Zechariah is shown Joshua, wearing filthy garments, standing before the angel of YHWH. Joshua’s garments are removed, and he is given fresh garments and a clean turban, while the messenger of YHWH stands nearby.
The messenger then said to Joshua: “This is what YHWH of hosts says: ‘If you will walk in my ways, and if you will keep my commission, then you will also judge my house, and you will also have charge of my courtyards, and I will give you free access among these who are standing here.’” 1
Now, this is a remarkable promise, because one of those standing by Joshua is the angel, or messenger, of YHWH!
And YHWH declared future things to Joshua, whose name means “YHWH Is Salvation,” when he said: “Hear please, high priest Joshua, you and your companions who sit before you, for these men are a sign that look! I am bringing forth my servant Sprout. For look at the stone I have put before Joshua: on one stone, seven eyes.
Look! I will engrave the engraving on it, says YHWH of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, says YHWH of hosts, you will call the man who is his neighbor under the vine and under the fig tree.” 2
Now, this is clearly a cryptic passage. YHWH does not here reveal exactly how he would “remove the iniquity of that land in one day,” but it is surely related to YHWH’s servant “Sprout” who is symbolized by the stone with seven eyes. High priest Joshua was not himself this “Sprout,” but was a sign of the one to come. And Isaiah had earlier foretold a “sprout” from the root of Jesse.
A little later, the people are told to make a crown for high priest Joshua, and to put it on his head; and YHWH said: “Look! The man whose name is Sprout. And from his place he will sprout and build the temple of YHWH; and it is he who will build the temple of YHWH, and he will bear the glory. And he sits and rules upon his throne, and he becomes a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace will be between them both.” 3
Joshua the high priest was not himself a king, but the crown was to serve as a reminder of YHWH’s promise, in the Temple. Joshua was the forerunner of a man called “Sprout” who would “sprout” from his own place, build a further Temple, and be both ruler and priest.
Now, if “Sprout” is a priest, what type of offerings does he make? And how exactly could this man “bear the glory”? For YHWH’s glory, his presence, was between the two cherubs, and over the cover of the ark in the first Temple, about which YHWH said to Moses, “I will meet with you there, and speak with you from over the cover, from between the two cherubs which are over the ark of the testimony.” 4
Thus, for this man to “bear the glory” in YHWH’s Temple would make him like the ark of the testimony, and one who is in the presence of cherubs!
Also, the prophecy continues, “and ones from far away will come and build in the temple of YHWH.” 5
Now, it is clear from Ezekiel’s vision of the Temple, given 2,520 years before the house of Israel came once again into the land,6 that YHWH made provision for Israel to build a Temple again once their hearts were ready for it, and once they were ready to acknowledge their sin, just as YHWH said through Ezekiel:
“You, son of man, declare to the house of Israel this House, so they will be ashamed of their iniquities. They will measure its design. And if they are ashamed of all they have done, the form of the House, and its arrangement, and its exits and entrances, and all of its form, and all of its regulations, and all of its form and all of its laws, make it known to them, and write it before their eyes, so they will observe it, all of its form and all of its regulations, and do them.” 7
This is why the design of the House is given in such detail, along with specific laws called “the law of the House,” for YHWH does not speak in vain.
At the same time, YHWH reminds us through Isaiah that he does not really need a Temple, in order to be present with those who worship him:
“The heavens are my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where, then, is this house that you could build for me? And where is this place for my rest? For my hand made all of these, and all of these came to be, says YHWH. But to this one I will look: to the humble one, and the broken in spirit, and the one who trembles at my word.” 8
And through Malachi, YHWH foretold a time when offerings to him would be made throughout the world: “For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my name will be great among the Gentiles, and in every place incense will be offered to my name, and a gift offering. For my name will be great among the Gentiles, says YHWH of hosts.” 9
And then YHWH speaks a word of rebuke to the priests of Israel, by describing the perfect priest:
“My covenant with him became lives10 and peace, and I gave them to him, and fear; and he feared me and showed fearful reverence before the presence of my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found on his lips. He walked with me in peace and in uprightness, and he restored many from sin. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and they should seek law from his mouth, because he is the messenger of YHWH of hosts.” 11
But neither Aaron the first high priest, nor his offspring, two of whom were put to death by YHWH for offering unauthorized fire before him, lived up to this description; and so YHWH goes on to say to the priests of Israel: “You have departed from the way. You have caused many to stumble at the law. You have ruined the covenant of Levi, says YHWH of hosts.” 12
Therefore, this perfect priest described by YHWH through Malachi, must ultimately be a description of his servant “Sprout,” and the “messenger of the covenant” that YHWH would send,13 for it is he who cleanses the sons of Levi through fire. And so, he is a form of priest himself.