Zechariah’s night visions continue. The first vision of today’s reading is all about cleansing for the high priest. Once again we see a heavenly courtroom with the prosecuting attorney, the evil one, accusing the defendant, Joshua the high priest, of being unfit for his priestly duties. Joshua was the high priest, the religious leader among the exiles who had returned from Babylon. He partnered with Zerubbabel, the governor of the restored community, in rebuilding the temple. The accuser designated a member of the heavenly court whose role is to accuse human beings of wrong doing, to act as the prosecuting attorney. The accusers position of authority in the heavenly court is shown by his standing sat the right hand of the angel. In this case the Lord is both defense attorney and judge. He censured the prosecutions arguments, dismissed the case, and declared Joshua innocent because he has been chosen and cleaned by God. This is a good reminder for us that the evil one is not sovereign, but only the Lord. The evil one is subject to the Lord as we are. The Lord said Joshua was a burning stick that was pulled from the fire, in other words, Joshua and the exiles were plucked by God from the fires of destruction in Babylon. The accusations of the evil one most likely implied that just as a polluted priest was not fit to serve in the temple, the Jews were not fit to be God’s chosen people. The high priest represented the people before God and under no circumstances were they to become defiled or unclean. Yet Joshua was defiled by the sins of the people so the angel of the Lord commanded the others standing in this courtroom to remove Joshua’s filthy clothes. This dramatic action was symbolic of the removal of sin and guilt from Joshua and the Jews, restoring them to their former position through God’s cleansing. If you remember from Exodus 28:36-38, the high priests turban bore a gold medallion that read HOLY TO THE LORD. This clean turban that was placed on Joshua’s head was an act of ordination that reinstated him as priest and mediator for the people. But, restoration was contingent on Israel’s obedience to the Lord.
Here the high priest and the other priests were symbols of greater realities. The coming Messiah is depicted as God’s servant. He is also referred to as the branch. As a servant, the Messiah obeys God’s will by becoming a sin offering so that many might be made righteous. The branch is a metaphor for kingship that identifies the Messiah as David’s descendant. Then the Lord laid a stone with seven facets on it before Joshua. The single stone signifies authority. It might refer to the final stone of the temple laid by Zerubbabel, the foundation stone of the restored Jerusalem, or the precious stones of the ephod of the high priest. The seven facets, literally seven eyes, of the stone imply perfection and completeness of knowledge and wisdom. It could also refer to the endowment of the Holy Spirit. They could also be a reference to the seven lamps of the golden lamp stand. This stone is the symbol of the office of the high priest. The inscription on this stone is a reminder of the names of the 12 tribes that were engraved on the stones of the high priests shoulder pieces. That God would remove all the sins in the land in a single day points to the day of atonement when the high priest would enter the Holy of Holies and ask for the forgiveness of the sins of the people. It also foreshadows Christ’s crucifixion, when the Lamb of God takes away the sins of the world. On that day, the day of the Lord, the day of the Lord’s intervention in history when God will judge the wicked, He will deliver the righteous and restore all creation.
The angel who had been talking with Zechariah returned and caught his attention once again. It seems that Zechariah slept briefly before this fifth vision. In this vision God affirms that through His Spirit He would enable Zerubbabel and Joshua to rebuild the temple. The angel asked Zechariah what he saw. This time the vision was of a lamp stand and two olive trees. This solid gold lamp stand would remind the people of the lamp stand in both the tabernacle and the temple. It was a symbol of God’s purity and holiness and the light of His revelation. The two olive trees represent the offices of priest and king in Israel. They are emblems for Joshua and Zerubbabel. The golden oil represents God’s Holy Spirit. What the Lord is telling Joshua is that they will have success in the rebuilding of the temple, not by their own strength or force but because of the presence of God’s empowering Spirit. Nothing will stand in their way and any mountain that looks insurmountable will become a plain. Faith in God enables His servants to overcome obstacles that seem impossible. The final stone is known as the capstone. Once that is placed the building is considered finished. Then the people will shout and rejoice and ask God to bless it. This simple prayer of “May God bless it” asks for God’s favor and blessing on the new temple. God assures Joshua that not only would Zerubbabel lay the first stone and the foundation for the temple but he would complete it as well. This beginning is cause for the Lord to rejoice as well. The Lord cautions the people to not be discouraged at the doing of small things. Little things can and do become big when we place them in the hands of the Lord.
The plumb line is a cord with a weight attached to one end and it is stretched to ensure walls are vertical before they are built. That Zerubbabel is holding a plumb line means the building is about to begin. This too is a cause for celebration. There are seven lamps mentioned here. Seven is a complete and perfect number. God sees all that takes place on the earth. He controls the fates of the peoples and nations. Some see these seven as lamps and others seven eyes of the Lord that search to and fro throughout the whole world. The two olive branches are identified as two anointed ones, perhaps representatives of the religious and political offices of Israel. They can also be representative of priest and king, here Zerubbabel and Joshua. When they returned from exile both of these men were anointed with oil as a part of their commissioning. Under their leadership, the temple of the Lord was rebuilt and worship was restored in Jerusalem.
In His Grip
Pastor Matt W