The Gospel in Zechariah’s Vision of a High Priest

Satan, the accuser (Gustave Doré, Illustration from Dante’s Inferno)

Zechariah 3 includes a vision of the priest Joshua that in one short paragraph paints a picture of the gospel.

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. 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?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 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.”

Joshua is standing before the Lord with Satan beside him, accusing him. I imagine Satan describing Joshua’s inadequacy and sin. How could God accept one like him? What use does God have with Joshua? Look at his filthy garments!

But Satan’s accusations are of no use. The Lord rebukes Satan, removes the filthy garments, and bestows upon Joshua pure vestments. God overcomes Joshua’s iniquity and provides for him.

This could easily be the scene for any of us, sinful as we are, standing before God in judgment. Satan would not be lacking in his accusations. Who of us does not have a long list from which Satan could pick and choose? But the good news is that our sin, our filthy garments, that should disqualify us from standing before God are removed because of the work of Jesus Christ. God does not base his love for us in our deeds. Our deeds amount to nothing. Our right standing is based on what God has supplied for us. He removed our sin and gives to us his own righteousness.

Satan has no right to accuse us any longer. The only one who can condemn us, who can judge us in such a way is Christ, but he is the one who stands at the righthand of God interceding for us (Romans 8:34). The one who could accuse instead stepped in for us and died in our place so that his own righteousness could be placed upon us like pure vestments. It is a righteousness not our own, but of Christ (Phil 3:9).

Our sinfulness clothes us in filth, but by God’s grace we are cleansed, and instead clothed in Christ himself.

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