In the third chapter of Zechariah the LORD gives a fifth vision speaking of deliverance and restoration. It in it we see Satan, the accuser of the people of God, and the Angel of the LORD, a pre-incarnate appearance of God the Son, standing with Joshua the high priest.
Zechariah 3:1-3 And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.
The scene begins with a cast of three: The Angel of the LORD, Satan, and the high priest named Joshua. The Angel of the LORD is God the Son prior to his having been conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. He is the LORD, (“LORD” in all caps stands for Jehovah or Yahweh in most English Bibles,) called by the covenant name of God. Jesus the Son of God is God Himself, equal to the Father, and when He speaks, even Satan must listen. “Satan”, meaning, “adversary” is the accuser of the people of God, their self-appointed prosecutor and accuser before the seat of God’s righteous judgment. An angel fallen from heavenly glory after having rebelled against the Most High, he stands to “resist” God’s chosen people represented by the high priest named Joshua. The high priest was one called and set apart to minister the commandments of God in the temple, make sacrifices, represent God to the people by preaching the word of God and performing the required ceremonies, and representing the people to God in prayer on their behalf. The name, “Joshua” means in Hebrew, “The LORD saves”, commonly transliterated into Greek as “iesous” and is the same as the Latinized “Iesus” or “Jesus.” This is the name of the high priest who was serving in the temple when Zechariah prophesied these words. Even his name points to the Lord’s salvation through One named Jesus, who is our great High Priest forever. When Satan accuses the people of God of sin, Christ Jesus, here termed “the angel of the LORD”, defends them based on the truth that He is on their side. Of what can Satan accuse God’s elect? (Romans 8:33) He rebukes Satan for accusing Joshua, and in him God’s chosen people. Joshua’s garments are filthy, stained with muck. Despite his uncomely appearance, clearly visible in the light of a torch pulled out of the fire, Satan’s accusations don’t stick. The devil’s accusations of God’s chosen people are just empty words. No matter how darkly stained our garments, God will defend us and not condemn us. But why?
4-5 And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
The Angel of the LORD is the one speaking here. He is God the Son, who will clothe Joshua with new priestly garments. Here is the answer to the question of how God’s chosen people are to be acquitted and justified by God rather than condemned as Satan would prefer. It is through a change of clothing wrought by the Angel of the LORD. He places a new garment and a tall priestly hat: a “mitre” upon Joshua. Although the sins of God’s chosen people are many, yet He will place His own (Christ’s own) righteousness upon them as a new garment replaces the filthy one. Our beauty and acceptability to God is not based on our own righteousness or good works, for even at our best we are just filthy rotten sinners; it is based on Christ’s own righteousness imputed to us as our covering, clothing our sinful nakedness with the splendid beauty of holiness which is pleasing to God, Christ’s works. He stands by us His elect (v. 5) as our comfort and assurance that God has forgiven us our sins and accepted us for His (Christ’s) sake. What assurance of salvation! What comfort! There is nothing in this universe which compares to the glory of God seen in the justification of sinners deserving only condemnation by the imputation of Christ’s righteousness.
6-10 And the angel of the LORD protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by. Here now, O Joshua the high priest, thou, and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth my servant the BRANCH. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. In that day, saith the LORD of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbour under the vine and under the fig tree.
Being forgiven of his sins, justified in God’s sight, and with the help of God’s Son standing by him, Joshua the high priest is obligated to devote himself genuinely and fully to the service of God out of thankfulness for the grace he’s received. This applies to all those who have been saved by grace, to all citizens of chosen Israel. Have you been forgiven of all your sins and counted righteous in God’s sight for the sake of Christ? Then live accordingly by thankfully obeying all His commandments, trusting in His aiding grace to do His work in you as He stands by you.
“The BRANCH” is a reference to Jesus Christ, a branch grown from the family tree of David. (Jeremiah 23:5) He is the eternal God, knowing all things, symbolized in verse 9 as a stone with seven eyes representing Him who sees and knows all things perfectly. (7 in the Bible is the number of perfection.) The promise of forgiveness and justification is in Him, through Him, and to Him. It is in reference to Christ the “BRANCH” that this vision promises such blessing. Because of Him, a great period of blessing will come in, when neighbors will have fellowship together and enjoy the good things of the LORD represented as the fruit of the vines and fig trees.
God’s message in this prophetic oracle is that although Israel would be delivered of her enemies and restored fully from captivity to foreign nations (Babylon and Assyria), yet her sins would remain. These would be taken away by replacing his filthy rags with new glorious garments. Our salvation is not first and foremost about the healing of our physical bodies or restoration from earthly difficulties, but about the forgiveness of our sin and justification by God’s grace in imputing Christ’s righteousness to us. Let us remind ourselves of these blessed truths of God’s word daily in order that we may be inspired to live for Him with thankful hearts overflowing with praise for what He has done.