The Priest on the Throne

Series: Zechariah Part 1: The Coming Kingdom

Sermon by David Strain on Apr 20, 2014

Zechariah 6:9-15

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Now if you would, take your Bibles and turn with me to the prophecy of Zechariah, chapter 6.  Zechariah chapter 6 on page 795 in the church Bibles. We’re going to be looking at verses 9 through the end of the chapter.  Before we do that, we do need to ask for God’s help, so would you bow your heads with me as we pray?

Our Father, we do praise You that today our Savior the Lord Jesus rose from the grave and that now, as we bow before You, He sits on the throne, the throne of glory and grace, our great Priest-King, a full and sufficient Redeemer, building the temple of the Lord, the Church of the living God, where He will make His Spirit dwell from people from all over the world.  We thank You that He does that as the Gospel is preached and so we pray that as Your Word is opened and proclaimed that our King and God and Redeemer and Lord and Friend and Savior, the Lord Jesus, would build His temple and His kingdom even here among us.  For the glory of His name we pray, amen.

Zechariah chapter 6 at verse 9.  This is the Word of Almighty God:

“And the word of the LORD came to me:  ‘Take from the exiles Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who have arrived from Babylon, and go the same day to the house of Josiah, the son of Zephaniah.  Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.  And say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, ‘Behold, the man whose name is the Branch:  for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD.  It is he who shall build the temple of the LORD and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne.  And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.’’  And the crown shall be in the temple of the LORD as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.

‘And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the LORD.  And you shall know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.’”

Amen, and we praise God that He has spoken to us in His holy and inerrant Word.  May He write its eternal truth on all our hearts.

When I was in high school there was a persistent rumor, an urban legend even, of the kid who stole the answer key to the math test.  It was the sort of story that was usually brought out and breathed in reverent whispers while we waited outside the examination hall before the test began, you know, of the kid who got the answers and got away with it.  Someone would tell their version of the story and we would all listen in rapped attention imaging how much less stressful these moments would be right now if only we had the teacher’s answer key for the math exam. 

A Prophetic Post-Script?

We come tonight to Zechariah chapter 6, 9 to 15.  It’s a passage that’s sometimes called the post-script to the eight night visions that comprised the opening section of the book of Zechariah.  And that, I think, is actually a misleading way to think about these six verses.  Zechariah has been showing us again and again and again in chapters 1 to 6 a picture of the coming kingdom of God, hasn’t he?  The enemies of God will at last have justice done upon them.  The suffering people of God will at last enter into the fullness of redemption and blessing.  The temple of God will at last be rebuilt, not finally from bricks and mortar but from people converted to the worship of the living God.  It must have been an enormously comforting message for the residents of Jerusalem who first heard it.  They were, remember, formerly exiles in Babylon.  They’ve returned home to Jerusalem only to find their city little better than a shell of its former glory, and so Zechariah’s word from the Lord reminded them of the coming kingdom that God will bring.  It’s helped them not to lose heart but to press on in the great work of rebuilding the city and rebuilding the temple. 

A Prophetic “Answer Key”: How the Lord will build His Kingdom

And yet there is a sense in which that message must still have raised some questions that the exiles did not have an adequate answer for yet.  They didn’t need a post-script to the visions, a kind of appendix to the main message, full of the extra details; you know, like a preacher’s prayer after the sermon - all the things he didn’t quite get into the sermon he packs into his prayer.  That’s not what this is, a post-script, where Zechariah’s extra data finds a place.  That’s not what this is.  No, this is an answer key that would show God’s people how it will come to be that God will keep His Word to them and bring His kingdom that He has promised.  That’s what Zechariah 6:9-15 is - it is God’s answer key to the great question, “How will the kingdom come?”  And the answer that God gives in these verses has to do with the coming King whose kingdom it will be. 

Would you look at the text with me please?  The Word of the Lord comes to the prophet this time, instead of an apocalyptic vision of heavenly realities, it comes with a word of command telling the prophet to enact a very earthly drama.  He’s to go to the home of Josiah and there he’s to meet with three men, Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah, who are called, notice in verse 10, exiles who have come from Babylon.  Perhaps that means their presence in Jerusalem is only temporary.  Are they here in the city as couriers, sent to deliver the gifts of the remaining Jews still in Babylon for the great work of rebuilding the second temple?  However we explain their presence, whatever their reasons for being in the city, Zechariah is to take from them silver and gold and he is to fashion for them a crown.  Now the text there is tricky.  Some point out that the Hebrew noun there for crown is really plural, crowns - plural, and the surrounding verbs are singular.  So how many crowns are there?  Probably the best way to understand what Zechariah is being told to do is to make a single composite crown with two circlets - one of silver and one of gold. 

A Priest and King?

But that’s not the really perplexing thing about our passage, not the translation difficulty.  The really perplexing thing about this passage is what Zechariah is told to do with this crown made of silver and gold; at least it would have been unsettling and perplexing for Zechariah’s original audience.  He is to stage a coronation in poor Josiah’s living room.  Josiah is the person I feel sorry for in this part of the story.  You wonder if he knew what he was letting himself in for that morning when his doorbell rang and there was the three returning exiles with their silver and gold and here’s Zechariah.  And he stages a coronation right there in Josiah’s home.  Zechariah is to set that crown on the head of Zerubbabel, right?  Zerubbabel is the descendent of David, the heir to the throne.  He’s already acting as the governor of the returned exiles in the city of Jerusalem and what’s more, back in chapter 4 and verse 9, it is Zerubbabel who is said to be the one who will complete the rebuilding of the temple.  That is the work of a king - David and Solomon built the first temple; their heir will rebuild the temple after the exile.  So by right, Zechariah should set the crown on Zerubbabel’s head, only he doesn’t.  He crowns, not the son of David from the tribe of Judah, but the heir of Aaron from the tribe of Levi, the high priest, Joshua, as though Joshua were king.  And you can imagine the perplexed glances and the whispers behind their hands going around the room behind the hands of Heldai and Tobijah and Jedaiah, can’t you?  “What in the world is he thinking?  Doesn’t he know you can’t be king and priest together?  Whatever will happen to the separation of church and state, Zechariah?” 

The Branch, the Son of David

But when Zechariah speaks with a word of interpretation, at least I like to picture the shocked faces of the three returned exiles beginning to smile with relief and a sigh of relief goes through the room, look at what Zechariah says in verse 12.  “Behold the man who is the Branch.”  The Branch is a title for a descendant of King David who would be the coming Messiah.  The prophet Isaiah spoke of the days when “There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, David’s family, and a Branch from his roots shall bear fruit” - Isaiah 11 and verse 1.  A remnant from the family of King David, a Branch will come restoring the royal line.  Or listen to the prophet Jeremiah in words spoken just before the exile.  “Behold the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch and he shall reign as king and deal wisely and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land” - Jeremiah 23 and verse 5.  The group in Josiah’s living room breathe a collective sigh of relief because when they hear that the Branch is the one for whom the crown is intended they understand at last this isn’t really about Joshua the high priest; this is symbolic action because Joshua is not of the tribe of Judah.  He is not the son of David.  He isn’t the Branch.  Someone else is in view.  This is a symbolic coronation designed to teach God’s people about this coming King, this Branch whose kingdom God has been promising. 

A Portrait of the Coming King: His Task, Dignity, and Calling

And notice in verses 12 to 13 Zechariah tells us three things about this coming King.  The King’s task first of all, verse 12, “He shall branch out from his place and he shall build the temple of the Lord.”  We also learn about the King’s dignity, verse 13, “It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor.”  He will not only accomplish the temple building task but He will be marked by regal majesty and splendor.  And then there’s the King’s calling, verse 13, “He will rule on his throne.”  He will preside over His kingdom and govern and defend His people.  This is what the Branch will do.  And at the end of verse 13 we discover why Joshua the high priest, rather than Zerubbabel the son of David, is the best choice as the central character in this symbolic coronation.  Look at the text, verse 13.  “There shall be a priest on his throne and the council of peace shall be between them both.”  The Branch, the Davidic King, will sit on His throne and rule and yet on that throne will sit a priest.  And between these two ministries, the priestly and the kingly, there will be perfect harmony and agreement.  That’s why there was a double crown - a ring of gold and a ring of silver resting on Joshua’s brow.  In the one crown, just as there would be in this one man who was to come, the office of priest and the office of king will combine.  It’s a dramatic picture of one who was still to come who would be, in one person, both a priest and a king.  He will rule on the throne and have royal dignity, He will build the temple, and He will do all of it not by force of arms nor by political machinations; He will do it in the office of a priest. 

A Portrait of King Jesus

It’s a picture of Jesus, isn’t it?  Crystal clear, luminous, with Gospel truth.  Jesus is the Branch from the stump of Jesse.  He is the King who is also a Priest.  That’s the argument you may remember of Hebrews chapter 7.  He is the Priest in the order of Melchizedek, the Priest-King of Salem.  He is the one who builds the true temple of the building that would finally arise by the hands of the returned exiles led by Zerubbabel just a few short years after Zechariah’s prophecy.  No, Jesus will come and build a temple made from the lives of sinners for whom He sheds His blood.  “As we come to Jesus,” Peter says, 1 Peter chapter 2 and verse 5, “we are living stones, built up as a spiritual house.”  Or as Paul puts it, “The church is built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the cornerstone in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.”  “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by His Spirit” - Ephesians 2:20 and 21. 

The Temple of Jesus Christ, the Great Priest-King

Jesus is building a temple for God in which He dwells by His Spirit, a place where He is worshiped, and He is building it, constructing it, from the lives of men and women, boys and girls, who are brought into His church through faith in the Gospel.  And all of this He accomplishes by means of the cross.  This is why the king who builds the temple and rules in majesty is a priest on his throne.  Jesus would say to His opponents in John 2:19, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up again.”  The Jews who were listening said, “It’s taken forty-six years to build this temple and You will raise it up in three days?”  But this is John’s comment now, “But He was speaking about the temple of His body.”  Like the temple of Solomon, destroyed by the Babylonians before the exile, the temple of Jesus’ body was destroyed at the cross and the ruined temple of Zechariah’s day, likewise, had to be rebuilt.  But it was only a shadow of the true temple Jesus’ resurrection will provide.  In three days the true temple where God and sinners might meet in fellowship forever, was rebuilt when Jesus rose in victory to triumph over the grave.  The temple Jesus builds, the center in which God may now be known among His people, is constructed by means of the work of Jesus Christ, crucified and risen.  How will the kingdom come?  It will come through Jesus Christ, nailed to the tree and risen from the grave.  The crown, the symbol of the union of the two offices in this one man, the Priest and the King, the Lord Jesus, is to be lodged, Zechariah says, in the second temple to serve as a reminder to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah and Hen - those are probably simply different names for the same men mentioned back in verse 10, the three exiles and Josiah - that their Savior, the Priest-King, was coming.  It would be a reminder the one to whom this crown by rights belongs is coming soon. 

Application of Rich Gospel Truth

And in verse 15 we have Zechariah’s application of all of this rich Gospel truth about this coming Priest-King who builds the temple by means of sacrifice.  Here’s how all of this should impact us and change us.

I. A Call to Evangelism

 First of all, notice there is a call here to evangelism. There’s a call to evangelism.  Look at the text, verse 15 - “And those who are far off shall come and help to build the temple of the Lord.”  That language, “those who are far off,” becomes code for Gentiles.  Peter uses it, remember, in his great Pentecostal sermon in Acts chapter 2 and verse 39.  “Repent,” he says as he proclaims the cross and the resurrection of our Savior, “Repent and be baptized, for the promise is for you and for your children and those who are afar off, for as many as the Lord your God shall call to Himself.”  Jews and Gentiles alike gathered together into the kingdom of Messiah Jesus.  And the really stunning thing that Zechariah tells us about that here is that those who are afar off who have been gathered into the kingdom get to participate in the work of temple building that the Branch Himself performs.  Those whom Jesus saves and makes His own, do not become passengers along for the ride, passively watching as Jesus builds His kingdom.  No, we are to share in the work of temple building.  We are to become His agents in bringing the good news to the world that there is a King in Zion, a Priest who can deal with your sin and reconcile you to God - Jesus Christ the righteous Branch.  We are to share in the gathering of living stones that they might be built upon the chief cornerstone that is Jesus Christ. 

If you’ve become, as it were, a brick in the temple that Jesus is building through faith in His atoning priestly work, you too have work to do.  Those who are far off shall come and build the temple of the Lord. There are men and women, boys and girls, in this city, in this neighborhood, who don’t know Jesus; they don’t know Him.  They are heading for a lost eternity.  And the call and summons of this passage is to go tell them; it’s to go find them.  It’s to go and bring them to Christ, to bring them like stones from the quarry to the Master Builder who will shape and form them and build them into the temple that is the church of Jesus Christ.  We get to participate with the Branch, with Jesus and the temple building project.  What we so often shrink from is a terribly intimidating thing.  You know it’s almost a threat, isn’t it?  “If you don’t behave, I’ll make you do evangelism.”  What we so often shrink from as an intimidating thing, notice Zechariah sees as an immense privilege.  The Branch Himself, the Priest-King, the Lord Jesus Christ, is building His church and He turns to you tonight, if you’re a Christian, and holds out His hand as it were and invites you to join Him in the work.  What a privilege.  What a privilege to cooperate with the Branch in the building of His temple.

II. Proof of Scripture’s Divine Inspiration

There’s a call to evangelism and then secondly there is the proof of Scripture’s divine inspiration.  Look at the passage again; the second half of verse 15.  “And you shall know,” Zechariah says, “that the Lord of hosts has sent me to you.”  When the Branch comes and the people of God join Him in the temple building work taking the Gospel to the nations, it will be the great confirmation that Zechariah has in fact been the spokesman, the very mouthpiece for the Lord of hosts Himself.  The authentication of the prophet’s ministry and by extension the authentication of the truth of Holy Scripture, lies in the coming of the person and in the work of the Branch, the Lord Jesus Christ.  “Then you will know, when the Branch comes and the temple arises and He builds His kingdom and the Gospel begins to span the globe, then you will know that He has sent me to you and that His word is true.”  It all points to Jesus.  The whole book - all of it speaks of Him.  Jesus said to the scribes, remember, “You search the Scriptures for in them you think you have eternal life, but these are they which speak of Me.”  The Scriptures find their authentication and validation, their truth, their reliability is demonstrated in that the one of whom they speak with a uniform voice on every page has come and done exactly as the Lord has promised and purchased for Himself a people to be His own.  So we’re being called here to build the temple and to reach the world with the Gospel.  We’re called here to remember that Jesus Christ is the great demonstration of the unshakable reliability of the word and promise of God.

III. A Call to Obedience

There’s a summons to evangelism, a proof of Scriptural authority, but then finally notice also in verse 15 there’s a call to obedience.  “And this shall come to pass, if you will diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”  The Lord accomplishes His design as His people take up His summons to faithful service.  The temple the Branch is building is built as those who are afar off come and busy themselves in the work.  The kingdom of God grows and the reign of Jesus Christ is extended when His servants do what they’re asked and live as they are commanded.  Gospel progress in the world and Gospel holiness in the church are joined together.  Gospel progress in the world and Gospel holiness, obedience in the church, are joined together.  It matters that you obey the Master.  That’s a sobering truth, isn’t it?  The effectiveness of our witness and the holiness of our lives - those things are bound together.  The progress of the Gospel and the progress of our own sanctification, their index linked as it were, God doesn’t commonly work with filthy instruments when He’s performing saving surgery in a sinner’s heart.  He likes to make use of clean instruments when He saves. 

Are you a clean instrument ready for the Master’s use?  “All of this will come to pass if you diligently obey the voice of the LORD your God.”  Do you work diligently to obey or are you causal about the commands of Scripture?  “The Priest-King has come, sin boldly.”  Really?  Diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God because the Priest-King has come and He summons and calls you to the high privilege of His service.  Are you a ready servant suited through diligent obedience for the extension of the kingdom the Branch is building?  That’s what He wants for you.  He gave His life to include you in His temple; He died to make you His.  Which command of His asks too much of you that you will not obey in light of all He’s done for you?  “Were the whole realm of nature mine, that were a present far too small.  Love so amazing, so divine, demands my soul, my life, my all.”  All, all of it, given in glad and joyful surrender for the use of King Jesus, the Branch.  O that that might be our prayer and our song and the true commitment of our hearts as we see again our Savior, the Priest-King, who has given Himself to make us His and build His kingdom and calls us into His service. 

Will you pray with me?

Our Father, we praise You that Jesus sits on the throne a Priest who reigns, that the omnipotent, sovereign, governor of all has nail prints on His hands and feet.  He is a Lamb looking as though He had been slain before whom the heavenly hosts bow in praise and wonder and adoration.  And Lord, as we consider again then His perfect work for us, would You help us to repent and rededicate ourselves to obedience that we might be useful instruments in the extraordinary privilege He’s given us of building the temple kingdom where the Priest-King shall reign.  Hear us as we cry to You and give us grace to live for Your glory, in Jesus’ name.  Amen.

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