weekly word – 11/23/23

Zechariah’s Fourth Vision

Zechariah 3:1-10

In the first two visions, God showed Zechariah His plan to bring justice by cutting off the power of the nations which had oppressed Israel and destroyed Jerusalem. In the third vision, God showed that one day He would judge the pagan city of Babylon, fill Jerusalem with Jewish and Gentile believers, and be a wall of fire protecting the holy city.

But restoring Israel requires more than bringing them back to Jerusalem. In order to stay in His city forever they must be holy. And for the people of God to be holy, God must do something about their sin. Sin is what the fourth vision is about.

God begins to cleanse Israel’s sin beginning with the most important spiritual leader in their midst: Joshua, the current high priest in the time of Zechariah. Zechariah sees Joshua in this vision; but Satan is next to him, accusing him (3:1). This indicates that Joshua’s sins are not yet atoned.

God rebukes Satan and replaces Joshua’s dirty priestly uniform with a new, spotless one (3:2-5). Then the angel of the Lord gives a special charge to Joshua, “If you walk in my ways and keep my mandates, you will both rule my house and take care of my courts; I will also grant you access among those who are standing here.” (3:7)

God’s promise to Joshua means that if he follows God’s law as he serves in the earthly temple, he will have access to the temple of heaven as well. This is a reminder that our service of God on earth doesn’t end on earth; if we are doing it for God according to His word, our service brings us into connection with God and all the host of heaven.

But God doesn’t just forget about sin when He forgives it. Verses 8-10 inform us how God will make atonement. He tells Zechariah that Joshua and his coworkers are “a sign that I am about to bring my servant, the Branch.” (3:8) He gives Joshua a stone with “seven eyes”, a symbol of omniscience. The terms “my servant”, “branch” and “stone” are three symbols of the coming Messiah who will atone for the sin of God's people. The stone is engraved with the promise of what the Messiah will accomplish, “I will take away the iniquity of this land in a single day. On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” (3:9-10) This means that the Messiah will be our ultimate priest, whose atonement brings us permanent peace with God.

In this vision, God reveals why Jesus became our sin-bearer before He returns as King. It’s because our greatest problem isn’t the sinful world around us, despite all its oppression; it’s the shame we have brought upon ourselves through our sin. In this vision, God uses three symbols of what the Messiah would be like. He will be a servant who takes the punishment we deserve in love for us, as Isaiah 40-53 and Ezekiel 34:23-24 teach. He will be a branch springing from the tree of King David, as Isaiah 11:1-4 and Jeremiah 23:1-7 predict. He will be a stone by which His enemies stumble and fall, as Psalm 118:22, Isaiah 8:14, and Daniel 2:34-35 also affirm. When we trust in His death and resurrection for us, the Lord Jesus takes our dirty garments and clothes us with a new, clean garment so we can enter God's presence and serve Him.

Pastor David