The first three visions of Zechariah must have comforted the remnant of the nation of Israel, as they picked through the ruined walls of Jerusalem, once known as, “the city of the Great King”. Jerusalem was in ruins, in appearance she was far from being “the Joy of the Whole earth” , “the city of our God”, rather she was like a shattered and ruined widow, sitting in the ashes of her mourning.
How doth the city sit solitary, that was full of people! how is she become as a widow! she that was great among the nations, and princess among the provinces, how is she become tributary! She weepeth sore in the night, and her tears are on her cheeks: among all her lovers she hath none to comfort her: all her friends have dealt treacherously with her, they are become her enemies.(Lamentations 1:1-2)
But the “good and comfortable” words of Zechariah’s visions promised better things for the ruined city. The Prophet saw that all of the Gentile powers which have scattered her will be thrown down, those who have humbled and persecuted her to the point where a Jew could hardly lift his head, will be humbled themselves, frayed,i.e. terrorized, by craftsmen sent from God.
Furthermore, the city will not only survive, Jerusalem will expand, swelling with life and wealth, and she will live in security such as never before. God himself will be her protection, a wall of fire without, and an indwelling Sanctifying presence within. She will yet be the Holy city, the destination of pilgrims from among many peoples who will come to Jerusalem to “join themselves to the Lord”.
This fourth vision addresses the question, what shall be done about Jerusalem’s sin? How could a Holy God chose such a sinful city, as the place where “His own name dwells”? BY what means can the deep stains of Jerusalem be removed? This is the city privileged above all others, who has denied the LORD more than any other.*
Moreover the word of the Lord came unto me, saying, Now, thou son of man, wilt thou judge, wilt thou judge the bloody city? yea, thou shalt shew her all her abominations. Then say thou, Thus saith the Lord God, The city sheddeth blood in the midst of it, that her time may come, and maketh idols against herself to defile herself. Thou art become guilty in thy blood that thou hast shed; and hast defiled thyself in thine idols which thou hast made; and thou hast caused thy days to draw near, and art come even unto thy years: therefore have I made thee a reproach unto the heathen, and a mocking to all countries. Those that be near, and those that be far from thee, shall mock thee, which art infamous and much vexed.(Ezekiel 22:1-5)
Jerusalem, the “city of our God” and “The joy of the Whole Earth”, is also called by various prophets of Jahweh, “The Harlot” the “city of blood”, the “Seething cauldron”, “Sodom and Egypt, where our Lord was crucified”, and many other dreadful names of shame.
But “The LORD has chosen her”, and will dwell in her again, according to the prophet, therefore He shows us a vision of her cleansing and restoration.
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.
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, I 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. 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. Hear 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.(Zechariah 3)
IN the vision, Joshua the High Priest, (This was a real person, the High Priest who presided in the time of the return from Babylon) stood before the Angel of the LORD. This expression is a technical, liturgical expression, “Standing before” as in his High Priestly service before the LORD.
Now as High Priest, Joshua literally represented the entire nation of Israel, as he stood before the LORD, for the High Priest is the substitute, representative of the people, bearing the twelve tribes on his very chest(Breastplate) and going in and out before the LORD on their behalf.
Thus in him, the God appointed Mediator, the Nation itself stands before Jahweh, in all of it’s filthiness, sin and reproach.
Satan also stood there, in the capacity as the legal adversary, the prosecuting witness arguing against him before the Divine Judge. He stands at the right hand of Joshua, something David Baron suggested indicates the place of the prosecutor in a trial, making arguments against the accused. He cited Psalm 109 as a probable reason for this, which states,
Set thou a wicked man over him: and let Satan stand at his right hand. When he shall be judged, let him be condemned: and let his prayer become sin.(Psalm 109:6-7)
But the LORD, the Angel of God’s presence, before who Joshua stood, acts as an advocate in the defense, when he rebukes Satan, (in the name of the LORD).That is, in the name of the LORD that has chosen Jerusalem, to put his name there forever, he is the one who rebuked Satan.
It is on the basis of God’s eternal election of Israel, that the Angel of the LORD argues for Israel in the presence of God and of ” ha Satan”, the inveterate adversary of God’s people.It is ironic that to this day, even within the church, there are many who bring the very same charge against Israel, as the Satan did!
The LORD then declared, that Joshua was a brand plucked from the fire.
The fire with it’s coals, refers to the Altar of God. When the prophet Isaiah “saw the LORD, High and Lifted UP”, and reproached himself, feeling and seeing the full enormity of his own personal sin and guilt, the Seraphim took a coal from off the fire and touched his lips with it, purging him of his sins.
The Altar is the Cross, and with the lips, confession is made unto salvation… . By the Judgment of God upon the substitute, we are cleansed forever.
IS not this a coal from the fire? Had God not caused his sinful people to go through many, many fires of affliction and suffering? Egypt was a furnace, so also Babylon, but so too the Roman and Islamic and Russian and German fires . Ever since the commencement of the “Times of the Gentiles” tis Holy people have endured furnace after furnace, it is a miracle there still is an Israel!
Joshua’s clothes were filthy.As High Priest he embodies the people of Israel. He bears their sin and shame , and the taunt and malice of the Enemy, until the wrath of God is satisfied. In that day a new garment is presented to Him and the priestly dignity is restored, the Mitre put on his head and a solemn charge is given him. What happens to him, as High Priest (Ha Cohen Migdal) and Divine representative, is what happens to the nation as a whole.
The vision looks ahead to the appearance of a far greater high Priest named Joshua, or Jeshua,(Jesus) , Who would in truth bare in his body on an accursed tree, all of the sins of Israel and even of the whole world, until the very wrath of the Holy God is satisfied. He will take upon himself the sins of the whole world and of Israel, and carry our sorrows and sins before Jahweh, unto Judgment and death.
But on the third day, God raised him from the dead and clothed him anew with the garments of Righteousness!
He would be known as the man whose name is ‘the Branch”, (the netzer), (Jeshua of Natzereth), through Him, God will remove the iniquity of the Holy People in One day!
Thus will Israel be made holy, and the stain removed once and for all, not through the filthy garments of works, but through the ministration of the man whose name is the Branch!
Dear God hasten the day of the restoration of your people!
*(By the city, we mean, all that the city stands for, i.e. the people of God, the worshippers of Jahweh, etc.)