Book of Zechariah Chapter
Three Commentary by
Pastor Ron Beckham
Garments of Righteousness
"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" (Verse 1). The nature of our present reality is this: We don't have the sensory equipment to see it, but each of us is standing before the Lord and His heavenly host. God is both our Judge and our Savior. The enemy, called "Satan" (the adversary), in Verse 1, is our accuser. If you feel like you are in a courtroom, you are, and evidence is being presented on both sides. "Joshua," like Zechariah, was a real historical figure, a name written as "Jeshua" in Ezra 2:2. His father was Jehozadak (Haggai 1:12), who died in Babylon. In this vision, Joshua represented the priesthood of Israel, not unlike Adam represented humanity in the Garden, and Jesus Christ represented all of us when He died on the cross for our sins. The phrase "standing before" was used of a servant who rendered service to his superior, and Joshua was bringing the prayers, the needs of the people to God, and at the same time, the enemy was attempting to hinder those prayers.
In Verse 2, "The Lord said to Satan, 'The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?'" The "angel of the Lord" is the one standing in front of Joshua as seen in Verse 1, but it is the Lord Himself who now spoke to this "Satan," either through the angel or directly from eternity. The "angel" may be the pre-incarnate Christ, Himself God, but it is not clearly indicated in these verses. The enemy's accusations against the people and priesthood of Israel, as represented by the tribes of Levi, Judah and Benjamin at that time, may have contained some truth, but it was distorted by the malice of Satan. And so the Lord confronted him with these words: "The Lord rebuke you..." The enemy's opinion about Joshua and the Hebrew people was not needed in this courtroom confrontation because it is "the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem" and its people. The survivors who had returned were like a "brand" rescued by God from the "fire" of captivity in Babylon. The enemy was attempting to thwart the will of God for that nation and also for the world.
Have you ever felt unclean? Does something you did or said live in you like an accusation? Or was something done to you that makes you feel like you never can be acceptable again? That was the feeling of the nation and its priesthood as Joshua the high priest represented them before God. Verse 3 states it this way: "Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel." At some level of everyone's being, we know we stand in the presence of a holy God...and fall short of His expectations. Humanity has no way of dealing with the problem, though we have devised religious and philosophical systems in an attempt to make things seem right. But it hasn't worked because we are not equipped to deal directly with our greatest need. If we could to do it, we would become proud, making everything even worse.
The rescue of humanity had to come from God—there was no other way. Romans 5:8 says: "God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Joshua the high priest was ostensibly the religious leader of his nation, but he did not know what to do. In Verse 4, the Lord "spoke and said to those who were standing before him, saying, 'Remove the filthy garments from him.' Again he said to him, 'See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.'" None of Joshua's or our efforts can make us clean, and so the Lord did it for us. The cross of Christ, His death for us, reaches backward and forward in time, removing "the filthy garments" from Joshua and people like you and me.
And there is even more. Verse 5 continues, "Then 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, while the angel of the Lord was standing by." In Verse 4 we saw that God is willing to take "your iniquity away from you," clothing you and your life in something beautiful. Revelation 19:8 presents it this way: "To her (to the people of God) it was granted to be arrayed in fine linen, clean and bright, for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints." In Ephesians 6:17, we are offered the "helmet of salvation." The righteousness of God is imputed (given) to us in Christ, "For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him" (2 Corinthians 5:21). Through faith in Jesus Christ, we are clean, innocent and unashamed before our Holy Lord.
God has a purpose for each of our lives, and we will be "admonished" in a way that will keep us on track, as Joshua was in Verses 6-7—"And the angel of the Lord admonished Joshua, saying, Thus says the Lord of hosts, ‘If you will walk in My ways and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here.'" To "walk in (His) ways" is to have faith in the Lord. That's what Abraham did: "He believed in the Lord, and He accounted it to him for righteousness" (Genesis 15:6). Faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, instead of in ourselves, is our need.
We will never know what we call "safety," until we are in the presence of the Lord. Until then, all will continue to be uncertain because that is the nature of the world we live in. The people of Judah were back in the land at the time of these verses and God who brought them back was protecting them. But there was even more. A great promise was given to them in Verse 8 that "the Branch" was coming to them: "Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you—indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch." Joshua was the high priest of the nation and the "men" in front of him symbolized both the priesthood and all the people of Judah. "The Branch" was to do in reality what the priests did symbolically—they made daily sacrifices, but the "Branch" would be sacrificed once for the sins of the world. He was mentioned in many prophesies. Jeremiah 23:5 refers to Him as "a righteous Branch, and He shall reign as king and deal wisely..." The "Branch" is both our priest and king—He is Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord.
Verse 9 refers to "the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.'" Psalm 118:22 teaches that "The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone." Matthew 21:42 and Acts 4:11 show that the "cornerstone" is Jesus Christ. The Acts 4:11 reference also reveals the "builders" as the Hebrew people. The multiple "eyes" on the stone remind us that God sees everything. The "inscription" leads us to Isaiah 49:16, where the Lord says, "I have inscribed you on the palms of My hands," a prophetic look at the cross. The "seven eyes" are glimpsed in Revelation 5:6—John the Apostle saw "a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth." Jesus is described as "a living stone, rejected by men, but chosen by God and precious" (1 Peter 2:4). Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, is our Rock, the Chief Cornerstone, who gives us salvation and the blessed Holy Spirit, who sees, teaches and protects us—forever. Jesus did the work...our part is to have faith in Him.
To "sit under his vine and under his fig tree," as seen in Verse 10, is an idiomatic expression, speaking of a person in complete safety—not a care in the world. Verse 10 in its entirety states—"‘In that day,’ declares the Lord of hosts, ‘every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.’" 1 Kings 4:25 spoke of the safety the people felt when Solomon was king—"And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, each man under his vine and his fig tree...all the days of Solomon."
John 1:47-51 presents the interesting meeting of Jesus Christ and Nathanael. Jesus said, "When you were under the fig tree, I saw you," to which the startled Nathanael responded, "You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!" Nathanael had been in a place where he could not be seen or accosted by a Roman soldier, a religious leader or anyone else. But Jesus saw him, and Nathanael recognized that no ordinary human being could have seen him as Jesus did. It's very likely that Nathanael, a good man, was in prayer for the soon advent of the Messiah, when he was "under his vine." And, of course, Nathanael was right about Jesus—He really is the "Son of God," prophesied throughout the the Old Testament, and here revealed as the "Branch" through the prophet Zechariah.
Do you want to be safe like you never thought possible? You can be through trusting in Jesus Christ. Right after the mention in Acts 4:11, that Jesus is the "Chief Cornerstone," the speaker, the Apostle Peter, continued, "There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." The Lord is the One you need. Outwardly, the world will continue to be a dangerous place, but the real you, inside the body that contains you... you are truly SAFE for the first time. You are under His "vine and under His fig tree"—all the days of eternity, clothed in garments of righteousness. You're safe—in Him.
Lord, I want to be SAFE in Jesus Christ. This world can be a fearful place, but You dress me in the garments of the Lord, in His righteousness, and I don't need to be afraid. I confess my sins, my need, and trust in You now. Thank You. In Jesus Name. Amen.