God is always showing us how much he loves us. The book of Zechariah is often a neglected book but found in its visions and images are pictures of how much God loves his people. The third chapter of Zechariah gives us an amazing picture of the spiritual problem and solution God provides for the world to enjoy. These images all point to what Jesus would do for the world when he came to earth and gave his life on the cross.
God’s Defense (3:1-3)
The chapter opens by depicting his people through the high priest named Joshua. Joshua is pictured standing before the angel of the Lord, representing the people. But we are also told that Satan is there in this heavenly vision standing at Joshua’s right side, ready to accuse him. We should not be surprised that this is what Satan is there to do. The name Satan means accuser. So he is doing what he always does. We see this picture of Satan in the first two chapters of the book of Job as well. He is accusing us because of our sins before the Lord. This is the picture that is revealed in verse 3. The reason Satan is accusing Joshua is because he is dressed in filthy clothes. The high priest is worthy of accusation and this image proves it. There are two things to consider regarding the high priest wearing filthy clothes. First, the high priest was to wear brilliant clothing as he did his work before the Lord. From colorful clothing to precious gems, the high priest’s clothing was not defiled (cf. Exodus 28 and Exodus 39). Second, the English wording as “filthy clothing” is a kind translation. Similar Hebrew words for typically refers to excrement or vomit. So this is a disgusting, repulsive scene. Rather than picturing purity and holiness, the high priest is a stomach-turning, gross picture. The high priest is completely disqualified and has no way to cleanse himself.
But look what the Lord does in verse 2. The Lord does not condemn. The Lord does not agree that the high priest should be condemned and accused, though he clearly should be condemned. Rather, the Lord rebukes Satan, not the high priest. The Lord pictures his people as chosen by him and snatched out of the fire. Rather than allowing deserved judgment, God has pulled his people out of the fire to rescue them from judgment and sin.
God’s Reversal (3:4-7)
The next picture of the amazing declaration for these filthy clothes to be removed from the high priest. What does this mean? Look at the middle of verse 4. God has removed their sins and has clothes him with pure robes. God’s response is not that we are gross and that we need to get away. Instead, God comes to him and has his filthy clothes removed. This picture is to end any argument that you may have to the Lord that you think you are too filthy to come to him. You are not too filthy. Your life is not too gross that God will not come to you and remove your filth and give you a clean, fresh start. When my daughter was very young, just a few months old, I was home by myself with her, rocking her in our rocking chair that evening. Unexpectedly, in a moment she just vomited everywhere. It was all over herself. It was all over me. It was everywhere and there was no one home to help. So you know what I did? Of course, I told her that she was too filthy and I would have to go find another daughter. Of course that is not at all what I did. I carried her to the bathroom, put her in the bathtub, stripped off her filthy clothes, and cleaned her up. This is what God is wanting to do for us. We are not too filthy for God. He is telling us that he will remove our gross clothes, clean us up, and give us clean clothes.
Not only are we being pictured as being cleansed, but God is restoring us to our rightful place as his children. In verse 5 we see the turban and priestly clothing put on the high priest. You have not permanently ruined yourself. Your life is not too far gone for God. God can hit the restart button for your life. You can start all over with him and with yourself. This is the hope that God is picturing in this scene.
Listen to the restart language in verse 7. If you walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you will rule my house, have charge of my courts, and have the right of access. Do you see the reversal imagery? You were filthy but I have cleansed you. Now you can belong to me and enjoy working in my kingdom. You can have access to the divine presence. If you will respond to the cleansing of the Lord, then God will grant even more to your life.
God’s Accomplishment (3:8-10)
The big question is how is the Lord going to do this. The high priest is worthy of accusation. The high priest is worthy of condemnation. The high priest should remain in the fire and not be plucked out. So how is God going to rescue his sinful people, give them clean clothes, and restore them to the place of access in God’s kingdom? Verse 8 begins the explanation. God is going to send his servant the Branch. A stone will be set as a memorial before the people with the inscription that in a single day the sins of the land will be removed. Now you may wonder why the Christ would be called the Branch. The Branch became a messianic title to refer to the coming of Christ in prior prophecies (cf. Jeremiah 23:5-6; 33:15-16). The reason is to picture a family tree. God promised that from the offspring of David there would be one who would reign as king eternally, rule in righteousness, and save his people. So the Branch is the one connected to David’s tree who will accomplish all of God’s promises.
God declares that in a single day, he would remove sins through his servant, the Branch. God’s solution to reverse your life would happen through Jesus on a single day. What is the single day when sins were removed? That single day was with Christ gave his life on the cross. Atonement for your sins was made when Jesus gave his life on the cross. This is the way the apostle Paul explained this truth.
21 But now, apart from the law, the righteousness of God has been revealed, attested by the Law and the Prophets. 22 The righteousness of God is through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe, since there is no distinction. 23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God; 24 they are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus. 25 God presented him as the mercy seat by his blood, through faith, to demonstrate his righteousness, because in his restraint God passed over the sins previously committed. 26 God presented him to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so that he would be just and justify the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21–26 CSB)
God’s faithfulness to his promises are revealed in Jesus. God presented Jesus as the mercy seat, the sacrifice of atonement, the place of grace, so that those who have faith in Jesus can be forgiven. Everyone has filthy clothes but through faith in Jesus those filthy clothes are removed and you are given new clothes. This is how God would be just and the justifier to those who have faith.
Now come back to Zechariah 3 and look at verse 10. When all of this happens then these people are going to invite their neighbors to enjoy the same blessings. Sitting under your own vine and fig tree is an image that we read about in the days of Solomon, where under his reign the people enjoyed great peace and prosperity (1 Kings 4:25). The picture used was to sit under your own vine and fig tree. Now God’s people can have this peace and prosperity because Jesus took away our filthy clothes and they invite others to have their filthy clothes removed so they can have the same peace and prosperity. The cross is the monument to this moment. The cross of the monument that proclaims that sins have been removed in a single day. The cross is also the monument to the movement. The movement is to tell other people that they can have this peace and prosperity. They also can have their life restarted. They also can have new clothes and a new life. Let’s end with how the apostle Paul again expressed this glorious truth.
31 What, then, are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He did not even spare his own Son but gave him up for us all. How will he not also with him grant us everything? 33 Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? God is the one who justifies. 34 Who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is the one who died, but even more, has been raised; he also is at the right hand of God and intercedes for us. (Romans 8:31–34 CSB)
If God is on our side, who can stand against us? The implied answer is that no one can stand against us. God did not spare is own Son for us but gave him up for us. This proves that God will grant us everything. If God will sacrifice his Son for you, then what could God hold back from you? Nothing. There is nothing he will hold back from you. Now listen to verse 33. Who can bring an accusation against God’s elect? This is the picture in Zechariah 3. Satan wants to bring accusation against you. What is God doing? God is rebuking Satan because God has justified us through the death of Jesus. Therefore, there is no one to condemn you. Listen to the reason why in verse 34. Christ has been raised from the dead and is interceding for us at God’s right hand. You are not too filthy. You are not too far gone. You are not too broken. You are not too messed up. You are not unredeemable. Jesus died for your and Jesus is interceding for you right now. You just need to have faith. What does this faith look like? Come back to Zechariah 3:7. If you will walk in God’s ways and listen to his charge, then you will enjoy the peace and prosperity that God wants you to have. No one can bring an accusation against you because you have been covered by the blood of Jesus. You can have freedom, purpose, satisfaction, hope, rest, and meaning if you will come to the cross of Jesus this very day.