them. The righteousness of the saints, both imputed and implanted, is the fine linen, clean and white, with which the bride of the Lamb’s wife, is arrayed (Revelation 19:8).
Joshua not only has his sins pardoned, and is furnished with grace sufficient for himself, but acquitted in the Lord’s court and restored to his former honors and trusts. The crown of the priesthood put upon him. Now that he looks clean, let him also look great; let him be dressed up in all the garments of the high priest.
When the Lord plans the restoring or reviving of religion He stirs up his prophets and people to pray for it, and does it in answer to their prayers. Zechariah prayed that the angels might set the turban on Joshua’s head, and they did it immediately, and clothed Joshua with the priestly garments while the angel of the Lord stood by overseeing the work of the angels. He stood by, as one well pleased with what He has done.
The angel of the Lord “admonished Joshua saying,” (v.6):
The angel of the Lord told Joshua if he would do the duty of his office, he would enjoy the dignity and reward of the office. The Lord of hosts put Joshua on notice. He must live a good life and be holy in all manner of conversation; he must go before the people in the paths of God’s commandments, and walk circumspectly. He must keep the Lord’s charge and carefully do all the services of the priesthood. He must see to it that the inferior priests perform their duties.
What the Lord has done for Joshua and his fellow priests, as the prophet and his children (Isaiah 8:18), are a shadow of the coming of Messiah, for signs and for wonders will cease when the Messiah comes. The promise itself is for the comfort and encouragement of Joshua and his friends in the work of building the temple, which they now engaged in. The promise relating to the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom would be an encouragement in the difficulties they will encounter in the building temple and their other services.
The Messiah is God’s servant, employed in His work, obedient to His will, and entirely devoted to His honor and glory. He is the branch of the Lord (Isaiah 11:1), a branch out of the roots of Jesse (Jeremiah 23:5), a righteous branch (Jeremiah 23:15). His beginning will be as a tender branch, but in time, He should become a great tree and fill the earth (Isaiah 53:2). He is the stone laid before Joshua.
The stone laid before Joshua is a reference to the foundation or chief corner stone, of the temple laid, with great solemnity, in the presence of Joshua. Christ is not only the branch, which is the beginning of a tree, but also the foundation, which is the beginning of a building; and seven eyes shall be upon Him, the eye of the Father, to take care of Him, and protect Him, especially in his sufferings. The eyes of heaven shall be on Him when they place Him in a tomb out of men’s sight, but not out of the Lord’s. The eyes of all the prophets and Old Testament saints were upon this one stone, Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day, and he saw it and was glad. The eyes of all believers are upon him as the eyes of the stung Israelites were upon the brazen serpent.
There are scholars who believe this stone that is to have seven eyes in it as the wheels had in Ezekiel’s vision denotes the perfection of wisdom and knowledge which Jesus Christ was endued with, for the good of His church. God Himself will beautify him, and put honor upon him. This stone the builders refused, as rough and unsightly God smoothes, polish and forms so that it shall be the head stone of the corner, the most beautiful in all the building. Christ was God’s workmanship and the abundance of His wisdom appears in our redemption.
This stone is a precious stone, though used for a foundation. The engraving of it seems to refer to the precious stones in the breastplate of the high priest, which had the names of the tribes, engraved upon them (Exodus 28:21-22). In that breastplate, there were twelve stones laid before Aaron, but there shall be one worth more them all the stones laid before Joshua, and that is Christ himself. This precious stone shall sparkle as if it had seven eyes.
God will entrust Christ with all His elect, He shall appear as their representative, and agent for them, as the high priest did when he went in before the Lord with the names of all Israel engraved in the precious stones of his breastplate. When the high priest had the names of Israel engraved on the precious stones, he bore the iniquity of the land, as a type of Christ. However, he could not take away the iniquity of the land only Christ, the blessed Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world and He did it when He suffered and died on a Roman cross. The Lamb of God accomplished what no sacrifices of ages before on all the days of atonement could accomplish.
There are other scholars who believe the engravings signify the wounds and stripes that Christ underwent for our transgression and iniquity, by which we are healed. When our iniquity is taken away, we reap precious benefits and privileges from our justification, more precious than the products of the vine or the fig tree (Romans 5:1). We rest in a sweet tranquility freed from the fear of evil. We live as Israel in the peaceable reign of Solomon (1 King 4:24-25) for he is the prince of peace. We ought to invite others to come to partake with us in the enjoyment of these privileges, to come and sit with us for mutual conversation under the vine and fig tree, and to share with them the fruits the Lord has provided.
In there present situation the Israelites did not think they could rebuild the temple and replenish the city of Jerusalem. The purpose of the vision of the golden lamp stand is to show the people that the Lord by His own power would complete the rebuilding and replenishing of Jerusalem though the assistance given to the project by its friends even though they were weak and the resistance to the project even through it is very strong.
The vision begins with an awakening of Zechariah. It seems, though he was in conference with an angel about matters of great and public concern Zechariah became tired and fell asleep. It is also possible the angel let Zechariah rest for a while so that he might be fresh and able to receive new discoveries.
In our service for the Lord, there are times when we need to take a break. There are times when we grow weary. The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. It is in times like these we need the Holy Spirit to come and awaken us. We need Him to renew us.
The Golden Lampstand:
The angel asked Zechariah, “What do you see?” He said, “I see a lamp stand all of gold with its bowl on the top of it, and its seven lamps on it with seven spouts belonging to each of the lamps which are on the top of it; also two olive trees by it, one on the right side of the bowl and the other on its left side.”
When Zechariah awakened, he saw a golden lampstand, like the one in the temple the Babylonians destroyed and will stand in the rebuilt temple. Today, the church is as a lampstand set up for the enlightening of this dark world and bring forth the light of divine revelation to the world. The gold denotes the great worth and excellence of the church. This golden lamp stand has seven lamps branching out from it and each was a burning and shining light.
Although the Israelites were in captivity, they had synagogues where they gathered to hear the reading of the law. In the sight of the Lord, they belonged to one lampstand. Under the law of grace, Christ is the center of unity, and not Jerusalem, or any one place. The apostle John saw Him standing in the middle of seven golden lampstands that represented seven particular churches and in His right hand He held seven stars and out of His mouth came a sharp two-edged sword (Revelation 1:12-16).
The lampstand Zechariah saw represents what the apostle John saw when he was in exile on the isle of Patmos. The lampstand Zechariah saw had one bowl or common receiver on the top of it into which oil was continually dropping into the lamps. They were always kept burning without any care or attendance of man.
In verse three, Zechariah tells us, he saw two olive trees, one on each side of the lampstand. They were so fruitful that of their own accord they continually poured oil into the bowl, which by two larger pipes (v. 12) dispersed the oil into the bowl and from the bowl the oil was dispersed to the lamps, so that nobody needed to attend this lampstand or furnish it with oil.
The purpose of this vision of the golden lampstand is to show the Lord can easily and often does accomplish His gracious purposes concerning His people by His own wisdom and power, without any labor of man. He uses men as instruments in accomplishing His goal for humanity. He neither needs them nor is dependent upon them. He can do His work without them rather than let His purpose be unfulfilled. The Lord will do what He has said He will do it regardless of spiritual and physical resistance.
Zechariah does not understand what is the meaning and purpose of the vision; he does what we should do when we encounter situations in this life we do not understand.
Note if you will how respectfully Zechariah speaks to the angel, he calls him “my lord.” We need to remember, something that has been lost in this present age, students must give honor to their teachers.
Zechariah saw there was something important in what he sees and he desired to know the meaning of the lampstand. If we want to understand what the Lord is doing in our lives and the world we live in we need to ask questions. If we do, the Lord will answer them.
The angel answered Zechariah’s question with a question. He asked Zechariah, “Do you not know what these are?” Zechariah answered, “No my lord.” Zechariah did not understand the vision because he compared the physical, what he can see, with the spiritual, what he cannot see. Zechariah knew that there was a golden lampstand in the temple and it was the duty of the priests to supply it with oil and to keep it burning. In his vision, he sees the lampstand with lamps always burning, but there are no priests to supply the oil and keep the lamps burning. Zechariah might conclude, although the Lord has reestablished the priesthood, He will carry on His purpose for Israel without the help of the priests.
The angel asked Zechariah this question, to draw him from his own conclusions. Visions have their own purpose and often are hard to understand. The prophets often found it hard to understand what the Lord was revealing to them. Those that seek knowledge must first acknowledge their own ignorance and seek instructions from the Lord. If we do this, the Lord will teach us. The Lord will always teach the meek and humbled and not the conceited and depend on their own understanding. We need to remember, man’s ways are not God’s ways.
Without an explanation of every element of the vision, the purpose of the vision is lost. The good work of building the temple and Jerusalem must by under the special care of the Lord. It is important Zechariah and the people understand this. Men do not build the kingdom of heaven. The builder is the Lord. He uses men to build His kingdom. We need to remember the enemies of the King are many and mighty. The friends and workers are few and feeble.
In the explication of visions and parables, we must look at the principal purpose of them. Too often, men take the visions and parables, twist, and turn them to fit their purpose. We may not be able to explain every situation in a vision or parable or make it fit our purpose in life or explain what is happening in the world. Like the angel who explained the purpose of this vision, the Holy Spirit will often give us an explanation of a vision or parable that will enable us to understand something we may encounter in the future. The purpose of this vision was to encourage the people and their leaders to go on with the building of the temple. Let them know they are working together with the Lord in the building of the temple.
When Zechariah told the angel he did not understand the vision the angel told him, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel saying, ‘Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts.”
The Lord will carry on and complete this work, as He had begun their deliverance from Babylon, not by external force, but by internal influences upon the minds of men. He who makes this claim will do it not by human might or power, but by His own Spirit. What the Holy Spirit does is not by might and power, but it stands in opposition to visible force. The Lord brought Israel out of Egypt, and into Canaan, by might and power. But they were brought out of Babylon, and into Canaan the second time, by the Spirit of the Lord of hosts working upon the spirit of Cyrus, and inclining him to proclaim liberty to them, and working upon the spirits of the captives, and causing them to accept the liberty offered them. The Spirit of the Lord of hosts moved the people to rebuild the temple. The same Spirit moved the heart of Darius to further the good work that the sworn enemies of it could not hinder it. The work of God is often successfully when done silently, and without the assistance of human force.
All the difficulties and oppositions to the rebuilding of the temple and Jerusalem will be defeated, even those that seem insurmountable. The enemies of the Jews are proud and hard as great mountains; but when God has work to do; the mountains that stand in the way of it shall dwindle into molehills. All the difficulties shall vanish, and all the objections overcome. Every mountain and hill brought low when the way of the Lord is to be prepared (Isaiah 40:4).
Verse eight and nine – “Also the word of the Lord came to me saying, The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house, and his hands will finish it. Then you know that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.”
The same hand that has begun this good work will finish it. The hands of Zerubbabel laid the foundation of the temple and though the completion of the building delayed and is still under opposition it shall be finished and Zerubbabel will live to see it finished. He will be involved in the finishing of the rebuilding of the temple. He will bring forth the head stone with shouting and loud acclamations of joy, among the spectators.
When the work is finished, the people must thankfully acknowledge that it was the Lord through grace and not by their own power, the work was completed. The Lord’s good will towards them, His good work in them and for them. Grace must be applied not only to the head-stone, but to the foundation-stone, the corner-stone, and indeed to every stone in the Lord’s building, from first to last it is nothing of works, but all of grace, and all crowns must be cast at the feet of free grace.
Grace is the language of prayer as well as of praise now that this building is finished and all happiness attends it! Peace is within its walls. Let the beauty of the Lord be upon it. What comes from the grace of the Lord may in faith, and upon good grounds, be committed to the grace of the Lord, for the Lord will not forsake the work of his own hands. This shall be a full ratification of the prophecies of the Israelites’ return to the Promised Land and their settlement again in the land. The exact accomplishment of the prophecies is a convincing proof of their divine original. The Lord confirms the word of His servant, by saying to Jerusalem; you shall be built (Isaiah 44:26). No word of God shall fall to the ground, nor one iota or title of it.
Zechariah’s prophecies of the approaching day of deliverance to the people shall effectually silence those that looked with contempt upon the beginning of this work.
The Israelites who had returned to Judah and Jerusalem despised the foundation of the second temple, because it was likely to be so far inferior to the first (Ezra 3:12). Their enemies despised the wall when it was in the building Nehemiah 2:19; 4:2-3). In the Lord’s work, do not despise the day of small things. Though the instruments are weak and unlikely, the Lord often chooses them to bring about great things. As a great mountain becomes a plain before Him when He pleases, so a little stone, cut out of a mountain without hands, comes to fill the earth (Daniel 2:35). Though the beginnings are small, the Lord can make the end greatly increased; a grain of mustard-seed may become a great tree. Despise let not the dawning light, for it will shine more and more to the perfect day. The day of small things is the day of precious things, and will be the day of great things.
Those that despaired the finishing of the work began shall rejoice when they see Zerubbabel busy among the builders, giving orders and directions and seeing to it that the work done with great exactness, that it may be both fine and firm. It is a matter of great rejoicing to all good people to see their leaders careful and active in the building of the Lord’s house, to see a shovel in the hand of those who have power to do much more than being a laborer. The people do not see Zerubbabel with a trowel in his hand but see him with a shovel in his hand, and he considers it an honor to do what he can in the rebuilding of the temple. Zerubbabel does his part, does as much as man can do to forward the work, but he could do nothing if the watchful, powerful, gracious providence of the Lord did not go before him and go along with him in it. Except the Lord had built this house, Zerubbabel and the rest would have labored in vain (Psalm 127:1).
We must not think that the Lord is so busy with the affairs of His church He neglects the world. It is a comfort to know that the same all wise, almighty Lord that governs the nations of the earth is concerned about the church. Those seven eyes that run through the earth are upon the stone that Zerubbabel is laying to see that it is properly laid. Those that have a part in the building of the church must look up to the eyes of the Lord and submit to His plan for the building of the church.
The angel said enough to Zechariah to encourage him and to enable him to encourage others, with reference to the building of the temple that was the principal intention of the vision. However, he still questions that needed answered. He understood the meaning of the lampstand with its lamps, but he wants to know what these two olive trees are.
Verse eleven and twelve – “Then I answered and said to him, ’What are these two olive trees on the right of the lampstand and on its left.’ Then I asked the second time and said to him, ‘What are the two olive branches which are beside the two golden pipes, which empty the golden oil from themselves?’”
The angel did not answer Zechariah’s first question so he asked the angel a second time what was the meaning of what he saw. If we do not receive satisfactory answers to our enquiries and requests, we renew them, and repeat them. Zechariah’s second question varied somewhat from the first. He first asked, “What are these two olive trees?” In the second he asked, “What are these two olive branches that hung over the bowl and distilled oil into it? In his questions Zechariah asked what was the meaning of not only what was obvious at first sight but also what was not obvious.
The angel asked Zechariah, “Do you not know what these are?” And he said, “No, my lord.”
It is only after Zechariah admits he does not understand the meaning of the two branches he explains what Zechariah saw. “These are the two anointed ones who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.”
If the lampstand is a symbol of the visible church that is to be the source of light that comes from above and the two branches represent the two anointed ones who receive direction from the Lord that are to be given to the people, they represent the office of priest and king. Their wisdom, courage, and zeal, were continually emptying themselves into the golden bowl, to keep the lamps burning; and, when they are gone, others rise up to carry on the same work. If the lampstand represents the true believers in Christ, the two anointed before the Lord of the whole earth represent Christ and the Holy Spirit, the Redeemer and the Comforter. The Holy Spirit pours the golden oil of grace into those who are true believers in Christ. This is what keeps their lamps burning, and without a constant supply of which they would soon go out. The Father will send the Son and the Holy Spirit into the world in the time appointed.