Bible Commentaries
Zechariah 3

Ironside's Notes on Selected BooksIronside's Notes

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Verses 1-10

Chapter 3

A Brand Plucked Out Of The Fire

The fourth vision may be looked at in two ways. Primarily it sets forth Israel’s cleansing, judicially and morally, in the last days. It is also a lovely gospel picture, which the soul delights to dwell upon.

Joshua the high priest, the associate of Zerubbabel, the uncrowned heir of David’s line, is seen standing before the angel of Jehovah, as if for judgment. At his right hand appears Satan, the adversary, ever the accuser of the people of God. But he is not permitted to raise any question, or to bring any charge, though Joshua is clothed in filthy garments; for the Lord Himself speaks, saying, “Jehovah rebuke thee, 0 Satan; even Jehovah that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee; is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (vers. 1-3).

It is strikingly solemn, and yet a lovely scene. Joshua represents the entire remnant company; for as priest he went in to God on their behalf. But he is clothed, not in the unsullied robes prescribed by the law, but in filthy garments-setting forth the moral pollution of the whole nation. Isaiah’s description well accords with this significant picture, “Why should ye be stricken any more? Ye will revolt more and more: the whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrifying sores: they have not been closed, neither bound up, neither mollified with ointment” (Isaiah 1:5, Isaiah 1:6).

Constitutionally corrupt, the filth of Judah’s pollution defiled all her garments, and made them filthy and vile in God’s sight. Who would have supposed any people so unclean could have been accepted of Jehovah? Surely the adversary would find ready ear when he sought to prefer his charges before the throne of infinite holiness! But God had taken into account all Israel’s failures when He first took them up in grace, so He will listen to no charge against them. He rebukes the devil with the declaration that He has chosen Jerusalem, and that Joshua, as the people’s representative, is a brand plucked out of the fire. This is matchless lovingkindness surely, but just what we should expect here; for “the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” He will chasten and discipline his failing people, but He will not allow Satan to prefer a single charge against them, for provision has been made for their moral fitness for His presence. Zechariah then hears Jehovah’s voice saying to those who stood before Him, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” While to Joshua himself the word is given, “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”

At this the prophet’s soul was stirred to its depths, and, entering into the spirit of the occasion, he cried out, “Let them set a fair mitre upon his head!”

Immediately it is done as he requested, and as God had commanded. So Joshua appears no longer as a type, or symbolic character, of Judah, polluted by her failures and sins, but of the remnant which shall be regenerated in the day of Jehovah’s power, when she shall be cleansed from all her pollutions and He will be pacified toward her for all that she has done (Ezekiel 16:60-62).

No more beautiful gospel picture is found within the Bible covers this. As aptly as Joshua stands for Judah, so does he represent the poor sinner coming into God’s holy presence with all his guilt upon him. It is thus every soul must meet Him for the first time. None can put away his iniquity and thereby fit himself to face that righteous throne. But clad in his filthy garments, owning fully all his dreadful guilt, every repentant soul may approach God with the conscious knowledge that for such as he there is mercy and cleansing.

The adversary will be there to hinder if he can; but Jehovah will not listen to him, for He has His eye on the work of the Lord Jesus Christ, accomplished on Calvary’s cross, when “He bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors” (Isaiah 53:12). Against that mighty intercession no Satanic charges can avail. Too loudly cries the blood in God’s ear that speaketh better things than that of Abel. Therefore of every believing sinner He delights to say, “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Nor is it merely judicial clearance, but there will be moral fitness too; for those whom God justifies He likewise cleanses, purifying their hearts by faith, when they are born of the water of the Word and by the Spirit of holiness.

To Joshua, after he has been vindicated, cleansed, clothed, and crowned, the angel of the Lord protests, bidding him hear the word of Jehovah of hosts, that he may walk in His ways, and keep His charge, assuring him that if there be faithfulness and devotedness, he will judge God’s house and keep His courts, having “places to walk among these that stand by:” that is, being associated with those seraphic beings whose joy it is to obey the slightest behest of the all-glorious and thrice-holy One (ver. 7).

Thus are God’s redeemed ones called to serve Him whose grace has plucked them as brands from eternal fire. And so, in the coming age, will restored and purged Israel delight to obey the voice of Him who shall have made them willing in the day of His power.

In verse 8 Joshua and his fellows are said to be “men wondered at,” or, more correctly, “men of signification;” making clear that we have been correct in seeing in the high priest, and his companions likewise, symbolic personages.

Only in Christ shall all these prophetic pictures be made good; so at once we are told, “I will bring forth My Servant the Branch.” The title is not a new one as applied to the Lord Jesus. Again and again had the older prophets so designated Him. Isaiah more than once foretold the day when “the Branch of the Lord” should be for beauty and for glory (Isaiah 4:2; Isaiah 11:1); and Jeremiah twice spoke of David’s righteous Branch, who was to be called Jehovah Tsidkenu (Jeremiah 23:5, Jeremiah 23:6 and 33:15, 16). So Zechariah but amplifies here and in chapter 6:12 what God had long before made known.

The Branch of verse 2 is identified with the Stone of verse 9, which is to be engraved as with the engraving of a signet, with the sign of perfect intelligence, namely, seven eyes. This is the Stone of salvation which was once a rock of offence, and, as such, was rejected by the builders. Soon it shall fall from heaven, in accordance with Nebuchadnezzar’s vision (Daniel 2:0), grinding to powder the enemies of the Lord, but removing the iniquity of the land of Palestine in one day. Then shall the blessings of Messiah’s reign be entered into by the spared remnant, who shall call every man neighbor, under their own vine and fig tree. It is an apparently abrupt conclusion to so marvelous a chapter, but it accords with the general character of Zechariah, where sudden terminations and quick transitions abound throughout.

Bibliographical Information
Ironside, H. A. "Commentary on Zechariah 3". Ironside's Notes on Selected Books. 1914.