READ: Zechariah 3-4
BACKGROUND: There is so much crazy imagery in here that it’s almost impossible to understand what’s going on without at least a few basic handles. There are whole books written about this stuff so I’ll be brief. Please feel free to ask any further questions you have in the comments section below and I will get back to you.
Zechariah saw 8 visions in a single night. Chapters 3 and 4 contain the 4th and 5th visions. Here is a basic description of the imagery:
- Chapter 3
- Joshua the High Priest: The actual High Priest at the time (not the same Joshua as the earlier one)
- Satan: The name means “accuser”
- Dirty clothes: Sin
- Clean clothes: Forgiveness
- Clean turban: Part of the High Priest uniform, a symbol of the restoration of the community before God
- Branch: Jesus
- Stone: Jesus
- 7 eyes: It indicates completeness, Jesus sees everything everywhere
- Chapter 4
- Lampstand: Just like the one in the temple which the priests constantly tended
- Olive trees: They fill the lamp with oil so the priests don’t have to which symbolizes God’s sovereign provision
- Zerubbabel – The guy who was in charge of the temple rebuild, no king at this point but he was the heir of David
THINK: Sometimes we read all of the wild prophecy in the Old Testament and wonder what in the world it means and what in the world it has to do with us. But I think that the big idea of these chapters couldn’t be any more significant for us. Ultimately, these visions point to core theological truth: God can do what we cannot.
It is so easy, I think, to reduce our faith to performing tasks and achieving holiness and doing good things for God in our world. We allow Christianity to become a bunch of boxes that we check off in the belief that we can somehow perform well enough in life that we’ll earn salvation. We would, of course, never admit that publicly and maybe we’re not even fully aware of it. But it’s how we live nonetheless.
And many of us really try to make an impact in our world. We genuinely love God, and we are so overwhelmed by the reality of our salvation that we give our time, our passion, and even our lives to doing great things for God in our world. But then things don’t work out the way that we wanted them to and we face opposition from the world and we get mad because we’re working, striving, and achieving and it isn’t “working” like God “promised.”
All of this flows from our own self-righteousness. We desperately want to believe that we are sufficient, that we are in control, that we can be good enough, and that we don’t really need God. But the beautiful visions in Zechariah 3 and 4 remind us that just the opposite is true! We stand before God dressed in the filthy rags of our very best efforts and our countless failures. And only he can replace them with white linens. Only he can give the forgiveness and the reconciliation that we desperately need. And our efforts for the gospel – all of our endeavors to build his kingdom that meet resistance from the our world just like the endeavors to build his temple met resistance from the ancient world – will never be accomplished by our ability or our skill. But they will be accomplished!
“Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,” says the LORD Almighty.
PRAY: Memorize that verse (Zechariah 4:6), and then live like it’s the truth. Confess your self-righteousness to God and confess the areas where you’ve secretly believed you were self-sufficient. Then worship him for his power and sovereignty, thank him for his forgiveness, and ask him to make the power of the Spirit evident in your life.
Thanks for clarifying and reminding us…I agree that we are not even consciously aware of that sneaky belief that we are “earning” our salvation!
O, I love this! I loath my self-righteousness, thank you for bringing yet another reminder to my life to get rid of it! To see myself in filthy rags before the King is a humbling, yet beautiful thing!