6. Clarifying Identity

Zechariah builds the House Meditations: 6. Clarifying Identity

Zech 3:1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord,

Recap: So far: return to God, don’t worry that the world doesn’t care about the plight of the people of God, He does. He will deal with all injustices, rest in that. He purposes good, blessing and growth for His people and calls them together.

Personal Attacks: The Christian life is a life of warfare, even though many don’t realize it. The enemy comes with deception and lies and tries to lead our thinking astray, he comes with temptations to try to lead our actions astray, and he comes with accusations to pull us down. It is true of leaders and it is true of all of us; we all need the Lord’s encouragements and reminders of who we are – His redeemed children. And it is no different for Joshua the high priest one of the key leaders of the returned exiles. (see him in Ezra 2-4).

Joshua Accused: “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.” (3:1) From what follows it is clear that Joshua is vulnerable because we read, “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.” (3:4) So much for God’s representative who is later told, “See, I have taken away your sin.” (3:4c) We’re not told what that sin was; it doesn’t matter, we’re all sinners in need of God’s help. But this is only part of the truth, part of the picture

 

God Speaks Up: “The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you!” (3:2a) Yes, Joshua is obviously less than perfect and therefore a target for the enemy but God is not going to let that stand. He knows Joshua, He knows his heart and his intent, He knows he is God’s man and so He gives the reason for pulling Satan up: “Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (3:2b) What a description – a stick that is burning, snatched from the fires of destruction. Isn’t that a picture of Jerusalem, of the people of Israel? Weren’t they carried away apparently for destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, weren’t they about to be destroyed in the fire of God’s wrath for the sins that had mounted and mounted through the years, the sins of constant rejection of God and of His word through His prophets?

Weren’t they like this picture of a burning stick, on the edge of life, on the edge of utter destruction? But now? Now they have been brought back from exile, yes scarred and charred by the whole experience, no doubt wondering about their worthiness to be back there, still wondering perhaps, how it had all come about? Yes, they have been snatched from destruction, they are still there and Joshua as one of their spiritual leaders represents them before God in the throne room of heaven. There he is being accused by the accuser of being a waste of time, not worthy to be there, not worthy to stand before God, not worthy to represent these people. All of this would be true if it wasn’t for the bigger purposes of God that take sinners and redeem them; that’s what the history of the world is about. Yes, we are failures, yes we are less than perfect, but that is only part of the story.

The Bigger Reality – Redemption: Now we see what the work of God does: “The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put fine garments on you.” (3:4) Echoes of the father of the prodigal here: Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.” (Lk 15:22) The Father doesn’t just deal with our sin through the Cross and forgive us, He dresses us with robes of righteousness (Isa 61:10), robes to be worn in the heavenly courts, wedding robes (Mt 22:11, Rev 19:8) of a bride for her bridegroom (Jn 3:29) Everything about this speaks of a transformation brought about by the heavenly beings.

Zechariah Joins In: Zechariah, as he observes what is happening, catches the spirit of it all: Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by.” (v.5) The turban was the headdress of the high priest and so it was essential that this re-clothing included the head. Joshua needs that reminder on his head (and in his head) of who he really is – God’s man!

Fresh Commissioning: Now Joshua’s identity has been clarified – a redeemed servant of the Lord – there comes a fresh commissioning: “The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in obedience to me and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here.” (3:6,7) Something really significant is taking place here. The house and the courts must refer to the temple that is being rebuilt, the place that is at the heart and core of the Jewish people. Joshua the priest is being given the role as ruler over the heart and core of what became what we call Judaism. In Jesus’ time, the Sanhedrin, the ruling council, was presided over by two high priests, Caiaphas and his father-in-law, Annas (Jn 18:13).

And More: The word of the Lord continues to come: “‘Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come.” (3:8a) Joshua is to be the lead ruler and the others are to follow him and in that they are symbolic of something wonderful yet to come: “I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.” (3:8b) Now Isaiah had already prophesied about ‘a branch’: “In that day the Branch of the Lord will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the land will be the pride and glory of the survivors in Israel,” (Isa 4:2) and, A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit.” (Isa 11:2). ‘The Branch’ is clearly the Messianic figure coming from heaven. He will lead his people and they will follow him.

But there is still more: See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua!” (3:9a) Infront of Joshua? Yes, his vision will be taken up by this object before him. We now know Jesus was referred to as a cornerstone or capstone (Psa 118:22, Lk 20:17, Acts 4:11) This ‘stone’ is the Messiah. “There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it,’ says the Lord Almighty, ‘and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” (3:9b) This all-seeing Messiah (stone with seven eyes) will come declaring the will of God (the inscription) and by his death on the Cross will provide redemption for all who will come (sin removed).

The outcome? “‘In that day each of you will invite your neighbor to sit under your vine and fig tree,’ declares the Lord Almighty.” (3:10) It is a picture of peace, prosperity, security, and stability. This is the work of the Coming One and Joshua’s presence from now on is to be a reminder that this is what God’s long-term intention is and he is never to forget it.

And Us? There are various signpost lessons for us in this chapter. First, the reminder that we are all sinners and as such are vulnerable to the pressures put upon us by Satan, hence John says that “the whole world is under the control of the evil one.” (1 Jn 5:19) On our own we are helpless and hopeless. But then, second, we see the wonderful work of God who redeems us through His Son’s death and clothes us with righteousness. Finally, third, He calls us to share in the life and ministry of His Son, not only be priests but also rulers in the kingdom of God.

And the Church today? If the redeeming work of Christ on the Cross is not the message that the Church declares to the world, we are missing our calling. If we only have a self-righteousness faith, we are ignoring the heart of the Gospel. This reliance on the finished work of Christ is what should bring security and confidence in being sons of God, children of God, i.e. a people who are clear about their identity. In all that, if the church is not serving God with the power and anointing that He provides with His Spirit, and we are not seen to be following the guidance and leadership of the head of the church, Christ, it is little surprise that so often we fail to impact the world which, so far, has been steadily deteriorating morally and spiritually throughout all of our lifetimes. If we fail in these things, it is time to return to our calling.

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