Then [the angel] showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?”
Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”
Then he said to Joshua, “See, I have taken away your sin, and I will put rich garments on you.” (Zechariah 3:1-4)
Do you see yourself in this vision of Joshua the high priest that was given to Zechariah? Read on, and may the Spirit of our loving Lord fill you with strength and encouragement today!
I don’t know how often you spend time in the book of Zechariah, but it would be easy to skim past this passage and miss the rich application that is there for every child of God. After all, what does this interaction between the Sovereign Lord, the accuser of the brethren, and one who served as a high priest before the Lord have to do with our daily lives? Answer: Everything!
We are all dressed in the filthy clothes of our own self-salvation projects. And when the day comes when we stand before the Lord God Almighty—for we all must appear before the judgment seat of God (Romans 14:10)—and the Lord asks us why we should be allowed into His perfect heaven, if we plead that we’ve been “a good person,” we stand condemned before the Lord, for “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As Isaiah said so powerfully, “All our righteous acts are like filthy rags.” I won’t go too far into the literal meaning of the Hebrew that Isaiah used, but the “filthy rags” Isaiah refers to are garments that are totally soiled and utterly unfit for any future use.
No matter what we do, no matter how hard we try, our so-called “good deeds” fall miserably short of God’s perfect, righteous standards of holiness. And Satan is always at our side, reminding us with that horrible hiss, “Look at you! You’re not good enough. Look at the holiness of the Lord; compared to Him, you’re a worm, a slug. You’re only fit for the hog pen!”
And do you know what? Apart from Christ, in this instance the father of lies is telling the truth! We are vile and corrupt, and we drink in sin like a dog laps up water (Job 15:16). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and we are dead men walking, doomed to become branches tossed into the fire of God’s righteous judgment against our sin.
But God (surely these are the two most glorious words in all of sacred Scripture!) purposed before the creation of the world to offer us salvation, a redemption we can never earn or deserve. When we, by God’s gift of grace, place our trust in Jesus Christ, God snatches us from the impending fire of judgment, takes off the filthy clothes of our sin, and clothes us in the sinless, spotless robes of righteousness reserved for those who belong to Christ. When we are in Christ, God the Father no longer sees the filthy rags of our sin . . . only the rich garments of the righteousness of Jesus Christ.
There is a remarkable scene in the 2003 movie Luther, in which Joseph Fiennes, portraying the man who launched the Protestant Reformation, tells a group of Christians –
So when the devil throws your sins in your face and declares that you deserve death and hell, tell him this: “I admit that I deserve death and hell. What of it? For I know One who suffered and made satisfaction on my behalf. His name is Jesus Christ, Son of God. Where He is, there I shall be also.”
Christian, Jesus Christ has made atonement on your behalf. All your sins—past, present, and future—are paid for in full. You are clothed in the righteousness of God the Son . . . and He will look upon you with love for all eternity.
This is the Gospel. This is grace for your race. NEVER FORGET THAT . . . AMEN!