Zechariah 3:1-10. Then he [the angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5 And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
6 And the angel of the Lord solemnly assured Joshua, 7 “Thus says the Lord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. 8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. 9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the Lord of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10 In that day, declares the Lord of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”
Zechariah’s angelic advent continues with one of the most glorious visions in all of scripture. Zechariah sees Joshua the High Priest of Israel, standing in front of the Angel of the Lord. All the major players are there. The angelic guide is there. Satan is there. God is there. And Jesus is there as the Angel of the Lord. This is truly a fascinating scene.
And a bit terrifying for Joshua. The most holy man in Israel, wearing the most holy clothes, standing in the most holy presence, ready to serve the most holy God, finds himself covered in filth (poo). And, of course, Satan is there accusing Joshua in the heavenly courtroom.
Zechariah 3:1-5, from Full of Eyes (fullofeyes.com)
Have you ever felt this way?
Like Joshua, we were all made to be priests before God, but no matter how hard we try we just can’t get rid of all the filth in our lives. And all the guilt that comes with it. We can’t get the voice of our Adversary out of our heads.
And so we start believing THE lie. The lie that we can make ourselves right with God. Do more. Try harder. Pray another prayer of confession. Walk another aisle. Go to church revivals. Throw a stick in the fire. Make a New Year’s resolution – this is the year I finally change! This is the year I get serious about my faith!
Or maybe you’re just in denial about the poo all over your clothes. Maybe you have built up all kinds of defenses against the truth of your own sin. Your own disgusting “garments.” No one can tell you anything anymore. Maybe you just can’t handle the truth of your own heart. Your own personality. Your own background. Your own guilt. “I’m fine,” you keep telling yourself.
It is into all this mess that the Angel of the Lord (Jesus himself) speaks. The future Joshua (Jesus) speaks to the current Joshua. The great High Priest of heaven speaks to the High Priest of Israel. And what he speaks is so gracious. So beautiful. So comforting.
He speaks the good news. And with it he will shut up the Accuser – The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! Christ shuts up our Accuser by the better word of his blood. Now we can let the word of our testimony overrule the lies of his blame.
He speaks the good news of cleansing – “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” Jesus gives Joshua pure robes. No more filth. Just the righteousness of Christ himself to be worn into the presence of God.
And not just for Joshua, but for the whole nation. There’s a picture of Christ’s substitution for us here that’s easy to miss. Zechariah, in his excitement, cries out, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” The turban worn by the high priest represented the whole nation. On it was a gold band that said “Holy to the Lord.” When the priest wore this turban into God’s presence it reminded God that the holy priest represented a holy people. The holiness of God is passed through our High Priest (Christ) and on to us his people (the Church).
Finally, He speaks the good news of an advent – I will bring my servant the Branch. He tells Joshua of the arrival of the One who will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. The Branch from Jesse, the Messiah. Jesus.
When Jesus came to earth, like Joshua, he too found himself covered in filth. Not his own, but yours and mine. But unlike Joshua, Jesus stood outside the temple of God. There was no cleansing for Jesus that day. He had to die in the filth. He had to be stripped naked in shame without clean robes to put on. His turban a crown of thorns.
The Branch had to be cut off.
This is how the iniquity of the land could be removed in a single day. The day our Savior died. A terrifying and yet glorious day. Because of this single day we will never live another day in our own filth. We will never spend another day separated from our God. Jesus is the one who perfectly walked in the Lord’s ways and kept his charge. He is the one who has been granted access to the holy places of God. Our better Joshua, Jesus Christ, was raised into new pure robes, a new turban of our righteousness, and a cleansing by the Spirit of God. A cleansing that he now shares with us by our union with his own indestructible life.
This is the good news of advent – in Christ we have been invited as the neighbors of Jesus to come under his vine and under his fig tree. Placed into his life and into his kingdom. Clothed in his righteous life and cleansed to serve as his priests in the presence of God forever.
Do you see yourself in filth covered robes today, or are you dressed in Christ’s robes of pure white? Have you been trying to clean your own “clothes?” How can you rest in Christ’s cleansing today? How can you serve as a priest before God in your new clothes?
It’s not a Christmas song, but it is an advent song.