By Karen Thompson Third in a Four-Part Series
Zec. Chapters 3 and 4: “The Branch and the Stone”
A lot of people don’t realize that Jesus has a two-fold calling to stand in both offices of king and priest. Most are aware of His calling of king due to His title “King of Kings.” But He is, indeed, called to be a king and priest as prophesied in the Word. So far we’ve looked at Zechariah 6 and Psalms 110. In this post, we’ll look at another prophecy in Zechariah—a prophecy involving a branch and a stone.First, it’s helpful to establish the time frame in which this prophecy took place. The time is after the exiles returned to Jerusalem from Babylon for the purpose of rebuilding the temple. They suffered greatly just trying to eke out a living. On top of that, they had to contend with nonstop threats from their neighbors. Zechariah was greatly used of the Lord in this whole process. Much of his ministry was directed to the two leaders of Jerusalem: Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor.
These leaders were tasked with rebuilding the temple and protecting Jerusalem from their enemies. To accomplish these tasks, Joshua and Zerubbabel needed God’s supernatural help. To that end, the Lord gave Zechariah two visions about Joshua and Zerubbabel. Chapter three is the vision about Joshua and his calling as high priest; chapter four is the vision about Zerubbabel and his calling as governor. These visions are not the topic of this post, so I don’t want to spend time focusing on them. However, there is something about these two visions that is fascinating. Both visions address each man’s unique leadership roles. But the fascinating aspect of these visions is that they had twin-like qualities. When you study them closely, you’ll see the two visions contained eight identical elements.
- Both men received an anointing to stand in their offices.
- Both men experienced opposition in the performance of their duties.
- Both forces opposing the men were rebuked.
- Both men received an encouraging word from the Lord.
- Both exhortations contain an element of “seven eyes.”
- Both exhortations have an element of a stone.
- Both exhortations refer to the building of an edifice connected to their stones.
- Both exhortations prophesy and point to the two-fold calling of Jesus as king and priest.
Prophecy About the Branch and the Stone
Now let’s look at the prophecy of Jesus’ two-fold calling as king and priest. This prophecy is unique in that it portrays Jesus’ two-fold calling using symbols of a branch and a stone. In the last portion of Zechariah’s vision concerning Joshua, he spoke forth a prophetic word about the coming Messiah:
“Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day” (Zec. 3:8–9).
Verse eight says, “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee, for they are men wondered at….” The Lord is addressing Joshua and the men that were sitting before him, his fellow priests. It says “for they are men wondered at.” The phrase “wondered at” is the Hebrew word nowpheth which means “wonder, sign, miracles, portent.” Joshua and his fellow priests are a sign that something momentous was going to come forth. The next phrase reveals what comes forth: “behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.” Joshua and his fellow priests are signs of the coming Branch. They are part of the remnant of Jews that were saved from destruction, and from this remnant will come forth the Branch.
Now let’s examine the phrase, “I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH.” The Branch is the Lord’s servant. Actually, the Branch is the Messiah. Zechariah, Isaiah, and Jeremiah all prophesied about the Messiah calling him the “Branch.” Isaiah prophesied about Messiah’s genealogy saying, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isa. 11:1; see also Isa. 4:2). This is Messiah’s genealogical tree. A rod, or shoot, will come from the stem of Jesse. Jesse is the father of King David. From that shoot of David would come forth a Branch, another king. Isaiah is prophesying that Messiah would come from the kingly line of Judah. Thus, when the prophets prophesied about the Branch, they were prophesying about Messiah’s role as king.
Jeremiah confirms it: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper … he shall be called, “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jer. 23:5–6; see also Jer. 33:14–16). Jeremiah prophesied that out of David, out of the tribe of Judah, the Lord will raise up a righteous Branch. Then Jeremiah immediately referred to the Branch as king: “a King shall reign and prosper.” The title of Branch symbolizes Messiah’s calling as king.
Now let’s look at the stone symbol: “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts…” (v. 9). Our clue as to the stone’s identity is in the phrase, “For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua….” The stone is in front of Joshua. We need to go back to the beginning of the chapter to see who is standing in front of Joshua: “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord….” Joshua was standing face to face with the Angel of the Lord. Bible scholars agree this Angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Christ. Thus far, we’ve seen Messiah referred to as a Branch and now He’s being referred to as a Stone.
There are a number of places where Messiah is referred to as a stone. For instance, Isaiah prophesied about a precious cornerstone.
“Therefore thus says the Lord God, Behold, I am laying in Zion for a foundation stone, a tested Stone, a precious Cornerstone of sure foundation” (Isa. 28:16 Amp.).
The stone Isaiah prophesied about is a foundation stone. More importantly, he called it a cornerstone. This is the same stone Psalms 118:22 talks about: “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner.” This stone is also being referred to as the corner, or in other words, the cornerstone. Then it talks about the “builders.” What do builders do with a stone? They erect a building with it. Like Isaiah’s stone, the purpose of this cornerstone is to build a building.
But notice it says the builders rejected this important cornerstone! By now, I’m sure you realize the rejected stone is Jesus! Jesus Himself knew He was the cornerstone, the stone the builders rejected: “Jesus asked them, Have you never read in the Scriptures: The very Stone which the builders rejected and threw away has become the Cornerstone…” (Matt. 21:42 Amp.).
The book of Ephesians describes for us the building in which the cornerstone was used to build. In Ephesians, the apostle Paul was ministering to the Gentile believers, explaining to them how they were now a part of the body of Christ. Then he described the body of Christ as a spiritual building, a temple.
“Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God; and are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief cornerstone; in whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: in whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Eph. 2:19–22).
Jesus is the chief cornerstone of a spiritual building, a holy temple. The believers are part of this holy structure. Each one of us is a stone that is being “builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit!” Paul taught how the entire body of Christ is a building, a temple, in which the Holy Spirit dwells. And in this temple, Jesus is the chief cornerstone.
Hebrews talks about Jesus ministering as high priest in this spiritual building:
“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:11–12 Amp.).
The cornerstone was used to build a spiritual building, a temple. And in this spiritual building, Jesus is the high priest. As high priest, He used His own blood to obtain eternal redemption for us. Essentially, when the prophets prophesied about the Stone, they were prophesying about Messiah in His office as High Priest.
The Stone in the Vision Concerning Zerubbabel
Lastly, let’s go to Zechariah chapter four and look at the stone in the vision about Zerubbabel. It, too, is a stone used to build a temple.
“Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it” (Zec. 4:7).
As governor of Jerusalem, Zerubbabel was tasked with the restoration of the temple. It was a task made nearly impossible by the neighboring nations whose threats were nonstop. In this verse, the enemy is symbolized as a mountain. The enemy is rebuked, “Who are thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain.” The mountain, their enemy, would be flattened like a plain! The enemy was trying to stop the Jewish people from rebuilding their temple, but Zechariah prophesied that Zerubbabel would “bring forth the headstone with shouts of grace.” In spite of their enemies, he would complete the restoration of the building. He would set in place the headstone. The headstone is the very last stone to be set in place!
The Cornerstone and the Headstone
Now I want to show you something very special about these two stones—the cornerstone and the headstone. First, the cornerstone.
The cornerstone is the most important stone in the building of a structure. It is the first stone set in place in the construction of a new building. All the other stones are set in place in reference to the chief cornerstone. Usually, the cornerstone was set in place with a ceremony marking the start of the construction. The stone was engraved with the date it was built, the architect’s name, and the builder’s name. This ancient tradition is still observed today in the construction of important buildings!
Now, let’s talk about the headstone. The headstone is also known as a “keystone.” In the construction of an arch, it’s the most important stone because it holds all the other stones in their places. And it’s the last stone set in place.
In this spiritual temple, the cornerstone is the first stone laid, and the keystone is the last stone laid. First and last!
Do you know who else is the first and last? Jesus!
Jesus Himself said He was the first and last. In the first chapter of Revelation, Jesus said, “I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last” (Rev. 1:11). The words “alpha” and “omega” are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, which is another way of saying “first and last.” Jesus said it again in the last chapter of Revelation: “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last” (Rev. 22:13).
It’s not a coincidence Jesus said He was the first and the last both at the beginning and at the end of the book of Revelation. Jesus is, indeed, the first and the last! More importantly, He is the cornerstone and He is the keystone: the first and the last, the beginning and the end.”
And lastly, consider this: As the cornerstone of this spiritual building, we are all set in our places in alignment with Him; and as the keystone in this spiritual building, He holds us all firmly in our places!
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