Zechariah Chapter 3

The first two verses of this chapter, which mention Satan standing to the right of Joshua the high priest to accuse him, and the Lord’s subsequent rebuke of Satan, call to mind what we read in Job Chapter 1 where Satan is standing before God, having roamed ‘to and fro throughout the earth.' But it also brings to mind Revelation 12:10:

'Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: "Now have come the salvation and the power and the kingdom of our God, and the authority of his Messiah. For the accuser of our brothers and sisters, who accuses them before our God day and night, has been hurled down'.

The question that arises is, what is Satan doing on the scene at all? What right does he have to be standing at the right hand of Joshua the high priest, and to be accusing him?

To understand this we need to go back to the beginning and the fall of man. Right there certain fundamental changes took place which affected all of mankind forever. The truth that 'the wages of sin is death' went from being a warning 'in the day that thou eatest of (the tree of the knowledge of good and evil) thou shalt surely die.’ (Genesis 2:17), to a reality. Sin entered the world, and death by sin, and Satan, whose very name and nature is Accuser, is ever ready to remind God and man of that fact. Satan is present because he has the right to be. His accusations are not lies but legitimate charges, and he is ever ready to remind God and man of the universal law regarding sin and resulting death.

In verse 2, however, Satan is rebuked by God Himself, and Joshua is literally snatched from the fire as a burning stick. I am always amazed at how Scripture understates things. One moment Joshua stands accused, and the next totally exonerated. We have to remember that the law of death resulting from sin was set in stone by God himself. He cannot suddenly change his mind. He is completely just, so it is interesting to note that Satan does not object or protest at all. In fact, we don't hear any more of Satan again in the chapter - he is off the scene completely!

Romans 8:31-34 sums it up:

'What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us.'

The reason for Satan’s disappearance from the scene is that something has happened in the background which has allowed God to snatch Joshua out of the fire. The law of death being the consequence of sin has been fulfilled. Not by Joshua himself but by someone else. This is what is spoken of in verse 8 and 9 regarding The Branch and the removal of sin in a single day (verse 9).

Though it is stated very briefly and simply here in Zechariah 3, we need to be ever mindful of the monumental event that is described in these few verses. Sin has been removed, but we must remember that it did not just evaporate - it is gone because it was put on another. Following on from that, the death of Joshua (and you and me) has been died by that same person. That person, the Branch, is Jesus Christ.

Note that the fire was not enough to cleanse Joshua’s filthy garments; they still had to be removed by the Lord. It is striking that even though he was a part of the remnant that had left the comforts of Babylon to return to the place of their God, and was the very high priest himself, Joshua’s clothing was 'filthy' in God's eyes. This word ‘filthy’ is not merely the dust-of-the-earth grime that is picked up as one goes about one’s daily life; it means the pollution of the excrement issuing from one’s own body. Isaiah 64:6 tells us: ‘We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags’. If even Joshua’s deeds are viewed as such, where does that leave the rest of us? Not only is ‘not one righteous before God’, but our very “works of righteousness” and our 'religious’ practices are like the offerings of a drunk who has woken to find himself lying in his own filth and lifted it to God.

But praise God! We stand there accused, guilty and clothed in the filthy garments of our unrighteousness, and in an instant all is changed! And that’s not all! Note the fact that new garments are freely given to the high priest: ‘I will put rich garments on you’ (verse 4 of Zechariah).

Regarding the rich new robe that Joshua the high priest receives, we looked at the following references:

Psalm 132:15-16: 'For the Lord has chosen Zion, he has desired it for his dwelling, saying, “This is my resting place for ever and ever; here I will sit enthroned, for I have desired it. I will bless her with abundant provisions; her poor I will satisfy with food. I will clothe her priests with salvation, and her faithful people will ever sing for joy.'

Isaiah 61:10: I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of his righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels..

Still, even our best efforts to be righteous and holy would produce something like a hospital gown - you know, the type that does not quite go all around and does not quite cover all the vital bits and leaves a huge gap at the back?

Isaiah 59:4-6: No one calls for justice; no one pleads a case with integrity. They rely on empty arguments, they utter lies; they conceive trouble and give birth to evil. They hatch the eggs of vipers and spin a spider’s web. Whoever eats their eggs will die, and when one is broken, an adder is hatched. Their cobwebs are useless for clothing; they cannot cover themselves with what they make.

What will you choose, dear friend? An ill-fitting hospital gown? Or to acknowledge your own desperate need and your inability to produce anything acceptable to a holy God, and to beseech Him for the magnificent robe of righteousness which He bestows?