The Book of Zechariah
THE FOURTH VISION: JOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST
1. There are eight visions received by the prophet Zechariah, all in one night – tonight we will look at the fourth vision, which is about Joshua the high priest.
2. As we saw in our previous studies, the small remnant that returned from Babylon was urged on by the preaching of the prophets Haggai and Zechariah to rebuild the temple of God.
3. Among the group that returned was Joshua the high priest. He returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel around 538-537 BC and took an active leadership role in Jerusalem.
4. The first three visions demonstrated how God will pour out His blessings upon His chosen people Israel and how He will judge their enemies. But the question may arise as to how a holy God can do all this for such a sinful nation. This fourth vision answers that question.
5. There are three characters in chapter 3, and we meet them all in verse 1 – Joshua the high priest, the angel of the Lord, and Satan, which means literally, “the adversary.”
I. JOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST (3:1-7)
1. Joshua the high priest represents the nation Israel. He is “standing before the angel of the Lord” in his official capacity as high priest. That Joshua represents Israel in this vision is easy to understand:
(1) When Satan accuses Joshua before the Lord, the Lord rebukes Satan and reminds him that He “hath chosen Jerusalem” (vs. 2; cf. 1:17; 2:8, 12). God elects, not on the basis of merit, but on the basis of His great love (cf. Deut. 7:7, 8). Someone asked Spurgeon if he was elected before he was born. He replied, “God had to have elected me before I was born – otherwise He never would have elected me.” By rebuking Satan in this manner, it is clear that Joshua the high priest was the representative of Jerusalem and the nation Israel.
(2) By the way, according to the Bible, election is for service, not for salvation (3:2).
(3) The Lord declares that He has caused Joshua’s iniquity to pass from him (vs. 4), and then makes the same declaration in verse 9 in reference to Israel. Then will Israel truly be “the holy land” (cf. Zech. 2:12).
2. The high priest has always represented the nation Israel. For example, on the Day of Atonement the high priest went into the Holy of Holies for the entire nation. Thank God, we have a greater high priest, the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, who has entered the Holy of Holies with His own blood, having obtained eternal redemption for us (Heb. 9:12).
3. We see here that “Joshua was clothed with filthy garments” (vss. 3, 4). These filthy garments symbolize man’s sinful condition. We have no righteousness of our own.
4. The Hebrew word translated “filthy” is found only in this one passage in the Bible; it means “very filthy.” Though the adjective is found only this one time, the noun form appears several times (cf. Ezek. 4:12).
5. The Lord “answered and spake unto those that stood before Him” (Zech. 3:4). These are His attending angels, and they are instructed to remove Joshua’s filthy garments.
6. This symbolizes the forgiveness of sins for both the nation of Israel at her future restoration and the forgiveness of sins of all repentant sinners who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ.
7. Though these visions are all specifically dealing with the future restoration of the nation Israel, this is also a beautiful picture of the Gospel:
(1) Christ is our Advocate before the Father (I John 2:1).
(2) Satan is “the accuser of our brethren” (Rev. 12:10; cf. Job 1, 2). The devil enjoys accusing us and bringing our faults and failures before God.
(3) All descendants of Adam and Eve are “clothed with filthy garments” before our thrice holy God (Zech. 3:3). I was driving in my van the other day and a lady on the radio was saying, “All people are good.” She certainly does not know the Bible!
(4) “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is not washed from their filthiness” (Pro. 30:12).
(5) “But we are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags; and we all do fade as a leaf; and our iniquities, like the wind, have taken us away” (Isa. 64:6).
(6) “And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh” (Jude 23).
(7) When a sinner repents and becomes a child of God, his filthy rags are exchanged for the pure linen of God’s righteousness, the imputed righteousness of Christ (Zech. 3:4b; cf. Rev. 7:14). Zechariah was so excited at this that he spoke out (Zech. 3:5). The high priest wore a mitre with the words “Holiness Unto the Lord” written on it (Ex. 28:36, 37; cf. Zech. 14:20).
(8) This is genuine salvation. In fact, the name Joshua means “the Lord Saves” or “Jehovah Saves.”
(9) Next, we see the glorious transformation from sinner to saint (Zech. 3:4, 5). Have you experienced this wonderful transformation?
(10) Finally, we see the subsequent service to God on the part of those who have been redeemed (vss. 6, 7). The message of verse 7 is this – if you want to be used of God, you have to walk in His ways. Jesus said, “If ye love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15).
II. SATAN THE ACCUSER (3:1, 2).
1. Mark it down, our adversary is always there to hinder God’s work, to accuse us, and to “resist” us (Zech. 3:1).
2. The context of the accusations are not given but there can be no doubt that Joshua, clothed in filthy garments, was guilty as charged.
3. Twice the Lord rebuked Satan (vs. 2). Satan is unable to bring charges against Israel even though she certainly deserves them.
4. That is because God has chosen her (vs. 2). Likewise, Satan is unable to bring charges against us.
5. The Bible says, “Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God's elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Rom. 8:33, 34).
III. THE ANGEL OF THE LORD
1. The great Baptist preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, used to say that no matter what text he was preaching from, he always made a bee-line to Calvary. This is very easy to do in the book of Zechariah (1:8, 10, 11, 12, etc.).
2. The angel of the Lord is the pre-incarnate Christ. He is the “man with a measuring line in his hand” (2:1). He is “a wall of fire about” us (2:5). He will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem (2:10, 11). God the Father has sent Him (2:9, 11).
3. Here in Zechariah 3, we see three Messianic titles for the Lord Jesus Christ: “my servant, the BRANCH” (3:8b) and “the stone” (3:9).
John Wesley referred to himself as “a brand plucked out of the fire” (Zech. 3:2b; Amos 4:11). Are you a brand plucked out of the fire? If not, then you may very well wind up there some day.