As the promises made to David often slide insensibly into promises of the Messiah, whose kingdom David’s was a type of, so the promises here made to Joshua immediately rise as far upward, and look as far forward, as to Christ, whose priesthood Joshua’s was now a shadow of, not only in general, as it kept up the line of Aaron’s priesthood, but especially as it was the reviving of that happy method of correspondence between heaven and earth, to which a great interruption had been given by the iniquity and captivity of Israel. Christ is a high priest, as Joshua was, for sinners and sufferers, to mediate for those that have been under guilt and wrath. And it was fit that Joshua should understand the priesthood of Christ, because all the virtue of his priesthood, its value and usefulness to the church, depended upon and was derived from the priesthood of Christ. See,
I. To whom this promise of Christ is directed (Zech. 3:8): “Hear now, O Joshua! Thou hast heard with pleasure what belongs to thyself; but, behold, a greater than Joshua is at hand. Hear now concerning him, thou and the rest of the priests, thy fellows, who sit before thee, at thy feet, as learners, but whom thou art to look upon as thy fellows, for all you are brethren; let the high priest, and all the inferior priests, take notice of this, for they are men wondered at.” They are set for signs, for types and figures of Christ’s priesthood. What God now did for Joshua and his fellows was a happy omen of the coming of the Messiah promised, and would be so interpreted, with a pleasing wonder, by all that had understanding of the times. Or they are men wondered at for their singularity, hooted at as strange sort of people, because they run not with others to the same excess of riot (1 Pet. 4:4), or for their strange afflictions and surprising deliverance out of them, as Ps. 71:7; I am as a wonder unto many. They are men of wonder; they are a wonder to themselves, are amazed to think how happily their condition is altered. God’s people and ministers are, upon many accounts, men wondered at. The high priest and his fellows here (as the prophet and his children, Isa. 8:18) are for signs and for wonders. But men’s wonder at them will cease when the Messiah comes, as the stars are eclipsed by the light of the sun; for his name shall be called Wonderful.
II. The promise itself, which consists of several parts, all designed for the comfort and encouragement of Joshua and his friends in that great good work of building the temple, which they were now engaged in. An eye to Christ, and a believing dependence upon the promises relating to him and his kingdom, would carry them through the difficulties they met with in that and their other services. 1. The Messiah shall come: Behold, I will bring forth my servant the branch. He has been long hid, but the fulness of time is now at hand, when he shall be brought forth into the world, brought forth among his people Israel. God himself undertakes to bring him forth, and therefore, no doubt, he will own him and stand by him. He is God’s servant, employed in his work, obedient to his will, and entirely devoted to his honour and glory. He is the branch; so he was called Isa. 4:2; The branch of the Lord. Isa. 11:1; A branch out of the roots of Jesse. Jer. 23:5; A righteous branch; and Jer. 23:15; The branch of righteousness. His beginning was small, as a tender branch, but in time he should become a great tree and fill the earth, Isa. 53:2. He is the branch from which all our fruit must be gathered. 2. Many eyes shall be upon him. He is the stone laid before Joshua, alluding to the foundation or chief corner-stone, of the temple, which probably was laid, with great solemnity, in the presence of Joshua. Christ is not only the branch, which is the beginning of a tree, but the foundation, which is the beginning of a building; and, when he shall be brought forth, seven eyes shall be upon him. The eye of his Father was upon him, to take care of him, and protect him, especially in his sufferings; when he was buried in the grave, as the foundation-stones are under ground, the eyes of Heaven were still upon him, buried out of men’s sight, but not out of God’s. The eyes of all the prophets and Old-Testament saints were upon this one stone; Abraham rejoiced to see Christ’s day, and he saw it and was glad. The eyes of all believers are upon him; they look unto him and are saved, as the eyes of the stung Israelites were upon the brazen serpent. Some understand this one stone to have the seven eyes in it as the wheels had in Ezekiel’s vision, and think it denotes that perfection of wisdom and knowledge which Jesus Christ was endued with, for the good of his church. His eyes run to and fro through the earth. 3. God himself will beautify him, and put honour upon him: I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the Lord of hosts. This stone the builders refused, as rough and unsightly; but God undertakes to smooth and polish it, nay, and to carve it so that it shall be the head stone of the corner, the most beautiful in all the building. Christ was God’s workmanship; and abundance of his wisdom appears in the contrivance of our redemption, which will appear when the engraving is perfected. This stone is a precious stone, though laid for a foundation; and the graving of it seems to allude to the precious stones in the breast-plate of the high priest, which had the names of the tribes graven upon them, as the engraving of a signet, Exod. 28:21, 22. In that breast-plate there were twelve stones laid before Aaron, and for aught that appears those were lost; but there shall be one worth them all laid before Joshua, and that is Christ himself. This precious stone shall sparkle as if it had seven eyes; there shall appear a perfection of wisdom and prudence in the oracles that proceed from the breast-plate of judgment. And God will engrave the engraving thereof; he will entrust Christ with all his elect, and he shall appear as their representative, and agent for them, as the high priest did when he went in before the Lord with the names of all Israel engraven in the precious stones of his breast-plate. When God gave a remnant to Christ, to be brought through grace to glory, then he engraved the graving of this precious stone. 4. By him sin shall be taken away, both the guilt and the dominion of it: I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. When the high priest had the names of Israel engraven on the precious stones he was adorned with he is said to bear the iniquity of the holy things (Exod. 28:38); but the law made nothing perfect, Heb. 10:1. He bore the iniquity o ef5 f the land, as a type of Christ; but he could not remove it; the doing of that was reserved for Christ, that blessed Lamb of God, that takes away the sin of the world; and he did it in one day, that day in which he suffered and died; that was done by the sacrifice offered that day which could not be done by the sacrifices of ages before, no, not by all the days of atonement which from Moses to Christ returned every year. This agrees with the angel’s prediction (Dan. 9:24): He shall finish transgression and make an end of sin. And some make the engravings wherewith God engraved him to signify the wounds and stripes which were given to his blessed body, which he underwent for our transgression, for our iniquity, and by which we are healed. 5. The effect of all this shall be the sweet enjoyment which all believers shall have of themselves, and the sweet communion they shall have with one another (Zech. 3:10): In that day you shall call every man his neighbour under the vine and the fig-tree, which yield most pleasant fruit, and whose leaves also afford a refreshing shade for arbours. When iniquity is taken away, (1.) We reap precious benefits and privileges from our justification, more precious than the products of the vine or the fig-tree, Rom. 5:1. (2.) We repose in a sweet tranquillity 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 Kgs. 4:24, 25); for he is the prince of peace. (3.) We ought to invite others to come to partake with us in the enjoyment of these privileges, to call every man his neighbour to come and sit with him, for mutual converse, under the vine and fig-tree, and to share with him in the fruits he is surrounded with. Gospel-grace, as far as it comes with power, makes men neighbourly; and those that have the comfort of acquaintance with Christ themselves, and communion with God through him, will be forward to court others to it. Let us go unto the house of the Lord.