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Christmas Eve 2023

Christmas Eve 2023

Sermon Transcript

Jesus came as a baby, but the prophecies of Zechariah 6:9-15 said that the Messiah would be both a religious leader and a political leader. What does that entail? When will it be fulfilled? What does it mean for us this Christmas? Join Dr. Marty Baker as he wraps up our two-year Christmas series The Promised King.

Do you have any special Christmas gifts from your childhood? I do.  I kept all of my Redline Hot Wheels cars from the 1960s, and they’ve been safely stored in this handy carrying case.  And they are all in excellent condition because I didn’t abuse them like most of my friends did.  So, the wire wheels aren’t bent, all the parts are present, and nicks and scratches are almost non-existent.  How did I get most of these cars? My parents bought them as Christmas presents when I was a child.  I now cherish them and looking at them takes me back to my childhood.

Do you know that God has also given you special Christmas gifts?  Like what?  Like precise prophesies informing us of everything we needed to know whether Jesus was the long-awaited divine Messiah when He was born in the humble stable in Bethlehem.

  • He would be a Jew from the people of Abraham (Gen. 12).
  • He would be a king from the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12).
  • He would be a king from the line of David (2 Sam. 7:10ff).
  • He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14).
  • He would be the divine God-man (Isa. 7:14; Mic. 5:1-2).
  • He would be born in Bethlehem, David’s city (Mic. 5:1-2).

As I can look at my Hot Wheels cars and be instantly transported back to my childhood, I can look at these and other messianic prophesies and recall why I am a Christian.  I am a Christian because I, as a sinner, considered the evidence regarding the identity of Jesus in 1967 and determined He fit the bill of the Messiah perfectly.  Fifty-six years and a lot of reading and study later, I’m still convinced Jesus was and is the Messiah, and as such, He was and is the greatest gift a person could ever receive by faith.

What about you? Have you considered the precise prophetic evidence supporting the person and work of Jesus, the Messiah? Just as I have many Hot Wheels cars to look at, God gave you sixty exact prophesies to come to terms with who was born in Bethlehem in 5 B.C. Was He just another Jewish boy born to a poor blue-collar family? Or was He the One all the prophecies over thousands of years foretold would come to become mankind’s only Savior and true King of Kings?

If you are a thinking person, I think there is only one answer to the question.  Since it is statistically impossible for Jesus to fulfill all of these exact prophesies to the letter, He has to be the One the prophets spoke of.

If you need more evidence to help you in your quest to come to terms with the Christ of Christmas, I submit Zechariah’s remarkable messianic prophecy given some five hundred years before Chrit’s birth.  It’s neatly tucked away in chapter six, verses nine through fifteen of his book, written while Judah experienced exile in Babylon.  From these words, the divinely inspired author gives us this messianic motif:

The Messiah Will Be The First Priest & King (Zech. 6:9-15)

God’s thoughts, as Isaiah states, are infinitely beyond ours because they come from a perfect, sinless being (Isa. 58:8-9). Hence, He established a governing structure in ancient Israel; he divided the nation between the priests and the kings.  Priests couldn’t be kings, and kings couldn’t be priests.  This didn’t mean there was an absolute separation between the state and religion; it was far from it.  The kings and other politicians governed the nation in light of God’s laws.  When they deviated, distorted, and diluted God’s laws, they heard not only from their priests but also from the prophets who called them back to spiritual sanity and life. Isaiah chapter 5 is a case study of God hauling the nation into His courtroom via the prophet's work to call them to repentance.

This makes Zechariah’s prophecy about the coming Messiah jaw-dropping and intriguing.  He states that when the Messiah comes, He will be both High Priest and Davidic King, something unheard of in the nation. He goes so far as to say this leader of leaders will rule and reign over a newly established Davidic empire headquartered in Jerusalem (Zech. 14).  Watch how the prophet unfolds this unusual prophecy.

There’s A Command (Zech. 6:9-10)

Concerning what’s coming, biblical scholars agree these words unequivocally point to Jesus.  David Baron represents many when he writes, “. . . there is no plainer prophetic utterance in the whole Old Testament as to the Person of the promised Redeemer, the offices He was to fill, and the mission He was to accomplish” (Commentary on Zechariah, 190-191).  I agree. The truth of this statement unfolds with the first divine utterance:

9 The word of the LORD also came to me saying,

 Zechariah 6:9  וַיְהִ֥י דְבַר־יְהוָ֖ה אֵלַ֥י לֵאמֹֽר׃

The divine formula in Hebrew, “the word of the LORD came,” first appears in the OT when God told the prophet Samuel He regretted permitting wicked, shifty, and spiritually shallow Saul to be Israel's first King (1 Sam. 15:10).  It is exciting and significant that the subsequent usage of this formula appears in God’s promise through the prophet Nathan to David that He, God, would give David an eternal and worldwide dynasty (2 Sam. 7:7:4).  Of course, a forever empire, by definition, calls for a king who is not constrained by time and space.  Enter Jesus, the God-man (Matt. 1; John 8:58).  He would fit the role to the letter.  But before we talk about Him, let me mention that the third use of this divine formula in the OT occurs in 1 Kings 6:11, where God speaks to King Solomon about the spectacular Temple He built for Him in Jerusalem.  Again, it is no accident this phrase is employed here in Zechariah 6:9 for the ultimate Davidic King; Jesus will eventually build a temple beyond anything Solomon and his architects could have devised.

What was God’s word to Zechariah? Here is it:

10 "Take an offering from the exiles, from Heldai, Tobijah, and Jedaiah; and you go the same day and enter the house of Josiah the son of Zephaniah, where they have arrived from Babylon.

When Cyrus, King of Persia, defeated the unsuspecting and drunk Babylonians in 539 B.C., he quickly permitted any Jewish slaves to return to their homeland.  Fifty thousand returned with Zerubbabel in the first of three returns to rebuild the holy Temple (Ezra 1-6).  During this time, Zechariah was Judah’s prophet, challenging them to finish their temple work and realize God had a fantastic kingdom program for them in the future.  The men mentioned here traveled some 500 miles to bring an offering from the Jewish exiles in Babylon to be used in constructing the Temple.  God knew exactly what type of offering they carried, and He also had grand plans for it where the coming Messiah was concerned.

There’s A Construction & A Command (Zech. 6:11)

While they could have used the gold and silver from this offering in many places within the Temple, God wanted it used explicitly in constructing a crown.  And He wanted Zechariah to make it.

11 "And take silver and gold, make an ornate crown, and set it on the head of Joshua the son of Jehozadak, the high priest.

Zechariah must have been quite the man. He was highly skilled in being a prophet and working with gold and silver, two very different metals to work with.  The first part of God’s request to Zechariah probably never raised a question in his mind. “Oh, you want me to make an ornate crown? No problem. I can do that,” he must have thought.  The command to construct a crown was easy.  The command to place the completed crown on the head of Joshua, the High Priest, was another matter altogether.  No High Priest in Israel ever served as Israel’s king, and no king could rightfully serve as the High Priest.          I’m sure Zechariah was familiar with King Uzziah, who attempted to merely offer incense on the altar of incense in the Holy Place, and God immediately struck him with debilitating leprosy (2 Chron. 26:16-21).  But did Zechariah ask any questions?  No.  Did he tell God, “Lord, what are you thinking? Are you sure you want me to do this?”  He didn’t say that either.  He obeyed, thinking God’s purpose and plan were beyond his prophetic pay grade.

What was God’s plan? That is quickly disclosed in verses 12 through 14 where . . .

There’s A Clarification (Zech. 6:12-14)

Isn’t God great?  He loves us and wants us to know, to a certain degree, what He’s up to so we have hope for the future. Even though Israel had lost their God-given country, first in 722 B.C. and second in 586 B.C., and even though they languished in a foreign land, He let them know through Zechariah His redemptive and messianic kingdom plan was right on track, as prophesied and promised:

12 "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.

The prophet was instructed to give these words to the High Priest.  I’m sure they shocked Joshua.

God told Joshua, whose name in Hebrew is Yeshua, that he wouldn’t be the Priest/King. That title was reserved specifically for a man who would be called the Branch.  What an odd title.  What did it mean?  Isaiah used it to denote the Messiah who would shoot forth from the seemingly dead stump of the Davidic empire:

1 Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, and a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Jesse, of course, was David’s father.  When the Babylonians destroyed Judah in 586 B.C., it looked as if God’s promise to David concerning a forever earthly empire was over.  Not so, says God.  Just when the world, and the Devil, would think they had thwarted God’s plans and promise, this sucker would shoot forth from the “dead,” “lifeless,” stump of David’s former empire.  This sucker would become a branch that would, in turn, become a mighty tree denoting the Messiah’s rule and reign over the earth as the ultimate Davidic king.

Jeremiah nails down the identity of the coming Branch with these words:

5 "Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I shall raise up for David a righteous Branch; and He will reign as king and act wisely and do justice and righteousness in the land.  6 "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; and this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness' (Jer. 23). 

Who will the final Davidic King of Kings be?  “The LORD our righteousness,” or God himself.  To this, Jeremiah adds these words later:

 15 'In those days and at that time I will cause a righteous Branch of David to spring forth; and He shall execute justice and righteousness on the earth. 16 'In those days Judah shall be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell in safety; and this is the name by which she shall be called: the LORD is our righteousness' (Jer. 33).

When this Davidic King rises to power and establishes His long-awaited kingdom, Israel, His people will know peace, and her capital city, Jerusalem, will be renamed, “The LORD is our righteousness.”  That’s an appropriate name change for the holy Messiah, the Lord, will dwell among His people.  And just in case you have a problem with the Messiah changing the name of Jerusalem, many city names have been changed over the years. Swilling’s Mill was changed to Phoenix. Yerba Buena was changed to San Francisco. Shawmut was changed to Boston. Now, that was a good choice, wouldn’t you agree?  Since man can change the names of cities to suit his purposes, the Lord most certainly can.

Remember, Joshua, or Yeshua, the High Priest, was not the Branch.  He merely stood as a type of the Davidic regal/priestly Branch.  Who was and is the Branch? Jesus.  And you think His name was an accident.  Think again.  The angel specifically told Joseph to give his firstborn son this name:

21 "And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (Matt 1.).

The Hebrew of this text reflects that Jesus had the same name as the High Priest in Zechariah’s day:

וְהִיא יֹלֶדֶת בֵּן וְקָרָאתָ אֶת־שְׁמוֹ יֵשׁוּעַ כִּי הוּא יוֹשִׁיעַ אֶת־עַמּוֹ מֵחַטֹּאתֵיהֶם

Matt. 1:21

He had to have this name because He would be THE High Priest who could fulfill the meaning of His name, which in Hebrew means “to save.”  Therefore, an extraordinary baby boy was born on that starry evening in the little village of Bethlehem. His presence represented that the Father’s plans and promises for the redemption of sinners and the establishment of a worldwide kingdom of peace were moving down the track as planned.  And like a sucker quietly and slowly comes forth from a stump, Jesus was born in an insignificant fashion in an out-of-the-way place.  He grew into a mighty Branch, and when His chosen people rejected His offer of a kingdom, He put them on hold while He turned to secure salvation for Jews and Gentiles by going to the cross.

But Jesus isn’t finished because He’s more than a Savior.  He’s a King, and because He’s from the Davidic line, as we learn in Matthew 1 and Luke 3 23-38, we look for and pray for His kingdom to come, just like the disciples did after His resurrection (Acts 1:6).

God jumps from predicting the coming of the Branch, His Son, the ultimate High Priest, to His building of the final temple in the Millennial Age (Rev. 20).  Israel had several temples: Solomon’s, Zerubbabel’s, and Herod’s.  We know from Revelation 11 and Matthew 24 that there will be a Tribulational Temple.  But the final temple will be built after the seven-year tribulation by the Messiah, Jesus, who is more than qualified to build it as the eternal High Priest.  According to the author of Hebrews, Jesus is the High Priest after the eternal order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:1, 10, 11, 15, 17, which are based on Psalm 110).  The Aaronic line is long gone, but the eternal order of Melchizedek, the priest from Abraham’s day, will live on in the person of Christ. The question this Christ is simple: Is Jesus your High Priest? Is He your mediator between you and the Father?

I’m sure Joshua’s head was spinning when Zechariah gave him this prophetic word.  But there was more:

 13 "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."'

Not only would the coming Branch, the Messiah, be a Savior-High Priest, but He would perfectly wed the offices of High Priest and King together.  Amazing. After He does this, He will rule and reign on earth on His Davidic throne over His Davidic empire as promised to David (2 Sam. 7:10ff) and foretold by numerous prophets (Isa. 2; 9:6-7).  When will this occur? When Jesus appears at the end of the Tribulation.  Think of it.  When He returns, He will finish judging the wicked who are arrayed against Israel in one last push to eradicate them. He will then get to work building the massive Temple foretold by Ezekiel (Ezek. 40-43), radically redesigning the earth, and giving His saints the right to rule and reign with Him (2 Tim. 2:12; Rev. 5:10; 20:6).

In my mind, all of this leads to one question.  Why did it take God over 500 years to set Zechariah’s prophecy in motion with the birth of the Branch, Jesus?

  • Under Roman rule in Israel from 27 C. to 180 A.D., the world enjoyed the Pax Romana or the time of relative peace.
  • Under Roman rule, massive road systems were built in the known world, roads Jesus and His followers would use to spread His gospel. Under Augustus, 47,000 miles of roads were constructed. Augustus also created the cursus public from 30 to 25 B.C. By using the Persian method of horse relays; the Romans could send messages around the empire quickly and efficiently. This, no doubt, had a positive impact on the message of Jesus.
  • Under Roman rule, the religions of conquered countries were tolerated. This allowed Christianity to flourish eventually.
  • Under Roman rule, communication by writing in Greek on papyrus documents was relatively quick and easy. This allowed Christianity to publish the facts about the person and works of Jesus Christ to the known world like never before.

So, when the Branch was born, it was the perfect time for this seemingly insignificant shoot to grow, flourish, and spread worldwide.  How wise is God?  Very wise.  The timing for Christ’s coming couldn’t have been more perfect.

What was Joshua, the High Priest, supposed to do with this ornate crown on his head?  Well, since he was only a type of the High Priest-King to come, Zechariah told him what to do:

 14 "Now the crown will become a reminder in the temple of the LORD to Helem, Tobijah, Jedaiah, and Hen the son of Zephaniah.

‎Scholars believe this crown hung in the temple in Jerusalem until the Romans destroyed the facility in 70 A.D. But for over 500 years, it hung in the temple as a daily reminder that the Priest and King were coming.

He awaited the coming of the One who was worthy to wear it.  When Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the crown was rightfully His, for He was the Branch from David’s “lifeless” stump, the Savior, the LORD our Righteousness, and Davidic King of Kings.   The question is, again, simple: Is Jesus your Savior, High Priest, and King over your life?  He awaits to make you, a sinner, into a saint so you can be a member of His spiritual and, eventually, His earthly empire.  What do you need to do?  You need to bow before Him in faith, asking Him to forgive you and become your Savior, High Priest, and King.  Here is how Paul puts it:

 1 Therefore having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, (Rom. 5).

Do you have peace in your life this Christmas? I mean real, lasting inner peace.  I’m speaking about peace, that you are right with God for the first time in your life.  This kind of peace only comes from a loving God who devised a plan to give you that peace, and the author of that peace was born on that first Christmas day.

Today, Christ’s kingdom is spiritual, growing and flourishing with each new convert.  But like a branch grows slowly until it becomes a mighty tree, so, too, is Jesus’s spiritual kingdom growing so that it can one day merge with His earthly kingdom.  Mankind is working overtime to set up kingdoms that destroy peace and place power within the hands of a limited few.  Their wicked work will not prevail, for the Branch came, and He is now spreading out.

Before Zechariah closed out this jaw-dropping prophecy, he added one more thing by stating that . . .

There’s A Confirmation (Zech. 6:15)

A logical question arose from Zechariah’s prophecy concerning the wedding of the offices of the High Priest and the Davidic King: How will we know this is true?  We know it is true because Jesus fulfilled it, as we have said and shown in the letter.  But beyond this, the prophet adds one final test of authenticity:

15 "And those who are far off will come and build the temple of the LORD." Then you will know that the LORD of hosts has sent me to you. And it will take place, if you completely obey the LORD your God (Zech. 6).

When Gentiles join Jews to help rebuild the Temple of the Messiah, which was something unheard of in Jewish history and thinking (there was a short wall built around the Temple in Christ’s day to keep the Gentiles from getting too close upon pain of death.Two of these signs have been found. They read: “No Gentile shall enter inward of the partition and barrier around the Temple, and whoever is caught shall be responsible to himself for his subsequent death.” Elias J. Bickerman, “Warning Inscription of Herod's Temple,” Jewish Quarterly Review 37 (1946/47): 387–405. ), then anyone who watches this miracle will know that Zecharaiah spoke for the living God, for only the living God could know this would occur in the kingdom age. I don’t know about you, but this Christmas, I’m looking forward to the day when I, along with millions of other Gentiles, will join with Jews to build the most magnificent temple to adorn the earth: the Temple of the Messiah, Jesus.

Will you be on our work crew?  How do you get on the crew? Zechariah says you must “completely obey the LORD your God.”  Does that mean you must work your way into God’s family?  No. That’s impossible because if you could, then Jesus came and died for no reason. From a New Testament perspective, Obeying God means you do what He has called you to do to be saved and made a kingdom or family member.  And what has He called you to do?  Again, Paul says it best, “Whoever will call upon the name of the LORD will be saved” (Rom. 10:13).  Call upon Him to save you, and He will.  Call upon Him, and He will make you part of a construction crew no one will miss out on.