Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Nov 25 2019 - Zechariah 6 – Chariots and a crown

This first part of this chapter contains another vision (vv. 1-8). In it Zechariah sees four chariots. Chariots were familiar to Zechariah and his contemporaries as symbols of military power and of warfare. Zechariah is told that, "These are the four spirits [or winds] of heaven, going out from standing in the presence of the Lord of the whole world… they were straining to go throughout the earth. And he said, ‘Go throughout the earth!’ So they went throughout the earth." (vv. 5,7).

Zerubbabel has been given the task of completing the rebuilding of the temple. But he knows that there are many who want to prevent the temple being built and whose interference in the past has brought the building to a halt. He is probably fearful that this may happen again and, in particular, that the Persian Empire to the north may again change its attitude to the rebuilding project. Zechariah is given this vision to reassure Zerubbabel that the Lord God, who has commissioned him to build the temple, is sovereign over all the earth. There is no power in any of the nations around them that is not subject to the living God and is not answerable to him. In particular, the assurance is given, "Look, those going towards the north country have given my Spirit rest in the land of the north" (v. 8). The powerful empires to the north will not be a threat to God's people.

This vision speaks to us of God's purpose to establish his kingdom in this world; to redeem for himself a people from every nation under heaven. He has called us to be his agents in building and extending his kingdom. We may feel inadequate to the task and fearful of opposition, but the Lord assures us that he is sovereign over all the world and that our Lord Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords. We may face all manner of opposition but we may be sure that God's kingdom will come. We need eyes to see the fiery chariots and horses of our God (see 2 Kings 6:17), and to know that "the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world" (1 John 4:4). We need such encouragement to go on building in the assurance that "our labour is not in vain in the Lord."

The second half of the chapter concerns a crown which is to be made for Joshua the high priest. Three exiles recently returned from Babylon have brought with them gifts of silver and gold – presumably from Jews still living in Babylon. This is taken to the house of a man named Josiah and made into a crown which is then placed on the head of Joshua as if he were a king. But it is than taken removed and entrusted again to the exiles who had brought the gold and silver. Joshua is not a king, but in his wearing of the crown is symbolic on one still to come; he symbolises "the Branch".

We came across prophecy concerning the Branch in chapter 3 where Joshua symbolised the Branch in his High Priestly role of removing sin from the people of God. Here he symbolises the Branch in his exalted kingly role:

Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two. (vv. 12-13)

The Branch is the Lord Jesus who removes our sin through his sacrifice of himself. He is both our exalted High Priest in the heavens and also God's anointed King who is extending his kingdom over all the world. These two roles of priest and king were never found in one person within Israel, but are united in Christ. Barry Webb writes, "Jesus' bold claim 'I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it', was in effect an announcement that he was the Branch, the Messiah of whom Zechariah had spoken, and therefore the one whom the whole book of Zechariah is about!"

Father God, we thank you for our Lord Jesus, our priest, our sacrifice, our risen and reigning King and Lord. Help us not to be afraid of the task you have entrusted to us in building your kingdom but to be strong in the strength which your Spirit supplies, knowing that "the one who is in [us] is greater than the one who is in the world."

Peter Misselbrook