February 3, 2019

Epiphany Four, February 3, 2019 — Zechariah 6:12-13 — The Man Whose Name is Branch

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Passage: Zechariah 6:12-13
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Sermon for Epiphany Four – Sunday February 3, 2019

Calvary/Marquette ● Soli Deo Gloria

God’s Grace, Mercy and Peace are yours; a gift ordained by God the Father; a gift obtained by God the Son; a gift granted by God the Spirit.  Let God alone be given the glory for this gift. Amen.

Zechariah 6:12-13 (NKJV)

 

12 Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, And the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

In the Name of Jesus, the Christ,

  Who is the shoot from the stump of Jesse,

     Who is also the man whose name is Branch,

         Dear Fellow Redeemed in His Precious Blood –

 

I attended a number of different schools growing up.  I went to Kindergarten in Brown County Elementary in Hecla, South Dakota.  When we moved to Marquette, I attended Silver Creek, Beaver Grove and Sandy Knoll Elementary and then Bothwell Middle School.  I moved on to Marquette Senior High School and Immanuel Lutheran High School in Eau Claire, WI.  After graduating Immanuel Lutheran College, I attended Immanuel Lutheran Seminary.  I had many different teachers. I can’t even remember all of their names; some were effective, some weren’t as effective.

Let’s be honest, some teachers are effective teachers, who make every effort to get through to their students; still others aren’t as gifted or committed.

 

The LORD God is an effective teacher, who wants to get through to us.  He wants us to understand Him and His Word.  He wants us to apply that Word to our lives, to our hearts.  For this reason, the Lord sometimes uses things that we know and understand to help us comprehend things we may not.

 

For example:

 

In the 128th Psalm (3-4), the LORD speaks of the blessings that come to a godly man and father who respects the LORD:

 

       Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine In the very heart of your house, Your children like olive plants All around your table. Behold, thus shall the man be blessed Who fears the LORD.

We understand, thanks to the Holy Spirit, that the LORD isn’t saying that a godly man will marry a vine who will bear for him olive plants.  Rather, the LORD uses this picture that we can understand to describe the blessings of God that are a godly wife and children.

In the 11th Chapter of the letter to the Romans (Romans 11:11-24), the Apostle Paul compares Gentile Believers to branches that have been grafted into a tree.  He does this to warn them about being conceited and proud, to remind them that their strength and power comes from Jesus, the one to which they were joined in faith.

In the 3rd and 6th Chapters of the Prophet Zechariah, the LORD speaks of ‘the man whose name is the Branch.’  This Branch is not a literal limb of a tree, but a particular person, a man who was yet to come when these words were first given to the Prophet to report to Joshua the High Priest and the people of Judah.

The Man whose name is ‘the Branch’ was to build the Temple of the LORD; He would also be both King and Priest.

 

We begin with prayer:

 

O Holy Spirit, we are eternally grateful for the amazing miracle you have worked in our hearts through the message of Christ, who lived, died and rose again to save us.  Forgive us for the times we’ve taken this gift for granted or treated as a small or insignificant thing.  We thank you for the comfort of knowing that we have been pardoned from all sins through Jesus death; confirmed in His Glorious Resurrection.  We ask that you continue to strengthen this gift and miracle until faith gives way to sight in heaven.  In Jesus’ name we pray.  Amen.

 

+++++++

There are times when more information is needed to understand what’s been said or done.

ü  When the Angel Gabriel appeared to the Virgin Mary and said to her (Luke 1:28), “Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women” she was confused. The Angel Gabriel explained.

ü  When the Prophet Zechariah placed an elaborate crown of gold and silver on the head of the High Priest, Joshua, no doubt He was also confused.  Kings wore crowns of gold, not priests.  Priests wore cloth turbans, sometimes ornate, but not to be confused with a crown.

 

No doubt, Joshua the High Priest wondered, “What is this all about?”  Why did you place the crown of a king on the head of a priest?  The King ruled over the nation; the Priest served in the temple and the two offices never met…no one had ever been both King and Priest.

It turns out the gesture had little to do with Joshua and everything to do with another man, a man whose name is ‘the Branch.’ For it was after the Prophet set it upon the head of Joshua, that he was to say:

Then speak to him, saying, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, saying: “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out,

Now, perhaps to us the name ‘the Branch’ may at first seem an odd name.  We expect ‘nick-names’ of items that are impressive, stately and powerful; but a man called ‘the Branch”?  Well, not to those who know the Scriptures.

In fact, on December 19th, our 3rd Midweek Advent worship centered on the words of Isaiah, Chapter 11.  In that chapter the LORD says through Isaiah (11:1):

“There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse,

and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.”

 

Perhaps you recall that this Scripture isn’t speaking of a literal shoot or sapling, but of a particular descendant of David. The LORD promised that the Spirit of the LORD would rest on Him, that He would usher in a time of peace and even Gentiles would be drawn to Him. So also, here, it is said of this man, the Branch, that he would branch out, grow up and be a blessing to many people.

This also agrees with the Prophecy of Jeremiah, made more than 70 years before Zechariah.  The Prophet Jeremiah spoke of a ‘Branch of Righteousness’ who would be a King.  You may find these words familiar (Jeremiah 23:5-6):

 

“Behold, the days are coming,” says the LORD, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS

In our Old Testament Lesson, taken from the 3rd Chapter of Zechariah, the LORD spoke to Joshua the High Priest about ‘My Servant, the Branch.’  I think you can connect the dots, can’t you?  This Branch is none other than our Lord Jesus Christ.

Now notice what the LORD promised that this man, the Branch would accomplish…

“Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the LORD; 13 Yes, He shall build the temple of the LORD.

Wait, wait, wait!  This doesn’t make sense, does it?  The man whose name is the Branch can’t be Jesus, can it?  Joseph, the husband of Mary may have been a carpenter, but Jesus never built the Temple of the LORD!  It was already built when the child Jesus was 12 years old! We seem to have a problem here, don’t we?

Well, we would if these words were speaking of the wood and the stone of the temple of the LORD that once stood in Jerusalem!  The Tabernacle in the Wilderness and the Temple in Jerusalem were the house of the LORD, but that doesn’t mean that the LORD actually lived within! These were symbolic of God’s promise to dwell among His People.

The Temple to which these words refer is not made of dry wood and cold stone.  For the Temple of the LORD was but a symbol and picture of a far greater dwelling made up of living stones, a spiritual building in which God dwells by His Spirit. In fact, the Temple of the LORD to which these words refer is the spiritual temple described by the Apostle Peter (1 Peter 2:5) and the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:19-22) of which you and all believers in Christ are a part:

you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

19 Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord22 in whom you also are being built together for a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.

 

The Temple of the LORD built by the man whose name is the BRANCH…is none other than the Holy Christian Church, the sum total of all to trust in Christ!  This dwelling place of God is not made of wood and stone, but made up of all believers in whom God the Holy Spirit dwells.

 

Wouldn’t God want His Temple to be made up of better materials?  We are all, without exception, fallen sinners!  We daily sin by doing what God forbids and leaving undone what He commands.  Why would God want to dwell with us or make his home within us?  How could He take sinners like us and make us into anything resembling a Holy Temple?

I think you know. 

 

He did it by first cleansing you of sin in the waters of Holy Baptism.  He washed you clean and at the same time united you to Jesus like a master builder by means of the gift of faith (cf. Galatians 3:26-27).  We deserved to be tossed out, thrown away on the rock pile along with all the other ‘blockheads’ but instead, God showed amazing grace by making us His own children and heirs. He has sent His Spirit, the Holy Spirit to dwell within us (cf. John 14:17).

The Temple foretold by the Prophet Zechariah is still under construction today.  What’s even more amazing is that the Holy Spirit wants you to help with this building project by speaking to your family, friends and neighbors about the man whose name is ‘The Branch.’

He is both King and Priest…the ruling power and the source of the counsel of peace. 

He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

In the United States we call it the Principle of the Separation of Church and State.  The First Amendment of the US Constitution states that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.”  This Amendment promotes freedom of religion and prohibits the federal government from hindering its citizens to worship as they wish.

In the Nation of Israel there wasn’t really a separation of Church and State because Israel was a Theocracy; a nation governed by God.  Even after Israel asked for a King; the King ruled the nation but always sought the advice and counsel of the Church, of Prophets and Priests.  As is often the case with human beings, there were times when King and Priest didn’t get along. It had never happened that one person held both offices of King and Priest.

When the Prophet Zechariah was told to make an elaborate crown of gold and silver and place it on the head of Joshua the High Priest, He was foretelling that the man whose name is Branch would hold both offices, would be both KING and PRIEST.  He would both rule in the Kingdom and also be their intercessor with God.  He would do what a Priest does…make atonement for the people.

This description can only fit the Savior Jesus.  He is the King of Kings and Lord of Lords; who established His Kingdom -- the Holy Christian Church -- by defeating our spiritual enemies, Satan, Sin and Death.  He did this in the most peculiar of ways, by taking our sins and wickedness on Himself and offered Himself up as the once for all sacrifice for all sins.

It is for this reason that it can be said of Him that He has the ‘counsel of peace’ and exercises it between the office of King and Priest. This Jesus doesn’t only rule the Israelites, but has been given all authority in heaven and on earth (cf. Matthew 28:18).  The universe is under His control and power and he rules all things for our benefit.  He rules in our hearts and minds, but not by force or fear, but by love.  He counters our fear of judgment by comforting our hearts in the Lord’s Supper by assuring us that He gave his body and shed his blood to reconcile us to God.

 

Jesus is our King and Priest.  Unlike so many earthly rulers and politicians, He isn’t in it for himself but is truly working and ruling for our benefit.  Unlike the Old Testament Priests, He didn’t offer the blood of some animal, but His own blood to make peace forever with God.

 

Behold, the man named ‘The Branch!’

He is still building the Temple of the LORD.

He still works as our King and Priest.

Amen!