God’s Servant, the Branch

Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch” (v. 8).

- Zechariah 3:6-10

Joshua, the first high priest of the post-exilic community, represents the entire nation in Zechariah 3:1–5, where God shows His intention to remove the filth of sin from the nation and replace it with cleansing, a garment of purity that means no charge can ever be brought against the Lord’s people. Ultimately, this is a picture of Christ Jesus our Lord and our justification by faith alone in Him whereby we receive the gift of His perfect righteousness imputed to our record (Gal. 2:15–16; 2 Cor. 5:21). The Apostle Paul would later pick up on these same themes in Romans 8:33–34: “Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.”

In Zechariah’s day, the precise manner by which the Lord would accomplish the justification of His people was not understood with the same detail with which we know it today. What the faithful ancient Jew did know, however, was that this work would be accomplished through one whom the prophets sometimes referred to as the “Branch.” Today’s passage moves from the nation’s cleansing by grace to the agent of that cleansing. Our first clue to this is the switch in Zechariah 3:6–8 from the tribal to the individual. Joshua and his successors are promised the priesthood and service in the temple if they remain faithful to the covenant. This is not a contradiction of justification by faith alone because it is clear that Joshua will not finally transgress the covenant and lose his justification. After all, God says that Joshua and the faithful priests of his day will be a sign of the greater salvation and restoration to come (v. 8). Their work will be in keeping with the work of the final Savior—they will be faithful to the covenant and point forward to the One who will not only be generally faithful to the Lord but perfect in obedience to Him. God never justifies a person and leaves it finally up to them to persevere to the end. All whom the Lord justifies, He also glorifies; He keeps all of His true children in faith until the end of their lives (Rom. 8:29–30).

Zechariah 3:8 introduces the Branch, the reality to whom Joshua pointed as a sign. This Branch is also God’s servant and can be none other than the final Davidic king, the Messiah promised to the nation of Israel (Isa. 53; Jer. 23:5; 33:15). Although the nation was rebuilding the temple in Zechariah’s day, it would be this King who would set the final capstone of God’s true temple and bring the divine plan to consummation (Zech. 3:9–10).

Coram Deo

Just as Solomon and Zerubbabel, sons of David, built God’s temple during the old covenant period, so does Jesus Christ, the final Son of David, build God’s temple today during the new covenant period. Unlike the temple of old, however, Christ does not build merely with human hands. As the God-man, He is the divine temple builder who is building His church into a holy temple, a clean sanctuary that will endure forever. Are you a part of this temple by faith alone?

Passages for Further Study

Haggai 2:1–10
Zechariah 6:9–15
1 Corinthians 3:16–17
1 Peter 2:4–8

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