Zooming in on the Zeal in Zechariah

“And many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. “And the LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. “Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.” Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD admonished Joshua saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways, and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. ‘Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. ‘For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.’ ”

Have you ever wondered why God chose Jerusalem as the place where he would make his dwelling? The Bible doesn’t explicitly address this but it does give us many clues. When the Israelites escaped from slavery in Egypt, God chose Gilgal as his temporary tabernacle. This is where the 12 tribes set up stones as a memorial to remind their children that the Lord stopped the flooded waters of the Jordan so that the children of Israel could cross on dry ground into the promised land. Yet of Gilgal the Lord later said, “Seek Me that you may live. But do not resort to Bethel, And do not come to Gilgal, Nor cross over to Beersheba; For Gilgal will certainly go into captivity, And Bethel will come to trouble.” And “All their evil is at Gilgal; Indeed, I came to hate them there! Because of the wickedness of their deeds I will drive them out of My house! I will love them no more; All their princes are rebels.”

If God felt this way about Gilgal why would he choose Jerusalem, “who kills  the prophets and slays those sent to her,” as his eternal capital on earth? The simple answer is that he didn’t. However most of us have been taught that he did and therefore my simple answer needs an explanation.

Words have meanings and definitions. Many of us can recall our grandparents using different words or phrases that we no longer use today. My grandfather would hand me a dollar and say, “put that in your billfold.” Anytime my grandmother would encounter something interestingly strange, she would say, “isn’t that queer?” However nowadays we are much more refined and call a billfold a wallet and queer refers to sexual orientation. In the same way “eternal capital” neither means eternal nor capital. If there was no Israel for 2000 years, there was no capital. And if something doesn’t exist for a time, it is not eternal. However we understand the difference between figurative language and literal language. Nevertheless, eternal capital is a misnomer that has changed meanings over the years. Why then did the Lord choose Jerusalem? Strategically speaking, it has the high ground and was easier to defend against invaders. But most importantly we will see that it was perfectly placed, as a central hub, for the gospel to go out to Africa, Asia and Europe–see the Acts of the Apostles and find a map of Paul’s missionary journeys.

Last time we looked at the day of the Lord and we will continue in that context today. We will also zoom in on Jerusalem and Joshua the high priest and how he is both a type of Jesus and an anti-type. A type because he is a chosen high priest and an anti-type because he is sinful and in need of someone to make him clean. We will remember what we saw in the “day of the Lord,” such as fire, smoke, darkness and sacrifice as we consider the continuing context in Zechariah attempting to understand the analogy in this apocalyptic address and ascertain the author’s aspirations to his audience. If I were to sum up Zechariah to the people present, it would be; prepare yourselves because your king is coming. Remember that Israel is all but extinct and there is no king in Judah.

“And many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people. Then I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you. And the LORD will possess Judah as His portion in the holy land, and will again choose Jerusalem. ‘Be silent, all flesh, before the LORD; for He is aroused from His holy habitation.’”

The Lord Jesus himself says that he will dwell in Judah and Jerusalem as he brings the nations to himself. We also read that he is aroused from his holy habitation. The context is clear, Jesus is coming in the flesh and coming soon–to them, not us. This is the imagery we find in his arousal from his holy habitation. He is going from heaven to earth. He also indicates, through the prophecy, that his coming will be confirmation of the prophecy. Keeping it simple; he promised to come and his coming will be confirmation of the promise. Yet many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers claim that much of Zechariah is left to be fulfilled. We take an opposite approach and assume that prophecy was fulfilled so that they would know because that’s what the context indicates. We look for fulfillment in the pages of the Bible. We let the Bible interpret the Bible and consider the context, aspirations of author to his audience, genre, examples and divide rightly the word of truth–the CAGED method.

“Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.” This is a revelation, an apocalyptic address. We therefore have to take much care with the text and see the symbolism and imagery and remember the examples we explored, keeping the scene within the context. We remember that the king is coming from heaven and will bring the nations to himself. We have read Haggai and dabbled in Ezra and Nehemiah, therefore we are familiar with Joshua the high priest. However we see a different perspective of him here in Zechariah. He is being accused by the great Satan, himself. We are not told the accusation because it doesn’t matter–it is Satan–serious are the charges–Joshua was a sinner.

“And the LORD said to Satan, ‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?'” Sorry Satan but God saved Joshua from the fire. There is quite a bit of irony here. Satan stands at the right hand of Joshua and accuses him. Remember that the symbolism of the right hand is not where a barcode tattoo or microchip is planted, but it is symbolic of man’s ways and his work. Satan is rightfully accusing Joshua, we will come back to this, but God rebukes Satan nonetheless because God has pulled Joshua from the fire. As the rest of Zechariah does, this points forward to the sacrifice and atonement of Jesus on the cross. Twice, actually, the Lord rebukes Satan and does so by invoking his own name, YHWH. The context will continue to clarify.

“‘The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ Again he said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.'”

For time’s sake and for the sake of our short attention spans, we don’t consider all the content of the context at one time. But we do take it in large chunks and try to remember what we have read previously, whereas the prophecy pundits and mega-church pastors pick and choose verses to create their own narrative. With even a cursory knowledge of the atonement, would this not appear to be foreshadowing the cross and not a far-future, millennial kingdom? I used a rhetorical question as the Lord did to Satan in his exchange with him, when pointing out Joshua. Look at the language used describing Joshua’s situation. ‘I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” Joshua is dirty, in filthy garments, being accused by Satan on his right hand but the Lord cleans him up. Couple this to the continuing context and it is clear that the sacrifice of Christ is that to which the Lord is pointing. Joshua is a sinner and needs to be cleansed and the imagery of new clothes is indicative of Christ’s atonement and choice of Joshua as does the phrase, “plucked from the fire.”

We remember reading, “And many nations will join themselves to the LORD in that day and will become My people.” We also remember reading in Romans Paul’s plea and defense of Isaiah and the prophets who proclaimed a promise concerning the nations. Zechariah points to the time of, and around, the sacrifice. Zechariah recorded God’s words; “I will dwell in your midst, and you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent Me to you.” John wrote, “and the word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

Satan is rebuked, twice, by the Lord for accusing Joshua because the Lord chose to remove the figurative filthy garments from Joshua and to give him clean, figurative, festal robes. Even Zechariah gets in on this by suggesting that the Lord give Joshua a turban. “Then I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by.”

Zechariah gets right in on the action as Satan is shot down–do not miss this. Also, a little housekeeping; the angel of the Lord is Jesus, pre-advent, pre-incarnate–it doesn’t matter how ones states it but that we understand that this is Jesus prior to his dwelling in the flesh on earth. Since I claim that we have to let the Bible interpret the Bible and explore examples; John 1:18, Genesis 22:11-15, Exodus 3:2-4, Joshua 5:14-15 and numerous other examples in our Old Testament tutor. Jesus is standing among other angels, including Satan and amongst Joshua and Zechariah. And while Satan’s accusations are rebuked, Zechariah’s suggestion is honored. This is incredible imagery. Jesus tells the angels to clean up Joshua and beyond this, Zechariah suggests to give Joshua a turban as well–and they do, as Jesus stands by.

We see that Satan was shut up and that Zechariah has his request granted, that’s the easy part to understand but the difficult question to answer is, why did they place a turban on his head, and why would Zechariah be bold enough to tell them to do it? The mega-church pastor would probably say, “this is how you should speak to the Lord! Your favor is found in the turban. Your promotion is the turban, your finances are your turban, your clean medical report is your turban! Tell the Lord to give you your turban and find your favor.” While ripped out of context and wrongfully applied to health and wealth, there is a tiny sliver of truth in this hypothetical quote, which probably has actually been said. This is why mega-church pastors exist, they are only in 99 percent wrong. Indeed the turban is indicative of God’s favor but not in a health and wealth, prosperity way. It would be enough for God to clean up Joshua but in a way, at the suggestion of Zechariah, Joshua was given added blessings by being given the proverbial keys to the city or the temple at least. Context is king.

“Then I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD admonished Joshua saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “If you will walk in My ways, and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here. Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.”‘”

Joshua returns the Law and sacrifice to the temple to prepare it for the coming king, who is referred to as the “branch.” Isaiah prophesied about this; “Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit. And the Spirit of the LORD will rest on Him, The spirit of wisdom and understanding, The spirit of counsel and strength, The spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD. And He will delight in the fear of the LORD, And He will not judge by what His eyes see, Nor make a decision by what His ears hear; But with righteousness He will judge the poor, And decide with fairness for the afflicted of the earth; And He will strike the earth with the rod of His mouth, And with the breath of His lips He will slay the wicked. Also righteousness will be the belt about His loins, And faithfulness the belt about His waist. And the wolf will dwell with the lamb, And the leopard will lie down with the young goat, And the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; And a little boy will lead them.”

This is too much context to consider but I used this large portion to point out three things. First, I am not afraid of the apocalyptic address. Two, Jesus was the branch. Three, the prophecy pundits love to say that “the lion will lay down with the lamb” in a far-future, millenial kingdom after the church is raptured and Israel returns to temple worship, as if it’s Scripture. It is not, what you recently read is the accurate account. Trivial and trifle on my account but if they can’t even get the quote correct, how can we trust their interpretation? Anyway, moving on, we see Jesus as the branch and Joshua as a radically saved, turban wearing, twice blessed, high priest. We also see Zechariah smarter than Satan, or at minimum, more aligned with the mind of the Lord than Satan was.

“‘I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.'”

“I am the vine” Jesus says. Why? Because of the prophecy to Zechariah. The problem with the prophecy pundits is that they only believe that the verses quoted from prophecies are the fulfillment of prophecy and not their context. Let’s look at one of the greatests examples.

“The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness; They will be glad in Your presence As with the gladness of harvest, As men rejoice when they divide the spoil. For You shall break the yoke of their burden and the staff on their shoulders, The rod of their oppressor, as at the battle of Midian. For every boot of the booted warrior in the battle tumult, And cloak rolled in blood, will be for burning, fuel for the fire. For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this. The Lord sends a message against Jacob, And it falls on Israel. And all the people know it, That is, Ephraim and the inhabitants of Samaria, Asserting in pride and in arrogance of heart: ‘The bricks have fallen down, But we will rebuild with smooth stones; The sycamores have been cut down, But we will replace them with cedars.’ Therefore the LORD raises against them adversaries from Rezin, And spurs their enemies on, The Arameans on the east and the Philistines on the west; And they devour Israel with gaping jaws. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out. Yet the people do not turn back to Him who struck them, Nor do they seek the LORD of hosts. So the LORD cuts off head and tail from Israel, Both palm branch and bulrush in a single day. The head is the elder and honorable man, And the prophet who teaches falsehood is the tail. For those who guide this people are leading them astray; And those who are guided by them are brought to confusion. Therefore the Lord does not take pleasure in their young men, Nor does He have pity on their orphans or their widows; For every one of them is godless and an evildoer, And every mouth is speaking foolishness. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out. For wickedness burns like a fire; It consumes briars and thorns; It even sets the thickets of the forest aflame, And they roll upward in a column of smoke. By the fury of the LORD of hosts the land is burned up, And the people are like fuel for the fire; No man spares his brother. And they slice off what is on the right hand but still are hungry, And they eat what is on the left hand but they are not satisfied; Each of them eats the flesh of his own arm. Manasseh devours Ephraim, and Ephraim Manasseh, And together they are against Judah. In spite of all this His anger does not turn away, And His hand is still stretched out.”

The New Testament fulfillment is found in Matthew. “Now when He heard that John had been taken into custody, He withdrew into Galilee; and leaving Nazareth, He came and settled in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the region of Zebulun and Naphtali. This was to fulfill what was spoken through Isaiah the prophet, saying, ‘THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES— THE PEOPLE WHO WERE SITTING IN DARKNESS SAW A GREAT LIGHT, AND TO THOSE WHO WERE SITTING IN THE LAND AND SHADOW OF DEATH, UPON THEM A LIGHT DAWNED.’ From that time Jesus began to preach and say, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.'”

Consider the context. In Isaiah the people think that they will rebuild a glorious temple but in reality their offspring built a shabby temple in Haggai, whose prophecy we have read and we remember that he was Zechariah’s contemporary. We also remember that context is king and this includes the continuing context and the cultural context. And while we consider the context we attempt to ascertain the author’s aspirations to his audience. Matthew wrote to a first-century, Jewish audience and not to theologians and prophecy pundits. Matthew appears to have the objective, the aspiration to his audience, to not only present Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah but as the true Israel. So while  the prophecy pundits see a partial fulfillment of Isaiah as Jesus was in Galilee, we take the long view and see how Jesus progressively fulfilled the prophecies about him as he dwelt among them and sent his Spirit. We take the long view and consider the context and we watch it unfold. Yes, Matthew makes mentioned of a very specific situation and prophecy from Isaiah but throughout his narrative we see the rest unfold. This is because we carefully consider the context.

Notice; “The people who walk in darkness Will see a great light; Those who live in a dark land, The light will shine on them. You shall multiply the nation, You shall increase their gladness…For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on His shoulders; And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace. There will be no end to the increase of His government or of peace, On the throne of David and over his kingdom, To establish it and to uphold it with justice and righteousness From then on and forevermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.”

“For,” a conjunction; conjunction what’s your function? It ties the two statements together. We call this, “considering the context.” Because of, therefore, for, all tell the reader that Jesus is coming as a child and because of this the people walking in darkness will see a great light. Matthew makes the distinction between the lines of the prophecy exactly because of the distinction between the lines of the prophecy progressively fulfilled by the coming of Jesus. Jesus was born in Bethlehem but it was several years before he began his ministry–Matthew breaks it down into bite-sized chunks, revealing the positive progression of Jesus, doing that which Israel couldn’t do and that which was promised by Isaiah and Zechariah. We see a portion of prophecy fulfilled but place it in said prophecy’s progress. According to Isaiah, the second that Jesus was born, the increase of his government did not decrease. We are not dogmatic about this but understand that the kingdom of Jesus keeps on growing even in ebbs and flows.

“‘I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. ‘In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.'”

Considering the context of the day of the Lord and a summation of the gospel message, we see the sacrifice of Jesus in this prophecy. Unfortunately, we find ourselves back looking at words and their definitions. But this is what we have to do from time to time. The Hebrew word used in Zechariah for “land” is used over 2500 times in the Old Testament and is found in the opening line of the Bible. In the opening line of the Bible, the Hebrew word is translated into English as, “earth” yet in today’s text it is translated as “land;” why? Because the translators attempted to let the context define words as is always proper. Nevertheless it is possible that the translators missed the mark. We see the same scenario in the Greek, in the book of Revelation.

In Revelation we read in most modern translations; “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.” I would argue that it should have been translated” “BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the land will mourn over Him. Even so. Amen.”

The reason is because of the context. The context is those who pierced him and tribes. Jesus was murdered within the ancient borders of Israel, which had twelve tribes and their leaders stirred the people present at the crucifixion to yell, “crucify him…his blood be on us…we have no king but Caesar.” Please don’t misunderstand me, my sin yelled “crucify” louder than the scribes and Pharisees but as Peter plainly pointed out in Acts, it was Jesus’ tribe and not Pilate who insisted on his death.

I could be wrong about the use of “land” and “earth,” I certainly don’t want to be dogmatic about the word God chose to use. Nevertheless the word he chose means man’s domain and God was roused from his holy habitation. When we see the sublime string and consider the context and explore examples it certainly appears that Zechariah states, “‘I will remove the iniquity of that terrain, earth, land in one day. In that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.”

Absolutely Israel is in mind but we also remember the New Testament interpretation. “Nicodemus answered and said to Him, ‘How can these things be?’ Jesus answered and said to him, ‘Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not understand these things? Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak that which we know, and bear witness of that which we have seen; and you do not receive our witness. If I told you earthly things and you do not believe, how shall you believe if I tell you heavenly things? And no one has ascended into heaven, but He who descended from heaven, even the Son of Man. And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; that whoever believes may in Him have eternal life. For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world should be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light is come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the light; for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God.'”

Jesus was the master of the metaphor but despite what many pastors and preachers, theologians and teachers preach, I believe that Jesus literally came to save the world, or the land or as one hymn says, “this terrestrial ball.” I believe that Jesus is speaking literally, in that, he is speaking within the genre of fulfillment of prophecy and the Law. When Peter writes that the world will melt with intense heat, I believe that to be figurative, like birth pangs, much of the imagery seen in an apocalyptic address. Jesus loves his creation and came to save it in its entirety. One sin corrupted the entire world but one act of righteousness reversed the curse. And we haven’t even considered the stone with seven eyes in Zechariah–one could write a doctrinal dissertation on examples of stone, the number 7 and eyes.

Consider the context and as we continue, Lord willing, we will see Jesus coming as not only the sacrificial lamb but also the eternal King in Zechariah. But beyond the context look at life–ours, theirs and everyone before, in between, and those to come and ask yourself, “do we need a rapture rescue or the cross?” I am looking at the Bible and their lives and my life and everything points to the cross and not a rapture rescue. It’s, as always, a time for reflection and as I reflect on my attitude, my behavior and my beliefs, it’s all about the cross. With racism at a fever pitch and with the Coronavirus, it is a great time to reflect on whether or not God is a racist or antisemitic or the cause of pain and suffering. Do we suffer for the American Dream or for the gospel? Are we fighting against racism and a virus or awaiting a rescue? All the Scripture points to the cross of Christ and all of our behaviours do as well.

One thought on “Zooming in on the Zeal in Zechariah

  1. God is no respecter person and His Son died for the entire world so He is definitely not a racist. He does not cause anything that is contrary to His world (hate, etc.), but He does allow things to happen like your examples. Sin, Sin, Sin, has harden hearts of men to do evil serving their master Satan very well.

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