“Parables That Pack a Punch” Sermon Series
Sermon # 12 May 4, 2014
Zechariah 3:1-5 “Christ Cleanses You and Clothes You”
Pastor Louis Prontnicki Maple Glen Bible Fellowship Church
Introduction: Have you felt “accused” this week? Perhaps accused by your guilty conscience, for some part sins, that you have already confesses, repented of, and been forgiven of, by God? Have you felt Satan’s stinging accusations, telling you that you are unworthy to consider yourself a Christian? Do your sins sometimes leave you feeling unclean and stained, even though you have repented and trusted Jesus? If so, then Zechariah 3:1-5 may be of help to you.
This is the fourth of eight visions of encouragement given to the Jewish exiles who had returned to Judah, from Babylon/ Persia, in 520-518 BC. The people were a tiny minority, a remnant, with a small temple half-built, with the walls of Jerusalem broken down (no protection), and needing to start over in a land that had been desolated 70 years earlier. And why were they facing all these discouragements? Because their forefathers had not listened to God’s word; they had not repented, and therefore God’s words of destruction came to pass upon His people and the land. But now, God sends the prophet Zechariah to encourage the people, and to help them put their trust in Him, and to deal with their feelings of being accused.
(v. 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.”
The scene is a court room in heaven, and we see three people there:
Joshua, (the name of current high priest, not to be confused with Moses’ successor), is the defendant. Note that Joshua is the defendant in his official position as the high priest of the people; that is, he represents the people; he stands is their place.
Satan, literally “The Accuser,” is the prosecuting attorney, trying to make the guilty charges against Joshua stick.
The Lord, or the Angel of the Lord, is the presiding judge over the court case, and the
What might Satan be accusing Joshua – and God’s people – of? Something like this: “How can Israel still be your holy nation? How can you dwell among them? Aren’t these the people who broke your laws and worshipped other gods? Wasn’t it their unrepentant guilt that made you drive them into exile? How can you accept their worship now? How can they dare call themselves your people?”
Isn’t that what Satan still does to us today? He brings up our sins- past and present- and throws them in our face, and says to us, “You aren’t worthy to be called a child of God! You are a two-faced hypocrite! You should feel guilty and unforgiven!”
How do you answer your accuser when he throws such charges in your face?
(v. 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?”
What is the Lord’s answer to Satan? He rebukes Satan, twice; telling him to shut his mouth and not utter any accusations against Joshua. Why? For two reasons.
First, because the Lord has chosen Jerusalem. That is, it is God’s gracious electing of His people (symbolized by Jerusalem) that forms the basis of His continued love for them now, despite what had been done in the past. If you think that the doctrine of election is only for theologians, or that it is an affront to man’s free will and responsibility, think again. For it is only God’s sovereign and gracious choosing of us for salvation that keeps us from the guilt and punishment of Satan’s accusations. He chose us; we did not choose Him; and therefore He will preserve us to the end.
The second reason the Lord rebukes Satan is that we, like Joshua and the remnant taken out of captivity in Babylon, have been rescued; we are trophies of God’s grace. “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” Picture a roaring campfire at night. People are throwing more and more sticks on the fire to make it blaze brighter, and someone has thrown into the fire a branch that you have been carving all week while camping; this sturdy stick has just the right feel to it as a walking stick and a weapon, and with your knife, you’ve been carving designs into it. Now it’s in the fire, burning up, but you bravely grab some cooking utensils and reach into the fire and pull it out; you extinguish the flames on it, and you begin to scrape off the burnt outer edge, and restore your favorite stick, or what is left of it. This is what the Lord did for the remnant of Israel. He snatched them out of captivity and exile in Babylon, where they had been sent for chastisement. If God had not rescued them, they would have been helpless to save themselves, just as a branch cannot deliver itself from a fire. And this is what the Lord did for us, in Christ. When we were dead in our sins, when we were by nature objects of his wrath, He made us alive in Christ! (Eph. 2) In Christ, you are God’s chosen one; you are a stick snatched from the flames of hell! That’s why Satan cannot make his accusations against us stick; for God has chosen us and rescued us, in Christ!
vv. 3-4 “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4 The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.”
To appreciate this vision, we need to remember how the high priest was dressed for his official work as high priest. In Exodus 28-29, God tells us that the high priest was to wear clothing of fine linen; it was clothing to give him dignity and honor; and he was to be ritually clean from head to toe. Why? Because he was going to represent the people before the Holy God of Israel! He had to be clean and spotless, inside and out, if he was going to offer sacrifices of behalf of the sins of the people.
But here is Joshua, the high priest, and his clothes are filthy! These clothes weren’t just dirty from mud and grass stains; the Hebrew word for filth here is related to the filth of human excrement and urine. So here is the high priest of Israel, who is supposed to be as holy as possible as he stands before the Lord to offer sacrifice for sin, and instead, he’s standing there in these smelly, foul, filthy clothes. Note that these clothes symbolize not just Joshua’s own sins, but more significantly, they stand for the filthy sins of the people; they represent the sin and iniquity of Israel. So here was Israel’s high priest, her one and only human intercessor before God, and he was utterly helpless and hopeless to offer any sacrifice, because he himself was totally sinful! No wonder Satan was ready to accuse Joshua! So what does the angel/ the Lord say to do?
“Remove his filthy clothes,” which is explained in the next line as “Look! I have taken away you sins/ iniquities.” God does for us what we could never do for ourselves: He takes away our sins; He removes our spiritual filth from us; He cleanses us from our wickedness. “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (Jn. 1:29)
Think on that for a moment. What happens to those filthy clothes when they are removed? Does God put them in a celestial washing machine and dryer? No. He puts them on Himself. Jesus Christ “Bore the sins of many.” “The Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isa. 53:12, 6)
But there’s more. “And I will put rich garments on you.” Having taken off our filthy clothes, the Lord dresses us in expensive, festal garments, suitable for wearing at the finest banquet in heaven! These garments are not necessarily symbolic of righteousness, (for then they would have been called clean or white garments) but rather are symbolic of glory and joy and celebration. When a person was invited to a wedding, sometimes the one who invited the guests would himself supply the festive wedding garments for his guests to wear, and that may be the picture here. (See Matt. 22:11-13). The Lord is taking Joshua from being an accused sinner, wearing filthy clothes, and He has transformed him into a handsomely attired guest at a wedding banquet! What a picture of what God does for us in Jesus Christ!
See Rev. 19:7-9 “Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.” (Fine linen stands for the righteous acts of the saints.) 9 Then the angel said to me, “Write: ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the wedding supper of the Lamb!’ ” And he added, “These are the true words of God.”
(v. 5) But there’s more: “Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the LORD stood by.”
Now it is Zechariah speaking, as he beholds this clothing transformation. He says, “Hey, if you’re going to do all that to Joshua, why not go all the way, and add the finishing touch of a clean turban on his head!” What did Zechariah mean by that?
Well, remember that Joshua is the high priest, and the high priest would have special headgear. In Exodus 28:36-38 we read, “Make a plate of pure gold and engrave on it as on a seal: HOLY TO THE LORD. 37 Fasten a blue cord to it to attach it to the turban; it is to be on the front of the turban. 38 It will be on Aaron’s forehead, and he will bear the guilt involved in the sacred gifts the Israelites consecrate, whatever their gifts may be. It will be on Aaron’s forehead continually so that they will be acceptable to the LORD.”
It appears that this clean turban that is to be put of Joshua’s head is related to the high priest’s headgear and the plate that proclaimed “Holy to the Lord.”
So not only are Joshua’s sins taken away (4), but he is given holiness from the Lord. This is in accord with what we read in 1 Cor. 1:30-31:
“You are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God- that is, our righteousness, holiness, and redemption. Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Application: Often we may feel accused by Satan or by our conscience, for sins that we have already confesses, repented of, and been forgiven of. We may have a hard time feeling that we are really clean in God’s eyes, for the awful sins we have committed. If that is our struggle, then we need to take hold of Zech. 3:1-5, and remember what Paul writes in 2 Cor. 5:21 “God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
Of course, this passage point us beyond Joshua, and beyond ourselves, to the ultimate High Priest, Jesus Christ. For He is the one who fills the office of High Priest forever, after the order of Melchizedek.
Heb. 7:23-26 “Now there have been many of those priests, since death prevented them from continuing in office; 24 but because Jesus lives forever, he has a permanent priesthood. 25 Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them. 26 Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens.”
Are you trusting fully in Jesus as your Great High Priest?