“God turned up” Meditations: 27 : To Joshua the High Priest
Zech 3:1 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.
We conclude this series with another of the prophets, Zechariah. This is his fourth vision and he sees the high priest, Joshua. Now Joshua is also written ‘Jeshua’ and that is how we find him named among Zerubbabel and Nehemiah (Ezra 2:2 & Neh 7:7). We need to build up the picture of who was involved and when. Haggai and Zechariah prophesied to encourage the finishing of the rebuilding of the Temple after the Exile (see Ezra 6:14). Haggai specifically mentions Zerubbabel and Joshua the high priest. (Hag 1:1,12). The role of the high priest was partly as a spiritual encourager (seen in various places on the Old Testament) but the rebuilding of the temple had received such opposition that it had come to a grinding halt. In fact Haggai’s word had specifically rebuked the people for being concerned about their own homes but now ignoring the Temple of the Lord (Hag 1:4).
Joshua the high priest must have been feeling particularly low about this state of affairs. Here he was, the overseer of the activities of the Temple, but the Temple was not being completed. Will he ever be able to perform the tasks of the priest in the Temple again? There are those who make this vision in Zechariah involving Joshua to mean that Joshua was representative of the Israel and that this was a word to Israel but, I suggest, this ignores the activity or rather the lack of activity to do with the Temple about which these two prophets, Haggai and Zechariah were prophesying. This is a word that this man desperately needs to hear!
The Lord turns up and brings this word about Joshua through Zechariah because indeed Joshua is THE person who will oversee the work within the completed Temple and if the Temple is about to be completed at the urging of these prophets, then the chief priest needs to be brought into a right place and restored in both his eyes and the eyes of the people. THIS is why this is such a wonderful vision! This is the Lord who sees His servants, understands them, and feels for them and who comes and restores them.
See the word that follows: “The LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” (v.2) Joshua has been coming under immense condemnation from Satan. Not only had Satan been using the enemy to discourage the leaders and the builders, but he had been pulling down Joshua with condemnation, declaring him a failure. Have you heard similar thoughts in your mind? “You are rubbish! You are a failure! Give up! Stop pretending you are a man (or woman) of God with a calling. You’ve lost whatever calling you had; you’ve failed!” Satan had been rebuking Joshua so the Lord rebukes him in turn. Yes, Joshua was burning with shame, burning with condemnation and with a sense of failure and Satan is trying to destroy him, but the Lord has come to come to snatch him from destruction.
See what the Lord does for Joshua: “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” (v.3,4) which is clearly symbolic of his guilt being taken away: “Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” (v.4) Now the turban of the priest was especially significant because it had on the front of it, “Holy to the Lord.” (see Ex 28:36) so that gets a special mention in the restoration: “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) This representative of the Holy God is completely restored and the nature of his clean clothes indicates that he is reinstated in his role as high priest.
Next he gets his marching orders from the Lord: “The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the LORD Almighty says: `If you will walk in my ways 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.” (v.6,7)
But this cleansing and reinstating of Joshua is symbolic of something so much greater that is yet to come: “Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch.” (v.8) What has happened to Joshua is what will happen when “the Branch”, the Messiah comes. Then he refers to him as a stone (v.9) and says he will remove all sin in a single day (v.9) which can only refer to the work on the Cross by the Son of God.
This is pure grace! Joshua has done nothing to deserve this. He’s simply been there to serve the Lord – if the temple is restored – and the Lord comes and restores him and removes his sin. He is now equipped to be the high priest again. Isn’t this what the work of Jesus has achieved, a holy priesthood? (1 Pet 2:9, Rev 5:10)
In a very negative situation the Lord turns up to restore this man, Joshua. He has done nothing to deserve it; it is a pure act of God’s grace. This is what the Lord longs to do with each one of us. How wonderful!