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ON CHRIST AS HIS FATHER'S SERVANT.
“ Behold, I will bring forth my Servant, the Branch.”
Zech. ii. 8.
In the preceding part of this chapter, the prophet describes a vision which he had of Joshua, the Jewish high priest, standing as the representative of that people, before the Angel of the Lord. As it was then customary in courts of judicature for the accuser to stand at the right hand of the person he accused, Satan was represented to him as standing at the right hand of Joshua, sustaining that public character, and as accusing him doubtless of many aggravated sins, in order if possible to prevail with God to deliver up his people to the will of their adversaries. Then the Angel, the uncreated Angel of the covenant, was represented to him as replying, in answer to such accusations, thus:-- -“ The Lord rebuke, thee, O Satan ; even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" intimating, that since Jehovah had made choice of Israel for his professing people, and had lately delivered them from the Babylonian captivity, it could not be supposed that he would cease to afford protection to those whom, notwithstanding the crimes of which they were accused, he had thus rescued from utter destruction. And to show that the sins with which they stood chargeable did not hinder the exercise of Divine compassion towards them as a nation, Joshua, though represented as standing before the Angel, clothed in filthy garments, denoting the moral pollution of the people, was shown at the same time as clothed, with change of raiment, in token of God's forgiving their iniquities, and restoring them as a nation to a more prosperous condition. As the Jews were a typical people, and their deliverance from captivity a typical deliverance, the inspired prophet took occasion to announce, in the words before us, an illustrious prophecy respecting Messiah, as the Father's Servant, in accomplishing the salvation of his Church from her spiritual enemies.- “ Hear now, O Joshua, thou and thy fellows that sit before thee; for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my Servant, the BRANCH.” As Joshua was already exhibited as representing the Jewish people in their character as a church and nation, and in their deliverance from captivity, the other priests are here associated with him, and addressed jointly. “ Hear now, O Joshua, thou and thy fellows that sit before thee; for they are men wondered at;” or, as it is on the margin, they are men of wonder, signifying that they are typical men, men who portend future things; or, according to the translation of the LXX., men who are proposed to others for signs and types :
“ Behold, I will bring forth my Servant, the Branch.” This is parallel to those words in Jeremiah, "I will raise up unto David a righteous Branch.” Messiah, who was in the fulness of time to appear as the Father's Servant, may well be denominated the Branch ; because his human nature never existed by itself, but, from the moment of its conception, subsisted as an ingrafted branch in his Divine person ; and also because he covers the earth with his shadow. It is entirely owing to his interposition as Mediator, not only that his own people are sheltered from the scorching heat of Divine wrath, but that the world in general is not instantly consumed by it. As it was in consequence of his eternal engagement to the office of Mediator, that he thus secures his people from danger, he is also in the text styled God's Servant. It is God in the person of the Father who here speaketh ; and when he saith, “I will bring forth my Servant,” the meaning is, that he will send him into the world in due time, and exhibit him to the view of the Church in human nature. Although Messiah is here called his Servant, it is not to be so understood as if he were by nature inferior to the Father, for he was, from all eternity, and shall continue to all eternity, the same in divinity and glory as the Father ; but it is to be understood of his inferiority as man and Mediator. His being styled the servant of his Father intimates also his engagement in the everlasting covenant, the contract of service, to perform the various parts of service which his Father assigned to him, in order to accomplish the redemption of his elect. thus engaged or bound himself to serve his Father in this arduous work, he is denominated in Scripture his bond servant; and as the Father promised highly to exalt him as the reward of this work, he is styled his honorary, or his dignified Servant.
In further discoursing on the subject before us, it is in dependance on the Spirit of Truth, proposed, First, to point out what Christ had to do as his Father's bond Servant: Secondly, To show what work was assigned him as his honorary Servant; and, Thirdly, To consider some of his properties as his Father's Servant in general.
I. I am first, then, to point out what Christ undertook to do as his Father's bond Servant. But before I proceed to this, allow me to premise, that the Lord Jesus, the eternal Son of the Father, actually assumed the mean character of a bond-servant, in the room of poor
sinners. This is evident from Phil. ii. 5–7. where the apostle Paul, exhorting the Philippians to humility and self-deLet the same mind be in
which was also in Christ Jesus ; who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God; but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant.” We had all lost our reputation in the first Adam, by breaking the covenant of works, the original contract of service between God and man. In order, then, to recover our reputation, the Lord Jesus engaged in the covenant of grace to make himself of no
reputation, and to take upon him the form of a servant in our stead. The original word which is here rendered a servant, properly signifies a bond-man, or a bond-servant, and is the same word that is used in this form of expression which often occurs in the new Testament, “ bond or free.” Christ, then, humbled himself so low for our redemption as to take upon him the form of a bond-servant. This is also plain, from what he himself saith in Psal. xl. 6. “ Sacrifice and offering thou didst not desire ; mine ears hast thou opened.” The word translated “opened,” properly signifies digged, as on the margin; and so the words run,-Mine ears hast thou digged through, or bored, as in our translation of the Psalms in metre. Now, this has a direct reference to the law concerning the bond-servant, in Exodus xxi. 6. “ His master shall bring him to the judges; he shall also bring him to the door, (or unto the door-post ;) and his master shall bore his ear through with an awl, and he shall serve him for ever,” or to the end of his life. In like manner,
the Lord Jesus Christ, in the room of sinners, bound himself to the service of his Father, during the whole time of his humiliation on earth, till he should be removed by death. Hence he said to his disciples, “I must work the works of Him that sent me, while it is day, for the night cometh when no man can work.” That Christ sustained this character, appears also from the price which Judas received for him. The chief priests covenanted to give him thirty pieces of silver, which was the stated price of a bond-servant under the law. It appears likewise from the kind of death to which Pilate was permitted to condemn him ; which was the death usually inflicted on criminals who were bond-men. Thus it is evident that Christ, who was from everlasting equal with the Father, humbled himself so infinitely low, as to take upon
him the mean and afflicted character of a bond-servant, that poor sinners, who were the slaves of Satan and the servants of corruption, might be set at liberty.
Now, in the character of bond-servant, Christ Jesus had the following parts of service to perform : He had upon him.
the curse of the broken law to bear; he had the precepts of the law to obey; he had Divine justice to satisfy ; the glory of all the Divine attributes to restore; and the prophecies and types respecting his humiliation to fulfil.
1. He had the curse of the broken law to endure. The apostle Paul informs us, " that Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us,” Gal. iii. 13. As the people in whose room Christ undertook to serve, were all by nature under the curse in consequence of transgression, it was an article in the contract of service between the Father and him, that he should, both in their nature and their stead, bear the curse due to them for sin. No sooner, therefore, did he partake of human nature, than the curse seized
That dreadful curse which would have sunk a whole elect world to the lowest hell, he began at his incarnation to bear, and he bore it all the time of his humiliation, till at last it brought him to the dust of death. Hence we read, that he was a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, and that he at last began to be exceeding sorrowful, even unto death. We read also, that though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor; for as the blessing of the Lord maketh rich, and addeth no sorrow, so 'his curse is sufficient to render a man poor. This, then, was an article inexpressibly arduous; it was beyond the power of any of the children of Adam to accomplish it, and yet it was but little in comparison of the other parts of service assigned to Christ.
2. He had the precepts of the law to yield perfect obedience to. Accordingly, he said to John, when he hesitated to baptise him, “ Suffer it to be so now, for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness," Matt. iii. 15. The law of the ten commandments was given to the first Adam, under the form of a covenant of works ; and though he engaged, as the servant of God to yield perfect obedience to it, yet he very soon failed in that obedience; and by his falling from that height of perfect holiness and happiness to which his bountiful Creator