For the Love of God, Volume 2/December 16
From Gospel Translations
2 Chronicles 18; Revelation 7; Zechariah 3; John 6
ZECHARIAH’S FOURTH VISION (ZECH. 3) envisages the reinstatement of the high priest in the person of Joshua. At the same time, it envisages someone who transcends him, making Joshua a pointer along the stream of redemptive history, just as at the end of the prophecy of Haggai, Zerubbabel is a pointer along the stream of redemptive history (Hag. 2:23; see meditation for December 13).
The first three visions look at Jerusalem from the outside. This one and the next find the prophet within the temple courts. Here he finds Joshua the priest teetering, as it were, between the angel of the Lord and “Satan”: the word means “accuser.” Joshua is dressed “in filthy clothes” (3:3). The filth is a sign of guilt, as the second part of verse 4 makes clear. The accuser tries to destroy Joshua by the charges brought against him, and in truth Joshua is a guilty sinner (as indicated by the filthy clothes)—so how can he possibly be an effective priest? The answer is that the angel of the Lord, standing in for the Lord himself, gives him clean clothes, rich garments. The situation is akin to Isaiah’s experience in Isaiah 6. When Isaiah sees the Lord, he becomes terribly aware of his sin. But God provides the means of removing the sin—in that case, a live coal from the altar. The implication here is that Joshua must walk in God’s ways and keep his requirements (3:7).
So Joshua is recommissioned. But the vision says much more. Joshua and his associates (presumably other priests) are (literally) “men of good omen”—or, as the NIV puts it more prosaically, they are “men symbolic of things to come” (3:8). They point to “my servant, the Branch” (3:8). Nothing more is revealed about his identity here, but he crops up again in 6:12-13, where we shall reflect on him further (see meditation for December 19). The metaphor then changes to a stone with seven “eyes” or “facets” (or even “springs”); the precise meaning of the metaphor is disputed, but the result is that the Almighty declares, “I will remove the sin of this land in a single day” (3:9). As God removed the filth from his high priest, he does the same for his people, removing “the sin of this land in a single day.” The result is utter contentment (which is the substance of the visionary ideal in 3:10).
Living this side of the cross, we have no doubt who the ultimate high priest is, and how he fully bore our sin in his own body on the tree. By God’s action, the sins of his covenant people were dealt with at one decisive moment. The “men symbolic of things to come” served better than they knew: “Joshua” is the Hebrew name for the Greek form we know as Jesus.