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God’s Word for You

Zechariah 3:8-10 The holy stone

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, July 5, 2022

8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for these men: they are a sign. Behold what I will do! I am bringing my servant, the Branch.

The Lord is telling the high priest that a greater priesthood is coming, a priesthood with only one priest, the great high priest, whom he calls the Branch. The old Levitical priesthood was called a “burning stick snatched from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2). That kind of a stick is dead and won’t produce any buds. The former priesthood was passing away. It could stand today, and for a little while longer, but the new Branch was coming, the Branch that would bud and produce fruit for the Lord. And these two branches look like opposites to the world. The priesthood would seem to have flourished in the days of Jesus, and Jesus was just associated with the cross—a dead piece of wood if ever there was one. But the dead stick of the cross would produce fruit and flourish. The old priesthood by the time of Christ would have divided and split into the various sects we see in the Gospels: Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, the ordinary Jews, and others besides. All of that would come to an end. But the shoot from the stump of Jesse,  the tender shoot that would be despised and rejected, would be the salvation of the world.

The word for “sign” here is mophet, which also means a “wonder” in the sense of “signs and wonders” as in Acts 2:22, “Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs.” A sign would be a token or symbol of a future event, as in some of the things that Ezekiel was commanded to do (Ezekiel 12:6,11) or the promise of the miracles of Pentecost and the end times (Joel 2:30).  A wonder is more a special display of God’s power, such as the “mighty acts of judgment” in Exodus 7:4, a reference to the ten plagues of Egypt, and the miracles performed through Isaiah and Micah on behalf of King Hezekiah (2 Chronicles 32:31).

So in what way are Joshua the priest and his friends a “sign” or “wonder”? They would continue the priesthood for the time being. They would rebuild the temple, small and unassuming though it was. They would carry on with the sacrifices until the one sacrifice was made, once for all sins, as Christ’s work is described over and over again in the book of Hebrews. These faithful few were to be a sign, the way that faithful Christians are a sign today. We endure ridicule for accepting the doctrines of the Bible at face value and for not imposing our own opinions onto such things. Certain doctrines are important but not “of first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3) such as creation, marriage and human sexuality, joint prayer, fellowship, the divine call and the universal priesthood, and many other things. These things are to be held up along with all of the Bible’s teachings, but these are not the things that change hearts. What changes hearts is the gospel of the forgiveness of sins. These are the things that are “of first importance.” This is the death and resurrection of Jesus for our sins. And since there are more and more who reject the idea of sin, guilt, and shame, even among those who call themselves Christians, we must stand firm as a sign to the world of what the Lord’s gospel message truly is.

9 Behold the stone which I have set before Joshua, upon that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave its inscription, says the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. 10 On that day, says the LORD of hosts, each one of you will invite his neighbor under his vine and under his fig tree.”

This stone has “seven eyes.” With a stone we might say seven sides, meaning seven angles at which we can look at the stone; seven facets. But the number seven in the Bible is a way of saying “holy,” such as with the seven spirits of God (Revelation 1:4) as another way of saying “Holy Spirit.” But if we want to draw more meaning from the word “eyes” we can also understand that true vision belongs to the Lord, “for the Spirit searches everything,” Paul says, “even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:10). This is a way of talking about the omniscience of God, who sees and knows all things (John 21:17), and therefore we see this perfect, polished, holy stone as the Rock of Christ. But we need to move on to the next words: “I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.” Here we have the prophecy of Good Friday and the perfect summary of what happened on the cross. The unbreakable stone was crushed, put to death, to atone for the sins of the world.

Zechariah seems to move from the day of the atonement of all flesh (that is, the crucifixion) to the Last Day and the beginning of our perfect eternal life. The prophets often do this without breaking stride, but they reported what they saw and they were faithful in their reporting. So Zechariah hears the Lord say that each of you, that is, all who believe in me and put their faith in me alone (for this remains the First Commandment and the permanent will of God), every one of you will invite your neighbor under his one vine and under his own fig tree. This was a saying in the days of the earlier prophets, a way of talking about prosperity and peace. So in 1 Kings we are told that “During Solomon’s time Judah and Israel, from north to south, lived in safety, each man under his own vine and fig tree” (1 Kings 4:25). Decades ago a similar expression was used as an American campaign slogan: “A car in every garage and a chicken in every pot.” Micah added to this idea of prosperity by adding the quality of fearless safety: “Every man will sit under his own vine and under his own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid, for the Lord Almighty has spoken” (Micah 4:4). This adds the feeling of safety we will only truly know in heaven. But we do not need to set this prophecy on a shelf and admire it as one more picture of Paradise. There is a meaning here for the present day. The prophet is using the same language the people were using about safety and prosperity, which is to say, only physical things were on their minds, and not so much the spiritual. But now with the promise of the Branch, there would be a spiritual peace unlike any spiritual peace anyone had ever known: All sins atoned for? No more slaughtering of animals? No more waiting year upon year for the Day of Atonement to come around in the fall to know that my sins are truly covered by blood? No, says Zechariah. No more. All sin will be done away with at once, and forever. And blessings will follow that will be beyond our imagination. So he uses the language of their imaginations and their proverbial sayings to assure them: You will have true, spiritual peace. It will be like the permanent physical or political peace you yearn for and will never really have because the world is a fallen, sinful place. But your status before God will truly, fully, and really be atoned for. You will be righteous in God’s sight and you will be his chosen child until the grave and until the resurrection and until you are with him in eternity. This is what it will be for God’s holy people. Forever.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim Smith

About Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.


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