Zechariah 3–4. Needs of the Priest and the Governor.

Key Notes: Purifying the priest illustrates salvation. Not by might.... Zerubbabal will finish the work. Symbols of the Holy Spirit.

In the previous lesson we learned about myrtle, horses, horns, measuring line and smiths.  These are symbols for ideas.  They are part of apocalyptic literature.  We might ask why the writer uses symbols.  I think for the same reason that we use parables and metaphors.  Both express ideas in images, and they convey large truths in ways that we easily remember.  Why did Jesus talk to the woman at the well about water instead of just telling her what was wrong?  We cannot forget the sower and the seed?dialogue and the outcome.

We use symbols freely today—the flag, the dollar, coffee---even Kleenex-- express concepts.  In today’s lesson we will read of lamps, gold, oil, olive trees, capstone, eyes, and foundation.  These words convey complex ideas that are found in Ezekiel and Revelation as well.  They became code words for the persecuted believers. We must learn to use Scripture wisely to interpret them.

3:1–5   Hezekiah’s fourth vision was a courtroom scene with
a prosecutor: Satan;
a defendant: Joshua the high priest;
a lawyer for the defense : the Angel of the Lord;
the spectators: Hezekiah and others, presumably priests. 3:8

Satan is denouncing Joshua for unlisted sins.  But the priest’s garments are filthy and there is no use denying guilt.  (Perhaps he has been on the take, misusing his office for personal gain.)  Joshua does not defend himself. The defense attorney (the Angel of the Lord…Christ) seizes the initiative, denounces the prosecutor, and pulls the defendant away, as if He were pulling a smoking stick out of the fire.  He orders the filthy garments removed and new festival clothes for the priest.  Hezekiah joins in, calling for the ceremonial turban which was traditionally marked with the words "Holy to the Lord."  (Ex. 28:36).  The Angel of the Lord stands by while these things are accomplished.
Then the Angel of the Lord addresses Joshua: he must walk in the Lord's ways so that he can rule the Temple and have charge of the Temple courts.
In return, Joshua will have the right of access to God along with the people, presumably priests in the audience.

3:6–10 Next, the Angel of the Lord says that He is sending His Servant the Branch—in effect, sending Himself in human form.  He will set an inscribed seven-faceted stone in front of Joshua. Actually the word for facets is "Eyes"--seven eyes is quite a different idea.
Then Christ says that He will remove the guilt of the land in one day.
Finally, then, everyone will be at peace in prosperity.

Joshua was a real priest in a real city (Jerusalem), with a real problem, personal sin.  If he was to succeed in his work, he must have cleansing and forgiveness.

God teaches Zechariah much in the process of unveiling the salvation transaction.
*Satan is the accuser of the brethren. (Rev. 12:10).  He is also a liar, and a seducer. (Gen. 3)  He is addressed with the kind of restraint also seen in Jude 9.
*Like any other sinner, Joshua is helpless to get rid of his sinful pollution and must have help.
* Saving him is like pulling him out of the fire. (Jude 23)
* Salvation is also seen as changing dirty clothes for clean.  Salvation leads to a change in behavior and makes access to God possible.                                                                 

a. All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight. (Isa. 64:6)
b. “Let your priests be clothed with righteousness.” Psa. 132:9
c. “Put off your old nature which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful lusts…and put on the new nature, created in the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.” (Eph. 4:22–24; also Col. 3:9–10)                                                             

* “My Servant the Branch” is coming.                                                              

a. “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jess and a branch shall grow out of his  roots.” (Isa. 11:1)  When the line of Jesse -- > David -- > Solomon was cut off by the death of Josiah’s sons at the sack of Jerusalem, the line of Nathan, another son of David, survived (Lk. 3:31) and Jesus sprang from this family. “…a root out of dry ground….” Isa. 53:2
 b. “I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as King and deal wisely.  And this is the Name by which He will be called: 'The Lord our Righteousness'.” (JHWH  Tsidkenu). (Jer. 23:5; also Jer. 33:15).  A sacred name for God is a name for Jesus.
 c.   “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch…shall build the Temple of the Lord…and shall bear royal honor and shall sit and rule on his throne.” Zech. 6:12–13
 d.   “In that day the Branch of the Lord shall be beautiful and glorious…” Isa. 4:2

* “I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.”  That day must be the Resurrection Day.  He was  “…put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification.” Rom. 4:25
* The way to peace is through Christ and leads to the “vine and fig tree” of joy, friendship and prosperity. Peter will invite his audience to receive forgiveness and filling with Holy Spirit at Pentecost. Acts.2:38

4:1–10   In the fifth vision, Zechariah was aroused from sleep by the angel , indicating that the visions were not dreams.  He sees a golden lamp-stand with seven lamps, each with seven lips, fed from a bowl of olive oil above, in turn fed by pipes from two olive trees, one on either side.  His communicating angel (not the Angel of the Lord) asks him to describe the scene.  Zechariah then asks three times for an interpretation (4:4, 11, 12) and is put off until the end of the session. 
It appears that the angel is intent that Zechariah get a set of messages to Zerubbabel first.
* “Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit.”
* The mountain of political resistance will be flattened.
* Zerubbabel will place the keystone in the Temple, while the people shout "Grace, Grace".
* Zerubbabel laid the foundation and he will finish the work. That will prove the prophet’s authenticity and authority.
* No one should despise the day of small things. Zerubbabel will hold the plumb-line when the job is done.

CommentUnlike Joshua the priest, Zerubbabel appears righteous before God.  Personal cleansing is not an issue, but he lacks strength and perhaps motivation to finish the temple project.

4:10–14   The first interpretation given to Zechariah was:
“These seven (lamps) are the eyes of the Lord that range though the whole earth.”
The seven lamps = seven eyes is a difficult concept to grasp.  Revelation takes up the number "seven" and relates it to the Holy Spirit.
“The words of him who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars.” Rev. 3:1
“…before the throne burn seven torches of fire, which are the seven spirits of God.” Rev. 4:5
“I saw a lamb standing…with seven eyes, which are the seven spirits of God sent out into all the earth….” Rev.5:6

How is “sevenness” related to the Holy Spirit?  I know of one clue, the sevenfold Spirit in Isa. 11:2:
"The Spirit of the Lord,
the spirit of wisdom and understanding
the spirit of counsel and might,
the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord."

The lamps are: the seven spirits of God, the churches, and the eyes of God surveying the earth. 
How can they be related? Jesus said, “the eye is the lamp of the body” (Matt. 6:22).  That is, we have a projection of external reality coming through the retina and focused onto the brain.  So the eye is an internal light and an external surveyor.  Then the churches / lamps, with and through the Spirit of God, are the surveyors and also the enlighteners of the world.  They enlighten the world on behalf of God and they intercede with God on behalf of the world.  The Holy Spirit is also in the world, convincing it of sin, righteousness and judgment.

The idea that God looks over the world intently is also taught in Zech. 1:10 and 6:7.

The second interpretation is more difficult.
"What are these two olive trees?" (4:5,4:11) That question was not answered. When Zechariah asked the third time (4:13), he said "What are these two branches of the olive trees?" The answer to that was “These are the two anointed who stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (4:14) The nearly unanimous opinion of the commentators is that these two are Joshua and Zerubbabel. 

Oil is a symbol of the anointing Holy Spirit.  We see this most directly in Isaiah 61:1:
“The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me because the Lord has anointed me….”
Zerubbabel must rely on the Holy Spirit (not by might, nor by power but My Spirit). He is a conduit through whom the oil flows.

There are two witnesses who work in Jerusalem during the Great Tribulation (Rev. 11), but they are not named either. "The two who stand by the Lord" bring to mind Moses and Elijah standing with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration.

It is good for us that Zechariah got some simple messages first: God encourages the temple building and Zerubbabel will be able to finish the job.

Together the visions tell us that God meets the needs of his leaders.  They need cleansing from sin and restoration to useful leadership. 
Their power will come from the Holy Spirit to do His work.
We need His cleansing and power as well.