GOD’S ELECT ARE UNTOUCHABLE AND FIT FOR SPIRITUAL SERVICE BECAUSE OF THE CLEANSING FROM SIN PROVIDED BY CHRIST
THE COMBINATION OF ROLES OF KING AND PRIEST IN ONE PERSON IS PREFIGURED IN JOSHUA (THE BRAND PLUCKED FROM THE FIRE) AND FULFILLED IN THE COMING MESSIAH (MY SERVANT THE BRANCH)
You recall the OT anointed roles of Prophet, Priest and King. God had wisely established a division of power and responsibility so that God’s dealings with the nation would not all be mediated through one central person – despite the presence of many strong individual leaders down through Israel’s history. Right from the beginning of God’s choice of Abraham, we saw the mysterious figure of Melchizedek as a precursor to the coming Messiah – one who was greater than Abraham (since he received tithes from him) and one who functioned as both Priest and King (cf. Hebrews 7). However, the coming Messiah will be the one to ultimately combine these leadership roles in His sinless reign.
Picture of Kingship:
The Lord says to my Lord:
“Sit at My right hand until I make Your enemies a footstool for your feet.”
. . .
Picture of Priestly Service
The Lord has sworn and will not change His mind,
You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.
Amazingly, the church saints have been blessed with the lofty calling of being both a priesthood (1 Pet 2:5, 9) and a people who will ultimately reign with the Messiah (2 Tim 2:12) when he returns to establish His kingdom. We have experienced the forgiveness of sins and have been clothed with the righteousness of Christ so that we are no longer under any condemnation – in fact we have the Lord Jesus as our Advocate before the throne of God to rebuke all of the attacks and accusations of Satan (the accuser of the brethren).
This passage gives tremendous insight into the role of the Messiah. He is seen here in his preincarnate existence as the Angel of the Lord. He is shown in various images as coming to save the nation in that future eschatological day when He will restore Judah to prosperity. This vision speaks to the restoration of the nation of Israel to her priestly role in ministering spiritual prosperity to the world. As cleansed vessels, no longer under any condemnation, and defended against the accusations of Satan, we are fit for spiritual service.
I. (:1-5) THE VISION OF JOSHUA AS IT RELATES TO OUR PAST —
A BRAND PLUCKED FROM THE FIRE —
AS GUILTY SINNERS WE STAND IN GOD’S PRESENCE ONLY BECAUSE OF THE ADVOCACY OF THE LORD AS OUR GREAT HIGH PRIEST TO REBUKE THE ACCUSATIONS OF SATAN, CLEANSE US FROM SIN, AND CLOTHE US WITH HIS RIGHTEOUSNESS
A. (:1) The Opening Scene – High Level Participants in the Presence of the Lord in Heaven – this is heavy stuff
“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.”
Mackay: This is a different style of introduction from those of the other visions. This and other changes in the way the vision is related are just elegant variations to avoid monotony. They certainly do not constitute valid grounds for questioning the authenticity of the vision.
1. Joshua the high priest
Normally a very impressive figure – but not when you see the rest of the cast; Jesus = Greek form of Joshua
Merrill: Neither Ezra nor Nehemiah describes Joshua as “high priest.” This is left to Haggai and Zechariah, though clearly the prominence of Joshua among the priests in even the accounts of Ezra and Nehemiah leaves no question that they also knew him as such (cf. especially Neh. 12:1, 7). He was a direct descendant of Aaron through Zadok, founder of the line of priests established by David and Solomon (1 Chron. 6:3, 8-15). His father Jehozadak had gone into Babylonian exile in 586, so it is likely that Joshua was already advanced in years when he returned to Jerusalem in 538, nearly fifty years later. Certainly by the year of Zechariah’s night visions (519) Joshua was an old man.
2. Angel of the Lord
3. Satan = the accuser of the brethren
Satan is a powerful adversary – just ask Job – but he cannot do more than what the Lord allows him to do. He certainly is not bound now … as some would preach. He walks about like a roaring lion seeking whom to devour.
Some of his typical accusations:
– your puny attempts at rebuilding the temple will never amount to anything; your service to the Lord is in vain; it’s not worth it
– you will always be a defeated, worthless sinner
– you are a nobody; God does not even see what you are doing or care about you
– all of the future promises of God that you are counting on are suspect – maybe you are interpreting them wrong; maybe God has changed His mind …
B. (:2) The Stern Lines — The Elect of God Have Been Rescued from Condemnation and Rendered Untouchable – even against the Accusations of Satan Himself – despite their Sin
“The Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?’”
Merrill: The rationale for the rebuke is that Satan has overlooked the fact that YHWH, who has chosen Jerusalem, has declared Joshua to be a brand snatched from the fire (v. 2). The reference to YHWH as “He who has chosen” (habboher) Jerusalem establishes the connection between this vision and the preceding oracle (and the first as well) where YHWH, speaking with reference to the eschaton, promises to choose Jerusalem again (2:12; cf. 1:17; 2 Chron. 6:6; Isa. 14:1 [Israel]). “He who has chosen Jerusalem” thus orients the vision to the end times, but it also draws attention to Jerusalem as the place of YHWH’s habitation, particularly in the Temple.
Constable: The Lord then referred to Joshua as a burning stick plucked from the fire, evidently for His future use (cf. Amos 4:11). If Joshua represents Israel, then the fire must refer to the Babylonian captivity from which Israel had come almost destroyed, and the stick refers to the surviving remnant. Israel had experienced another brush with extinction at the Exodus (Deut. 4:20; 7:7-8; Jer. 11:4), and she will do so again in the Tribulation (13:8-9; Jer. 30:7; Rev. 12:13-17).
C. (:3-5) The Symbolic Action — Picture of Imputed Righteousness
1. The Stripping off of the Filth of Sin
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel. He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ Again he said to him, ‘See, I have taken your iniquity away from you”
Merrill: The scene that meets the human eye is that of a high priest dressed in garments stained with excrement, a sign of the vilest defilement. The same way of describing human sinfulness is found in Isa. 4:4 where, interestingly enough, the daughters of Zion will be cleansed from their filthiness in a purging associated with the coming of the “Branch,” a messianic figure introduced in Zech. 3:8 in connection with our present vision. As distasteful and shocking as this may be in general terms, the appearance of the high priest so defiled was beyond comprehension. His dress was to be of the finest, purest linen, especially on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:4), so to see him this way was to see him in a state of absolute cultic and spiritual disqualification.
2. The Gracious Clothing in the Righteousness Provided by God
“’and will clothe you with festal robes.’ Then 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, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.”
It’s comforting to have the angel of the Lord standing by for whenever we need him
Merrill: He passes from a condition of utmost defilement to one of unsurpassed glory. It is significant, however, the word used here to speak of the new garments, is not the normal one for the robes of the high priest (“holy garments”; cf. Ex. 28:2). Rather, it describes the apparel of royalty or wealth. The point is that Joshua forms with Zerubbabel a dyarchic rule in which the high priest increasingly enjoyed political as well as cultic authority. The turban of v. 5 also supports this understanding.
Cole: We stand before God not in our own good deeds, but in the righteous deeds of Jesus Christ, imputed to our account. It is not a lifelong process of God infusing enough righteousness into us that eventually we qualify for heaven, as the Roman Catholic Church teaches. Rather, it is a judicial decision on God’s part that takes place in an instant, as the clothing of Joshua here pictures. God justifies the guilty sinner by grace alone through Christ alone, received by faith alone. Our good deeds have nothing at all to do with it.
II. (:6-7) THE VISION OF JOSHUA AS IT RELATES TO OUR PRESENT —
FAITHFUL SERVICE TODAY GRANTS THE PRIVILEGE OF RULING AND SERVING IN THE FUTURE
A. Charge to Serve the Lord Faithfully – Conditions for Blessing
1. Tone of Divine Exhortation
“And the angel of the Lord admonished Joshua saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts’”
2. Twofold Responsibility
a. Responsibility of Personal Obedience – Covenant Loyalty
“If you will walk in My ways”
b. Responsibility of Faithful Service in His Role as Priest
“and if you will perform My service”
B. Promise of Threefold Blessing
1. Governing Authority – emphasis on the temple and associated people
“then you will also govern My house”
2. Administration Privileges – emphasis still on the temple courts
“and also have charge of My courts”
3. Priestly Service
“and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here.”
Mackay: If he maintains his integrity then he will be given permission to enter into the heavenly court, into the very presence of God, and there to fulfill his priestly role by interceding on behalf of the people.
III. (:8-10) THE VISION OF JOSHUA AS IT RELATES TO OUR FUTURE —
THE MESSIAH THE SERVANT OF THE LORD IS COMING AS THE DIVINE BRANCH AND THE ONE STONE TO SAVE JUDAH AND RESTORE PROSPERITY TO THE LAND
A. (:8a) Call to Joshua and his Fellow Priests to Listen
“Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you – indeed they are men who are a symbol”
B. (:8b-9a) Threefold Image of the Function of the Messiah in the End Times
1. Image of Messiah as God’s Servant
“for behold, I am going to bring in My servant”
2. Image of Messiah as the Branch – direct extension of deity
MacArthur: denotes His rise from humble beginnings (Is 11:1; Jer 23:5,6) and His fruitfulness (6:12; Is 11:1).
3. Image of Messiah as the Stone with Seven Eyes
“For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes.”
Merrill: Stone as a messianic symbol is also well known throughout the Bible, for the foundation upon which God’s future Temple of redemption and dominion must rest is none other than the messianic figure of whom this scene provides a foreshadowing. As Kenneth Barker points out, the Messiah was, in His first advent, a stumbling stone and rock of offense (Ps. 118:22-23; Isa. 8:13-15; Matt. 21:42; 1 Peter 2:7-8) but now is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph. 2:19-22). In the eschaton He will be “the dependable rock of the trusting heart.” Thus, behind this vision hovers the unmistakable aura of messianic promise and fulfillment.
Remarkable about the stone of the present oracle is that it has seven eyes (Zech. 3:9). Seven in biblical numerology signifies fullness or completeness, so the seven eyes suggest omniscience or undimmed vision. In vision five (Zech. 4:1-14) the seven eyes are identified as the eyes of YHWH that “run to and fro over the whole earth” (4:10). This universal attention by YHWH is an affirmation of His sovereign control, His unlimited dominion (cf. 1:10). Hanani the prophet had long before taught King Asa of Judah that “the eyes of YHWH run to and fro over the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is upright toward him” (2 Chron. 16:9).
D. (:9b) End Times Activity of the Lord Described – Declaration of His Purpose
1. Purpose Statement #1
“Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the Lord of hosts”
Keathley: The engraving – the only place where we have engraved stones is on the garments of the priests. The stone on the priest’s headband was engraved with the phrase, “Holy to the Lord.”
MacArthur: The engraving may be a reference to the cornerstone of the temple building, on which will be engraved an inscription attesting to the Divine Builder and the purpose for which the building was erected. As such, it is closely tied to the removal of “the iniquity of that land in one day,” symbolized by the removal of filthy garments in v. 4. The phrase looks to the future day when there will be cleansing and forgiveness for the nation as a whole (12:10 – 13:1; Ro 11:25-27), made possible through Christ’s redemptive provision at Calvary.
2. Purpose Statement #2
“and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.”
E. (:10) Picture of Kingdom Prosperity
“’In that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.’”