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Zechariah 3:1-7 - Salvation On Display

(Zechariah 3 NKJV) Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. {2} And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?" {3} Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. {4} Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes." {5} And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by. {6} Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, {7} "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'If you will walk in My ways, And if you will keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk Among these who stand here.

Verse 1: The cast of characters good and bad

The characters here are an interpreting angel (from previous chapters), Zechariah the prophet, Joshua the high priest, the Angel of the Lord representing God, and Satan. The interpreting angel shows this vision to Zechariah as part of a series of seven visions given in a single night.

Satan is here opposing/resisting/accusing Joshua the high priest. There is a word-play here the same root word is used for Satan's name and what he does. Satan is "sataning" Joshua. This is not the Joshua who fought the battle of Jericho a thousand years earlier, this is the Joshua who helped rebuild the destroyed temple after the Jews returned from their exile in Babylon. This Joshua is the high priest and as such was charged with re-establishing the worship of the Lord in Israel. He was being encouraged in this ministry by his contemporaries Zechariah, Haggai, and Ezra. As the critical figure in Israel's religion at the time he became the focus of Satan's personal attention (as Job and later Jesus did). He was not attacked by Satan because he was wicked but because he was important to God. The direct Satanic attacks shown in Scripture are all directed at people that YHWH has commended in some way. Satan is called "the Accuser of the brethren" and what sort of brethren does Satan try to accuse? The faithful ones - those who bear testimony to Jesus.

(Revelation 12:10-11 NKJV) Then I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, "Now salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ have come, for the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night, has been cast down. {11} "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, and they did not love their lives to the death.

Verse 2: God's choosing overcomes Satan's accusing.

A similar scene is alluded to in Jude.

(Jude 1:9 NKJV) Yet Michael the archangel, in contending with the devil, when he disputed about the body of Moses, dared not bring against him a reviling accusation, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!".

Apparently Satan has "angelic majesty" and could only to be rebuked by God, believers using Jesus' name may rebuke Satan, as they are not acting in their own authority, but in God's. The basis for the rebuking of Satan is interesting, the angel does not say "Don't you know who this is, this is Joshua the High Priest the most righteous and respectable person in all Israel". Nothing in Joshua, not his goodness or respectability is used to rebuke Satan. Joshua's sin is obvious and undisputed. It is God's election (purposeful choosing) and mercy that form the basis of the rebuke. God has chosen Jerusalem, its temple and its high priest - Joshua. The Lord has plucked Joshua "out of the fire" - not because Joshua is good but because God is gracious. This has very close parallels to how God acts toward all believers. Because of the blood of Christ, God's choosing , God's mercy and our being made free from the law Satan has no grounds for accusation. There is truly no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

(Romans 8:1-2 NKJV) There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. {2} For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death.

And again in Colossians...

(Colossians 2:13-14 NRSV) And when you were dead in trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive together with him, when he forgave us all our trespasses, {14} erasing the record that stood against us with its legal demands. He set this aside, nailing it to the cross.

(For further discussion of this verse see this months article on "The Cross in Colossians").

Verses 3 and 4: Sin is taken away at God's command and righteousness is given instead.

{3} Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. {4} Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, "Take away the filthy garments from him." And to him He said, "See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes."

The Bible uses the symbolism of robes to indicate spiritual status and honor. In this it is a bit like Oxford University where degrees and status can be read from the kinds of robes, tassels and hats worn by academics. In Scripture white garments are alluded to as symbols of righteousness. (Rev 3:4,5,18 6:11) and filthy garments as a symbol of sin (Rev 3:4) and nakedness/lack of garments indicate complete spiritual destitution like that of the church of Laodecia (Rev 3:17).

Joshua's "rich garments" may indicate righteousness plus priestly authority. The transformation from filthy garments to clean garments is accomplished by the word/command of God. It is also accomplished by the blood of the Lamb (Jesus Christ).

(Revelation 7:14 NKJV) And I said to him, "Sir, you know." So he said to me, "These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.

This highly visual representation makes the process of justification very easy to understand. God chooses us and defends us. He takes away our "filthy garments" that is our sin. He then gives us new garments symbolizing the new lifestyle we are about to begin leading. Justification is being made "just-as -if I'd" never sinned. It is more than just having your sin forgiven and taken away. That is part one. Part two of justification is receiving a new life, new status, new purpose and being commissioned into the service of God as an obedient son or daughter. The new clothes are to be worn, lived in and lived up to. They are not to be soiled again (Rev 3:4) but to be kept clean by holiness and obedience.

Verse 5: The renewing of the mind and investment with authority

{5} And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.

"And I said" ...this is interesting, Zechariah as a prophet prophesies a command in the heavenly court. He speaks a word of the Lord "let them put a clean turban on his head". The turban was the very last piece of clothing put on before the priest was declared "Holy To The Lord", anointed with oil and served in the tabernacle.(Exodus 29:5-7) It represents completion of the process of being made holy. (Exodus 39:28-32) In that the turban went of the head it symbolized two things 1) A renewed mind 2) godly authority. The two are related in the teaching ministry of the priests...

(Leviticus 10:10-11 NRSV) You are to distinguish between the holy and the common, and between the unclean and the clean; {11} and you are to teach the people of Israel all the statutes that the LORD has spoken to them through Moses.
As a flow on from right teaching and godly thinking comes godly authority which is also symbolized by the priestly turban.

All Christians are called "priests' in the New Testament and are called to renew their minds. (Romans 12:1,2 Col 4:1-3) Their ability to have authority in spiritual things naturally follows on from this renewing. While the basic acts of salvation are accomplished by "divine fiat" that is by God's omnipotent say so, the renewing of the mind seems to a) happen later and b) require something to done at the human level - such as the teaching of the church, the reading of the Scriptures or the exhortation, rebuke and comfort of the prophetic word. Most of Joshua's salvation was accomplished by direct command of God however this last bit is a result of the ministry of Zechariah. .I do not wish to diminish the sovereignty or power of God in this but He has given to His church a certain measure of ability to help people renew their minds and grow in God. The "last bit" of our salvation comes through the ministry of other Christians.

The proportion of our salvation that is accomplished by divine command and that which is a result of the ministry of others is interesting. God has not given to the Church the ability to give or withhold salvation - that is His alone. He alone can say "your sin is taken away" or "clothe him with rich garments". The ministry of the church takes the already justified sinner and helps them to complete their sanctification and enter into God's purposes for their life. The ministry of the body of Christ is described in the New Testament as ‘edification'. It is the teaching of believers to think godly thoughts, believe godly doctrine and live godly lives. It is "putting the turban on the priest".

Verses 6 and 7: The Call To Action

{6} Then the Angel of the LORD admonished Joshua, saying, {7} "Thus says the LORD of hosts: 'If you will walk in My ways, And if you will keep My command, Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk Among these who stand here.

The Hebrew words for "ways" and "keep" and "command" deserve a bit of attention. The definitions are from Strong's Concordance and so is the numbering system. They have been made a bit clearer for the average reader by the removal of grammatical terms, obscure abbreviations and redundant definitions.

Ways- from derek, deh'-rek; (1870); a road (as trodden); a course of life or mode of action, journey, manner,

Keep- from shamar, shaw-mar';(8104). to hedge about (as with thorns), i.e. guard;. to protect, attend to, etc.:--beware, be circumspect, take heed (to self), keep (-er, self), mark, look narrowly, observe, preserve, regard, reserve, save (self), sure, (that lay) wait (for), watch (-man).

Command from .mishmereth, mish-meh'-reth;(4931) watch, i.e. the act or the sentry, the post; duty, charge, keep, to be kept, office, ordinance, safeguard, ward, watch.

Joshua had two conditions for success and privilege in ministry. The first condition was "If you walk in My ways.." this is a commandment for Joshua to have a godly deportment in life. He is to walk "with a book on his head" - the book of the Law and he is to walk with balance and integrity and only in the paths that God chooses. The phrase "walk in my ways" has strong moral connotations of obedience to the law from the heart without straying. It is a consecrated lifestyle. Thus the High Priest was not above the Law but was in fact to be the strictest keeper of it.

The second condition was to "keep my command" or as the King James Version puts it "if thou wilt keep my charge" which is a markedly better translation in this case. A ‘charge' is a personal responsibility given to the Christian by God. God's charge for Joshua was to be High Priest at a time when YHWH worship was being restored in Jerusalem after the return from Babylon. It was a lofty charge indeed! This phrase is used for guards at the gate or watchmen on the wall. It is a keen-eyed keeping of the office with all diligence and respect. It also implies an irrevocable passing on of responsibility. Once the charge is given to someone the full responsibility for the job passes with it.(Acts 8:27, 16:24) Authority generally is passed on as well. For a good example of a "charge" being given see Paul's charge to Timothy (2 Timothy 4:1-5).

Furthermore, there is dedication to duty such that you cannot be relieved from it until the period of the charge is over - that is you are "discharged". A guard on duty cannot wander off and chat to people or go home for lunch. There can be no slacking off. Lastly a charge was specific and could not be altered by whim. Joshua could not say "I do not like being High Priest I think I will take up being a prophet instead". Many Christians go astray from their charge much as Demas did "who loved this present world". A charge is an order that must be kept despite all difficulties. Joshua was to accept God's particular call on his life and to carry it through. He would be generously rewarded if he did so. So we see that the highest priority for Joshua was to walk in God's ways. Keeping charge of the temple and teaching would have been hypocrisy if his life had been a mess. But as well as being godly in a general sense he was to carry out his priestly charge for God and to do so with all diligence.

For us as Christians this means that after conversion we are called to two things a) Keeping God's ways b) diligently doing the good works that He has prepared beforehand for us to do.

(Ephesians 2:8-10 NKJV) For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, {9} not of works, lest anyone should boast. {10} For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Note the order of things for Joshua, first salvation, then renewing, then good works. The first is done by God, the second is assisted by other Christians and the third is entirely Joshua's responsibility. We are not saved by our good works. They follow after salvation. God works the salvation by His grace and choosing. Then part of our response is to do the good works that He has "created us in Christ Jesus" for.

Verse 7b: The Reward

Then you shall also judge My house, And likewise have charge of My courts; I will give you places to walk Among these who stand here.

The reward for faithfulness is authority and privilege. There seem to be dual meanings here. The phrases "judge My House" and "have charge of My courts" could both refer to the temple in Jerusalem or they could refer to the temple in heaven where Joshua is standing at this time. It seems that there is a temple in heaven (Rev 11:19, 14:17, 15;5) and that Moses made the tabernacle as an exact copy of it (Exodus 25:9, 40) and also the pattern of the temple was revealed by God to David who gave it to Solomon for construction (1 Chr 28:11-19)

The last phrase "places to walk among those who stand here" definitely refers to the heavenly courts. I incline towards the "heavenly courts " interpretation because it seems incongruous for Joshua to be given charge of the Jerusalem temple as a reward for being a faithful High Priest. The office was lifelong anyway - no matter how badly Joshua did it he would still judge the temple in Jerusalem and have charge of its courts. So if the reward promised by the angel of the Lord just applied to the earthly temple it was, in effect, no reward at all. Yet there is an aura of tremendous privilege about these words.

It seems to me then that Joshua is being promised a prominent role in the temple in heaven.. The highest of Joshua's rewards was "a place to walk among those standing here" those standing there were might angelic beings who stood in the direct counsel of God. Thus the highest privilege for a believer is to be admitted to the direct counsels of God.

Joshua's reward was to serve in heaven in a role similar to that which he had served on earth. This opens up a window on the reward we may be given. God prepares good works for us to do on earth. If we are faithful here we may get to do them in heaven before God and all the heavenly host with great privilege and authority. This conclusion is tenuous at best but it does make sense of this life as a place of testing, training and preparation for our final and eternal service before God.

Conclusion

Our salvation then involves a remarkable justification wrought entirely by the mercy of God followed by edification leading to sanctification through the ministry of other believers and finally participation in the ways, calling and counsels of God and a ministry among heavenly things as a reward for faithful obedience.

 

This article may be freely reproduced for non-profit ministry purposes but may not be sold in any way. For permission to use articles in your ministry, e-mail the editor, John Edmiston at johned@aibi.ph.