Zechariah 2, Brands Plucked From The Fire

Intro: We are continuing our study of the Minor Prophets, and specifically the words of Zechariah. As I mentioned earlier, this is a difficult book. The images and visions are given too many interpretations, especially among the Millenarians. I want to avoid the temptation to either be dogmatic or speculative. Unless we have an inspired interpretation in the N.T. we should use caution, especially in applying an interpretation outside of the context. We will not be able to consider the entire prophecy of Zechariah in the time we have. I want to pick out a few that point to the coming of the Jesus, the Messiah, and help us better understand and appreciate the gospel message.

I. The Consecration of Joshua, the High Priest. Zech. 3:1-2 – Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?” It is imperative to “see the picture”, as these things are revealed in a vision. Notice the first part of this vision:

  • Joshua, the high priest during this time, is standing before the Angel of the Lord (representative of deity) and Satan (in Hebrew, the adversary).
  • As the adversary, Satan is opposing Joshua. He is accusing Joshua, the high priest of sin with the purpose of preventing Jehovah from accepting him. He attempts to overthrow the fellowship typified in the priesthood. Joshua is unclean.
  • But rather than oppose Joshua, the Lord rebukes Satan.
  • The Lord affirms to Satan that He has chosen Jerusalem, (to be holy) and that Joshua is a “brand plucked out of the fire.”

A. Joshua is opposed: It seems evident to me that this vision is not about one man, but that Joshua represents a certain group.

1. It may be that Joshua represents the Priesthood itself. As the Temple as being rebuilt, those who officiated in the Temple were the focus of this vision. The priesthood had been guilty of making no distinction between the holy and the common and between the clean and the unclean (Ezek. 22:26). Allowing a famine of God’s word among the people (Hos. 4:6), and had fed on the sins of the people (Hos. 4:8); they had taught for hire (Mic. 3:11) and had been further polluted by having been in an unclean land. Because of this past disobedience, they stood as unclean before God (accused by Satan, and dressed in soiled attire). But God made them clean and restored them to service.

2. It may be that Joshua represents the whole nation of Judah. Zechariah had just enunciated in no uncertain terms that Israel was guilty of rebellion against God. That is why they have suffered for the last 70 years. Joshua, as the high priest, represents the people coming before Jehovah, but their access is blocked by the accusations of Satan of sin. But God does not allow Satan to interfere and He restores the relationship.

B. Satan is rebuked: Rather than rebuke Joshua, the Lord rebukes Satan. His charges do not stand. They cannot disrupt God’s plans. The rebuke is based upon the fact that God had chosen Jerusalem. Long ago God had promised to restore His people. A faithful remnant would return and once again worship God in His city. The returning remnant is typified as a brand plucked out of the fire. Nearly consumed, but saved by God’s kindness and forgiveness. God will not abandon His people.

C. “Take away the filthy garments…” What happens next is truly an amazing act of grace: Zech 3:3-5: 3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. 4 Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.

1. Symbolically God is indicating that He is cleaning them up and restoring them to their service as priests. They are clothed once again in the attire of holiness. The Lord informs Joshua, “See I have removed your iniquity from you“.

2. Having cleansed Joshua, he is now charged with remaining faithful Zech. 3:6Then the Angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘If you will walk in My ways, And if you will keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk Among these who stand here. If he remains obedient (walk in My ways) then God will bless him and he will have complete access to the Lord (walk among those who stand here).

II. The Coming of the Branch – as encouraging as this vision of God’s mercy is, there is more to come. Zech 3:8-10‘Hear, O Joshua, the high priest, You and your companions who sit before you, For they are a wondrous sign; For behold, I am bringing forth My Servant the BRANCH. 9 For behold, the stone That I have laid before Joshua: Upon the stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave its inscription,’ Says the Lord of hosts, ‘And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 10 In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.'”

A. Joshua and his companions (other priests?) are told they are “a wondrous sign” (men wondered at” – KJV). The NIV has the proper sense – “men symbolic of things to come” Their work as priests, offering sacrifices and providing access to God looked forward to another. There would be a future consummation of the promise just made – God would provide forgiveness and access through another “Joshua” – Did you know that “Jesus” is our anglicized and shortened form of the Hebrew name “Yehoshua” or as we say it “Joshua”? Zechariah spoke of another Joshua.

 B. My Servant the Branch. Who is this? This is the first introduction of the Branch by Zechariah. He would be a descendant of David and a servant of Jehovah. Both of these terms had been already used by Isaiah and other prophets to speak of the king to come.

    • Isa 11:1-2There shall come forth a Rod from the stem of Jesse, And a Branch shall grow out of his roots. 2 The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, The Spirit of wisdom and understanding, The Spirit of counsel and might, The Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord.
    • Jer 23:5“Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.These words point forward to the coming of Christ, the Messiah. It is through the BRANCH that the forgiveness and access to God viewed in Joshua’s vision would be realized.

1. Later in Zech. 6, the prophet provides more insight into the identity and work of the Branch. Zech 6:11-13 – …‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’ Just as Joshua had been high priest superintending the building of this physical temple, so the Christ to come would also be a high priest who built the new covenant temple of God.

2. The stone with the seven eyes mentioned in 3:9 is difficult. It may point symbolically to God ownership or his ever-watching protective care over His people through the Branch.

3. Jehovah will “remove the iniquity of the land in one day” – This indicates the fullness of God’s provision. It was only after a 70 year exile that Joshua’s forgiveness could be seen. But the Branch would provide it in a single day. That day certainly points to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion (provides the sacrifice), and the day when he acts as our High Priest. (makes intercession). Heb 10:11-14 – And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God, 13 from that time waiting till His enemies are made His footstool. 14 For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

4. In that same day ‘Everyone will invite his neighbor Under his vine and under his fig tree.’ One sitting under the vine and fig tree was a symbol of peace, unafraid of external threats. It was promised by Jehovah through Micah in the kingdom of the Messiah (Micah 4: 4). The redeemed will invite their neighbors to share with them their blessedness in the kingdom of God. Have ever invited your neighbor to sit with you under your fig tree?

Conclusion: The visions of Zechariah were a source of enormous comfort and encouragement to a bewildered people. The Consecration of Joshua was a symbol of God’s grace and mercy. Keil and Delitzsch says… Joshua and his priests are therefore brands plucked by the omnipotence of grace from the fire of merited judgment…. This miracle of grace which has been wrought for them, points beyond itself to an incomparably greater and better act of the sin-absolving grace of God, which is still in the future. That future has arrived. The Branch has come.

One thing that I see in this vision is Satan’s great miscalculation. He came to accuse Joshua of sin and thus disqualify him from God’s blessing, disrupting God’s plans. But He miscalculated.

  • His miscalculation was not about Joshua, the priesthood or the nation of Judah. IT was not about you and me. He is right about all of us. We have sinned. We are all dressed in the same clothes.
  •  But he did miscalculate the love and forgiveness of Jehovah. He could not fathom a love so strong or grace so comprehensive.
    • Rev 12:10-11 – 10 Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, “Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. 11 And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.