July 7, 2013

Revealing Christ In The Old Testament XXIX: Sticks and Stones Won't Save My Soul

Zechariah was connected with Haggai in space and time as both prophesied at the same time.  Zechariah's prophecy is a little more lengthy and intense than Haggai’s. Just like Haggai, his prophecies start at the people’s low ebb of rebuilding the Second Temple after returning from Babylonian Exile.

Ezra 4:23,24 ~ “As soon as the copy of the letter of King Artaxerxes was read to Rehum and Shimshai the secretary and their associates, they went immediately to the Jews in Jerusalem and compelled them by force to stop. Thus the work on the house of God in Jerusalem came to a standstill until the second year of the reign of Darius king of Persia.

Zechariah’s exhortations appear a little more forceful by telling the rebuilders that they should not disappoint God the way their ancestors had done (Zechariah 1:1-6). God is clear though that it is not byu their power that these things will eventually succeed.

Zechariah 4:6 ~ “So he said to me, “This is the word of the Lord to Zerubbabel: ‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the Lord Almighty.

Just as the stone, wood and gold of the Temple are only tools in the builders hand, so too are the believers and faithful like Zerubbabel in God’s hands. As we saw in Haggai, so too we see here, it is not just Zerubbabel either…it is us. It is not by or doing or our works that things are given their glory by God on high…but rather by His work, righteousness and holiness…lest any man should boast.

Ephesians 2:8 ~ “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God

In the rebuilding of the temple in Zechariah’s time we then see a remarkably subtle reference to Christ in the most unlikely of places.

Zechariah 4:8-10 ~ Then the word of the Lord came to me: “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this temple; his hands will also complete it. Then you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you. “Who dares despise the day of small things, since the seven eyes of the Lord that range throughout the earth will rejoice when they see the chosen capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel?”

Since God underlies and oversees all that is ever done we see Christ in the foundation being laid for the temple by Zerubbabel and we also see Him as the Capstone in the hand of Zerubbabel. It is no wonder Zerubbabel is called God’s signet ring in Haggai as his actions are an exact image of the will of God at this time.

Ephesians 2:19-20 ~ “Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

1 Corinthians 3:10-11 ~ By the grace God has given me, I laid a foundation as a wise builder, and someone else is building on it. But each one should build with care. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.

There are then eight visions. I will not be explicit about every one of them but mention them sporadically here.

In Zechariah 2 we see a man with a measuring line in his hand. As stated before a measuring line is a symbol of restoration. God will restore His people. Also as we had seen in Chapter 1 of Zechariah there was a man that would stretch the measuring line over Jerusalem (including the Temple). Zechariah asks him where he is going and the not so surprising answer is that he is going “To measure Jerusalem, to find out how wide and how long it is." The man with the measuring line appears to be the Angel of the Lord, Israel’s Messiah. By measuring His city He is declaring that it is His and He will eventually use it to fulfill His Divine purposes no matter what has happened in the past or who controls it now. The people that were contemporaries of Zechariah, the remnant, were keeping the city alive for the day the Messiah would come…and they did. We too as believers are to upkeep the current temple (our body) in righteousness and obedience in expectation that the day is quickly coming when the Messiah will arrive. We are to be prepared in the event of His second coming.

We also see that "Jerusalem will be a city without walls because of the great number of men and livestock in it. And I myself will be a wall of fire around it,' declares the LORD, 'and I will be its glory within.” It is quite possible that this will be because the believers themselves may be the city in  some form. As I have already said in the post on Haggai and here, believers themselves are indwelt by God just as the Temple itself was. It is not hard to see how a body of believers in community can be seen as a city with God inside them via the Holy Spirit (but I digress).

In Zechariah 3 we see more overt references and typology of Christ.  Joshua the High Priest (the holiest of men) is dressed in filthy clothes which represent his dirty, sinful condition. He is told to remove his clothes. The Lord then says to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin and will put rich garments on you”. As we get to this point in the chapter we sense that this is more of a judicial court setting as Joshua/Judah has just been deemed righteous or his sins have been removed which is a form of judgment on God’s behalf. The Lord has to deem whether or not something is sinless (remove sins) or holy as He is the ultimate and final judge of such things.

The Lord then tells Joshua to "Put a clean turban on his head" which gets done. This seem as though it is a re-commissioning to the office of priest of God. Then it is made quite clear in a condition clause that “If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house (judge my house) and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” We are talking total commitment here, not half-hearted, half-baked actions but total faithfulness to duty. Joshua/Judah will judge and will have direct access to the Lord in the presence “among those standing here”. In this entire vision we see the fingerprints of Jesus Christ all over it. The high priest of the Old Testament (Joshua; in this case Judah too) is nothing more than the perfect high priest that is to come, The Branch (messianic title) Jesus Christ. The Old Testament sacrificial system was but a shadow of the only sacrifice worthy and suitable for human redemption. Jesus.

More importantly we now arrive at a parallel in Christ's later work that also directly relates back to the ceremonial Levitical system for priests. Not only did Christ pay the ransom to redeem us He also acted as the priest that entered the most holy place (Heaven/the Father's right hand) when he died offering His blood. All previously symbolically carried out by the priests in the Old Testament now carried out for real by Jesus in a once-and-for-all sacrifice that truly removed the sins of men.

"Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need." Hebrews 4:14-16

All over this Old Testament book we see as Christian what the Jews never were capable of seeing nor can they now. Humanity, like Joshua are dirty even at their best and have no grounds of righteousness on which to approach the throne of God. While the entire system of the Law was based in works, it was never the works of the people themselves that got people into the presence of God. It was His works on their behalf. It is His Spirit indwelling us that allows us righteousness to be approved of by God. Without this we are lost. It requires that we accept it though. It is not our work or efforts through stringent religious practices but it is us accepting a gift already given. The glory is always God’s not ours. We are merely vessels and clay in the Potter’s hands.

A future promise is alluded to now. We arrive at the final portion of this chapter in the last two verses. There is an abrupt change in metaphor from The Branch to a stone. My first impression is that this is a stone for/from the Temple but it says there are seven eyes [facets] on it and the Lord will engrave and inscription on it also. Additionally, He will remove the sin of this land in a single day and in that day “each of you [in Judah] will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” The setting of the stone before Joshua implies that it is not a building stone but nor does it sound like a jewel. In a single day denotes that something will happen quickly at a single point in time or a decisive point in history. Neighbors inviting neighbors under a fig tree is an image of peace and prosperity and dare I say harmony (considering the time this is written). The Stone is another Messianic title for Jesus and parallels other teachings of Christ being some form of stone, a cornerstone, a stumbling block, a rejected stone, a smitten stone, etc.

In the end, we need to see that it is not the building but rather the builder. It is not the saved but the Savior that works within us. The Temple saved no one, it was the One who dwelt within it. It is not we that save others but the One who dwells within us. He is the only way.

It is not sticks and stones that save my soul but it is the Word who dwells within that saves me.

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