The Filthy We Were (Zechariah 3)

  

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.’

Zechariah 3

I preached Zechariah 3 last week.  I thought I’d share some points from within this fourth vision God gave to the prophet Zechariah and from the wider scope of the Bible story.  

  • There isn’t a single person on Earth for whom the question is, “Am I morally filthy?”  The question always is, “Will I confess my filthiness and trust in the only One who can cleanse me?”
  • Man-centered answers to Satan’s accusations, to the problem of our guilt before God, always say either, “You’re not that bad,” or “You are that bad and so there’s no hope.”  Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ says, “You are that bad, and so I’ll clothe you in my righteousness.”
  • If you think the most important piece of your salvation was something you did, thought, felt, or decided, you’re misunderstanding the Gospel.  We don’t hear a word from Joshua in this vision.  The hero in this salvation story is the hero in every salvation story:  God.
  • Those of who have trusted in Jesus worship a God who was willing to crush His Son rather than lose His rebels.  
  • No worldly philosophy can rebuke Satan, because the curse he invokes is real.  The best liars are usually telling a little of the truth.  Our sins are real and the curse of death sin brought is real.  And Satan knows it. 
  • If the best answer you have before God is that you are a good person, you won’t be able to stand before Him any more than Satan can.  
  • If your answer before God is that you are a filthy sinner and that you trust only in the mercy of Jesus, you’ll find that God is the most forgiving personal being in existence. 
  • God’s answer to your worst fears about yourself might not be that you’re exaggerating them.  The Gospel’s answer to our flaws and treacheries is that God is willing to snatch us from the fire that we deserve to be cast into.  And that, by the way, is written by a former drunk. 
  • Satan has no answer to God’s rebuke in this vision; the Gospel shuts up Satan and sinners, because the Gospel is the Good News that Jesus became a curse for His people and clothed them with His perfect righteousness. 
  • It took Jesus 24 hours to unspin a curse Satan spent eons invoking. 
  • People always follow what they trust.  God’s command to walk in His ways is a command to trust Him more than whatever or whoever you could follow instead.  

This vision God gave Zechariah breathed a lot of joy and confidence into my soul over the past few weeks.  I know I can stand right along with Joshua the high priest, knowing I deserved the fire, and say to Satan and the world:

Keep your self-help and political saviors and pyramid schemes.  I need to be rescued!  And you can’t do it.  We’re calling to the only One with hands strong enough to snatch us.  And we’ll shout over all your sales pitches.

God has rebuked Satan on my behalf because of the perfection and holiness of Jesus of Nazareth.  And now I can trust Him and follow Him forever.  It calms the heart.   

We worship an unspeakably wonderful God.  

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Eyes of Fire, Voice like an Ocean

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We would fall flat on our faces if we saw Jesus in His glory.

The Apostle John wanted to do just that. While He was in exile on the island of Patmos, He was given a vision of the resurrected and ascended Jesus.

He records it this way in Revelation 1:

“Then I turned to see the voice that was speaking to me, and on turning I saw seven golden lampstands, and in the midst of the lampstands one like a son of man, clothed with a long robe and with a golden sash around his chest. The hairs of his head were white, like white wool, like snow. His eyes were like a flame of fire, his feet were like burnished bronze, refined in a furnace, and his voice was like the roar of many waters. In his right hand he held seven stars, from his mouth came a sharp two-edged sword, and his face was like the sun shining in full strength.

When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, ‘Fear not, I am the first and the last.'”

There’s a tendency, I think it’s fair to say, in American Christianity to make Jesus a harmless God who wants to help us achieve our dreams.

But see, we don’t get to remake Jesus. He is who He is. And who He is is a breathtakingly big God, beautiful enough to cause your heart pound and your face fall to the ground.

Now, it is true that this big, real Jesus loves us. The fact that we have a lopsided view of Him and talk almost exclusively about His love and compassion doesn’t mean that we should correct the mistake by denying them.

Actually, the Jesus who caused John to fall on His face and caused demons to plead for mercy loves us more than that Teddy Bear misrepresentation ever could, because He is more powerful and righteous and glorious and sovereign than the cosmic hug machine He is packaged as.

The form of a slave, the broken human flesh that the real Jesus took on was a far greater sacrifice than the fictional, small Jesus who is just a quaint buddy could’ve ever made.

The actual, Biblical Jesus is a King who became a peasant, and who is returning to rule with the rebel peasants He’s rescued.

So He loves us impossibly, and His greatness and hugeness and power magnify, highlight that love.

But He isn’t only merciful. He is also awe-inspiring. Large. Gloriously sovereign and with the authority to rule. He is the One chapter 1 of Revelation says all the tribes of the Earth will wail on account of.

The Bible is a book filled with and commanding worship. And you don’t worship a buddy. You don’t fall down and praise a pal.

Check out the last few chapters of the Gospels and the first few of Revelation, and see how many times Jesus tells His disciples and followers not to be afraid of Him.

We worship a Jesus so powerful and pure and amazing and that He has to remind us not to be afraid of Him.

Never fall into the American Christianity trap (not universal across the landscape but definitely widespread) of worshiping a Jesus who is harmless and only out to give you nice material things or help you get your American dreams.

Avoid, like a dangerous snare set out for the unsuspecting and undiscerning, the idea of a Jesus who is only a servant and never a King.

He has flaming eyes and a voice like a hurricane and has conquered sin and death as though they were twin insects under His heel. And He has the right to lovingly and righteously reign.

If you worship a small Jesus who’s primary concern is your happiness, two bad things are going on:

1) You’re worshiping a Jesus who doesn’t exist.

2) You’re robbing glory from the Jesus who does.