Zechariah 3:7
Thus said the LORD of hosts; If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my charge, then you shall also judge my house, and shall also keep my courts, and I will give you places to walk among these that stand by.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
Zechariah

A VISION OF JUDGEMENT AND CLEANSING

THE RIGHT OF ENTRY

Zechariah 3:7
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A WORD or two of explanation will probably be necessary in order to see the full meaning of this great promise. The Prophet has just been describing a vision of judgment which he saw, in which the high priest, as representative of the nation, stood before the Angel of the Lord as an unclean person. He is cleansed and clothed, his foul raiment stripped off him, and a fair priestly garment, with ‘Holiness to the Lord’ written on the front of it, put upon him. And then follow a series of promises, of which the climax is the one that I have read. ‘I will give thee a place of access,’ says the Revised Version, instead of ‘places to walk’; ‘I will give thee a place of access among those that stand by’; the attendant angels are dimly seen surrounding their Lord. And so the promise of my text, in highly figurative fashion, is that of free and unrestrained approach to God, of a life that is like that of the angels that stand before His Face.

So, then, the words suggest to us, first, what a Christian life may be.

There are two images blended together in the great words of my text; the one is that of a king’s court, the other is that of a temple. With regard to the former it is a privilege given to the highest nobles of a kingdom-or it was so in old days-to have the right of entrée, at all moments and in all circumstances, to the monarch. With regard to the latter, the prerogative of the high priest, who was the recipient of this promise, as to access to the Temple, was a very restricted one. Once a year, with the blood that prevented his annihilation by the brightness of the Presence into which he ventured, he passed within the veil, and stood before that mysterious Light that coruscated in the darkness of the Holy of Holies. But this High Priest is promised an access on all days and at all times; and that He may stand there, beside and like the seraphim, who with one pair of wings veiled their faces in token of the incapacity of the creature to behold the Creator; ‘with twain veiled their feet’ in token of the unworthiness of creatural activities to be set before Him, ‘and with twain did fly’ in token of their willingness to serve Him with all their energies. This Priest passes within the veil when He will. Or, to put away the two metaphors, and to come to the reality far greater than either of them, we can, whensoever we please, pass into the presence before which the splendours of an earthly monarch’s court shrink into vulgarity, and attain to a real reception of the light that irradiates the true Holy Place, before which that which shone in the earthly shrine dwindles and darkens into a shadow. We may live with God, and in Him, and wrap a veil and ‘privacy of glorious light’ about us, whilst we pilgrim upon earth, and may have hidden lives which, notwithstanding all their surface occupation with the distractions and duties and enjoyments of the present, deep down in their centres are knit to God. Our lives may on the outside thus be largely amongst the things seen and temporal, and yet all the while may penetrate through these, and lay hold with their true roots on the eternal. If we have any religious life at all, the measure in which we possess it is the measure in which we may ever more dwell in the house of the Lord, and have our hearts in the secret place of the Most High, amid the stillnesses and the sanctities of His immediate dwelling.

Our Master is the great Example of this, of whom it is said, not only in reference to His mysterious and unique union of nature with the Father in His divinity, but in reference to the humanity which He had in common with us all, yet without sin, that the Son of Man came down from heaven, and even in the act of coming, and when He had come, was yet the Son of Man ‘which is in heaven.’ Thus we, too, may have ‘a place of access among them that stand by,’ and not need to envy the angels and the spirits of the just made perfect, the closeness of their communion, and the vividness of their vision, for the same, in its degree, may be ours. We, too, can turn all our desires into petitions, and of every wish make a prayer. We, too can refer all our needs to His infinite supply. We, too may consciously connect all our doings with His will and His glory; and for us it is possible that there shall be, as if borne on those electric wires that go striding across pathless deserts, and carry their messages through unpeopled solitudes, between Him and us a communication unbroken and continuous, which, by a greater wonder than even that of the telegraph, shall carry two messages, going opposite ways simultaneously, bearing to Him the swift aspirations and supplications of our spirits, and bringing to us the abundant answer of His grace. Such a conversation in heaven, and such association with the bands of the blessed is possible even for a life upon earth.

Secondly, let us consider this promise as a pattern for us of what Christian life should be, and, alas! so seldom is.

All privilege is duty, and everything that is possible for any Christian man to become, it is imperative on him to aim at. There is no greater sin than living beneath the possibilities of our lives, in any region, whether religious or other it matters not. Sin is not only going contrary to the known law of God, but also a falling beneath a divine ideal which is capable of realisation. And in regard to our Christian life, if God has flung open His temple-gates and said to us, ‘Come in, My child, and dwell in the secret place of the Most High, and abide there under the shadow of the Almighty, finding protection and communion and companionship in My worship,’ there can be nothing more insulting to Him, and nothing more fatally indicative of the alienation of our hearts from Him, than that we should refuse to obey the merciful invitation.

What should we say of a subject who never presented himself in the court to which he had the right of free entr饿 His absence would be a mark of disloyalty, and would be taken as a warning-bell in preparation for his rebellion. What should we say of a son or a daughter, living in the same city with their parents, who never crossed the threshold of the father’s house, but that they had lost the spirit of a child, and that if there was no desire to be near there could be no love?

So, if we will ask ourselves, ‘How often do I use this possibility of communion with God, which might irradiate all my daily life?’ I think we shall need little else, in the nature of evidence, that our piety and our religious experience are terribly stunted and dwarfed, in comparison with what they ought to be.

There is an old saying, ‘He that can tell how often he has thought of God in a day has thought of Him too seldom.’ I dare say many of us would have little difficulty in counting on the fingers of one hand, and perhaps not needing them all, the number of times in which, to-day, our thoughts have gone heavenwards. What we may be is what we ought to be, and not to use the prerogatives of our position is the worst of sins.

Again, my text suggests to us what every Christian life will hereafter perfectly be.

Some commentators take the words of my text to refer only to the communion of saints from the earth, with the glorified angels, in and after the Resurrection. That is a poor interpretation, for heaven is here to-day. But still there is a truth in the interpretation which we need not neglect. Only let us remember that nothing-so far as Scripture teaches us-begins yonder except the full reaping of the fruits of what has been sown here, and that if a man’s feet have not learned the path into the Temple when he was here upon earth, death will not be the guide for him into the Father’s presence. All that here has been imperfect, fragmentary, occasional, interrupted, and marred in our communion with God, shall one day be complete. And then, oh! then, who can tell what undreamed-of depths and sweetnesses of renewed communion and of intercourses begun, for the first time then, between ‘those that stand by,’ and have stood there for ages, will then be realised?

‘Ye are come’-even here on earth-’to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and Church of the first-born,’ but for us all there may be the quiet hope that hereafter we shall ‘dwell in the house of the Lord for ever’; and ‘in solemn troops and sweet societies’ shall learn what fellowship, and brotherhood, and human love may be.

Lastly, notice, not from my text but from its context, how any life may become thus privileged.

The promise is preceded by a condition: ‘If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then . . . I will give thee access among those that stand by.’ That is to say, you cannot keep the consciousness of God’s presence, nor have any blessedness of communion with Him, if you are living in disobedience of His commandments or in neglect of manifest duty. A thin film of vapour in our sky tonight will hide the moon. Though the vapour itself may be invisible, it will be efficacious as a veil. And any sin, great or small, fleecy and thin, will suffice to shut me out from God. If we are keeping His commandments, then, and only then, shall we have access with free hearts into His presence.

But to lay down that condition seems the same thing as slamming the door in every man’s face. But let us remember what went before my text, the experience of the priest to whom it was spoken in the vision. His filthy garments were stripped off him, and the pure white robes worn on the great Day of Atonement, the sacerdotal dress, were put upon him. It is the cleansed man that has access among ‘those that stand by.’ And if you ask how the cleansing is to be effected, take the great words of the Epistle to the Hebrews as an all-sufficient answer, coinciding with, but transcending, what this vision taught Zechariah: ‘Having, therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest of all, by the blood of Jesus, . . . and having a High Priest over the house of God; let us draw near with a true heart, in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience.’ Cleansed by Christ, and with Him for our Forerunner, we have boldness and ‘access with confidence by the faith of Him,’ who proclaims to the whole world, ‘No man cometh to the Father but by Me.’3:6-10 All whom God calls to any office he finds fit, or makes so. The Lord will cause the sins of the believer to pass away by his sanctifying grace, and will enable him to walk in newness of life. As the promises made to David often pass into promises of the Messiah, so the promises to Joshua look forward to Christ, of whose priesthood Joshua's was a shadow. Whatever trials we pass through, whatever services we perform, our whole dependence must rest on Christ, the Branch of righteousness. He is God's servant, employed in his work, obedient to his will, devoted to his honour and glory. He is the Branch from which all our fruit must be gathered. The eye of his Father was upon him, especially in his sufferings, and when he was buried in the grave, as the foundation-stones are under ground, out of men's sight. But the prophecy rather denotes the attention paid to this precious Corner-stone. All believers, from the beginning, had looked forward to it in the types and predictions. All believers, after Christ's coming, would look to it with faith, hope, and love. Christ shall appear for all his chosen, as the high priest when before the Lord, with the names of all Israel graven in the precious stones of his breastplate. When God gave a remnant to Christ, to be brought through grace to glory, then he engraved this precious stone. By him sin shall be taken away, both the guilt and the dominion of it; he did it in one day, that day in which he suffered and died. What should terrify when sin is taken away? Then nothing can hurt, and we sit down under Christ's shadow with delight, and are sheltered by it. And gospel grace, coming with power, makes men forward to draw others to it.If thou wilt walk in My ways and if thou wilt keep My charge - Both of these are expressions, dating from the Pentateuch, for holding on in the way of life, well-pleasing to God and keeping the charge given by God. It was the injunction of the dying David to Solomon, "Keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in His ways, to keep His statutes ..." 1 Kings 2:3.

Then shalt thou also judge My house - Judgment, in the place of God, was part of the high priest's office Deuteronomy 17:9-13; Deuteronomy 19:17; Malachi 2:7. Yet these judgments also were given in the house of God. The cause was directed to be brought to God, and He through His priests judged it. Both then may be comprehended in the world, the oversight of the people itself and the judgment of all causes brought to it. Jonathan: "Thou shalt judge those who minister in the house of My sanctuary."

And I will give thee place to walk among those who stand by - that is, among the ministering spirits, who were "standing before the Angel of the Lord" Zechariah 3:4. This can be fully only after death, when the saints shall be received among the several choirs of angels. Jonathan: "In the resurrection of the dead I will revive thee and give thee feet walking among these Seraphim." Even in this this since "our conversation is in heaven" Philippians 3:20, and the life of priests should be an angel-life, it may mean, that he should have free access to God, his soul in heaven, while his body was on this earth.

7. God's choice of Jerusalem (Zec 3:2) was unto its sanctification (Joh 15:16; Ro 8:29); hence the charge here which connects the promised blessing with obedience.

my charge—the ordinances, ritual and moral (Nu 3:28, 31, 32, 38; Jos 1:7-9; 1Ki 2:3; Eze 44:16).

judge my house—Thou shalt long preside over the temple ceremonial as high priest (Le 10:10; Eze 44:23; Mal 2:7) [Grotius]. Or, rule over My house, that is, My people [Maurer] (Nu 12:7; Ho 8:1). We know from De 17:9 that the priest judged cases. He was not only to obey the Mosaic institute himself, but to see that it was obeyed by others. God's people are similarly to exercise judgment hereafter, as the reward of their present faithfulness (Da 7:18, 22; Lu 19:17; 1Co 6:2); by virtue of their royal priesthood (Re 1:6).

keep my courts—guard My house from profanation.

places to walk—free ingress and egress (1Sa 18:16; 1Ki 3:7; 15:17), so that thou mayest go through these ministering angels who stand by Jehovah (Zec 4:14; 6:5; 1Ki 22:19) into His presence, discharging thy priestly function. In Eze 42:4 the same Hebrew word is used of a walk before the priests' chambers in the future temple. Zechariah probably refers here to such a walk or way; Thou shalt not merely walk among priests like thyself, as in the old temple walks, but among the very angels as thine associates. Hengstenberg translates, "I will give thee guides (from) among these," &c. But there is no "from" in the Hebrew; English Version is therefore better. Priests are called angels or "messengers" (Mal 2:7); they are therefore thought worthy to be associated with heavenly angels. So these latter are present at the assemblies of true Christian worshippers (1Co 11:10; compare Ec 5:6; Eph 3:10; Re 22:9).

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; the Father, whose will Christ reveals to us.

If thou Joshua, wilt walk in my ways; obey the precepts and holy commands of the law.

Wilt keep my charge; the special charge and office of the high priest.

Thou shalt also judge my house: be chief and ruler in the temple, and in the things that pertain to the worship of God there.

And shalt also keep my courts; not as a door-keeper or servant, but as the chief, on whom others may wait and give attendance; and at last shalt have place among glorious angels, Hebrews 12:22.

Thus saith the Lord of hosts; the Father, whose will Christ reveals to us.

If thou Joshua, wilt walk in my ways; obey the precepts and holy commands of the law.

Wilt keep my charge; the special charge and office of the high priest.

Thou shalt also judge my house: be chief and ruler in the temple, and in the things that pertain to the worship of God there.

And shalt also keep my courts; not as a door-keeper or servant, but as the chief, on whom others may wait and give attendance; and at last shalt have place among glorious angels, Hebrews 12:22. Thus saith the Lord of hosts,.... For this Angel was no other than the Lord of armies in heaven and in earth:

If thou wilt walk in my ways; prescribed in the word of God, moral, ceremonial, and evangelical; in Christ the grand way, and indeed the only way of salvation; and in the paths of faith, truth, righteousness, and holiness; in the ways of God's commandments, which are pleasant, and attended with peace; such a walk and conversation, and such obedience, the grace of God teaches, and obliges to:

and if thou wilt keep my charge; the things he gave in charge, all his commands and ordinances, particularly such as belonged to the priestly office and Levitical service; see Numbers 3:7 all which might be expected after so many favours granted:

then thou shall also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts: preside in the temple, be governor in it, and have the care of all the courts belonging to the people and the priests, and the advantages arising from thence. The meaning is, that whereas the office of the priesthood was in disuse through the captivity, and was become contemptible through the sins of the priests, it should now be restored to its former honour and glory: to have a place in the house of God, the church, is a great honour, and still more to be a governor and ruler in it:

and I will give thee places to walk among those that stand by; either among fellow priests, or fellow saints; or rather among the angels that stood before the Angel of the Lord, and ministered to him; signifying that he should enjoy their company, be like unto then, and join in service with them in heaven, in a future state: and "walking places" among them denote the pleasures of the heavenly state, as well, as the safety and glory of it; see Isaiah 57:2. The Targum very agreeably paraphrases the words thus,

"and in the resurrection or quickening of the dead, I will raise or quicken thee; and I will give thee feet walking among these seraphim.''

The allusion is to those walks that were in the temple, such as Christ walked in, John 10:23 and the pavement in Ezekiel's temple, Ezekiel 40:17.

Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also {h} judge my house, and shalt also keep my {i} courts, and I will give thee places to walk among {k} these that stand by.

(h) That is, have rule and government in my Church, as your predecessors have had.

(i) By which he means to have the whole charge and ministry of the Church.

(k) That is, the angels, who represented the whole number of the faithful: signifying that all the godly would willingly receive him.

EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
7. judge my house] This may mean “my people,” Numbers 12:7; Hosea 8:1; the Jewish Church being spoken of, like the Christian, as the house of God, 1 Timothy 3:15. “Judgment, in the place of God, was part of the High Priest’s office.” (Pusey.) See Deuteronomy 17:8-13. But it may be used in its more obvious and restricted sense (comp. “my courts,” in the parallel clause) of the Temple with its priests and ministers.

places to walk] a place of access, R. V. text; meaning presumably of access to God. Thou shalt be admitted to the immediate presence and throne of God. There is no need, however, to depart from the rendering of A. V. and R. V. margin. Comp. Ezekiel 42:4 for the word, and see next note.

among these that stand by] i.e. among the angels, who were still standing round the Angel of Jehovah, in attendance upon Him as He spoke, Zechariah 3:4. The courts and chambers of the material house, so the promise runs, shall be places where angels ever come and go. The obedient priest shall realise in his ministry their presence and their fellowship. The material and the sensible shall fade away as it were from his sight, lost in the higher glory of the spiritual and the heavenly. The promise directly refers to the ministry of Joshua and his fellows and successors on earth; even if it includes a pledge of a higher ministry after death: “In the resurrection of the dead I will raise thee to life, and give thee feet walking among these Seraphim.” Targum. To one priest, we know, who walked in the ways and kept the charge of the Lord (Luke 1:6), the promise was literally fulfilled by the appearance of an angel to him in the Temple (Luke 3:11); and the readiness with which the people surmised what had happened (Luke 3:22) might seem to shew that his was not an altogether singular and unheard of experience.Verse 7. - Walk in my ways. God's ways are his commandments, as the next words explain (comp. 1 Kings 3:14). Keep my charge. The Vulgate retains the Hebraism, Custodiam meam custodieris (comp. Genesis 26:5; Malachi 3:14). The charge means the laws and ordinances of the Mosaic institution. Then. The apodosis rightly begins here, though Kimchi and others make it commence at "I will give thee," taking the following two clauses as denoting parts of his duties, the observance of which conditioned his acceptance. Thou shalt also judge my house. The mention of "my courts" in the following clause requires that "house" here should mean, not people or family, but, in a more restricted sense, the temple, looked upon as the spiritual centre of the nation. If the high priest kept the ordinances and commandments, he should rule and order Divine worship, and "judge," i.e. govern, the ministers of the sanctuary. Keep my courts. He was to preserve the temple, and that which the temple represented, from all idolatry and ungodliness. This duty, as Hengstenberg observes, is introduced as a reward, because it was an honour and a privilege to be entrusted with such an office, and the greatest favour which God could confer upon man. Places to walk. The LXX. takes the word as a participle, translating, ἀναστερεφομένους, "persons walking;" so the Syriac; Vulgate, ambulantes. This is explained to mean that God will give him out of the band of angels (ver. 4), some to accompany and aid him in his ministrationS. But the word is best taken as a noun meaning "walks," "goings." The Revised Version gives, "a place of access" in the text, restoring the Authorized Version in the margin; but there seems to be no good reason for the Revised rendering. The translation, "goings," "walks," gives much the same signification, and is consonant with the use of the word elsewhere (comp. Nehemiah 2:6; Ezekiel 42:4; Jonah 3:9, 4). It means that Joshua should have free access to God. The gloss of the Targum, that it is here intimated that the high priest should be admitted to the company of the angels after the resurrection, is unsuitable, as the other parts of the promise have respect to this present world. Among these that stand by; i.e. among the attendant angels who wait upon God to do his will, and a company of whom were gathered round the Angel of Jehovah in the vision (see ver. 4). It is natural piety to believe that the hosts of heaven join in the worship of the Church on earth, and assist godly ministers with their presence and fellowship. Here is adumbrated that access to God which the Christian enjoys in Christ (John 14:6; Ephesians 2:18). This is more fully revealed in the next verse. "Jehovah, I have heard Thy tidings, am alarmed. Jehovah, Thy work, in the midst of the years call it to life, in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy." שׁמעך is the tidings (ἀκοή) of God; what the prophet has heard of God, i.e., the tidings of the judgment which God is about to inflict upon Judah through the Chaldaeans, and after that upon the Chaldaeans themselves. The prophet is alarmed at this. The word יראתי (I am alarmed) does not compel us to take what is heard as referring merely to the judgment to be inflicted upon Judah by the Chaldaeans. Even in the overthrow of the mighty Chaldaean, or of the empire of the world, the omnipotence of Jehovah is displayed in so terrible a manner, that this judgment not only inspires with joy at the destruction of the foe, but fills with alarm at the omnipotence of the Judge of the world. The prayer which follows, "Call Thy work to life," also refers to this twofold judgment which God revealed to the prophet in ch. 1 and 2. פּעלך, placed absolutely at the head for the sake of emphasis, points back to the work (pō‛al) which God was about to do (Habakkuk 1:5); but this work of God is not limited to the raising up of the Chaldaean nation, but includes the judgment which will fall upon the Chaldaean after he has offended (Habakkuk 1:11). This assumption is not at variance even with חיּיהוּ. For the opinion that חיּה never means to call a non-existent thing to life, but always signifies either to give life to an inorganic object (Job 33:4), or to keep a living thing alive, or (and this most frequently) to restore a dead thing to life, and that here the word must be taken in the sense of restoring to life, because in the description which follows Habakkuk looks back to Psalm 77 and the pō‛al depicted there, viz., the deliverance out of Egyptian bondage, is not correct. חיּה does not merely mean to restore to life and keep alive, but also to give life and call to life. In Job 33:4, where תּחיּני is parallel to עשׂתני, the reference is not to the impartation of life to an inorganic object, but to the giving of life in the sense of creating; and so also in Genesis 7:3 and Genesis 19:32, חיּה זרע means to call seed to life, or raise it up, i.e., to call a non-existent thing to life. Moreover, the resemblances in the theophany depicted in what follows to Psalm 77 do not require the assumption that Habakkuk is praying for the renewal of the former acts of God for the redemption of His people, but may be fully explained on the ground that the saving acts of God on behalf of His people are essentially the same in all ages, and that the prophets generally were accustomed to describe the divine revelations of the future under the form of imagery drawn from the acts of God in the past. There is special emphasis in the use of בּקרב שׁנים twice, and the fact that in both instances it stands at the head. It has been interpreted in very different ways; but there is an evident allusion to the divine answer in Habakkuk 2:3, that the oracle is for an appointed time, etc. "In the midst of the years," or within years, cannot of course mean by itself "within a certain number, or a small number, of years," or "within a brief space of time" (Ges., Ros., and Maurer); nevertheless this explanation is founded upon a correct idea of the meaning. When the prophet directs his eye to the still remote object of the oracle (ch. 2), the fulfilment of which was to be delayed, but yet assuredly to come at last (Habakkuk 2:3), the interval between the present time and the mō‛ēd appointed by God (Habakkuk 2:3) appears to him as a long series of years, at the end only of which the judgment is to come upon the oppressors of His people, namely the Chaldaeans. He therefore prays that the Lord will not delay too long the work which He designs to do, or cause it to come to life only at the end of the appointed interval, but will bring it to life within years, i.e., within the years, which would pass by if the fulfilment were delayed, before that mō‛ēd arrived.

Grammatically considered, qerebh shânı̄m cannot be the centre of the years of the world, the boundary-line between the Old and New Testament aeons, as Bengel supposes, who takes it at the same time, according to this explanation, as the starting-point for a chronological calculation of the whole course of the world. Moreover, it may also be justly argued, in opposition to this view and application of the words, that it cannot be presupposed that the prophets had so clear a consciousness as this, embracing all history by its calculus; and still less can be expect to find in a lyrical ode, which is the outpouring of the heart of the congregation, a revelation of what God Himself had not revealed to him according to Habakkuk 2:3. Nevertheless the view which lies at the foundation of this application of our passage, viz., that the work of God, for the manifestation of which the prophet is praying, falls in the centre of the years of the world, has this deep truth, that it exhibits the overthrow not only of the imperial power of Chaldaea, but that of the world-power generally, and the deliverance of the nation from its power, and forms the turning-point, with which the old aeon closes and the new epoch of the world commences, with the completion of which the whole of the earthly development of the universe will reach its close. The repetition of בּקרב שׁנים is expressive of the earnest longing with which the congregation of the Lord looks for the tribulation to end. The object to תּודיע, which is to be taken in an optative sense, answering to the imperative in the parallel clause, may easily be supplied from the previous clause. To the prayer for the shortening of the period of suffering there is appended, without the copula Vav, the further prayer, in wrath to remember mercy. The wrath (rōgez, like râgaz in Isaiah 28:21 and Proverbs 29:9) in which God is to remember mercy, namely for His people Israel, can only be wrath over Israel, not merely the wrath manifested in the chastisement of Judah through the Chaldaeans, but also the wrath displayed in the overthrow of the Chaldaeans. In the former case God would show mercy by softening the cruelty of the Chaldaeans; in the latter, by accelerating their overthrow, and putting a speedy end to their tyranny. This prayer is followed in Habakkuk 3:3-15 by a description of the work of God which is to be called to life, in which the prophet expresses confidence that his petition will be granted.

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