The Man Whose Name Is The Branch
BY JOSHUA PEREZ
Key Verse 12
“Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord.’”
In the last message we saw four powerful chariots going forth from the presence of the Lord. They were powerful horses, very strong. And they were to do one thing. They had one assignment, one task and the task was to execute the Lord’s judgment. They were to go throughout the whole earth, into every area and bring about God’s righteous judgment. There are many times in the life of a person where judgments will come (the great flood of Genesis chapter 6 and the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah are 2 examples) but there surely is a final judgment coming, a time when all will stand before the Lord and give account for the life lived in the body. No one can hide from this upcoming judgment. There is no escaping it.
The section on judgment ends with verse 8 saying, “Then he called to me, ‘Look, those going toward the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north.’” The horses that brought God’s judgment in the land of the north brought about rest for God’s Spirit. Notice that it does not say the rest was for the people or for the land. The rest was given to Gods own Spirit. You see, God’s wrath, his judgment needs to be appeased. It needs to be satisfied. The only way his judgment can be satisfied is by his judgment being executed.
Right after this execution of judgment, the very next section says, “The word of the Lord came to me.” What an abrupt way to begin a new section. It is interesting that the Lord does not go into detail about the other horses and their judgments. He just changes subjects right away. Why does God make such an abrupt shift after his section on his righteous judgment? Perhaps it is because God does not only want to give messages of his inescapable judgment. He does not only want to judge the human race but he actually wants to save the human race by solving the world’s sin problem. Ever since sin came into the world in Genesis 3, sin has wreaked havoc in all of humanity and on the world. All of us here can testify to the damaging effects of sin. Sin damages our relationship with God and our relationship with each other. Sin brings about death in so many various forms, not excluding our eventual physical death. God does not want to leave sin to continue its devastating path of destruction. The moment sin reared its ugly head and came into existence, the Father has a plan to solve sin and began to work on it immediately. This idea of solving the sin problem (or the removal of sin) can be seen in Zechariah 3 and 5, which we will look back at a little later. But now we can say that the Lord has already in this book talked about the removal of sin for his people. But, in this chapter we will look more deeply into the way this removal will come about and more specifically who will bring about this removal of sin. This next section is a message of hope, and I pray that our hearts may be filled with hope as we are here this morning.
Let us look at v. 9-11 “The word of the Lord came to me: ‘Take silver and gold from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon. Go the same day to the house of Josiah son of Zephaniah. Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak.’” At the beginning of this vision we see some individuals. Who are these men Zechariah has gone to see? They are Jews who have come back from Babylon. They are described as exiles. This is a very important detail. These men are not just any Jews but they are Jews who have experienced the exile of the entire people of Israel. When one studies the Bible, it can be identified that the exile was possibly one of the most traumatic experiences for the Israelites. Due to the sins of the people, God allowed the Assyrians and the Babylonians to invade the land and carry off many of God’s people as prisoners. At the time the tribes of Israel were divided into two groups: the northern country and Judah. The Assyrians attacked the tribes of the northern country while Babylon attacked Judah, where Jerusalem and the temple are. The cities were devastated and the temple was destroyed. (You can read about this in 2 Kings). Many had thought they were to be set free from these invaders but the Lord, in his mercy and wisdom, allowed them to be taken over by their enemies. They were not to leave the land of their exile until Gods set time, which was a period of 70 years. Only after that, when God’s discipline was over, were they enabled to come back to the land. This is a good lesson about God’s discipline and sovereignty. There may be things that are going on that we wonder why God does not intervene or why God does not seem to answer our prayers for deliverance. In those times, we should trust that God is good, and may be disciplining us to grow our faith. God may be teaching us to rely on him, that he is enough for us or He May be teaching refining our faith, simply teaching us to trust in him. Our God is a God of love and mercy and he is good. We should never forget or doubt this. And it is because of his love and mercy that the Israelites were able to return to the land, including the individuals in our text.
Notice that these men did not come back to the land empty handed. Verse 10 tells us that they were bringing with them silver and gold. Where did this silver and gold come from? We are not told. But the book of Ezra tells us that as the people were returning to the land, Cyrus King of Persia commanded the surrounding people to provide the returning Jews with many goods including silver and gold. These goods, according to Ezra 1:4, were for the building of the temple. This is most likely what these men had in mind as they were returning from Babylon. They may have had hopes to see a new temple rebuilt. Maybe they were glad to be back again in the land of Gods people. Maybe they were relieved to be done with a life under the Babylonian culture. They could have had many similar things on their hearts and minds.
It is to these returning Jews that Zechariah is sent. And he is told to do something unusual. Verse 11 tells us that Zechariah is to “Take the silver and gold and make a crown, and set it on the head of the high priest, Joshua son of Jozadak.” This is a very unusual request being made of Zechariah. Why is this direction of God so strange? To start off with, the gold and silver had a specific purpose. They were to be used to rebuild the temple of the Lord. At the very least, we can be sure these Jews had no intention of melting the silver and gold to make a shiny crown. But Zechariah is instead going to take these items and make a crown. We can imagine what might have gone through these Jews minds as Zechariah took their offering to make a crown. Maybe they thought he was playing a practical joke, It is almost like playing a practical (like we used to do when we were younger) until they realized Zechariah was indeed serious.
But the Lord’s direction gets even more bizarre. Zechariah is to take this crown and put it on the head of the high priest Joshua! A high priest is not supposed to be wearing a crown. Nowhere in the Old Testament does it say that the high priest is to wear a crown while fulfilling their priestly duties. Crowns are only supposed to be worn by Judah’s kings. And Joshua was no king. What could the high priest Joshua have been thinking when Zechariah wanted to put this crown on his head? Maybe he thought Zechariah was trying to crown him as the king of all the Jews. Maybe he thought Zechariah was out of his right mind. Maybe Joshua, recalling this long history of the kings of Israel who led the nation astray and (in some ways) caused the exile, was afraid to have a crown on his head and be thought of as a king. Maybe he wanted to have Zechariah stoned as a result of this. We don’t know but we can say that following this direction of the Lord was not easy for Zechariah. And for us, there will be times when the Lord will give us direction that will seem strange for us and may make us feel uncomfortable. It is in those moments that we need to trust that the Lord knows what he is doing and that his direction is ultimately the best for us.
Verse 12-13 tell us what was the deep meaning behind the direction given to Zechariah and what message God has for his people. “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’” What was the name given to Joshua in this message? The name given to Joshua is the name Branch. There is a lot that people can say about the Branch but there are some things that are for certain. First, this is not the first time this name is used. We first see this name used in Zechariah 3:8-9. “‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” This Branch of the Lord is the Lord’s servant. And this servant is directly related to the removal sin, as mentioned in verse 9. The removal of sin is also mentioned in Zechariah 5:10-11, where the basket of the iniquity of the people is removed and carried off to Babylon. It is such an amazing thought that the sin of the people and land can be removed so quickly. But one must ask how is this possible? How will the Lord remove the sin of the land, the iniquity of the people in a single day? When thousands of sheep sacrificed on the altar were not sufficient enough to do this, how will it be possible for the Lord to do it?
We have a clue from the gospel of John. John 1:29 says, “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, ‘Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!’” Through the lens of the New Testament we can clearly see that this servant who will remove the sin of the land, this Branch of the Lord, is none other than our King Jesus! This makes sense because as Zechariah 3:8 said, Joshua and his associates were merely symbolic of things to come. While Joshua may be the one used in this prophetic deed of Zechariah, he is only symbolic of the Christ who was to come into the world. With this understanding, we can now continue our discussion of verses 12-13.
This branch mentioned in verse 12 has two specific tasks: to branch out and to build the temple of the Lord. Let us first talk about building the temple, as it will shed light on the idea of branching out. How will the branch (who we know is Christ) build the temple? In John chapter 2, when Jesus found people using God’s temple as a marketplace, in his zeal for his Father’s house, he overturned tables and drove people out. The religious leaders weren’t happy and asked him who gave him the authority to cleanse the temple! This is how Jesus responded: “Destroy this temple and I raise it again in three days.” Through this Jesus declared himself to be the temple of the Lord. You see the temple, a physical building, was needed for a time for the people to have a sense of God’s presence with them. For a time a physical temple was necessary. However, the people over time abused the temple and it lost its meaning as the symbol of God’s presence for them. Therefore, God was going to (according to history) allow the Romans to destroy the temple. And all the glory, holiness and worthiness of the temple would be transferred over to Jesus. This transfer actually occurred when Jesus died and rose again. When he rose again, he became the new temple of Gods people.
This was honestly Gods plan since the beginning of time. While the temple had significance for a time, it was never to forever remain the place and object of peoples worship. God had all along wanted people to come to Jesus, who is our true temple. And it is Christ himself who was to build this temple, through his death and resurrection. This knowledge leads us into the 2nd thing the branch would do, which is to branch out, or to sprout or grow up. To understand this it may help to think about trees. A tree is a beautiful thing in God’s creation. Some trees can stand very tall. Trees usually have many branches and they stick out from the tree everywhere. The trunk of the tree is the base from which the branches stick out in many directions all over. This is the idea of what branch out means in this verse. You see, in the biblical times, many people if they wanted to worship needed to travel many miles to Jerusalem in order to worship God and offer acceptable sacrifices to him. Acceptable worship could happen no other way. But now through Christ, anyone can come to the temple that is Christ and worship the living God. Whether you are in Jerusalem or Egypt or Shanghai, China or Nigeria, Seoul, Korea, the Philippines, Honduras, Peru, or even downtown Chicago-anyone anywhere can simply come to Jesus for worship. No longer necessary is the long journey to Jerusalem, for Christ is our temple. He has branched out into many directions to offer anyone and everyone the opportunity to come to him and offer praises to God and worship.
How else is this branch described? Verse 13b says that, “And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.” The two roles that are described here are the roles of king and priest. This branch, who is Christ, is to be both a king and a priest. To understand this, we need to understand what a king and a priest do. A king is someone who rules the people. He leads the people, fights for them and is a symbol of power and authority. A priest has a different role. A priest has the role of intercessor, offering sacrifices for the people. It is the priest’s job to represent the people to God and make atonement for them. These are two different roles and they serve the people in some different ways. At times, these two roles can be in direct opposition to each other. At other times, these two roles of king and priest can work directly against the work of God. During Jesus time the King Herod was a wicked king and tried to kill Jesus while he was still a baby. The high priest was the one who sentenced Jesus to death in the temple. Truly there is only one person who can bring unity (or as some versions say the counsel of peace) between these two roles, and that is king Jesus. One perfect example of how Jesus did this when he offered himself up for us on the cross as our King and Priest.
Let us read v. 14. “The crown will be given to Heldai, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen son of Zephaniah as a memorial in the temple of the Lord.” This crown that is given to Joshua the high priest is not to remain on his head. Afterall, this whole prophetic vision is about the Christ. So, what did the Lord want Zechariah to do with this crown? He was to give it to the Jews for them to be placed inside the temple. Now, why did the Lord want the people to keep the crown in the temple? The verse says that it was to be a memorial. It was to be a symbol of hope, something that at any time the people could look at and remember. They could look at the crown and remember that the branch was the one who built the temple. They could remember that a king priest was coming, one who would bring perfect harmony to the two roles. God has often given his people memorials throughout biblical history, reminders of the things God has done and said. The Ebenezer stone set up in 1 Samuel is a good example. It was set up to remind the people of the great victory against their enemies, “thus far the LORD has helped us.” A question to ask ourselves is this: what memorials do we have today? We might be able to answer this question in many different ways. There are many verses to hold onto in scripture that would make great memorials for us. There are places in our lives that, while we are there we remember what God did for us in those places. In some senses, even the cross on which our savior was slain is a memorial, reminding us of God’s redemption and atonement for sin. May the Lord give us many memorials in our lives, that we would not forget the good things God has done.
Let us read v. 15. “Those who are far away will come and help to build the temple of the LORD, and you will know that the LORD Almighty has sent me to you. This will happen if you diligently obey the LORD your God.” The people in Jerusalem are responsible for the building of the temple, as God has been directing them to do. In this verse God gives the people some encouragement. He says people from far away places will come and build the temple of the Lord. God is trying to give his people as much encouragement as possible so that they may rebuild the temple of the Lord. But what does this mean for us who have the resurrected Christ as our temple? Were we not all far away at one point or another? Were not our hearts far from God, not even wanting to choose him? Was it not God who chose us and loved us first, and brought us near to himself and to his kingdom? Yes, and now, we who were once far off are called to not simply enjoy our salvation but also to invite others to experience this salvation and receive Christ as their Lord and Savior. In this way, we can all participate in the work of God and build up the temple. Let’s read our key verse again 12. “Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord.’”