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Commentary On Zechariah Malachi by Jean Calvin

Zechariah 3:1, 2

1. And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

1. Et ostendit mihi Iehosuah sacerdotem magnum stantem in conspectu angeli Iehovae, et Satan stantem ad dexteram ejus, ut adversaretur illi.

2. And the Lord said unto Satan, The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?

2. Et dixit Iehova ad Satan, increpet te Iehova, Satan, et increpet (hoc est, iterum increpet) te Iehova, qui elegit Ierusalem: annon hic torris erutus ex igne?

We have said at the beginning that Zechariah was sent for this end -- to encourage weak minds: for it was difficult to entertain hope in the midst of so much confusion. Some, but a small portion of the nation, had returned with the tribe of Judah: and then immediately there arose many enemies by whom the building of the city and of the temple was hindered; and when the faithful viewed all their circumstances, they could hardly entertain any hope of a redemption such as had been promised. Hence Zechariah labored altogether for this end -- to show that the faithful were to look for more than they had reason to expect from the aspect of things at the time, and that they were to direct their eyes and their thoughts to the power of God, which was not as yet manifested, and which indeed God purposely designed not to exercise, in order to try the patience of the people.

This is the subject which he now pursues, when he says, that Joshua the priest was shown to him, with Satan at his right hand to oppose him God was, however, there also. But when Zechariah says, that the priest Joshua was shown to him as here represented, it was not only done in a vision, but the fact was known to all; that is, that Joshua was not adorned with a priestly glory, such as it was before the exile; for the dignity of the priest before that time was far different from what it was after the return of the people; and this was known to all. But the vision was given to the Prophet for two reasons -- that the faithful might know that their contest was with Satan, their spiritual enemy, rather than with any particular nations -- and also that they might understand that a remedy was at hand, for God stood in defense of the priesthood which he had instituted. God, then, in the first place, purposed to remind the faithful that they had to carry on war, not with flesh and blood, but with the devil himself: this is one thing. And then his design was to recall them to himself, that they might consider that he would be their sure deliverer from all dangers. Since we now perceive the design of this prophecy, we shall proceed to the words of the Prophet.

He says that Joshua was shown to him. This was done no doubt in a prophetic vision: but yet Zechariah saw nothing by the spirit but what was known even to children. But, as I have already said, we must observe the intentions of the vision, which was, that the faithful might understand that their neighbors were troublesome to them, because Satan turned every stone and tried every experiment to make void the favor of God. And this knowledge was very useful to the Jews, as it is to us at this day. We wonder why so many enemies daily rage against us, and why the whole world burn against us with such implacable hatred; and also why so many intrigues arise, and so many assaults are made, which have not been excited through provocation on our part: but the reason why we wonder is this, -- because we bear not in mind that we are fighting with the devil, the head and prince of the whole world. For were it a fixed principle in our minds, that all the ungodly are influenced by the devil, there would then be nothing new in the fact, that all unitedly rage against us. How so? Because they are moved by the same spirit, and their father is a murderer, even from the beginning. (John 8:44.)

We hence see that the faithful were taught what was extremely necessary, -- that their troubles arose from many nations, because Satan watched for their ruin. And though this vision was given to the Prophet for the sake of his own age, yet it no doubt belongs also to us; for that typical priesthood was a representation of the priesthood of Christ, and Joshua, who was then returned from exile, bore the character of Christ the Son of God. Let us then know that Christ never performs the work of the priesthood, but that Satan stands at his side, that is, devises all means by which he may remove and withdraw Christ from his office. It hence follows, that they are much deceived, who think that they can live idly under the dominion of Christ: for we all have a warfare, for which each is to arm and equip himself. Therefore at this day, which we see the world seized with so much madness, that it assails us, and would wholly consume us, let not our thoughts be fixed on flesh and blood, for Satan is the chief warrior who assails us, and who employs all the rage of the world to destroy us, if possible, on every side. Satan then ever stands at Christ's right hand, so as not to allow him in peace to exercise his priestly office.

Now follows another reason for the prophecy, -- that God interposes and takes the part of his Church against Satan. Hence he says, Rebuke thee Satan let Jehovah, rebuke thee let Jehovah, who has chosen Jerusalem. God speaks here; and yet he seems to be the angel of Jehovah: but this is not inscrutable; for as in the last verse, where Zechariah says that Joshua stood before the Angel of Jehovah, Christ is doubtless meant, who is called an angel and also Jehovah; so also he may be named in this verse. But that no contentious person may say that we refine on the words too much, we may take them simply thus, -- that God mentions here his own name in the third person; and this mode of so speaking is not rare in Scripture,

|Jehovah rained from God.| (Genesis 19:24).

Why did Moses speak thus? Even to show that when God fulminated against Sodom, he did not adopt a common mode of proceeding, but openly showed that it was an unusual and a singular judgment. Thus the expression here is emphatic, Rebuke thee let Jehovah, that is, I myself will rebuke thee. However, were any one to consider well the whole context, he could not but allow that the words may properly be applied to Christ, who is the portion of his Church, and that therefore he was the angel before whom Joshua stood; and he himself shows afterwards that the Church would be safe under his patronage. Let Jehovah then rebuke thee, Satan, let him rebuke thee. The repetition more fully confirms what Zechariah meant to show, even that sufficient protection would be found in God alone for the preservation of the Church, how much soever Satan might employ all his powers for its ruin, and that though God would not immediately give help and restrain Satan, yet a firm hope was to be entertained, for this would be done in time the most seasonable. The import of the whole is, -- that though God had hitherto let loose Satan to assail the Church as to the priesthood, yet God would be the faithful guardian of his Church, and would check Satan, that he might not execute what he intended; and further, that many contests must be patiently endured, until the period of the warfare be completed. We now then see what the Prophet had in view in these words.

But the rebuke of God is not to be regarded as being only in words, but must be referred to that power by which God subverts and lays prostrate all the attempts of Satan. At the same time he mentions the end for which this rebuke was given; it was, that the Church might continue safe and secure, Let Jehovah, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee. These words are to be read, not apart, but as joined with the former, as though he had said, |Let God raise up his hand for the salvation of his chosen people, so as to put thee, Satan, to flight with all thy furies.| This is the meaning. Let us therefore know, that God is not simply the enemy of Satan, but also one who has taken us under his protection, and who will preserve us safe to the end. Hence God, as our Redeemer and the eternal guardian of our salvation, is armed against Satan in order to restrain him. The warfare then is troublesome and difficult, but the victory is not doubtful, for God ever stands on our side.

But we are at the same time reminded, that we are not to regard what we have deserved in order to gain help from God; for this wholly depends on his gratuitous adoption. Hence, though we are unworthy that God should fight for us, yet his election is sufficient, as he proclaims war against Satan in our behalf. Let us then learn to rely on the gratuitous adoption of God, if we would boldly exult against Satan and all his assaults. It hence follows, that those men who at this day obscure, and seek, as far as they can, to extinguish the doctrine of election, are enemies to the human race; for they strive their utmost to subvert every assurance of salvation.

He at last adds, Is not this a brand snatched from the fire? Here God makes known the favor he had manifested towards the high priest, that the faithful might be convinced that Joshua would overcome his enemies, as God would not forsake his own work; for the end ever corresponds with the beginning as to God's favor; he is never wearied in the middle course of his beneficence. This is the reason why he now objects to Satan and says, |Why! God has wonderfully snatched this priest as a brand from the burning: as then the miraculous power of God appears in the return of the high priest, what dost thou mean, Satan? Thou risest up against God, and thinkest it possible to abolish the priesthood, which it has pleased him in his great favor hitherto to preserve. See whence has the priest come forth. While he was in Chaldea, he seemed to be in the lower regions; yet God delivered him from thence: and now, when he sits in the temple and is performing his office, is it possible for thee to pull down from heaven him whom thou could not detain in hell?| We now perceive the meaning of the Prophet as to this similitude. He then adds --

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