a. Royal Albert Hall
At the end of the 19th
century a debate was held in the Royal Albert Hall.
Various religions where given the opportunity to argue why they we’re the only true religion.
Can’t see that happening today. The different speakers for each religion went on for a while. Though, when it came to the Christian speaker, he walked to the podium and said only these words,
‘In Christianity Jesus Christ offers forgiveness.’ And he sat down.
I’m sure you’ve heard of being woke and cancel culture.
If you don’t toe a certain line, or you’ve made mistakes in the past, beware, cancel culture might knock at your door next.
‘Cos the Internet and social media never forgets.
And if woke crusaders find your dirty laundry or closet skeletons, they’ll expose it,
And there’ll be no room for redemption, no opportunity for change, no chance of forgiveness. Who you were in the past is who you are in the future. No hope for change. No chance of redemption.
But ‘In Christianity Jesus Christ offers forgiveness.’ He cancels sin, not sinners.
b. Zechariah’s 4th Vision
And Zechariah’s fourth vision in chapter 3 unpacks forgiveness.
It’s a sleepless night for Zechariah. 8 visions in all.
The first 3 focus on the whole of God’s people, and have to do, in one way or another, with rebuilding the temple.
Visions 4 and 5, in the centre, are different. The spotlight is flipped onto 2 individuals. The leaders of God’s people.
The high priest, Joshua.
And the governor, Zerrubabel.
2 leaders who represent God’s people. 2 key players whom God will use to accomplish His purposes, that of sins forgiven.
So, how will God cleanse His sinful people, and forgive.
1. COSMIC CONFLICT
Vision 4 takes us into a courtroom. And a fierce conflict.
The prisoner in the dock is Joshua the High Priest. Standing before the Angel of the Lord, God’s appointed judge. With the prosecuting attorney, Satan himself.
b. Cosmic Conflict
Now this courtroom conflict is the backdrop to all of human life and reality. This isn’t conflict between Satan and Joshua. Joshua’s just in the middle. It’s essentially a cosmic conflict between god and Satan. A conflict begun before the creation of the world, And that’ll continue until the final judgement.
God and Satan war.
God’s great goal is to save, forgive and gather a people for Himself. Yet Satan directly opposes God, seeking to undermine and undo God’s purposes. And that’s the Bible’s basic storyline. God works His plan. Satan tries to derail it.
All of history, every stage, is played out in the context of this cosmic conflict.
Which means that whether we like it or not, we’re ‘involved’. I wonder if, while at the breakfast table, sipping our ‘Cappucino’ and mentally going through our ‘to do list’, whether we realise that today, everyday, we’re at war. We’re on the front-line.
A cosmic spiritual battle is real. And our lives, even the small details, fit into the context of this great war.
As Paul says in Ephesians.
Eph 6:10-12 ” be strong in the Lord in the strength of His might. 11 Put on the whole armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 [‘cos] we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, authorities, cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.”
We’re just foot soldiers, but we’re in the war zone.
If you’re unaware, you’ll let your guard down. You’ll leave off the armour. And you’ll be susceptible to Satan’s attacks, even to being used by him. We’ve got to open our spiritual eyes to the conflict, and stand strong in the Lord.
Satan seeks to derail gospel work, to undercut and destroy all God is doing. That’s his passion. And he’ll use whatever he can to break down God’s work, And to break down God’s workers Which here is Joshua.
2. THE FILTHY PRIEST (VERSES 1 and 3)
So, back to the courtroom, verse 1, and the high priest in the dock.
Zech 3:1 ” standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.”
Satan’s doing some serious finger pointing. But there’s a serious problem. ‘cos as the accusations fly, they stick. Judah’s back in the land and they’ve got a priest. That’s good. But the priest they’ve got is dirty.
Zech 3:3 ” Joshua [is] dressed in filthy clothes [standing] before the angel.”
Filthy clothes makes me think of having just played soccer in the rain. You’re all sweaty and muddy. But that’s the not the case here.
Remember the movie Slumdog Millionaire?
And little Jamal jumps into a big tank of poop.
Well, the word filthy here is the word for vomit or faeces. It’s repulsive. It stinks. Soap and a shower won’t do. What’s needed is disinfectant, quarantine and an incinerator.
It’s disgusting. What’s more it’s disastrous. ‘Cos the priest represents God’s people. He mediates between them and God. He offers sacrifices for sin and intercedes on their behalf.
If the Priest’s filthy sinful there’s no hope for those he represents.
Keep in mind the High Priest wears designer clothes. Which Exodus 28 describes. Sacred garments – breastpiece, ephod, robe, tunic, turban and sash. Made by skilled workers using fine linen. Beautifully embroidered
with gold, blue, purple and scarlet yarn. Bedecked
with precious gemstones. Emerald, amethyst, topaz, jasper, and much more. Set
in pure gold and hemmed
with woven pomegranates and gold bells. The priest even has to wear fancy underwear.
All so that he could properly be able to approach God – clean, acceptable.
The High Priest is to be dressed in high fashion, and clean clothes. Yet Joshua shows up smelling like a toilet. Un-clean, and un-acceptable to God.
Which isn’t good for the high priest. And it isn’t good for the people he represents. How can any sacrifice be offered for the sins of the people when their representative stinks? How can sin be forgiven if God’s representative is filthy?
Now, I wonder if we identify with Joshua here? Do you see yourself as filthy? Sinful? Whether you follow Jesus or not, this way of thinking doesn’t come naturally. If you’re anything like me, we tend to think of ourselves as better than we are. Think about it, when people confront you with something you’ve done wrong, what’s your natural reaction? Defensive? Self-justifying? Do you look for your fault in what they’re saying? Do you look to find fault with what they’re saying?
You heard the story of the elderly lady who sanctimoniously told her minister, ‘I’m such a sinner.’? He said, ‘I agree!’ To which she replied, ‘How dare you think that?!’
It’s hard to genuinely admit that we’re sinful. That we’re naturally selfish and proud. We think of ourselves as a little more pretty, a little more smart, a little more worthy, and a little more deserving of just about everything.
Tim Keller, in his helpful little book ‘The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness’ writes: ‘Up until the 20th century, traditional cultures always believed that too high a view of yourself was the root cause of all the evil in the world. Our belief today is that people misbehave for lack of self-esteem and because they have too low a view of themselves.”
Tim goes on to say that ‘humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.’
Far from having broken contrite hearts, our hearts are naturally bloated with the calories of self-consumption and filled with obscene levels of self-obsession. God is talking about Joshua the High Priest, but it might as well be you, or me. We’re sinful. guilty. Unacceptable. Condemned.
3. CLEANSED and CLOTHED (VERSES 2 and 4-7)
Well, God’s got something to say. And to do. The Lord gives Satan a telling off.
Zech 3:2 ” The Lord [verse 2, says] to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!'”
a. Rescued and Redressed
And then flips the focus onto Joshua.
Zech 3:2 ” Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
The Exile made Judah worry that God’s grand project to bless them was reduced to ashes. But after 70 years of exile, just as the embers were giving up their final glow, God pulled them from the dust and rekindled the flame. God’s brought Joshua, Zechariah, and a bucket load of others back home to the land. Snatched. Rescued. Re-kindled. And then re-dressed. cleansed and clothed.
We live in an instant society. Communication to anyone anywhere in the world at any moment. Food microwaved in 30 seconds. Light at the flick of a switch. Instant coffee.
Though one thing our society doesn’t do is instant forgiveness. We live in a ‘cancel culture’. We bear grudges. We don’t do forgiveness. But God does instant forgiveness. And imparts instant righteousness.
Zech 3:4 ” The angel [verse 4] [says] to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ Then he [says] to Joshua, ‘See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.'”
In a split second. Problem solved.
Joshua doesn’t do anything except stand there. He doesn’t wash or scrub up, or take the clothes off the hangars, and put them on. He takes no initiative, makes no effort, but just like that, he’s purified! And qualified to serve as High Priest again. All the requirements of Exodus 28 are met in a moment, and suddenly it’s ‘game on’ again for the people of God. There’s hope for who Joshua represents, hope that God’s people will be forgiven. At this point, Zechariah gets so caught up in the vision, that he joins
the vision. And shouts out.
Zech 3:5 ” Put a [hat] on his head. [Verse 5] So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.”
From top to toe Joshua is dressed as High Priest.
b. Fit to Serve
Which means he’s ready to serve. fit to serve.
Zech 3:7 ” the Lord Almighty says: [verse 7] ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house [the temple] and have charge of my [temple] courts ‘”
walk with me. obey me. And you’ll serve in my temple.
Zech 3v7 ” and I will give you a place among these standing here.”
Priests stood to perform their duties. Standing meant fit for purpose, fit to play, Not sitting on the bench, but in
the game. Fit to enter the holy of holies and offer sin-substituting sacrifices. Joshua is cleansed, forgiven, and able to serve.
c. Good News for All
Which is great news for everyone else. ‘Cos God’s forgiveness of Joshua puts forgiveness back on the agenda for God’s people as a whole. This vision isn’T a picture of what God’s going to do for every Jew. It’s a vision of what God will do for one person, the High Priest. But God does it for the High Priest so as to open up the possibility for everyone. This one act of cleansing and clothing one man opens up the possibility of many enjoying God’s forgiveness. Of being able to stand in His presence. Redeemed and re-dressed.
In Revelation chapter 9 John sneaks a peek of the New Heavens. And he sees
Revelation 7:9-15 ” a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. [They’re] wearing white robes 10 And they [cry] out ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb.’ 11 All the angels and the elders and creatures. [fall] on their faces before the throne and [worship] God, 13 Then one of the elders [asks] , ‘These in white robes – who are they, where did they come from?’ 14 And he [answers], ‘These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. 15 Therefore, ‘they [stand] before the throne of God and serve Him day and night in His temple’ “
John sees a day when every believer is dressed in white robes. And thus, verse 15.
Revelation 7:15 ” they stand before [God’s] throne , and serve Him day and night “
In the New Heavens every believer is dressed like the High Priest, cleansed and clothed, fit for the presence of God, and fit to serve Him.
What God does here for Joshua is a picture of of what He will do for all of His people. It’s a bit like a promo or a teaser for the real deal. When God truly and finally removes sin. Which is all fulfilled by one man on one day.
4. THE BRANCH SERVANT (VERSES 8-9)
Joshua, all priests, are simply signposts. Verse 8.
Zech 3:8 ” High Priest Joshua, you and your associates are men symbolic of things to come “
Symbols. visual aids. Of? End of verse 8.
Zech 3:8 ” I am going to bring my servant, the branch.”
‘My servant’ is a standard way of referring to the Messiah, God’s promised King who’d save. And ‘Branch’? That’s the same. As God declares through His prophet Jeremiah, chapter 23.
Jeremiah 23:5 ” The days are coming, when I will raise up for David a righteous branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”
And chapter 33.
Jeremiah 33:15: ” In those days I will make a righteous branch sprout from David’s line; He will do what is just and right in the land.”
b. The Saviour
‘My servant’, ‘righteous Branch’. That’s so clearly Jesus, One in the line of David, One who rules wisely, justly, righteously. Jesus who came to save and forgive. But first, God gives Joshua a stone. Verse 9.
Zech 3:9 ” [with] seven eyes on that one stone, and [the Lord Almighty] will engrave an inscription on it and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.”
This ‘Branch Servant’ will deal with sin on a single day.
Jesus, our High Priest, our final and permanent High Priest, who is perfectly dressed, without sin, enters the Holy of Holies, and, at the cross, sprinkles His blood, and, in so doing, offers Himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sin, once for all.
Which makes it possible for everyone to be forgiven, and cleansed, purified, clothed in His righteousness All because of one single day.
There’s a double cure here. Cos Jesus removes the penalty of sin, but He also imputes righteousness. ‘Because the sinless Saviour died, My sinful soul is counted free; For God the Just is satisfied, To look on him, and pardon me.
The wonder of the gospel is that God removes our filthy rags, and credits us, or imputes to us, or clothes us in the righteousness of Christ. That is, we receive His perfect flawless record. So that when God looks at us, He sees Jesus.
John Calvin, a great Bible teacher from the 16th
century, put it this way. Jesus Christ, ‘by receiving our poverty unto Himself, transferred His wealth to us; by taking the weight of our iniquity upon Himself, clothed us with His righteousness.’
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus Christ, my righteousness;
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name.
When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found;
In Him, my righteousness, alone,
faultless to stand before the throne.
5. INVITE OTHERS (VERSE 10)
Such good news you got to tell somebody. Or invite somebody. Verse 10.
Zech 3:10 ” [Verse 10] In that day each of you will invite your neighbour to sit under your vine and fig tree.”
Seems a quirky verse. Though it’s actually a beautiful call to evangelism
. A call to invite people to come share in the salvation and security we enjoy in Jesus. In 1 Kings 4, and Micah 4, sitting under your vine and fig-tree is a sign of contentment. It’s a picture or illustration of the perfect life.
I suppose the Aussie equivalent might be sitting on the deck looking over a freshly mowed lawn with some snags on the ‘barbi’, watching the footy with a cold beer.
A picture that says, ‘Life’s good. Everything’s well with the world!’
You see, we’re not just saved from sin, we’re saved to the good life. Which is much better than a beer and a ‘barbi’. ‘Cos this is true life, full life, eternal life. Life with God. And all that that brings, Joy, peace, assurance.
As followers of Jesus, It’s our job to tell others just how good it is to belong to Him, to be cleansed from sin, set free from guilt and death, to be clothed with Christ. We need to share Jesus with people! To invite them to come to Jesus. And to enjoy in Him true life, forgiveness, righteousness.
I remember a song from my youth.
Now I’m forgiven.
Now I have a reason for living.
Jesus keeps giving and giving.
Giving ’til my heart overflows.
A heart that overflows
in humble repentance,
in joyful song,
in sharing Jesus.
A heart that overflows in inviting others to follow Jesus with us.
Whoever you are, whatever you’ve done, Jesus came to serve you.
And today He invites you. Jesus says, ‘Come to me. I won’t cancel you. I’ll cancel your sin.’ Jesus says. ‘I’ll forgive you, cleanse you, clothe you in my righteousness.’ Forgiven.
And for those of us who’ve come to Jesus, who’ve taken up His invitation. We’ll want to invite others to follow Jesus with us. We’ll tell others In Christianity Jesus Christ offers us forgiveness.’