Bible Commentaries

The Biblical Illustrator

Zechariah 6

Verses 1-8

Zechariah 6:1-8

Behold there came four chariots out from between two mountains

The four chariots

The general meaning of this vision is very clear.
The enemies of the Church shall be punished, is the motto of the picture, and the purport of the vision. The immediate application of the truth was to the existing circumstances of the Jewish Church, but it contains a general proposition or law of the Divine procedure that is now in fulfilment, and will so continue until the restitution of all things spoken of by the holy prophets since the world began. Following the preceding vision, which denounced wrath on the Jews, it declares that after the Jews have been punished, God will destroy their enemies, who will also be the enemies of the Church. Now, as the threatened punishment of the Jews is not yet completed, so this punishment which was to follow that completion is also incomplete, and the main fulfilment yet to come. We have therefore in this vision an instance of what has been called the continuous fulfilment of prophecy. This takes place when the prophecy is not so much a simple prediction of facts, as the annunciation of a great principle of Divine procedure, in the garb of existing and well-known facts, but yet equally applicable to other facts all along the history of God’s dealings with man. Thus the most abstract and formulated statement of the essence of this vision is, the enemies of the Church shall be punished. Its immediate application was to Babylon and Egypt, the existing representatives of the ancient enmity of the serpent’s seed, but this application is of course a single one, that does not exclude the future examples of this principle of the Divine government that may and must arise. This is wholly different from the old double sense of prophecy, and is a most obvious and reasonable canon of interpretation. How striking the fulfilment of this threatening, when we remember the circumstances under which it was made. Could the haughty nobles of Babylon, in the gorgeousness of its magnificence and the pride of its power, have heard the threatening of this obscure Jew, amidst the ruins of Jerusalem, with what derision and contempt would they have treated the threat! The anathema that was so feebly uttered against the mightiest and richest city in the world, to the eye of sense seemed like the ravings of lunacy. Yet that feeble whisper was the uttered voice of Jehovah, and the elements of ruin in their remotest lurking place heard the summons, and began to come forth. Slowly and silently did they come up to this dread work, and yet surely and resistlessly, until the glory of these high palaces was dimmed, and the magnificence of these gardens and temples was covered, and now the winds whistle through the reeds of the Euphrates, where Babylon then sat in her pride; and loneliness, desolation, and death are stationed there the sentinel witnesses of the truth that His word returns not to Him void, that His Spirit is quieted in the land of the north. The same is true of Egypt, and later on of Greece and Rome. So it will be with guilty and godless Europe. Learn--

1. That the history of the world is all arranged and conducted in reference to the destinies of the Church, and the agencies that control that history go forth from the seat of the Church’s great head, the unseen, temple.

2. God has in operation every species of agency, human and angelic, animate and inanimate, needful for the accomplishment of His purposes, and will send these forth at the proper time. Political changes and revolutions are only the moving of the shadow on the earthly dial plate that marks the mightier motions going forward in the heavens. (T. V. Moore, D D.)

The supremacy of God

The entire vision was designed to teach a great general lesson--the lesson of the universal supremacy and superintendence of the “God of Israel” over all the agencies of nature, and all the varying movements of progress or retrogression, of prosperity and adversity, of peace and war, amongst the nations; and to teach it with a special application to themselves, as His chosen people, and to those adjoining or more distant countries by which their condition had been, or might hereafter be, beneficially or injuriously affected. It called upon them to put their trust in the wisdom, power, and love of their own Jehovah,--the governor among the nations;--in one word, to “have faith in God.” Let us learn the lesson. Amidst all the convulsions and revolutions that are agitating Europe, let us not only acknowledge but rejoice in the supremacy of the infinitely wise, and good, and mighty. All “the winds” are His. He “holds them in His fist.” The zephyr and the hurricane are alike His agents. All influences--in every department of creation, and in the hearts and wills and words and actions of men of every kindred and tongue and people and nation, are under His absolute control. “None can stay His hand, or say unto Him, What doest Thou? Let us trust in Him, own Him, pray to Him,--deprecating, on behalf of our country, and of our guilty world, merited wrath,--and imploring, especially, that all events may result in glory to His name. (Ralph Wardlaw, D. D.)

God’s government of the world

This is the last in the series of visions, which amount in all to seven, during that one night. This is not more easy of interpretation than the preceding ones. The objects which were now revealed to the prophet’s vision are various and strange.

I. Variety. This is suggested by the colour of the steeds that bear on the chariots of His plans. The “red horses,” emblem of war and bloodshed. The “black,” emblem of calamity, distress, and mourning. The white, emblem of gladness and prosperity. The “grisled” and “bay,” or piebald, a mixture of events, prosperity and adversity, friendship and bereavement, sorrow and joy, etc. Has not this variety characterised the providence that is over man from the beginning until this hour? It is not only seen in every page of the history of nations and Churches and families, but in the history of individuals. The experience of every man is more changeable than the weather. There is a constant alternation,--the red, the black, the white, the mixed. These changes are useful

1. They break the monotony of life. They tend to keep the heart of humanity on the alert. There is but little opportunity for moral sleep.

2. They create a desire for a state of certainty. They prompt a search for a “city that hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.” This is not our rest.

II. Immutability. These chariots move between two “mountains of brass.” Though they are borne by a variety of steeds, and move rapidly towards every point of the compass, and bear a variety of events wherever they go, they are overshadowed and hedged in by the immutable in mountains of brass. God’s immutable counsels of decrees keep all the motions and commotions, all the convulsions and revolutions of the world in their place. As the ocean amidst all its ebbings and flowings, rage and fury, is bound to obey the moon, which remains serenely settled in her orbit, so all the agitations of the earth are bound to obey the immutable decrees of Heaven. Thank God! that in this changing world of ours there are mountains of brass, things that cannot be shaken. “All flesh is grass, but the word of our God shall stand forever.”

III. Universality. These chariots, borne by these varied coloured steeds, rolled towards every point of the globe, some to the north and some to the south. They walked “to and fro through the earth.” Not a spot unvisited or ignored. God’s providence embraces all, matter and mind, great and small, good and evil. Hence we should bow with resignation under all our sorrows, and shout with gratitude in all our enjoyments.

IV. Supremacy. “These are the four spirits of the heavens, which go forth from standing before the Lord of all the earth.” He is at the head of all. No evil spirit moves without His permission and control; no good spirit without His inspiration and guidance. He is the Lord of all the earth. How great must He be who manages all things! (Homilist.)

These are the four spirits of the heavens--

Four spirits of the heavens

Eminent interpreters translate the words “celestial spirits,” and thus present us at once, in our own customary theology, with angels. There is difficulty here, however. In the first place, “spirits of the heavens” is a very unwonted designation for angels in Scripture. I know not that it has a parallel. And secondly, if angels are intended, how come we to have four? Their number is “ten thousand times ten thousand”; and unless they are mentioned in connection with something else that leads and limits to the number four, it is difficult, by any analogy, to account for it. Let me illustrate the remark from another passage--“And after these things I saw four angels standing on the four corners of the earth, holding the four winds of the earth, that the wind should not blow on the earth, nor on the sea, nor on any tree” (Revelation 7:1). Here we have “four angels.” But we at once see why they are four. They are, in the vision, employed in “holding the four winds of the earth.” Now the four winds, from the four cardinal points--understood as representing and embracing all the intermediate points, and thus signifying the winds in general--was a style of expression familiar to the ancients as ourselves. The word rendered “spirits,” as most if not all of you are aware, signifies also winds. The question then is, whether what are called “the four winds of the earth,” in the Book of Revelation, be not the same as what are here called the “four spirits,” or winds, “of the heavens.” I am strongly tempted to think that we have, in this vision, one symbol, or emblem, explained by another. “The four winds” are an emblem--a most natural and appropriate one--of all the powers and agencies by which the earth can be affected; especially agencies of judgment--of wars and desolations, arising from the contending elements of human passions and Satanic malignity. (Ralph Wardlaw, D. D.)

Verses 9-15

Zechariah 6:9-15

And set them upon the head of Joshua

The matchless man in history

The crowning, the work, and the position of Joshua spoken of in these verses, are obviously employed to symbolise some coming man who would be matchless in all history.
Concerning this matchless man, we are taught--

I. That He is one whom heaven commands the people to honour. The prophet is commanded to go to certain men of the more distinguished who had returned from Babylon, representative men it may be. He was to take these men, whose names are here given, to the house of another distinguished man, here called Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. From that house silver and gold were to be taken, with which crowns were to be made, and placed upon the head of Joshua, the son of the high priest. By general consent of expositors, this was a mere symbolical transaction--a transaction pointing to some great man whom heaven will require all men to crown with the highest dignity. Here is a character symbolised by the name of Joshua, to whom the people are called upon by God Himself to render honour. Who is this man? The man Christ Jesus! “When He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

II. That His pedigree was strikingly singular. “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord.” He came down from heaven and tabernacled on this earth, which was not His place. A great soul, dominated by a supreme sympathy with the Supremely Good, can grow anywhere, in its place or out of it. It can subordinate the most hostile external elements and forces for its own will and interests.

III. That He is one whose mission is sublimely glorious. “He shall build the temple of the Lord,” etc. Zerubbabel was now engaged in the work of rearing the material temple at Jerusalem; and a more glorious work than this is not given to man, viz. to promote the public worship of God.

IV. That He is one whose position and functions are transcendently exalted. He is on a throne.

1. As a priestly King.

2. As a glorious Reconciler.

The Mediator between God and man. The reconciliation, the atonement.

V. That He is one whose power to attract others to His enterprise is immensely great. The Gentiles were to be themselves stones in the building, and agents in the rearing of it. (Homilist.)

The man whose name is the Branch--

On Christ’s name, the Branch

The text and context are a remarkable prophecy of the coming of the promised Messiah in the flesh, who is described by His natures, His offices of Priest and King, and His work in building the spiritual temple of the Lord.

1. Some observations upon the occasion and reason of this name the Branch, given to the promised Messiah, before His coming in the flesh.

2. Scriptures of the New Testament where He is designed the Branch (Luke 1:78). For “day spring” the margin has sun rising or branch (Matthew 2:23). Nazareth had its name from a branch, which, though not the same word as in our text, yet is of the same signification.

3. The Scripture account of Jesus Christ, under the name and designation of the Branch.

1. Learn the advantage of studying the Old Testament.

2. Be restless in your endeavours, until this Branch, this man, be excellent, desirably glorious and precious to you, and in your esteem.

3. Behold the man whose name is the Branch. Behold Him in His person, in His natures.

4. Come and take up your dwelling under the shadow of this man whose name is the Branch. (James Robe, M. A.)

The Branch

The words are addressed to Joshua the priest, but they represent the Divine Saviour.

I. The beauty of this “Branch.” What is it that most especially constitutes the beauty of the Divine character? Not justice by itself; not mercy by itself; but the marvellous union of both, the harmony between these Divine attributes, by which God can be “a just God and a Saviour.” That union has been discovered perfect and complete in the person of the Lord Jesus, the God-man-mediator, so in Him is the very perfection of beauty. It is indeed said of Him, “There is no beauty that we should desire Him”; but these expressions refer to the meanness of His birth, and to the prejudices of His nation.

II. The shadiness of this Branch. The term brings to our minds the exposed state of the sinner, in the “weary land” of this world. He stands exposed to the wrath of God. He wants “shade”--something that will interpose between him and the intense heat from above, and afford him a protection from it. By whatever emblem the precious blood and perfect righteousness of Christ are represented to us in Scripture, the idea always conveyed is that of security against the effects of Divine wrath, consequent on human transgression. The shade of the “righteous Branch” is the interposing mediation of our exalted Redeemer. The shade of this Branch is extending itself every day.

III. The fruitfulness of this Branch. The two figures are united in Canticles. “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.” In Revelation is described the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruit, and whose leaves were not for shade only, but also for healing.

IV. The strength of this Branch. “He shall bear the glory.” He shall bear the weight of all the cares and concerns of His whole Church, both small and great, even of every individual, however important or insignificant; and He shall be found both able and willing to support them all. And He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” (F. Elwin.)

The man whose name is the Branch

There is a difference between the manner in which the prophets, before and after the captivity, spoke of the Messiah. To the prophets after the captivity, the invasion of the Babylonian armies, the destruction of their city and temple, and the very return of the Jews were all past events. The fulfilling hand of the faithful Inspirer of foregoing predictions had swept them all aside; and nothing remained to turn their attention from that near approach of the Messiah of which they all speak in terms so remarkably explicit. Among other types and figures of heavenly things which the Jewish prophets used, are personal types, of which the text is an example. Here Joshua is expressly made the type of Him who was both King and Priest. This could not apply to Joshua himself, seeing that he was only a priest.

I. The emphatic appellation given to the Messiah,--the Branch. The verb whence the word is derived signifies “to grow,” “to sprout.” It is specially applied to trees, some of which in part decayed, and that to the very roots, will often send forth new shoots, which shall surpass, in greatness and fruitfulness, the original stock. This expression, as applied to Christ, is--

1. Eminently prophetical (Isaiah 11:1). The stem of Jesse was decayed. At the time of its lowest depression, the Branch, the Messiah, shot forth.

2. As descriptive of His Personal progress to glory and dominion. Of the progress of His religion in the world. And of the work of Christ in the heart.

3. As indicating the secret and mysterious mode of His operations. The metaphor is taken from vegetation, the process of invisible influence which out of rude elements frames the stately tree, and from a bud develops the goodly branch. There is an unseen principle at work, and that principle is the working of God Himself. We see this m the progress of our Saviour from sufferings to glory. And in the progress of His religion in our world.

II. The great work to which the Messiah was appointed. “He shall build the temple of the Lord.” A parallel may be presented between the material temple and the spiritual house. In conclusion notice--the union of the kingly and priestly offices in Christ. (R. Watson.)

The man whose name is the Branch.

I. The person here spoken of. Who is this wondrous, mysterious man? Not certainly Joshua, the high priest, on whose head the crowns were to be placed. For the message is addressed to Joshua, as concerning some one else. Joshua, the crowned high priest, is the type of another, greater than himself, to whom he and all others are to look for blessing. These words seem to point to one already known, to one whose name is familiar. And so it is. Isaiah had borne testimony regarding Him (Isaiah 11:2-9; Isaiah 23:5; Isaiah 32:6; Isaiah 33:15-16). Is not this the substance of the Lord’s message to every generation of the sons of men? Is not this the great central message of the Book of God, and of every faithful messenger of His? Must not this be the keynote of our preaching? The Branch is none other than the Messiah, our blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. It tells of one who has taken our nature. Our Redeemer is man. But not man alone. He is the God-man. Son of God and Son of Man, a Divine, and therefore an all-sufficient Saviour.

II. His work. “He shall build up the temple of the Lord.” This work was entrusted to Zerubbabel, but he was only a type of the true temple builder. For the true temple is the spiritual temple, the temple into which all believers are built, and of which Jesus Christ is the foundation stone. And this Builder is also the Owner, the Ruler, a Priest, a Royal Priest. The headship of Christ is a personal matter; the great question for each one is, Am I a loyal subject of the Church’s Head and King? Is He the ruler of my life? It is also said, “He shall be a Priest upon His throne.” What you and I need is a priest to remove guilt, to make atonement for sin, to satisfy Divine justice, and reconcile us to God. “Him hath God exalted, a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (William Findley, M. A.)

Verses 9-15

Zechariah 6:9-15

And set them upon the head of Joshua

The matchless man in history

The crowning, the work, and the position of Joshua spoken of in these verses, are obviously employed to symbolise some coming man who would be matchless in all history.
Concerning this matchless man, we are taught--

I. That He is one whom heaven commands the people to honour. The prophet is commanded to go to certain men of the more distinguished who had returned from Babylon, representative men it may be. He was to take these men, whose names are here given, to the house of another distinguished man, here called Josiah, the son of Zephaniah. From that house silver and gold were to be taken, with which crowns were to be made, and placed upon the head of Joshua, the son of the high priest. By general consent of expositors, this was a mere symbolical transaction--a transaction pointing to some great man whom heaven will require all men to crown with the highest dignity. Here is a character symbolised by the name of Joshua, to whom the people are called upon by God Himself to render honour. Who is this man? The man Christ Jesus! “When He bringeth in the first-begotten into the world He saith, Let all the angels of God worship Him.”

II. That His pedigree was strikingly singular. “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is the Branch; and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of the Lord.” He came down from heaven and tabernacled on this earth, which was not His place. A great soul, dominated by a supreme sympathy with the Supremely Good, can grow anywhere, in its place or out of it. It can subordinate the most hostile external elements and forces for its own will and interests.

III. That He is one whose mission is sublimely glorious. “He shall build the temple of the Lord,” etc. Zerubbabel was now engaged in the work of rearing the material temple at Jerusalem; and a more glorious work than this is not given to man, viz. to promote the public worship of God.

IV. That He is one whose position and functions are transcendently exalted. He is on a throne.

1. As a priestly King.

2. As a glorious Reconciler.

The Mediator between God and man. The reconciliation, the atonement.

V. That He is one whose power to attract others to His enterprise is immensely great. The Gentiles were to be themselves stones in the building, and agents in the rearing of it. (Homilist.)

The man whose name is the Branch--

On Christ’s name, the Branch

The text and context are a remarkable prophecy of the coming of the promised Messiah in the flesh, who is described by His natures, His offices of Priest and King, and His work in building the spiritual temple of the Lord.

1. Some observations upon the occasion and reason of this name the Branch, given to the promised Messiah, before His coming in the flesh.

2. Scriptures of the New Testament where He is designed the Branch (Luke 1:78). For “day spring” the margin has sun rising or branch (Matthew 2:23). Nazareth had its name from a branch, which, though not the same word as in our text, yet is of the same signification.

3. The Scripture account of Jesus Christ, under the name and designation of the Branch.

1. Learn the advantage of studying the Old Testament.

2. Be restless in your endeavours, until this Branch, this man, be excellent, desirably glorious and precious to you, and in your esteem.

3. Behold the man whose name is the Branch. Behold Him in His person, in His natures.

4. Come and take up your dwelling under the shadow of this man whose name is the Branch. (James Robe, M. A.)

The Branch

The words are addressed to Joshua the priest, but they represent the Divine Saviour.

I. The beauty of this “Branch.” What is it that most especially constitutes the beauty of the Divine character? Not justice by itself; not mercy by itself; but the marvellous union of both, the harmony between these Divine attributes, by which God can be “a just God and a Saviour.” That union has been discovered perfect and complete in the person of the Lord Jesus, the God-man-mediator, so in Him is the very perfection of beauty. It is indeed said of Him, “There is no beauty that we should desire Him”; but these expressions refer to the meanness of His birth, and to the prejudices of His nation.

II. The shadiness of this Branch. The term brings to our minds the exposed state of the sinner, in the “weary land” of this world. He stands exposed to the wrath of God. He wants “shade”--something that will interpose between him and the intense heat from above, and afford him a protection from it. By whatever emblem the precious blood and perfect righteousness of Christ are represented to us in Scripture, the idea always conveyed is that of security against the effects of Divine wrath, consequent on human transgression. The shade of the “righteous Branch” is the interposing mediation of our exalted Redeemer. The shade of this Branch is extending itself every day.

III. The fruitfulness of this Branch. The two figures are united in Canticles. “I sat down under His shadow with great delight, and His fruit was sweet to my taste.” In Revelation is described the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruit, and whose leaves were not for shade only, but also for healing.

IV. The strength of this Branch. “He shall bear the glory.” He shall bear the weight of all the cares and concerns of His whole Church, both small and great, even of every individual, however important or insignificant; and He shall be found both able and willing to support them all. And He “bare our sins in His own body on the tree.” (F. Elwin.)

The man whose name is the Branch

There is a difference between the manner in which the prophets, before and after the captivity, spoke of the Messiah. To the prophets after the captivity, the invasion of the Babylonian armies, the destruction of their city and temple, and the very return of the Jews were all past events. The fulfilling hand of the faithful Inspirer of foregoing predictions had swept them all aside; and nothing remained to turn their attention from that near approach of the Messiah of which they all speak in terms so remarkably explicit. Among other types and figures of heavenly things which the Jewish prophets used, are personal types, of which the text is an example. Here Joshua is expressly made the type of Him who was both King and Priest. This could not apply to Joshua himself, seeing that he was only a priest.

I. The emphatic appellation given to the Messiah,--the Branch. The verb whence the word is derived signifies “to grow,” “to sprout.” It is specially applied to trees, some of which in part decayed, and that to the very roots, will often send forth new shoots, which shall surpass, in greatness and fruitfulness, the original stock. This expression, as applied to Christ, is--

1. Eminently prophetical (Isaiah 11:1). The stem of Jesse was decayed. At the time of its lowest depression, the Branch, the Messiah, shot forth.

2. As descriptive of His Personal progress to glory and dominion. Of the progress of His religion in the world. And of the work of Christ in the heart.

3. As indicating the secret and mysterious mode of His operations. The metaphor is taken from vegetation, the process of invisible influence which out of rude elements frames the stately tree, and from a bud develops the goodly branch. There is an unseen principle at work, and that principle is the working of God Himself. We see this m the progress of our Saviour from sufferings to glory. And in the progress of His religion in our world.

II. The great work to which the Messiah was appointed. “He shall build the temple of the Lord.” A parallel may be presented between the material temple and the spiritual house. In conclusion notice--the union of the kingly and priestly offices in Christ. (R. Watson.)

The man whose name is the Branch.

I. The person here spoken of. Who is this wondrous, mysterious man? Not certainly Joshua, the high priest, on whose head the crowns were to be placed. For the message is addressed to Joshua, as concerning some one else. Joshua, the crowned high priest, is the type of another, greater than himself, to whom he and all others are to look for blessing. These words seem to point to one already known, to one whose name is familiar. And so it is. Isaiah had borne testimony regarding Him (Isaiah 11:2-9; Isaiah 23:5; Isaiah 32:6; Isaiah 33:15-16). Is not this the substance of the Lord’s message to every generation of the sons of men? Is not this the great central message of the Book of God, and of every faithful messenger of His? Must not this be the keynote of our preaching? The Branch is none other than the Messiah, our blessed Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. It tells of one who has taken our nature. Our Redeemer is man. But not man alone. He is the God-man. Son of God and Son of Man, a Divine, and therefore an all-sufficient Saviour.

II. His work. “He shall build up the temple of the Lord.” This work was entrusted to Zerubbabel, but he was only a type of the true temple builder. For the true temple is the spiritual temple, the temple into which all believers are built, and of which Jesus Christ is the foundation stone. And this Builder is also the Owner, the Ruler, a Priest, a Royal Priest. The headship of Christ is a personal matter; the great question for each one is, Am I a loyal subject of the Church’s Head and King? Is He the ruler of my life? It is also said, “He shall be a Priest upon His throne.” What you and I need is a priest to remove guilt, to make atonement for sin, to satisfy Divine justice, and reconcile us to God. “Him hath God exalted, a Prince and a Saviour, to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (William Findley, M. A.)

Verse 13

Zechariah 6:13

A Priest upon His throne

The Priest of the world and King of men

It is in accordance with the law of prophetic development from the beginning that the external circumstances of the nation at the moment should supply the mould into which the promise is run.
Here, the kingless band of exiles are heartened for their task by the thought of the Priest-King of the nation, the Builder of an imperishable dwelling place for God.

I. The true hope of the world is a priest. The idea of priesthood is universal. It has been distorted and abused; it has been made the foundation of spiritual tyranny. The priest has not been the teacher nor the elevator of the people. Yet there the office stands, and wherever men go, by some strange perversity they take with them this idea, and choose from among themselves some who shall discharge for their brethren the double office of representing them before God, and of representing God to them. That is what the world means, with absolute and entire unanimity, by a priest--one who shall be Sacrificer, intercessor, representative; bearer of man’s worship, channel of God’s blessing. This is the result of the universal consciousness of sin. Men feel that there is a gulf between them and God. The Jewish people, who have at all events taught the world the purest theism, and led men up to the most spiritual religion, had this same institution of a priesthood for the very centre of its worship. What is the priest whom men crave? The first requisite is oneness with those whom he represents. We have a Priest “in all things made like unto His brethren.” The next requisite is that the priests should possess, at all events, a symbolic purity--expression of the conviction that a priest must be cleaner and closer than his fellows. And we have a Priest; who is “holy, harmless, undefiled.” And again, as in nature and character, so in function, Christ corresponds to the widely expressed wants of men, as shown in their priesthoods. They sought for one who should offer gifts and sacrifices on their behalf. They sought for one who should pass into the awful Presence, and plead for them while they stood without. They sought for a man who should be the medium of Divine blessings bestowed upon the worshippers, and we know who hath gone within the veil for us. “We have great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God.”

II. The Priest of the world is the King of men. “He shall be a Priest upon His throne.” In Israel these two offices were jealously kept apart. The history of the world is full of instances in which the struggles of the temporal and spiritual power have caused calamities only less intolerable than those which flowed from that alliance of priests and kings which has so often made monarchy a grinding tyranny, and religion a mere instrument of statecraft. Our Priest does rule. The “kingdom of Christ” is no unreal fanciful phrase. The foundation of His rule is His sacrifice. Men will do anything for him who does that for them. His rule is wielded in gentleness. Priestly dominion has ever been fierce, suspicious, tyrannous. The sway of this merciful and faithful High Priest is full of tenderness. The end of His rule is, that His subjects may be made free in obedience.

III. The Priest-King of men builds among men the temple of God. Christ is Himself the true temple of God. Christ builds the temple. Christ builds this temple because He is the temple. By His incarnation and work He makes our communion with God and God’s dwelling in us possible. Christ builds the temple, and uses us as His servants in the work. Christ builds on through all the ages, and the prophecy of the text is yet unfulfilled. Its fulfilment is the meaning and end of all history. In one of the mosques of Damascus, which has been a Christian Church, and before that was a heathen temple, the portal bears, deep cut in Greek characters, the inscription, “Thy kingdom, O Christ, is an everlasting kingdom, and Thy dominion endureth throughout all generations.” Those words are graven over the temple which Christ rears. (A. Maclaren, D. D.)

Christ--Priest and King

I. Notice this significant designation of the Lord Jesus--“The Branch.” The family of David was like a decayed tree, the stump of which alone remains; but from so lowly and unlikely an origin, a shoot or scion would emanate, which would again become a noble forest tree, and perpetuate the memory and influence of the royal line. Certainly David’s race had reached a low ebb when Joseph went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth into Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, to be enrolled with Mary his espoused wife, because they were of the house and lineage of David. Through a branch the fulness of the root is carried to the fruit, which swells in ruddy beauty on its extremity, and presently falls into the hand of the wayfarer: so Jesus is the blessed channel of communication between the fulness of God and the thirsty wastes of human need.

II. The combination in Christ of the priestly and kingly offices. “He shall be a Priest upon His throne.” Man’s nature demands a priest. Conscious of sin and defilement, he rears an altar wherever he pitches his tent; and, selecting one of his fellows, he separates him from the ordinary duties of life, and bids him stand as mediator and priest between God and himself. It was thus that Micah addressed the young man, the Levite of Bethlehem-Judah, when he said, “Dwell with me, and be unto me a father and priest; and I will give thee ten pieces of silver by the year, and thine apparel, and thy victuals.” If an argument were needed to prove the unity of the human family, it surely would be suggested by the universal distribution of temples and altars over the world, as though men were everywhere alike in this--that they know themselves to be sinful, and desire to find some way of propitiating and approaching the Almighty. In the Levitical system, and, above all, in Jesus Christ, God has met this universal craving of the human heart. Man also requires a king. God had designed to meet this need by Him self being Israel’s King, that they should not be “like other nations,” but a peculiar people unto Him. How remarkable it is that the Kingship of Jesus should have been so accentuated in His trial! It was the centre around which the storm raged. Pilate challenged His claims: “Art Thou a king, then?” and Jesus asseverated them: “Thou sayest that I am--a king.” The faded purple robe flung over His shoulders, the reed in His hand, the mocking bending of the knee, the crown of thorns on His brow, were but the grotesque and heartless mockery of His claims. And since He has passed into the glory, He is still the Priest-King. Not Aaron, but Melchizedek, is the true type of our Saviour now. As Aaron, He made atonement and propitiation for sin; but as Melchizedek, He has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “This Melchizedek was king of Salem, and priest of the Most High God.” As priest, Jesus pleads the merit of His blood; as king, He exerts power on our behalf. As priest, He pacifies the guilty conscience; as king, He sends thrills of His own victorious life into our spirits. As priest, He brings us nigh to God; as king, He treads our enemies under His feet. It is of great importance to us all to think of our Saviour in this dual aspect. On the one hand, we get all the benefit of His cross and passion; on the other, all the benefit of His resurrection and session at the right hand of God. May it not be that the weakness of thy Christian life is due to the fact that thou hast viewed Him only in the light of Calvary, and hast not, with Stephen, seen Him seated at the right hand of the Majesty on High--a prince as well as a Saviour--a Saviour because a prince? He accounts Himself absolutely responsible to achieve the uttermost salvation of those who trust in Him. If there is some sin which defies thee, at least it shall not be too strong for Him. And if the outflow of His delivering power towards thee seems restrained and ineffective, be sure that, in some one particular, which He will be quick to show thee, if only thou art willing to be informed, there has been a failure to yield Him the obedience which is due to Him as thy king.

III. As the Priest-King, Christ builds the temple of God. Twice over this is affirmed; but what untold comfort the assurance must have brought when first addressed to that little band of exiles! Their temple site was strewn with ruins: it seemed almost hopeless to contend with those heaps of rubbish, impossible to rear a fabric worthy of the past and adequate for the future; but these words must have greatly heartened them. As the hand of inspiration drew aside the vail, they beheld another and greater than either Joshua or Zerubbabel, working with them and for them, and bearing the chief responsibility in all the toils and labours of their new erection--He; not they. They would work with new energy and courage, knowing, as they did, that they were fellow workers with God. What difficulty could daunt, what enemies thwart or frustrate, the work of His right hand? If these words should be read by any who are losing heart because of the difficulties presented by their parish, their church, or the souls of their charge, let them be reassured, as they behold the trowel in the hands of the Priest-King; and let them be sure that He will succeed. (F. B. Meyer, B. A.)

A Priest upon His throne

As the enthroned king, Jesus reigns over His church as the vicegerent of God. He as king reigns over the intellects, the hearts, the wills, the bodies of all who yield allegiance to Him. He distributes to all His people the gifts of God according to His will. At His hand every good and perfect gift must be sought, and from His hand received. He giveth gifts to men through the power of His delegated authority received from the triune God. He is the true Joseph reigning over the kingdom of the true Pharaoh. As Pharaoh raised Joseph from his prison, and made him ruler over all the land of Egypt, so the eternal Father has raised Jesus from His cross and tomb to enthrone Him at His own right hand in the heavenlies. As Pharaoh’s commission to Joseph was “Thou shalt be over my house, and according to thy word shall all my people be ruled,” so Christ is revealed to us as being over God’s house as its delegated king. As Pharaoh’s gifts were distributed by Joseph to the needy Egyptians, so God’s good gifts of grace come to us through the kingly ministry of Jesus. It is from Jesus seated on the throne of grace as the priest upon His throne that we are bidden to seek pardoning mercy and aiding grace in every time of need. This revelation of Jesus as being the giver of grace as Heaven’s enthroned king, is one that does not receive the recognition it demands. This is of course a necessity in all those theological systems in which the continuous priestly ministry of our ascended Lord is denied or ignored. But even where His ministry of priestly intercession is recognised He is not seen to be the priest sitting on His throne. That all the blessings of the kingdom of the incarnation come to us through His intercession is confessed. But men fall to see that these blessings are given to us by Him as the bountiful king of that kingdom. Nay, not unfrequently men shrink in dread from the statement that every good and perfect gift coming from the Father of Light is given to us not only by the hand, but according to the will, of the ascended Lord. Yet unless this truth be grasped Jesus’ mediatorial ministry is not fully confessed. That He is the mediator of the new covenant is a matter of faith. “There is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Now His mediation means that through Him, “the Word made flesh,” we draw nigh to God in worship and God’s gifts of grace come to us. This truth does not involve the idea that God has ceased personally to reign and to give gifts. The recognition of Jesus’ delegated sovereignty does not involve the denial of God’s essential sovereignty as an ever-living fact. When by Pharaoh’s authority Joseph ruled Egypt this was not the virtual abdication of his power by Pharaoh; nay, it was the strengthening of his dynasty and the perfecting of his rule. Between him and Joseph there was perfect oneness of conviction as to the policy to be adopted in that crisis of his nation’s life. In raising Joseph to his high position, and giving him liberty of action, he was but carrying out in the most effective way the policy his own wisdom approved. So the enthronement of Jesus as man, as king of the Church, is not the dethronement of God. For the sovereignty of the Son of Man is a delegated sovereignty, and its glory must exalt the throne of Him whose delegate He is. The wisdom and the love of the only Potentate is revealed in the king He has enthroned. And still more is this seen to be true when we remember the absolute union of thought and action that there is between them. What our King hears He speaks. “What the Father doeth that doeth the Son likewise.” In an union so close there is no place for conflict of action or variance of will. Not by constraint but by union Jesus in His delegated sovereignty rules according to the will of God. He is a throned king, and gives His gifts according to His own free will. But even in His free rule He is the minister of the Father’s pleasure because of His absolute conformity with the will of God. With full assent of mind then grasp the truth of Jesus’ delegated sovereignty. See Him throned by God in the Church as the giver of His supernatural gifts. See in the revelation of Jesus as enthroned in Heaven, and hence ruling over His Church in Paradise and on earth, the fulfilment of Zechariah’s glorious vision. Gazing by faith on Jesus at God’s right hand, in Him, “Behold the Man whose name is the Branch,” who has “built the temple of the Lord,” and who in it “bears the glory,” and “as a priest upon His throne” sits and rules. (G. Body, M. A.)

Of Christ’s offices in general

There are three.

1. The office of a prophet. He builds the Church by the Word of the Gospel, which it is His work to promulgate as a prophet.

2. The office of a priest. To expiate the sins of His people, to purchase peace for them, and to manage their cause with God.

3. That of a king: for He has a throne, which denotes His kingly office. He is “a priest upon His throne,” denoting the reward of His sufferings. In Him the glory of all these offices is to meet. The text affords foundation for the following doctrine--Christ, as our Redeemer, executeth the offices of prophet, priest, and king, both in His estate of humiliation and exaltation.

I. The verity or reality of these offices in Christ.

1. From plain scripture testimony.

2. From His name Christ, or Messiah, the anointed one. The unction signified--

II. The necessity of His exercising these offices. This will be clear if we--

1. Consider our misery by sin, ignorance, guilt, and bondage. We were ignorant of the way of returning to God again; and therefore Christ as our prophet must teach us; our priest must make atonement for us; our king must bring us back again, leading captivity captive.

2. Consider the salvation which the elect were to be made partakers of.

3. Consider Christ as mediator of the covenant, who behoved to deal with both parties, in order to bring them together.

4. Consider the work of conversion; what the soul needs.

5. Consider our daily necessities.

6. Consider the promises, which are the stay and staff of the Christian’s life, without which they could never bear up.

III. When did Christ execute these offices? As He was the Redeemer of the Church in all ages so did He execute these offices in all ages of the Church. But more especially after His incarnation, and that in His twofold state of humiliation and exaltation. These three offices are not to be divided, especially when they are executed in a way that is effectual for the salvation of the subjects thereof. Wherever He executes one of these offices in a saving way, He executes them all. Inferences--

1. How great and glorious is our Lord Jesus Christ, who was meet to bear all these offices at once, and exercise them at once, so as one does not mar or clash with another!

2. Let this commend Christ to you as a full and a suitable Saviour.

3. You cannot take Christ as a Redeemer, if you take Him not in all His offices.

4. Employ this mighty Redeemer in all the offices wherewith He is invested, and which, as mediator, He exercises for the benefit of the ruined race of mankind. (T. Boston, D. D.)
.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Zechariah 6". The Biblical Illustrator. https://beta.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/tbi/zechariah-6.html. 1905-1909. New York.