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.

The Story So Far, Week 3

Dressed for success

In reading about Joseph, a story I’ve read before, heard a lot about, and have even watched a movie on, it was fun to see what jumped out this time. We all know Joseph for his coat of many colors. It was given to him by his father Jacob, because Jacob loved Joseph dearly. It was an outward sign of his father’s favor.

But that robe would later be a sign of his brother’s treachery, as they take his robe and give it to Jacob indicating Joseph had been killed by an animal. Joseph goes from being loved in his father’s house, to being stripped of his fine clothes, sold into slavery, and he ends up working in Potiphar’s house.

But God was still with him as he prospered in all he did and found favor in Potiphar’s eyes. Unfortunately again Joseph’s dress was used in a plot for his harm. After rejecting advances from Potiphar’s wife and in the process leaving his cloak behind as he fled, Potiphar’s wife takes out her anger against Joseph by presenting the cloak as though it were proof of his misdeeds.

Joseph is again upended and goes to prison, where again he prospers and finds favor with those around him. Joseph ends up, through the work of God in giving him interpretations of dreams, leaving prison to be the highest ranking man in Egypt, except for Pharaoh himself. He had been robbed of his life by his brothers when they stripped him of his robe, but now he is restored by Pharaoh who, in chapter 41, “took his signet ring from his finger and put it on Joseph’s finger. He dressed him in robes of fine linen and put a gold chain around his neck.” Again we have an outward sign of Joseph’s status. He is dressed in such a way by Pharaoh for he is valued and given great responsibility in the land.

We see clothing play a part in another story that will be read in the coming weeks from Luke. The prodigal son leaves his father’s house and upon his long-awaited return is dressed in a ring and given shoes and the household is told to make preparation for a great celebration. The clothing signifies the father’s joy and acceptance of his son.

We might not give such thought to how we are dressed or how we see others dressed, but how we are clothed matters greatly in another sense. In 1 Peter 5 we are told to clothe ourselves not in literal attire, but in humility, for God opposes the proud. The dress of a Christian is to have certain characteristics like humility, but none as important as what we see in Romans 13:14. In the NIV is says:

Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ…

Whatever status is afforded to us by the way that we dress in this life cannot compare to the status that comes by our being clothed with Christ. Our clothes represent much of who we are when we are clothed in him. For when that is the case, we who are sinners gain instead the appearance of Christ’s righteousness. When our God sees us, he does not see our sin, instead he sees the perfection of his Son.

As we close out Genesis and John, the contrast is clear. So many figures of old are just ordinary like you and me. The only extraordinary one is seen in the gospels, and that is Jesus Christ. We do not boast in Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob, nor can we boast in ourselves. We only boast in Christ. If not for our being clothed in him, boasting in his appearance, we would be nothing.