Hear now, O high priest Joshua, you and your companions seated before you, who are indeed a sign. For behold, I am going to bring My servant, the Branch.
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.
They are men wondered at
1. Ministers of the Gospel are often a wonder both to themselves and others. It is wonderful that God should condescend to employ weak and sinful creatures in so sacred a work as publishing articles of peace between heaven and earth. Infinite wisdom saw fit to lodge this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power might be of God, and not of us. Considering likewise the mean opinion which good men entertain of themselves, the treatment they are likely to meet with, the difficulties and trials to which they will necessarily be exposed, it is not a little remarkable that they should be induced to engage in the work of the ministry. Yet it is wonderful how such are carried through their work, and enabled to persevere, notwithstanding all the discouragements they meet with, from within and from without. The success that at any time attends the ministry may very properly be regarded as matter of astonishment.
2. The same sort of singularity attaches to all real Christians who walk in newness of life, and exemplify the genuine spirit of the Gospel.(1) They are a wonder unto angels. They are struck with amazement at the love of God, manifested to such sinful and unworthy creatures.(2) They are a wonder unto devils, who cannot but be surprised to see the spiritual temple, which is to endure throughout eternal ages, rising out of the ruins of the Fall. The fallen spirits wonder to see all their plots frustrated and their evil designs overruled for the Divine glory.(3) Real Christians are a wonder to themselves. What reason can be rendered for such distinguishing grace and love? The conversion and salvation of a sinner is a more surprising work than the creation of a World.(4) They are a wonder to one another.(5) They are a wonder to the world. Nor is it strange that it should be so, since they are followers of Him whose kingdom is not of this world.
3. There is something in the very nature of religion that is mysterious and strange.(1) The manner in which grace is implanted in the soul is so. The work of the Spirit upon the heart is one of the deep things of God.(2) The way in which grace operates is equally wonderful. The Christian's life is a hidden one.(3) The fruits which grace produces in the life of a true believer are not less remarkable. Those who walk by sight cannot understand how others walk by faith. How then can the Christian be ashamed of his high calling, even though it should make him a gazing stock to angels and to men? Thou art now a wonder to the world, believer, but what a wonder wilt thou be in that solemn and decisive day, when Christ will come "to be glorified in His saints and admired in all them that believe."
(B. Beddome, M. A.)
My servant the Branch
Homilist.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 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, and in the Gospel it is provided. "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 foundation stone 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 lip-hire 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 symbolised 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.
2. God has a settled interest in Christ and His followers. The eyes are said to be engraven on the stone, not written in mere ink.
III. The world wants MORAL PURIFICATION. In the Gospel it is provided. The iniquity of 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. "Christ came to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself."
IV. The world wants SPIRITUAL REPOSE. In the Gospel that is provided. Mr. Henry says, "When iniquity is taken away —
1. We reap precious benefits and privileges from our justification; and
2. We repose in a sweet tranquillity, and are quiet from the fear of evil."
For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua
1. Behold the stone which I have laid before Joshua, "He that built all things is God." He built the temple of nature. More august and glorious far is the temple spoken of here. Its foundation stone was laid by God Himself in Zion. He laid it when the great Antitype Himself came, and gave His life a ransom for many. He laid it anew, in the Zion above, when Christ was exalted on His mediatorial and priestly throne, a name given Him that is above every name. He shall finally consecrate and glorify it as the "headstone of the corner," on the great day, in presence of the Church triumphant.
2. "Upon one stone shall be seven eyes." Observe, it is "one stone." One Mediator. "' By one offering He hath perfected forever them that are sanctified." See that one stone laid by the Divine Builder! The sun needs no glittering taper to add to its light; the ocean needs no tiny drop to add to its volume. Let the giant deed of Christ's doing and dying stand forth in all its peerless, solitary grandeur. What mean the seven eyes? Seven was a sacred number with the Jews, probably from being first associated with the seven days of Creation. It would seem to denote —(1) Christ's fulness or perfection. How applicable to Him "in whom dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily." "Out of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace."(2) The "seven eyes" point to Christ's providential government of the Church and the world. What a blessed truth is this universal, constant sovereignty of Jesus! The roll in which art inscribed the world's destinies is in His hands. More comforting still is it to think of Christ's individual providence, the care He takes of each separate member of His Church. This stone, with its seven eyes, has an eye for each. But the words "seven eyes" may admit of the rendering "seven fountains." The "eye," among Orientals, is often the metaphor for the wellspring. The Arabs call the fountain to this day, the "eye of the desert." Render then, "Upon one stone shall be seven fountains." This one stone, the Rock of Ages, was smitten by the rod of justice, and lo! seven fountain-streams flow from its cleft side. Fountains of pardon, righteousness, peace, sanctification, comfort, grace here, life and glory hereafter. All the fountains from one source.
3. "I will engrave the engraving thereof." Carvings on stone were frequent in ancient times. In Nineveh, Babylon, Egypt, it was the old method of inscribing a nation's annals. These "stone libraries" are dug up fresh as they were chiselled and entombed many thousand years ago. Once engraven on the heart of love, you are on His heart forever. An alternative rendering of this metaphor is, "I will open the openings thereof." "I," says God, "will unlock the fountains in that sealed stone, that the waters of salvation may gush forth." He opens the fountains every time His glorious Gospel is proclaimed.
4. "And I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day." This doubtless points onwards to the day of days. In the Mosaic and ceremonial dispensation of the Jews, iniquity was typically removed. But all was a shadow, till the true Anti typical Surety and Scapegoat Himself came to remove iniquity "in one day," by having the sins of His people laid on His guiltless head. It was a momentous "one day," the day waited for by all time. The stone was smitten, the fountain was unsealed.
(J. R. Macduff, D. D.)
I. THE DESCRIPTION OF THIS ''STONE." Joshua may be the representative of the whole priesthood, or of the Church at large. We take the latter idea. Therefore the stone is laid before Joshua, — or the Church of God.
1. The stone. By which I understand Christ. A precious stone. Precious to the Father, to angels, to the fully redeemed, and to us. A precious stone, because God has chosen it as the foundation of His Church. It is a cornerstone. He is a foundation stone. He is a tried stone.
2. The situation of the stone. It is not a stone of human production. It was laid in God's everlasting love. In the Old Testament rites and types and shadows. In prophecy. It is to be laid before the Church even now.
3. The Builder. It is the "stone that I have laid." God in Trinity is the builder. The Father is the builder of the Church designedly. The Son is the builder of the Church really. The Spirit is the builder of the Church efficiently.
II. THE EYES FIXED UPON THIS "STORE." "Seven eyes." Some refer this to the operations of the Spirit of God. Prefer to take it as the eyes of all, friend and foe, that are placed upon our Lord Jesus Christ.
1. The eye of the Father is upon this stone: in eternal council, when the everlasting stipulations for the salvation of the Church were entered into.
2. The eye of the Spirit was upon Him. The Spirit of God taketh the things of Christ and revealeth them unto the soul.
3. The eyes of angels are fixed on Christ.
4. The eyes of all the saints in heaven are fixed on Christ.
5. So are the eyes of the Church on earth.
6. And the eyes of the wicked, on earth and in hell.
III. THE ENGRAVING OF THIS STONE. The names of the Lord's people are said to be written on stones, or in books. Our names are written on the palms of Christ's hands, denoting our security. Upon His shoulders, to denote the support that we receive from Him. On His heart, explanatory of His love.
IV. THE REMOVAL OF THE CHURCH'S SIN. By God the Father, through the Mediator. God has imputed all our sins to Jesus Christ, and removed them in one day.
(T. Bagnall-Baker, M. A.)
1. Christ the Mediator is not only a part of the spiritual building, making up one Christ mystical with all His members, and the eminent and most excellent part of it, but the very foundation of His Church's being, upon whom all the Church and every particular member thereof is and must be built, and without whom they cannot subsist; for, He is "the stone laid before Joshua."
2. As Christ in His office of mediation is a means of the Father's appointment, by Him to derive happiness to the Church, and establish her in it; so whoever despise and reject Him, yet the Father will have Him high and eminent in that building.
3. As Christ hath all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge employed for seeing to the condition, and finding out the way of happiness for His people, in every case and exigency, signified by seven eyes (which is a number of perfection) engraven on that one stone: and as the vigilant providence of God is always intent upon Christ as Mediator, and for His sake upon the welfare of His Church and kingdom as being His chief delight, signified also by seven (or many) eyes fixed over that one stone, so also is Christ, as Mediator, God-man, revealing the Father in Himself, and as the support and upholder of His Church, so glorious and excellent as may draw all to admire Him, and to fix their expectation on Him, as the only choice and refuge of lost sinners, and will do so to all the elect, which is also signified by seven eyes fixed on that one stone, admiring Him, and having all their expectation from Him.
4. The beauty, excellency, and furniture of Christ the Mediator, is Divine and rare, and He is the ornament, glory and storehouse of all the spiritual building, being, as God, the brightness of the Father's glory, and the express image of His person (Hebrews 1:3). His humanity also being adorned with the gifts of the Spirit without measure, and with all Divine perfections in so far as the human nature is capable; withal His sufferings for His people (as so many curious engravings) speak not a little His beauty to those who have interest therein. This is signified by our Lord's engraving the graving of this stone, polishing it as a precious jewel, and adorning it by His art. Two benefits are promised to flow from Christ the Priest to His people; the first whereof is, remission and purging away of sins by the sacrifice upon the Cross, once for all, which needs not to be repeated as the Jewish sacrifices were. This is promised to the whole elect and mystical body of Christ, figured by the Jews and their promised land, beside what peculiar relation it may have to them and their land, that their sins, being taken away by Christ, should not hinder Him to favour them, nor the land for their sake; but should be looked on in due time, not as polluted, nor possessed and overrun by enemies.(1) Remission and removal of sins is the choice mercy of Christ's people, and the rise of other mercies. "I will remove iniquity," is the fruit of Christ's coming to the world, and of His glory as Mediator.(2) Sin is pardoned and removed only by the virtue and merit of Christ's one sacrifice, only once offered, and not to be repeated on any pretext whatever; for, iniquity is removed "in one day."(3) Christ's own peculiar and fiven people of the Father, are they upon whom the privilege of pardon and sanctification is conferred, and on whose behalf Christ offered up Himself to procure these procure these benefits, for it is the iniquity of that land (a type of the elect Church) that is removed.
Behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts
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