Pastor Aaron - Ephesians 2
Taste of Kennesaw Witnessing
Hannah's Parents - Safe Travel
Kyle's first lecross game
James' camping with scouts
Text – Zechariah 3
Imagine yesterday we went to the zoo and they had a big sign that said, "Free Elephant to a Good Home!" And we went and looked at it was a big giant one and we said we wanted it and they asked if we had a place to keep it. We told them we had a big barn with several acres of field and forest and a pond, and a whole new soccer field for him to eat, so they let us have him. It took us all day to ride him back to Summit and when we got here the gate to the barn was locked so we put him in the sanctuary and intended to come first thing in the morning and move him to the barn.
Well, we slept in and got here right when everyone else was getting here...and we sort of forgot to ask permission if we could keep an elephant at Summit. So we sat down and looked at this big giant elephant sitting in the corner by the piano. For some reason people aren't talking about him, but we all know he's there. So we start the service and sing, and pray, and Pastor Aaron stands up to give the sermon and preaches for a while on his selected text...then pauses and says, "Can someone tell me what is the deal with this elephant?"
It's there, it's gotta be talked about, it's a huge subject and one we can't ignore. That is what we're dealing with in Zechariah 3. In Zechariah 1 we see that God has brought the Jews back from their Babylonian captivity and has utterly crushed Babylon. Then in chapter 2 we saw that God is jealous for his people and is not only being extremely gracious to his people, but that he is going to be gracious to the entire world.
Up to this point what has Zechariah been famous for when he doesn't understand something? Asking questions. This whole time I think he has had a question running through his mind, it's bigger than an elephant in the room, it is massive, and when God answers it he doesn't ask a question but knows exactly what is happening. So now we come to the fourth of eight visions.
Zechariah 3:1-10 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments." And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by. And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree."
Our elephant in the room is Israel's sins. They were sold by God into exile for their absolute wickedness. When we see them brought back we see in Zechariah 1 it is because they have repented, but I'm sure that Zechariah was wondering, "Did our exile pay for our sins?" I talked to a girl once who thought she would go to Heaven because her sister died of cancer and it was really hard on the girl to watch her sister suffer. Our suffering is a result of sin, the world is wearing out because of sin, we can't pay for our sin with the result of our sin. So now we dive headlong into what God is going to do with Israel's sins.
v.1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest
This Joshua is a literal person, he came back from the exile with Zerubbabel the governor. The High Priest is the representative of the people before God, he is the one that is able to enter the presence of God and make atonement for their sins. He did this once a year on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, and he did it in the Holy of Holies in the temple, and he would wear bells on his robe so that if he sinned in God's presence or didn't adequately cleanse himself and he died, then the priests outside would hear the bells stop tinkling and realize that their sins were not paid for. At this point the temple is nearing completion and so the High Priest will be entering into the presence of God soon, and because of his sins and the sins of the people, I don't think there would ever be a more terrifying event for a High Priest, save for Christ going to the cross to offer his own blood as sacrifice. In Chapter 6 we are going to see another Joshua, the Messiah, our King and High Priest.
Isaiah 33:14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: "Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?"
In the rest of the verse we see that this is a court setting:
v.1 standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
The vision doesn't see fit to describe the courtroom, but Revelation 20:12 does:
Revelation 20:11-12 Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done.
And we see who the prosecutor is, none other than Satan himself. The word for prosecutor or accuser in Hebrew is satan; Zechariah wants us to understand that this isn't just some lawyer, so he calls this, "The Satan", the one and only, the most magnificent thing ever created, the one whom sought to seat himself above God, the one who is called the Father of Lies, the one dressed in an outfit of gold, emeralds, and diamonds, a demon masquerading as an angel of light.
As the prosecutor I am sure that Satan is prepared, he probably has a dossier filled with every sin ever committed in Jerusalem and he is prepared to present it to God, and Joshua the High Priest will not be able to deny any of them. I imagine Zechariah held his breath at this point in preparation to hear Satan's attack. But he never gets to make it:
v.2 And the LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?"
God doesn't even let Satan speak, God has chosen his people and he will not let any one separate us from him, let alone even bring a charge against us in his courts,
Romans 8:33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies.
This language for "brand plucked from the fire" is amazingly beautiful. Imagine a big raging fire and you throw a stick into it, how long is it going to last? Not long, it is going to be fully consumed. But God, to great pain to himself, reached into the fire and snatched that stick out before it could be burnt. This is now what we do when we evangelize, the whole world is kindling ready to be consumed, but we have this command:
Jude 1:22-23 And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh.
So we see that God is not going to let Satan accuse Joshua or Israel, but that still doesn't take care of their massive list of sins. But this is the last we'll hear from Satan on this matter.
Jude talked about people whose garments are stained by their sin, this is the same with Joshua.
v.3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.
These represent his sins. These garments aren't just sweaty or wrinkled, the Hebrew word for filthy symbolizes that Joshua put this robe on and went and rolled in the pig sty. He is literally FILTHY, and standing in the Holy of Holies in this state would have meant his instant death. But God is gracious.
v.4 And the angel said to those who were standing before him, "Remove the filthy garments from him." And to him he said, "Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you,
Our sin is taken away, but we can't stand naked in front of God either! Joshua is still in trouble!
2 Corinthians 5:2-3 For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on we may not be found naked.
I witnessed to a little old lady once who was one of the most prideful people I've ever talked to and was sure her good-deeds would impress God and that she had earned her way into Heaven; at the end I asked her if she was really ready to stand naked in her sins before the Throne of God, and that really got to her. Hopefully she got saved and we'll see her dressed in the righteousness of Christ in Heaven.
v.4 and I will clothe you with pure vestments."
My favorite verse in the whole Bible is
Isaiah 61:10 I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Symbolically our clean clothes represent a covering of shame, an external covering, and these point to Jesus Christ. In the Bible there is a sort of weird command which is REALLY important:
Deuteronomy 22:11 You shall not wear cloth of wool and linen mixed together.
Why would God care if you wear a cotton/polyester blend? This command really didn't make sense until we see it referring to the righteousness of Jesus Christ, that if you've got 70% Jesus and 30% your own pride, then you're as good as naked before God. You must wear 100% Jesus in order to be counted righteous in the sight of God:
Romans 13:14 Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.
We don't have time to look at it now, but check out the story of the Prodigal Son in Luke 15 and check out that the Father puts a robe on the son when he returns. This is a major theme throughout the Bible.
As Zechariah is standing there knowing EXACTLY what is going on, he doesn't need to ask questions, but he can't hold in any longer he's so excited to see that Israel's sins are put off, they were red like scarlet but they've been made white as snow, and he notices that Joshua has lost his Mitre, his hat when God removed it from the head of the High Priest in Ezekiel 21:26, and he calls out!
v.5 And I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
The angel of the Lord is who? Jesus Christ. He is standing by watching this priest be sanctified because of work that Jesus would do as the final High Priest 500 years in the future.
Hebrews 7:26-28 For it was indeed fitting that we should have such a high priest, holy, innocent, unstained, separated from sinners, and exalted above the heavens. He has no need, like those high priests, to offer sacrifices daily, first for his own sins and then for those of the people, since he did this once for all when he offered up himself. For the law appoints men in their weakness as high priests, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
But at the time that Zechariah is seeing this vision, Christ has not yet died, he has not yet risen, so they do not yet have assurance of a full forgiveness of sins, they are still under a conditional covenant. This point is really going to be made well in chapter 5, but until we get there, check out
v.6-7 And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, "Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.
They will never make it on their own, which is why it is so important that we look to Jesus Christ, our great High Priest, who did keep God's commands perfectly and is now in charge of the kingdom. We're not spending too much time on this topic because it is really the main point of chapter 5.
At this point I imagine both Zechariah and Joshua's countenance fell, they knew they couldn't keep the law, not even a little. But again we get a promise of this coming High Priest:
v.8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch.
The word for Branch here is not Nazar, like it is in Isaiah, that Christ would be called a Nazarene. A Nazar is a branch on a tree, this word is Tsemach which is a sprout of a tree. It represents hope, and new life, and new growth. It is very Messianic and again this topic will be covered later in Zechariah. This is just the taste of something great to come.
v.9 For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts
This stone refers to the freshly laid cornerstone of the temple. The reason it has eyes has been largely lost to us, the original audience would have understood, but I think it means that this stone is not literally the rock but is speaking of a living and seeing and knowing stone. God is not going to build his kingdom on a piece of granite, but on a Person. The engraved description refers to the engraving on the mitre of the High Priest, stating that this stone would also be a High Priest, and the engraving would say, "Holiness Belongs to the Lord"
v.9 and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.
What day was this? The day Christ poured out his blood for the forgiveness of sins of many on Calvary's cross. And finally in this chapter is something that Zechariah would have understood a bit, but I don't think he would have understood it as well as we can now understand it,
v.10 In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree."
This is reminiscent of when Israel was ridiculously rich and well fed and well protected (1 Kings 4:25); it was a great time in Israel's history. Now we know that Christ has secured our place in Heaven, were all of these things will be eternal; Zechariah would have understood it as the coming of a new king and new age of prosperity, which happened a bit under the Maccabees, but we see it perfected in our Messiah and King, Jesus Christ, when we get to Heaven.
So, your application is that Christ is your great High Priest, we could not stand in the presence of God for our sinfulness. In our current state we would have less chance of survival in the presense of God than an ice cube on the surface of the sun, but Christ entered once, not having to cleanse himself because he was perfect, but he offered his sacrifice, himself, for our sins, which God readily accepted. So now we know because Christ kept the commandments perfectly, we are clothed in his righteousness, if indeed we have put on Christ, making no provision for the flesh to satisfy its desires.