The Branch and the Branches

Scripture Focus: Zechariah 6.12-13
12 Tell him this is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘Here is the man whose name is the Branch, and he will branch out from his place and build the temple of the Lord. 13 It is he who will build the temple of the Lord, and he will be clothed with majesty and will sit and rule on his throne. And he will be a priest on his throne. And there will be harmony between the two.’

Zechariah 3.1-2; 7-8; 10
1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. 2 The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” 

7 “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here. 
8 “ ‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.
10 “‘In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the LORD Almighty.”

Reflection: The Branch and the Branches
By John Tillman

Joshua, the high priest during the rebuilding of the Temple, is a unique one.

There are multiple restarts and reboots of the priesthood. Joshua is just one of them. In chapter 3, Zechariah has a vision of Joshua in priestly garments that are filthy, covered with excrement.

Satan stands to accuse him, pointing out the filth of his sin. The Lord rebukes Satan and describes Joshua as a “burning stick snatched from the fire.” The filthy clothes representing sin are removed, and just as he tenderly dressed Adam and Eve’s nakedness, The Lord dresses Joshua in fine, clean garments.

Joshua, the stick saved from the fire, is more than just a smoke-smelling testament of grace. He is a symbol, scripture tells us, of one to come. The burnt stick represents “the Branch.” The Branch will “branch out” and build a new temple as well as be a priest and a king. (Isaiah 4.2; Ezekiel 17.22; John 15.1-8) The crown made for Joshua points to this promise. The crown is not meant for Joshua. He is only holding it until the one worthy of it appears.

One of the unique characteristics here is that God is not only rebooting the priesthood but the entire culture and country. Joshua, the other priests, and everything given to them represent something in the future. Joshua represents Jesus and the priests and people represent us. We are an extension of and connected to this reboot.

Christ’s mercy goes beyond saving us like a stick from a fire. We are grafted in to the expanding branches of his kingdom. Our high priest, Jesus, is “The Branch” and we are grafted into him. (Romans 11.17-23) Christ is the new Temple of God and, like a tree of life, reaches out to offer healing and a home under his branches. His righteousness flows into us and we are able to create holy space, shade under the limbs of God’s tree.

We are the branches off of which the fruit of the gospel should bloom. May we be found to be not just leafy but fruitful. (Matthew 21.19) May we, filled with the Holy Spirit, create a cooling, welcoming shade for all who have spent time wandering the deserts of sin. (Zechariah 3.10)

Divine Hours Prayer: The Greeting
I will thank you, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and glorify your Name forevermore. — Psalm 86.12

Today’s Readings

Zechariah 6 (Listen – 2:08)
Matthew 3 (Listen – 2:17)

Read more about Family Tree

We can be grafted in to the family tree of Christ and bear the same fruit that he wants to bring about in our lives.

Read more about Cultivation Requires Planning
No park or garden is “natural.” Even the garden of Eden was planted by the Lord after the creation of the plants and animals.

Light and Dark and Joy :: Joy of Advent

John 9.4-5
As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.

Reflection: Light and Dark and Joy :: Joy of Advent
By John Tillman

Like Advent’s candles, Advent’s joy shines most beautifully in the dark.

At times we over-spiritualize darkness, dressing it in a black hat as a mustache-twisting villain. There are some good reasons for confusion. The Bible often analogizes darkness as evil, even though darkness itself is not evil. Darkness is not sin, although the Bible speaks of us using darkness to hide our sin, and that we stumble in sin because of spiritual darkness or blindness.

When the disciples and religious leaders saw the man born blind, they saw only sin. Jesus saw God’s glory.

Darkness is not dark to our God. That means that God is not blind to our sins, but it also means that we do not walk in darkness alone. We walk with the God who knows the darkness as well as he knows the light.

Darkness is part of the cosmos that God created and called “good.” At creation, God created sources of light and set boundaries for shadows. He set the orbits of intersecting heavenly bodies, the timing of eclipses, of comets, and supernovas, giving us tools of light and darkness to help us mark the seasons and times of life. The celestial event that guided the Magi was set in motion eons ago by the very one whose birth it proclaimed.

We, like our universe and our Savior, were conceived and grew in darkness. Our first heartbeat and our first thoughts are in darkness. Our first movements are in darkness. Our first relationship begins in darkness. We come out of the darkness, by God’s grace, as children of the light. Our first glimpse of light is after our birth and before our first breath of air.

Before healing the man born blind, Christ proclaimed that he was the light of the world. Like the blind man, we wait in darkness in order that we may see the light and show it to others. In our hearts, the light is present always. It is our task to birth that light into the world.

We speak often of Advent as a time of darkness, and it is. But it is only dark because we are waiting for a light which we are sure will come. The Advent darkness we wait in is working with the light, helping us to have joy in anticipation and faith in what we cannot yet see.

Prayer: The Morning Psalm
Though I walk in the midst of trouble, you keep me safe; you stretch forth your hand against the fury of my enemies; your right hand shall save me. The Lord will make good his purpose for me; O Lord, your love endures forever; do not abandon the works of your hands.  — Psalm 138:7-8

– Prayer from The Divine Hours: Prayers for Autumn and Wintertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Prayers from The Divine Hours available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Zechariah 6 (Listen – 2:08)
John 9 (Listen – 4:56)

Additional Reading
Read More Blossoming of Joy in Adversity :: Joy of Advent
What are we waiting for?
Advent’s path to joy passes through trials, arrests, suffering, and the cross. Let us follow Christ.

Read More A Prayer of Hope :: Hope of Advent
During Advent we trim our lamps and supply ourselves with oil that we may be ready when Christ comes. Lord, as the world grows darker, the hope we have in Christ, burns brighter.

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