Pulpit Commentary Homiletics
I. THE POWER OF SATAN TO RESIST. The adversary. Cunning and strong. Maliciously working as he has done from the beginning, to keep man apart from God. But his power is usurped, and his devices are doomed to exposure and defeat. He may plead in the guise of justice, but it is not from love of right. He may work upon a guilty conscience, but it is not to lead to penitence, but to engender fear and distrust, and to widen the breach between the soul and God.
II. THE POWER OF CHRIST TO REDEEM.
1. Founded in righteousness. He is the true "Daystnan."
2. Inspired by love. He has vindicated his claim to plead for us because he died for us. Whom he "chooses" he will never forsake.
3. Adequate to the greatest emergency. He is able to "rebuke" the adversary; to "rescue" the prey from the hands of the mighty; to "restore" the lost purity, and the failing confidence, and the faltering service. He was manifested to "destroy the works of the devil." In this there is hope for the sinner, comfort for the downcast believer, encouragement to all true servants of the Lord. - F.
I. GUILT. "Filthy." The outward symbolizes the inward. Satan pleads that there is no remedy. He would anticipate the day of doom. "Let him that is filthy be filthy still? But all is not lost.
II. MEDIATION. Christ our Representative. Pleads for us on the ground of his sacrifice. Pledges himself to raise us from our low and lost estate. Not only removal of guilt, but restoration of character. He is stronger than the strong man, and rejoices to rescue the prey from his hands.
III. HOLY SERVICE. Begins with conversion. But there must be renewed consecration. Satan resists. Pleads at the bar of conscience, to crush the rising hopes of the heart; at the bar of God, to hinder, if he can, the return of the soul to its true allegiance and service. All obstacles to good are of the devil Christ is for us, therefore let us not be afraid. Highest encouragements. God's love. Christ's work of grace. The Holy Spirit the Sanctifier. - F.
representative aspect as the high priest of the Jewish people then existing, we feel authorized to infer from it two or three ideas touching the intercessory functions of good men while on earth.
I. THAT THE GOOD MAN, IN HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS TO BEAR BEFORE GOD THE MORAL IMPERFECTIONS OF HIS RACE. Joshua had on "filthy garments." This was evidently intended to represent the corrupt state of the Jewish people. The seventy years' captivity had not purified them; for now, instead of setting themselves to the work of rebuilding the house of the Lord, they were taken up with their own personal concerns, and excusing themselves by saying, "The time is not come" (Haggai 1:2). Here, then, is a characteristic feature of a good man's intercession while on earth. He has to bear the imperfections of his fellow creatures before God. Intercession itself we consider to be an obligation resting on all minds, in all worlds, forever. Prayer, either for self or others, is not confined to earth. What is prayer for self but a living sense of dependence upon God? And where is there a virtuous mind in the universe without this sense? This, indeed, lies at the root of all true religion. And what is prayer for others, or intercession, but a deep, loving sympathy with them, a desire for their highest interests? And does not this benevolent feeling lie at the basis of all moral excellence? There is not a saint nor an angel in heaven, we suppose, who does not desire the progress of kindred spirits; and what is this but intercession? But that which distinguishes the intercession on earth is that we have to remember the moral corruption of our race. In heaven there is no defilement. All there are clad either in the robes of pristine holiness or in garments washed and made white by the cleansing influences of redemptive love. But here all are in "filthy garments" - garments stained by sensuality, worldliness, idolatry, falsehood, and dishonesty. Here the pious parent has to appear before God for sinful children, the minister for sinful people, and the pious sovereign for a sinful nation.
II. THAT THE GOOD MAN, IN HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS TO CONTEND WITH A MIGHTY SPIRITUAL ANTAGONIST. The prophet saw Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. The existence of some mighty spirit or spirits, who are determined foes of truth, virtue, and the happiness of man, is rendered more than probable by a number of considerations, independent of the testimony of the Bible. Such, for example, as the general belief of the race, the conflicting phenomena of the moral world, the unaccountable opposite impressions of which all are conscious. But the Bible is most clear on this subject. Under various names, "the serpent," "the devil," "the god of this world," "the prince of the power of the air," this great enemy of the race is brought under our notice. Now, this enemy stood up to resist Joshua in his intercessions. And who will say that he is not now specially active with the good man, when he draws near to God? In how many ways may he hinder our prayers? Sometimes he may suggest to us, even in the very time of our prayers, doubts as to the existence of God; we may be tempted to ask - Are we sure there is a God? May not the idea be a delusion, for who has ever seen or heard him? Or, granting his existence, he may suggest whether he would condescend to attend to the affairs of an individual. We may be tempted to the supposition that he takes care of the great but overlooks the little; or that the universe is so thoroughly and absolutely under a system of laws, that he will not interpose on behalf of any of his creatures. Or, granting that he does exist, and that he attends to the prayers of some, Satan may suggest that I am too worthless for his notice, that it is presumptuous for me to address his awful majesty; I am too great a sinner ever to be attended to. In such suggestions as these Satan may be said to stand up against us when we appear before the Lord. This, again, is a peculiarity of our intercessory functions on earth. In heaven, we presume, no enemy will intrude on our devotions, no Satan will stand up to resist as we appear before God. No power there to darken our faith with cloudy doubts, nor to cool the ardour of our devotions!
III. THAT THE GOOD MAN, IN HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS THE SPECIAL ASSISTANCE OF A DIVINE HELPER. Whilst Satan stood up against Joshua, there was One who stood up for him - the Lord, called also "the Angel of the Lord." Who is this? All acknowledged expositors are agreed in concluding this to be Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the world. And he, indeed, is man's great spiritual Helper. He is our Advocate, our Intercessor. He helps us in our prayers, he attracts us to the throne of grace. "Seeing that we have a great High Priest, who has passed into the heavens." His Spirit makes intercession within us, awakens in us those desires which agree with the will of God. The scene illustrates two thoughts concerning the help rendered.
1. It was rendered sympathetically. "Is not this a brand?" etc. Consider the suffering to which the petitioners have been subject. Christ is full of sympathy. "We have not a high priest," etc.; "Him that cometh unto God through him he will in no wise cast out."
2. The help was rendered effectualist. The old "filthy garments," the emblems of impurity and guilt, were taken away, and he was clothed in other garments; that is, their guilt was removed, they were restored from their degradation. And the "mitre," the emblem of dignity, was put on his head. They were raised once more to the glory of an independent nation. See:
(1) That if you would effectually help your race, you must appear before God as an intercessor. Other means are also to be employed. Promote general knowledge, advance the arts, help on commerce, above all, diffuse the gospel of Jesus; but, in connection with all, you must appear before God, as Joshua did for Israel. It is in this way you will change the world's "filthy garments," and get for them the "raiment" of purity and the "mitre" of honour.
(2) That if you would effectually appear before God, you must have the help of Jesus Christ. What is the vision before us but an adumbration of a common fact in the spiritual history of every praying man? Ever as we attempt to approach the everlasting Father in devout thought and worship, do we not find some opposing force like this Satan, or rather, this Satan himself, "standing" "at our right hand to resist" us? What is to be done? Are we to retire? - cease all endeavour to commune with the loving Parent of our souls? God forbid! Our doom is sealed in midnight and anguish, should this be so. There is no happiness for any finite spirit but that which flows from intercourse with the eternal Fountain of good. Our only hope is in getting him, the great Mediator, with us, who shall repel our foe - drive him from our presence with the words, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan!" - D.T.
Zechariah 3:5 - We may take this as
I. TENDER CONCERN. The beginnings of life are full of interest. So it is with the budding of the flower; the lispings of infancy; the first tokens of love. How carefully the gardener watches the germinating of some rare seed! With what tender solicitude friends wait for the signs of returning health to the loved one brought low by disease! So in an infinitely higher way as to our Lord. Our souls are precious in his sight (Luke 15:20; John 1:48).
II. HOLY SATISFACTION IN THE DEFEAT OF THE GREAT ENEMY. Sympathetic. Ever on the alert. Ready to interpose effectively at the right moment. The wilderness, Gethsemane, Calvary, testify to his love and mighty power. His victory was our victory. Every sinner converted, every backslider restored, every believer strengthened and fitted for higher service, is to the shame of Satan and to the glory of Christ.
III. EXULTING JOY IN THE RESCUE OF SOULS. "Standing" implies continued interest. Lasts all through, from the first struggle to the final victory (cf. Stephen, Acts 7:36). Christ's love never faileth, and his joy is the joy of eternity and of God. "He shall see of the travail of his soul, and be satisfied." - F.
I. THE GREAT IN CHARACTER. How described.
1. Obedience. Life regulated by the Divine will. "Walk in my ways."
2. Fidelity of service. Life devoted to God's glory. So Moses (Hebrews 3:5).
II. THE GREAT IN HONOUR. Not place, or outward distinction, or arbitrary rewards. "Knighthoods and honours borne without desert are titles but of scorn" (Shakespeare). Three things.
1. "Judge my house."
2. "Keep my courts."
3. "Walks among those that stand by."
Dignity. Power with God and power with man. Society of the noblest.
III. THE GREAT IN BLESSEDNESS. Freedom of soul. Holy living. Harmonious development. Grandest fellowship. Immortal hope. The promises of God are gracious in character, elevating in purpose, faithful in fulfilment. - F.
I. THE BIBLE DIRECTS US TO THE SPHERE OF TRUE GREATNESS. The promise made to Joshua here is, "Thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts." The words convey this idea: Great authority. By the house of God is here probably meant the people of Israel; and the keeping of God's courts, the regulation of the temple. The literal meaning here is that Joshua's piety should be rewarded by the long continuance of his exalted office of. High Priest. Godliness raises:
(1) To dignified positions. It makes us "kings and priests unto God."
(2) To high fellowship. "I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. With the general consent of commentators, the angels of God are meant by these that stand by. The angels of God minister in his house. They are ministering servants." We are come "to an innumerable company of angels." Good men are brought by religion into fellowship with those lofty intelligences.
II. THE BIBLE PRESENTS TO US THE PATH OF TRUE GREATNESS. "If thou wilt walk in my ways," etc. Two things are stated here as the conditions of elevation.
1. Obedience. "If thou wilt walk in my ways." God has ways for men to walk in. His ways are his laws. "Blessed are they who walk in the Law of the Lord." Walking in his ways implies:
(1) The abandonment of our own ways. "Let the wicked forsake his way."
(2) The entrance on God's ways. Walking in them implies that we are on them, and the way into them is by faith in Christ. He is the "Door."
(3) Progress in God's ways. We must add to our faith, virtue; to virtue, knowledge, etc. (2 Peter 1:5).
2. Fidelity. "Keep my charge." We have all a trust committed to us. Our time, talents, and possessions are all given in trust. We are not owners of them, but stewards. "It is required of a steward that he be found faithful." Paul felt, as he was leaving the world, that he had finished his course, and kept the faith. Such is the path to greatness - the only path, the sure path.
III. THE BIBLE GIVES US A GUARANTEE FOR TRUE GREATNESS. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts." The word of God is the pledge.
1. His word has been fulfilled in the experience of the good in all ages. All who have walked in God's ways and kept his charge have reached this sublime elevation. They are the illustrious heroes of the ages; and they have high authority in the empire of God.
2. His word can never fail of its accomplishment. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," etc. Brother, art thou walking in the ways of God? If so, grand distinctions await thee. "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life." - D.T.
I. REPRESENTATIVE OF THEIR GENERATION. They breathe the spirit of the age. The evil and the good, of their times, are seen in them at the highest. "There were giants in those days"
II. ADUMBRATE GREAT FORCES. Powers have been at work for long that come out. Embodied. We see the height to which corruption may rise. Intellect without conscience, passion without principle, power without God. Or it may be otherwise. Men of genius and resolution faithful to the truth, ardent for the good of their brethren - reformers, professors, martyrs, whose glory was to live not to themselves, but to God.
III. FORESHADOW COMING JUDGMENT. Like Pharaoh, they have been raised up for God's glory. Like the Jews, they are "ensamples" of God's judgments. What they do, what they suffer, what they enjoy, are as forecasts and foreshadowings of what will be, on to the perfect end. Often such men obtain a certain worship. "There is so much of chance in warfare, and such vast events are connected with the acts of the single individual, that the proper temperament for generating and receiving superstitious impressions is naturally produced" (Coleridge). But they are "for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world have come." - F.
I. THE TIME OF HIS COMING DIVINELY FIXED. There was the ancient promise, and long waiting generations came and went. Manifold changes. Overturning of kingdoms and dynasties. The old stock of David seemed as good as dead. But life preserved. "Branch" destined to spring and bud in his season. There is "a time to every purpose (Ecclesiastes 3:1). Christ. came "in the fulness of time."
II. THE CHARACTER OF HIS WORK DIVINELY APPOINTED. "Servant." Christ came to do the will of the Father. As the Law was hidden in the ark, so the law of God was hidden in his heart. What God ordained, he freely chose. What God commanded, he delighted to carry out. He never wavered, never wearied. Why? Because the work given him to do accorded both with eternal righteousness and the highest good of man. Faithful even to the death of the cross.
III. THE RESULTS OF HIS MINISTRY DIVINELY SETTLED. Removal of sin. Upbuilding of the Church of God in the strength of righteousness and the beauty Of holiness and the joys of love. What he began he would surely finish. Solomon's temple was "finished," and king and people rejoiced with great joy. Zerubbabel's temple was also to be "finished," and this should be a sign and seal of the forgiveness of past iniquity, and of the outshining of God's favour on the land. So these prophesy of greater things to come. Christ's exulting cry on the cross, "It is finished!" proclaimed the opening of heaven to all believers, the new heaven and the new earth, and the restitution of all things. - F.
Isaiah 8:18), that is, typical men. Literally, the reference is to the members of the subordinate priesthood; and as the high priest, Joshua, was the type of Christ, these men were the types of his disciples in every age. I shall take the words as presenting the world's wants and God's provisions.
I. THE WORLD WANTS A MORAL HELPER, AND IN THE GOSPEL ONE IS PROVIDED. Morally, man is enslaved, diseased, exiled, lost to the great uses and purposes of his being. God has provided a great Helper, here called his "Servant the BRANCH." In Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1) we have these words, "Behold my Servant whom I uphold, mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth." He is the "Branch," God is the Root, and all holy souls are branches, deriving their life, beauty, and fruitfulness from him; but Christ is the "Branch," the oldest Branch, the largest Branch, the strongest Branch, the most fruitful Branch, etc. He is the Branch on which there hang clusters of perennial fruits for the "healing of the nations."
II. THE WORLD WANTS DIVINE GUARDIANSHIP. "Behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes." What is here meant by the "stone"? Not the foundationstone of the temple, which was now being rebuilt, for that had been laid long before. "The stone," says Keil," is the symbol of the kingdom of God, and is laid by Jehovah before Joshua, by God's transferring to him the regeneration of his house and the keeping of his courts (before, liphne in a spiritual sense, as in 1 Kings 9:6, for example). The seven eyes which watch with protecting care over this stone are not a figurative representation of the all-embracing providence of God; but, in harmony with the seven eyes of the Lamb, 'which are the seven Spirits of God' (Revelation 5:6), and with the seven eyes of Jehovah (Zechariah 4:10), they are the sevenfold radiation of the Spirit of Jehovah (after Isaiah 11:2), which show themselves in vigorous action upon this stone, to prepare it for its destination." Perhaps the meaning is that upon the kingdom of Christ, here symbolized by the stone, God's eyes are fixed (engraven) with deep and settled interest, "The eye is the natural hieroglyphic for knowledge; and 'seven,' as every reader of the Bible is aware, is the number used to denote completeness, perfection. Seven eyes denote the perfection of observant knowledge; and as the 'eyes of Jehovah' mean Jehovah's observation and knowledge, his 'seven eyes' express the perfection of both - omniscient observation." Two thoughts are suggested.
1. God has a special interest in Christ and his followers. His eyes are on the "stone," there in all their completeness - seven. He has a general interest in the universe, but a special interest here. His eyes, which "run to and fro through all the earth," glance with a wonderful tenderness upon the "stone."
2. God has a settled interest in Christ and his followers. The eyes are said to be engraven on the stone, not written in ink, not painted with colour which time would erase, but cut into its very heart; the stone itself must moulder before the engraving is destroyed. "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed," etc.
III. THE WORLD WANTS MORAL PURIFICATION, AND IN THE GOSPEL IT IS PROVIDED. "I will remove the iniquity of that [this] land [that is, Palestine] in one day." The "iniquity of that laud," the land of the Jews, was multiform, aggravated, immeasurable; but in one day provision should be made for its removal, the day on which Christ died upon the cross. "The work of the Messiah had a primary respect to Israel. The offer of salvation was to the Jew first." "Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities" (Acts 3:36). These words of Peter to the Jews of his day are a commentary on those before us. The great want of man is moral purification. Thank God, "Christ came to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
IV. THE WORLD WANTS SPIRITUAL REPOSE, AND IN THE GOSPEL IT IS PROVIDED. "In that day, saith the Lord of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree." "When iniquity is taken away," says Matthew Henry,
(1) We reap precious benefits and privileges from our justification, more precious than the products of the vine or the fig tree (Romans 5:1).
(2) We repose in a sweet tranquility, and are quiet from the fear of evil. What should terrify us when iniquity is taken away, when nothing can hurt us? We sit down under Christ's shadow with delight, and by it are sheltered from the scorching heat of the curse of the Law. We live as Israel in the peaceable reign of Solomon (1 Kings 4:24, 25), for he is the Prince of Peace. - D.T.