For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Romans 15:4



 A Bible Study - Commentary by Jim Melough

Copyright 2002 James Melough

3:1.  “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist (accuse; be an adversary to) him (Joshua).”

This further vision given Zechariah, while anticipating what will be in the Millennium, was of what would be at least in a measure fulfilled in the prophet’s own day, for in the Millennium Satan the adversary will be bound in the bottomless pit and denied any activity whatsoever.  The angel of the Lord is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, represented in chapter one by the rider on the red horse.

As we learn from Haggai, Joshua was the high priest in the days of Zechariah’s ministry, and then, as always, Satan plays his customary role as the accuser and adversary of those who belong to God.

Interpreters differ as to whether Satan was standing at Joshua’s right hand, or at that of the angel of the Lord, but the settlement of that point is inconsequential.

3:2.  “And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Commentators are divided in their opinions as to the identity of the two Lords mentioned here, some taking the first to be the Lord Jesus Christ; and the other, God the Father.  Others take the reference to be to the Lord Jesus Christ in both instances, the translation then being, “And the Lord said unto Satan, I, the Lord rebuke thee, etc.”  The settlement of that point is also inconsequential.  What is important is that God rejects Satan’s accusations because Joshua is a man of faith, and like every other believer, is justified in God’s sight by faith, that of the OT saints anticipating the Lord’s vicarious death; and that of the NT believers looking back to it.

Joshua, like every other believer of every age, was like a stick pulled out of the fire, just in time to be saved from eternal burning.

Relative to God’s having chosen Israel, this is not to be understood as His having predestinated them, for it is to be remembered that there were always two Israels: the small believing remnant, and the apostate mass of the nation amongst whom that believing remnant dwelt.  Then as now, a man placed himself amongst God’s elect by an act of his own free will to believe God; and it was only when he had made that choice that he became a true Israelite then predestinated to eternal blessing apart from any other choice or works on his part.  See Ro 9:6 “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel....”

3:3.  “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.”

In the original the word “filthy” means literally excrement, dung, vomit.  The filthy garments portray the moral state of the nation except for that small believing remnant that had returned from Babylon when the opportunity was given them; a further description of the unbelieving mass being recorded in Isa 1:6, “From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it, but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.  They have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment.”  And lest the moral, self-righteous, but unconverted religious church-goer should imagine himself to be any better than these, God has also recorded his state in Isa 64:6, “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf, and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away.”

In this, as in everything else, however, Israel is the mirror in which God bids us see ourselves as we were, and as is every man prior to conversion.

3:4.  “And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him.  And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment.”

One of the evidences of Joshua’s faith was his having returned from Babylon when the opportunity was presented, and in this we see a typological picture of the experience of every believer.  Babylon represents the world’s false religious systems, including apostate Christianity, and every believer, prior to conversion, was in bondage to one of them; but faith in Christ ends that bondage, and leaves the man free to return to God from Whom, in Adam, every man has departed.  Joshua, having availed himself of the liberty to leave Babylon, and return to Canaan, is a type of every obedient believer.

It is to be remembered, however, that he was one of a small minority: the majority of his fellows having chosen to remain in Babylon.  And so is it still: those who constitute the bulk of Christendom have chosen to remain in the unscriptural religious systems of Christendom (spiritual Babylon).

In verse 1 Joshua is called a priest, reminding us that every man who trusts the Lord Jesus Christ as Savior during this present dispensation of grace, which began on the day of Pentecost, is also a spiritual priest, as it is written, “But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people ....” 1 Pe 2:9.

Virtually the same language, however, is used of Israel when God brought them out of Egypt, see Ex 19:5, “Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”  Israel has not yet had this experience, what she was in OT times being but an empty form, a spiritual charade.  Fulfillment will come only in the Millennium after the Tribulation judgments will have brought a remnant of Israel and also of the Gentiles, to repentant faith in Christ as Messiah Savior, that Jewish remnant being the new Israel in whom all God’s promises to Abraham will ultimately be fulfilled; the converted remnant of the Gentiles constituting the Gentile nations who will also enjoy millennial blessing.

But Joshua was “clothed with filthy garments,” and in this we see another brush stroke in the typological picture painted by the Divine Artist.  Garments in Scripture represent righteousness: the “filthy rags” of our own self-righteousness, or the spotless righteousness of Christ which clothes every believer; and Joshua is set before us here as a new convert about to have the filthy garments removed and replaced with a “change of raiment,” i.e., the spotless righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ.

The assurance given Joshua is the same as that given every believer, including the remnant that will emerge from the Tribulation judgments, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with a change of raiment.”

3:5.  “And I said, Let them set a fair miter on his head.  So they set a fair miter upon his head, and clothed him with garments.  And the angel of the Lord stood by.”

The miter was the official headdress of Israel’s high priest, and to it was attached a golden plate engraved with the words Holiness to the Lord.

The speaker here is usually understood to be Zechariah, and “fair” is literally “pure, clean.”  The spiritual lesson is easily read.  What is written in 1 Pe 2:5, 9 is true of every believer of this present Church age, “Ye also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.... ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.”

Since the head is the seat of the intelligence, this placing of a pure clean miter on Joshua’s head is also the symbolic announcement of the further truth explicitly declared in Ro 12:2, “And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind...” and Php 2:5-8, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”  True conversion is evidenced by a transformed thought life.

“And the angel of the Lord stood by.”  This is the symbolic reminder that, “The word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart,“ Heb 4:12.

“The angel of the Lord (the Lord Jesus Christ)” still stands by discerning our thoughts.

It is instructive, however, to consider how this transformation has been made possible.  Joshua, clothed in filthy garments, is also a figure or type of what the Lord Jesus Christ became when He assumed responsibility for our sins, going out to Calvary bearing them, being Himself made sin, made a curse, becoming Himself the One upon Whom must fall all God’s wrath and judgment against sin. 

But Joshua, clothed in clean garments, and having a fair miter upon his head, is a figure of Christ in resurrection glory, our great High Priest at God’s right hand in heaven making continual intercession for us, His presence there the guarantee of ours, His promise being, “In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you.  I go to prepare a place for you.  And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also,” John 14:2-3.

3:6.  “And the angel of the Lord protested unto Joshua, saying,”

“... protested” as used here is literally, “did testify” or “did solemnly affirm.”

3:7.  “Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by.”

These words, directed to the remnant that had returned from Babylon, are applicable to God’s people in every age.  To walk in God’s ways is to live in a manner that is pleasing to Him; and to keep His charge is to live and worship according to the ritual He has prescribed; to judge His house is literally to rule or guide His people; and in the present context to keep His courts is to watch over or rule within His Temple.  The directive applies to every aspect of life, and significantly begins with the need for obedience in Joshua’s personal life, for if our personal lives aren’t right, nothing else will be right either.

“... I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by,” means simply that he would have the God-given right to come and go amongst those who stood by, i.e., those who were also obedient to God, many understanding that company to include the angels who stand continually ready to do God’s bidding.

3:8.  “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.”

“... thy fellows that sit before thee,” were the other members of the priestly family, and their being “men wondered at” means that they were representative of the good things God has in store for Israel; and since “the BRANCH” is a symbol of the Lord Jesus Christ, the truth being declared is that those good things will be available when He is “brought forth,” i.e., when He is revealed, the reference in the present context being, not to His incarnation, but to His coming in power and glory as the mighty Lion of Judah to end the Tribulation and inaugurate His millennial kingdom.

It is significant that Joshua and his fellow priests are seated, the position that speaks of rest and of work completed.  The figure is of Christ now seated at the Father’s right hand because His work is done; and of us also seated with Him, resting in His finished work.

Relative to Christ’s being called “the Branch” it is instructive to note that He was also called “a Nazarene,” Mt 2:23, because He lived in Nazareth which means “a branch: preservation,” prompting the question of Nathanael “Can there any good thing come out of Nazareth?” John 1:46.  For other references to Christ as “the Branch” see Isa 4:2; 11:1; Jer 23:5; 33:15; Zech 6:12.

3:9.  “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”

The stone here is a precious stone, the seven eyes upon it being seven facets, and clearly it is a figure or type of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Since seven is the biblical number of perfection or completeness, the seven eyes (symbols of discernment) represent His omniscience, the graving or engraving upon it appearing to refer to the display of His glory to be given on the day of His appearing at the end of the Tribulation.  On that day “the iniquity of that land (Palestine)” will be removed by means of His judgment of the nations prior to the inauguration of His millennial kingdom, for that judgment will result in the banishment into hell of every unbeliever on the face of the earth, leaving only those Jews and Gentiles who will have trusted Him as Savior during the preceding Tribulation era.  To them will be extended His gracious invitation, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,” see Mt 25:32-34.

How blind were the eyes of the Israel to which He came two thousand years ago!.  They saw Him only as “a stumbling stone” and a “rock of offence,” as Peter has written, “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient,” 1 Pe 2:7-8.

3:10.  “In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree.”

In that day, the Millennium, there will be universal peace, prosperity, and blessing, portrayed here symbolically under the figure of each man sitting under the vine and the fig tree, and regarding every man as his neighbor.  As another has put it: In the Millennium  “There are no enemies - only neighbors.”

As has been noted in other studies, the vine represents Israel redeemed and brought out of Egypt, “Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it,” Ps 80:8; and the fig tree represents her as cursed and withered, but then brought to life again, ”And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.  And presently the fig tree withered away,” Mt 21:19.  But in Mt 24:32 we see the fig tree brought back to life, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.  Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all things be fulfilled,” Mt 24:32-34.

The fig tree covered with leaves, but fruitless, represents the Israel of Christ’s day, for fig leaves always represent mere empty profession, and that was all that Israel had.  She had no spiritual fruit to satisfy the Lord’s heart.  As a result, that generation died in AD 70. 

But in Mt 24 the Lord speaks of the fig tree revived and budding, and He bids us see in that fig tree restored to life again a picture of Israel as she is today.  Following the Diaspora of AD 70 she has been scattered amongst the nations, having neither homeland nor national identity.  But all of that changed in 1948.  In that year her autonomy was restored, and a remnant, regathered from amongst the nations, dwelt again in Canaan, her people having continued to stream back to that land until the present.

And we are the generation that has been privileged to witness Israel’s national resurrection, and that is not to pass “till all things be fulfilled.”  The Lord’s return is near; as one has written, “We can almost hear His footstep on the threshold of the door.”

It is to be noted, however, that that revived fig tree is also putting forth leaves, but not yet bearing fruit.  The Israel of today, like Israel of the past, has nothing except an empty profession of being God’s people; but the imminent Tribulation  will change that.  The terrible judgments of that era will be the equivalent of the digging and dunging mentioned in Lk 13:6-9, for the fig tree mentioned in that parable is also a figure of Israel, fruitless, but yet to bear fruit for the Lord’s glory.

[Zechariah 4]


     Scripture portions taken from the Holy Bible, King James Version
© 2000-2005 James Melough