Zechariah

One of the most amazing Messianic prophecies in all the Bible comes from Zechariah. And no, I am not referring to the famous verse from chapter nine quoted in Matthew 21.

Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout in triumph, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your king is coming to you; He is just and endowed with salvation, humble, and mounted on a donkey, even on a colt, the foal of a donkey. Zechariah 9: 9

Although this is a great prophecy, there is one more stunning that God gave to Zechariah. For rather than a prophecy about Jesus riding on a donkey, it is a prophecy about Jesus sitting on a throne. But He is not only sitting on the throne as king, which would be expected for the son of David; He is also sitting on the throne as priest, something unheard of in Israel.

Take silver and gold, make an ornate crown and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. Then say to him, ‘Thus says the LORD of hosts, “Behold, a man whose name is Branch, for He will branch out from where He is; and He will build the temple of the LORD. Yes, it is He who will build the temple of the LORD, and He who will bear the honor and sit and rule on His throne. Thus, He will be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace will be between the two offices.”’ Zechariah 6: 11 – 13

The ruling structure of Israel had separate offices of king and priest. Priests were from the tribe of Levi. Kings were from the tribe of Judah. But when the Branch comes, according to Zechariah, He will combine the roles, and there will be peace between the two offices. These words of Zechariah are supported by a messianic psalm :

The LORD says to my Lord: “Sit at My right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for Your feet.” The LORD will stretch forth Your strong scepter from Zion, saying, “Rule in the midst of Your enemies.” Your people will volunteer freely in the day of Your power; in holy array, from the womb of the dawn, Your youth are to You as the dew. The LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” Psalm 110: 1 – 4

From the view of the Old Testament, when Messiah comes, He will be a king and a priest in the order of Melchizedek. He will not be a Levitical priest. And therefore it is anticipated that the Mosaic Law will come to an end and be replaced by the New Covenant, for why remove the priesthood from Levi unless great changes were going to occur?

In the New Testament, the book of Hebrews continues the discussion of this theme of Messiah as king/priest. The importance of this concept cannot be overstated, given the context of the Israel theocracy that was established through Moses. Age old structures, established by God, were changing, by God. The author goes to great lengths to explain that the changing of established structures was prophesied, and he further explains how the priesthood of Melchizedek exceeds the priesthood of Levi. His words are long and dense, but worth the read:

Now if perfection was through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the people received the Law), what further need was there for another priest to arise according to the order of Melchizedek, and not be designated according to the order of Aaron? For when the priesthood is changed, of necessity there takes place a change of law also. For the one concerning whom these things are spoken belongs to another tribe, from which no one has officiated at the altar. For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, a tribe with reference to which Moses spoke nothing concerning priests. And this is clearer still, if another priest arises according to the likeness of Melchizedek, who has become such not on the basis of a law of physical requirement, but according to the power of an indestructible life. For it is attested of Him, “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” For, on the one hand, there is a setting aside of a former commandment because of its weakness and uselessness (for the Law made nothing perfect), and on the other hand there is a bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God. And inasmuch as it was not without an oath (for they indeed became priests without an oath, but He with an oath through the One who said to Him, “the LORD has sworn and will not change His mind, ‘You are a priest forever’”); so much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant. The former priests, on the one hand, existed in greater numbers because they were prevented by death from continuing, but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For it was fitting for us to have such a high priest, holy, innocent, undefiled, separated from sinners and exalted above the heavens; who does not need daily, like those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the sins of the people, because this He did once for all when He offered up Himself. For the Law appoints men as high priests who are weak, but the word of the oath, which came after the Law, appoints a Son, made perfect forever. Hebrews 7: 11 – 28

The book of Hebrews is called Hebrews for a reason. It wasn’t written for the pagan Gentile, although anyone in Christ benefits from reading it. It was written to Hebrews – those who knew the Law and who knew the intricacies and nuances of what was being written about. The author does well in explaining the logic of the king/priest role that Zechariah prophesied would come:

  • The priests of old were based on bloodline. The sons of Levi were priests, and when a priest would die he was replaced by another son of Levi. Jesus, who is the eternal God-man, never needs to be replaced due to death, and therefore His priestly work exceeds that of Levi.
  • The priests of old were sinners, and offered up sacrifices not only for the people, but for themselves. Jesus, the only man to ever be born under the Law and follow it without sin, has no need to repent of sins. And therefore His priestly work exceeds that of Levi. The priests of old were reminders of the sins of the people. The temple was nicknamed “the house of blood” due to the flow resulting from the sacrifices continually offered up. Jesus died once for all, and His blood was enough to end the daily sacrifice. The temple was no longer needed.

We can infer that the fulfillment of Zechariah’s prophecy by Jesus was hard to grasp by Jewish converts, hence the explanation in the book of Hebrews. It is not easy to change, even with simple things on a personal level. Imagine how hard it must have been for the Hebrew Christians in the early church, to see the things that Moses wrote about (Levitical priesthood, sacrifices, etc.) going away. How hard must it have been to change their mindset, to change their understanding of God.

But, alas, if the teachers of that day cared more about the coming Messiah than creating a false law, and had taken to heart the prophecy of Zechariah, perhaps all of the Jews would have been better prepared to receive the words that the apostles taught about the Messiah, the one who combined the offices of king and priest, and who rules forever on His throne.

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One comment

  1. “How hard must it have been to change their mindset, to change their understanding of God.” I agree, as I learn more about the Lord, my understanding changes and His qualities become more balanced, instead of me making Him in my own image, emphasizing qualities I prefer. For example, now I understand more that the love and wrath of God are not contradictory, but complimentary to His holiness and justice.

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