Zechariah Bible Study (The Fountain of God)

Zechariah 2-3, Take Off Your Filthy Clothes!

The Visions

The vision of the measuring line (chapter 2)

Zechariah looks up and there is a man with a measuring line in his hand. Now we have seen measuring lines used many times by the prophets. To stretch out the measuring line was either a symbol of destruction, to measure it for its fall, or it was a symbol of rebuilding. Further, in Zechariah 1:16 the Lord has said that the measuring line would be stretched out over Jerusalem. Since the city had already been destroyed and from the tone of the book, we understand the measuring line is a symbol that the city will be rebuilt. In verse 4 we find out that Jerusalem would be a city without walls because of the great number of people and livestock in it. This is a picture of the constant expansion of the city. So many people will flow into the city of Jerusalem that it would be a city without walls, always growing larger. Further, in verse 5 the Lord declares that the He will be a wall of fire around it and will be the glory within it. The city would have no need for walls because the Lord will offer its protection and will have glory because Lord will dwell in its midst.

Clearly, this is not referring to the literal city of Jerusalem for many reasons. First, if there were to be no walls, why was Nehemiah doing the Lord’s will to leave Persia and build the walls of the city 80 years later in 444 B.C.? Jerusalem was a city that had many layers of walls around it until Rome demolished the city in 70 A.D. Second, these images are spiritual images concerning spiritual Jerusalem. Certainly the city would not literally have fire as walls surrounding it. These are images of what Jerusalem would be in the days of the coming of the Messiah. Zechariah is trying to teach these Jews the spiritual nature of what God was trying to accomplish. Further, these words have a familiar ring to them, though not exact, from the book of Revelation. Revelation 21:22-25 says, “But I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are its temple. The city had no need of the sun or of the moon to shine in it, for the glory of God illuminated it. The Lamb is its light. And the nations of those who are saved shall walk in its light, and the kings of the earth bring their glory and honor into it. Its gates shall not be shut at all by day (there shall be no night there).” Also Revelation 21:3, “And I heard a loud voice from heaven saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people. God Himself will be with them and be their God.” God was beginning to describe to them the future spiritual glory of God’s kingdom. Paul used the same language in 2 Corinthians 6:16, “And what agreement has the temple of God with idols? For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people.'”

In verses 6-7 we see the call of all people to flee from slavery and bondage and come to the Zion, the city of God. Those who had been scattered are now called to return to the Lord. But things will be different this time. When the people come to the Lord, God is not going to scatter them, but will protect them. No one will touch the people of God without bring judgment upon themselves. Those who would take their stand against God’s people will be destroyed (2:8-9). In verses 10-12, the Lord calls out to Zion to rejoice. In these verses we see three points which further prove that these events are talking about the coming of God’s kingdom through the Messiah rather than a literal fulfillment in physical Jerusalem. First, God is coming and He will live among them. This reflects the imagery we read earlier in Revelation of God dwelling among His people. Even when the temple is rebuilt in 516 B.C. and the walls of the city are completed in 444 B.C., we never read the glory of the Lord returning to the temple. When the tabernacle was completed, the Lord filled the tabernacle with His glory. Similarly, when the temple was completed, the Lord filled the temple with His glory. But this is not true of the rebuilt temple. God did not return His glory to that place. The return of the Lord is not pointing to a physical temple but the coming of the kingdom under the Messiah. Second, in verse 11 we see that many nations will be joined to the Lord in that day. This is clearly the call of the Messiah to all the nations to receive salvation, as we read about in the book of Acts. For the nations to join the Lord is the prophecy that Jews and Gentiles will be offered salvation and deliverance. This is not true with the rebuilding of the temple in 516 B.C. Finally, in verse 11, the prophetic phrase “in that day” is used, which is almost exclusively used to refer to the days of the coming of the Messiah. The prophecy was not about things that would happen in a couple years. “In that day” was pointing to a future day of glory when the Messiah would come to free His people. This is more clearly expressed in the statement, “I will live among you and you will know that the Lord Almighty has sent me to you.” Notice carefully the sentence structure and you will see that this is God the Messiah speaking to the God. The person speaking is sent by the Lord Almighty to the people. Here is a direct reference to the coming of the Messiah to the people of Israel. The salvation and deliverance the Messiah would bring would be reason for shouting and gladness among Zion and all the nations. The life of Christ and blessings He brought made it evident that He was sent from the Lord Almighty. This is the message preached in Acts 2 and throughout the book of Acts. The vision ends in verse 13 with the call going out to all the people for them to be still before the Lord because He has roused Himself from His holy dwelling. This picture immediately calls to mind the words of Habakkuk in Habakkuk 2:20, “But the LORD is in His holy temple. Let all the earth keep silence before Him.” When we compare these prophecies we see that Zechariah records that the Lord is about to act. The Lord has roused Himself from His temple and things are going to change. The plan has been put in motion, all purposed by God.

Vision of Joshua (chapter 3)

Zechariah now sees Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan is standing at his right side to accuse him. Here we see Satan always ready to accuse and oppose those who would be followers of God. The Lord says to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you.” Notice that Jerusalem and Joshua are considered one and the same thing. Joshua standing before the Lord is a representation of the people of Israel. This will be more clearly seen as we go through this prophecy. Therefore, Israel is depicted as being retrieved from the fire of Babylonian captivity and now stands before God. In verse 3 we see why Satan is ready to make His accusations. Joshua is standing before the angel in filthy clothes. The nation of Israel is filthy and full of sins. It is for this very reason that God brought judgment upon the nation. Sins had stained the clothes of Israel. Satan is likely bringing the accusation that the Lord cannot use the nation anymore because it is a filthy nation. Sin is like having filthy, defiled clothing on in God’s sight.

But something amazing happens. Instead of being condemned for the filthy clothes, the angel tells those standing before him to take off the filthy clothes. Verse 4 explains this symbol as the sins being taken away and fresh, clean garments are now put on. Further, in verse 5 we see a clean turban is put on his head. This would bring to mind the garments of the priest standing before God. Joshua has now been made acceptable to stand before the Lord. This event is a reminder of the prophetic words of Isaiah. Isaiah 1:18 says, “Come now, and let us reason together,” Says the LORD, “Though your sins are like scarlet, They shall be as white as snow; Though they are red like crimson, They shall be as wool.” Again in Isaiah 64:6-7 we read, “For all of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away. There is no one who calls on Your name, Who arouses himself to take hold of You; For You have hidden Your face from us And have delivered us into the power of our iniquities.” The angel now charges Joshua to walk in the ways of God and keep the requirements of God. This is the command of the Lord: there must be full obedience. The sins have been removed from Joshua by the mercy of the Lord, so now obedience is required. Notice the three things that are said will happen if Joshua will keep the commands of God and walk in His ways: (1) you will govern My house, (2) have charge over my courts, and (3) be given a place among these standing here. Joshua would not be treated like an outcast because of his filthy clothes. Instead, Joshua is given to be ruler over the house of God, given charge over God’s courts, and allowed a place before God. How is all this possible? How can it be that Israel’s iniquities have been taken away? They should be condemned for all that they have done wrong. Satan is right to be ready to accuse. Has God just simply ignored the problem? No, the answer is given in verses 8-10. All of these things are symbolic of the things to come. The Lord is going to send His servant, the Branch. He is the one that will come and remove the sins of the people and establish His kingdom, a stone that will shatter all other kingdoms and will endure forever (Daniel 2:44). In verse 9 we read, “and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” In one day, the sins of the people would be removed by the Branch of the Lord. He would come and take away the sins of the world. In that one day, on a cross, Jesus suffered, died, resurrected three days later taking away the sins of the world. Hebrews 9:26 says, “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself.”

When that happened, the people would now have peace and security in the Lord. That is the meaning of the images of sitting under the vine and the fig tree (see Isaiah 36:16; 1 Kings 4:24-25; Isaiah 11:1-9). These are images that Micah prophesied of in Micah 4:1-5. These are images of the protection of the Lord in the coming kingdom of the Messiah. Therefore, these messages would find their fulfillment in the coming of the Messiah and the kingdom He established when He came.

Lessons

Come to God (Zechariah 2:6,7,10)

First, we need to see that God’s call is still being sent out today. Notice in 2:6, “Come! Come! Flee from the land of the north.” Notice in 2:7, “Come, O Zion! Escape.” The call of the Lord is to come to Him. In 2 Corinthians 6:17 Paul says, “Therefore come out from among them and be separate, says the Lord. Do not touch what is unclean, and I will receive you.” God has called us to come out of the land of the north and to come out of the land of slavery. You may say to yourself that you are not a slave. The call is not a physical escape from slavery as it was for God’s people to leave Babylon. But it is a call for deliverance from the bondage and slavery of sin. Peter said in 2 Peter 2:19, “While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage.” The world promises liberty. Satan promises you freedom in sin. He says to you that you will be able to do what you want to do. You will be able to be the person that you want to be. You will overcome anything you want. But these are lies. Instead we become slaves to corruption and brought into the slavery of Satan. This is the nature of sin. What is the appeal of drinking and drugs? The appeal is freedom and the ability to get away from your problems. You can put your worries aside. But what really happens. You become a slave to the habit. Not only are you a slave to sin but you become a slave to your own addiction. You cannot give it up. This is also true of lusts. Adulteries, fornications, pornography, and the like are all advertised as avenues for you to do what you want. What really happens? You become a slave that cannot stop your own habit. Every sin proclaims freedom to each of your desires. But the reality is that you have sacrificed your freedom, for your mind is enslaved to those things. The addiction grows deeper and as much as you want to stop, it is not possible. But the Lord has called you to break free from the bondage of sin and slavery. We must see our true condition. We do not have any freedom in our sins. We are wearing filthy, dirty rags that are red with sin. You can shatter the chains that Satan has placed upon you. Come to God, before it is too late.

Remove your filthy clothes (3:4-5)

Amazingly, instead of casting us away because of our filthy, sin-stained rags, God has said He will remove those clothes from us and give us royal garments. But this is not done to us without conditions. God does not ask for nothing in return for the cleansing of our garments. Notice 3:7, “If you will walk in My ways and keep my requirements.” The Branch, the servant of God, has already come. His name is Jesus. He has removed the sins of all who will walk in His ways and will keep His requirements. It is no coincidence that baptism is depicted as a washing away of sins. In Revelation 7:14 the saints are said to be the ones who have “washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.” In Hebrews 10:22 we are told to have “our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Paul was told in Acts 22:16, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord.” But do we see what is happening in the heavenly places? In our current, sinful condition we stand before God and Satan is standing there accusing us. We are sinful and we are filthy. Satan has the right to accuse us for all of us have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). But God rebukes Satan and gives us royal robes. Satan has no basis for his accusations anymore. They are unwarranted and unfounded because we have been made clean by the blood of Jesus Christ. Let us praise God for what He has done for us.

We are translated into His kingdom (3:7)

Finally, with our filthy rags removed, we are allowed entrance into the kingdom of God. This is the kingdom that has destroyed all other kingdoms and is the kingdom that will endure forever. Further, we are in a kingdom where we are protected by God, who is as walls of fire around us (2:5). We are in a kingdom where the glory of God is dwelling each of us. God is with us. How great to think that the glory of the Lord has returned to His people. In the tabernacle and the first temple built by Solomon, the glory of the Lord was in the midst of the people and the Lord dwelled with them. Sin caused that to end. But when we have been made clean, God is now able to dwell with us again. This is more clearly seen in three points made in 3:7.

We are able to govern the house of God. This point is the thrust of the parable given in Luke 12:42-48. We have been entrusted with some of God’s things now. When we have been found trustworthy, God will make us ruler over the house of God. 2 Timothy 2:12 says, “If we endure, we shall also reign with Him. If we deny Him, He also will deny us.” We take pride in being able to manage our homes. Imagine the glory and the splendor of managing the house of God. It is a beautiful image of the exalting that we will receive from the Lord when we are obedient to His commands.

We are in charge of His courts. Zechariah also says that those who will walk in the ways of God will have charge of His courts. This responsibility is similar to the first. However, this image includes for us the need for maintaining purity and justice. If the courts are a reference to the temple courts, then we are more specifically speaking about the maintaining of purity in worship. We have a responsibility to worship the Lord in spirit and in truth, in righteousness and holiness. Our responsibility also extends to those outside to help them learn the worship that God demands. If, however, the courts are reference to legal courts, then this speaks to our responsibility to be just in our dealings with each other and among men. Paul made a reference to such in 1 Corinthians 6 in speaking about the problem of the Corinthian brethren taking each other to court. In verses 2-3 of that chapter Paul says, “Do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world will be judged by you, are you unworthy to judge the smallest matters? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, things that pertain to this life?” If we are called to be participants in the judgment of things to come, we must be righteous judges now in the smaller things of life. God has given us rule and charge. We must rule righteously, justly, and mercifully.

We are given a place among those before God. Finally, Zechariah describes the access that we have before God. We often do not think of these things in real terms but simply figurative language. But we have been given a place to stand among the spiritual beings before the Lord. This was the point the writers of Hebrews was making in Hebrews 4:16 when he says, “Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” With the blood of the Branch, Jesus Christ, removing our sinful, filthy clothes and clothing us with royal robes, we now are fit to stand before the throne of God to receive all that we need. Romans 5:1-2 says, “Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.” We have a place before the throne. Recall in the days of the Old Testament the fear that would exist to dare to go before the king. If you were found unacceptable, your life would be taken from you. We have confidence and joy to stand in the court of God. We have a place there for us.

Conclusion:

All has been made ready for us. The free gift of God has been extended to everyone. Will you not accept it? Will you not walk in the ways of God and keep His requirements?

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