“You are to tell him: This is what the Lord of Armies says: Here is a man whose name is Branch; he will branch out from his place and build the Lord’s temple.” (CSB – Read the chapter)
Yesterday, one of my boys had to do a small project on idioms. He had to choose one, illustrate it, define it, and use it in a sentence. He chose the phrase “butterflies in my stomach,” and did a great job with it. An idiom, of course, is a word or phrase that literally means one thing, but is used figuratively to mean something else. The person who speaks of butterflies in his stomach hasn’t been eating caterpillars, he’s nervous. Small animals weren’t falling from the sky here yesterday afternoon, but it sure did rain awfully hard for a little while. Why talk about idioms this morning? Because sometimes Scripture uses what can seem like idioms and this morning offers us an example.
Now, even as I write that last sentence, I need to clarify it. While there are idioms that appear in the Scriptures (which is an uncomfortable fact for those who want to try and take every word literally rather than inerrantly, but that’s a conversation for another time), we need to be careful in where and how we identify those. Job is speaking idiomatically when he declares that he survived his ordeal only by the skin of his teeth and that he is only skin and bones not. What we’re looking at here in Zechariah is not an idiom, but rather a prophecy with both a contemporary and a typological fulfillment. My point is that sometimes what we find in Scripture has more than one sense in which it is true.
That’s the case here.
Contemporarily, Zechariah is offering another strong confirmation of the high priest Joshua’s leadership of the people of Israel. He was offering yet another image of the temple being rebuilt and the religion of Israel being reestablished. But, as you continue reading past this one verse and take in the rest of Zechariah’s words about Joshua here, they seem to be too big for any one man. After all, he didn’t ever rule over the people in a political sense. He was just the high priest. And while the high priests came to have an increasingly important role in the governing of Israel in the years and centuries to come, there was still a line of distinction between the two. During the Maccabean era, there was a king and a high priest.
That’s why the contemporary understanding of this prophecy as predicting and commissioning Joshua’s big role in what was to come in Israel’s immediate future, isn’t the only way this should be understood. It also had a typological fulfillment. Now, that’s a big theology word, but its meaning is fairly simple. It means that this prophecy spoke of something contemporary that was a type of something else, something coming in the future. It looked both out at its own time and forward toward another.
And what is the typological fulfillment of Zechariah’s words here? Jesus. Almost every word here drips with messianic significance. This is a pointer to and description of the Messiah who would come and serve as both priest and king. He would build the Lord’s temple and rule on the throne of Israel. His political and spiritual leadership would be perfectly in sync with each other. Jesus has fulfilled and is the fulfillment of all of that.
Consider what the author of Hebrews wrote many years later. “But Christ has appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come. In the great and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands (that is, not of this creation), he entered the most holy place once for all time, not by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” The author earlier refers to Him as a high priest in the order of Melchizedek who was both king and priest.
So, what does this all mean for us? Directly and applicationally, not a whole lot. That does not, however, mean it isn’t worth our time. What we see here is one of those things that should leave us pausing in wonder and worship before the God who planned out our salvation so carefully. Not only did He plan it out with incredible care and precision, but He told us about it. He told us what He was doing. The God of the universe consistently let us in on His plans. What love He has for us! This was all for us. It was all for you. It was all for me. Jesus is our king and the way–the only way–we can get to God the Father for the relationship for which we were designed in the beginning. Won’t you receive Him?