Zechariah 3:1-4 (ESV) Then he 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.”
Zechariah 3:1-4 is one of those Scripture passages that absolutely create goosebumps all over. The words the prophet speaks in this vision remind me that redemption from sin is never in the hands of the recipient of mercy, rather it is the gracious activity of God to rescue sinners, and we have a real adversary who opposes this grace.
The people are returning from captivity, and the temple is being reconstructed, but it’s not of the glorious stature of Solomon’s temple. They are tempted to despise the day of small things because they can’t imagine the Lord can do more than they can do, so they mourn what they don’t have compared to what used to be. They are still not ethically where they need to be, and disobedience to God is all quite normal for them. Comparison to the past and present moral failure is leading to their despair, and those two cancers will lead to our despair too.
So, the Lord, being rich in mercy, gives Zechariah a glimpse of spiritual warfare and how God himself combats their enemy in that warfare and how the Lord will save them.
We learn that Satan, the Adversary and Accuser, actively accuses the high priest before Yhwh, and it is Yhwh himself who rebukes Satan.
We learn that Joshua the high priest is clothed in filthy clothing, representing his standing before the Lord, and it is the Lord himself who has Joshua clothed in clean clothing, representing his new standing before the Lord.
What can we learn from this prophetic glimpse?
- Satan is a real adversary, and he actively accuses us before God, so that nagging feeling of not measuring up to God’s standard is Satan.
- My standing before God is never on the basis of my merit, rather on the good substitutionary grace of God alone. It is God who atones for sin with his own merit. Joshua is just there, and it is Yhwh who put him there in his presence in the first place for Satan to even be able to accuse him.
- Joshua does nothing to earn clean standing before Yhwh. God does that on his own good love for Joshua because he’s already made Joshua his.
Because of the good work of Jesus in our place for our sin, we get to be priests of the Lord, and we have a real adversary who will accuse us.
We must recall God’s word that reminds us that our merit is found in Christ alone.
We must resist the lies of the enemy, and lean on the Lord to rebuke Satan, and receive that precious gift as one of divine initiative and mercy not presumptuous power on our part.
We wear the righteousness of Jesus as our own in humble worship and thanksgiving for what he has done for us.
Let Zechariah 3:1-4 be a counselor to you today.