Zechariah 3:1

Joshua was the representative of the people, not personally, but in his public character. What was done to him in a figure was to be done to them and for them in fact. The great object was to restore confidence in God and in his servants, and to raise the hopes of the people that the work of grace would triumph in spite of all opposition.

I. THE POWER OF SATAN TO RESIST. The adversary. Cunning and strong. Maliciously working as he has done from the beginning, to keep man apart from God. But his power is usurped, and his devices are doomed to exposure and defeat. He may plead in the guise of justice, but it is not from love of right. He may work upon a guilty conscience, but it is not to lead to penitence, but to engender fear and distrust, and to widen the breach between the soul and God.


1. Founded in righteousness. He is the true "Daystnan."

2. Inspired by love. He has vindicated his claim to plead for us because he died for us. Whom he "chooses" he will never forsake.

3. Adequate to the greatest emergency. He is able to "rebuke" the adversary; to "rescue" the prey from the hands of the mighty; to "restore" the lost purity, and the failing confidence, and the faltering service. He was manifested to "destroy the works of the devil." In this there is hope for the sinner, comfort for the downcast believer, encouragement to all true servants of the Lord. - F.

And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing
We learn from the Book of Ezra (Ezra 2:36-39) that among the exiles who returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon, were Joshua or Jeshua, and 4289 priests. But they were in a sorry plight — their character is described by the prophet Malachi; and it was in sad contrast, as he suggests, to the original type of the priesthood represented in Phinehas. As a judgment on the priesthood, the whole body had fallen under great reproach (Malachi 2:9). The sense of shame becomes more acute when we stand before the Angel of the Lord. "He shewed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord." In the world's twilight much may pass muster which, in the light of that sweet, pure face, must be utterly condemned. Garments which served us well enough in the short, dark winter days are laid aside when spring arrives; they will not bear the searching scrutiny of the light. In the ordinary life of our homes, we are less particular of our attire than when, on some special occasion, we have to undergo the inspection of stranger eyes. Thus we are prone to compare ourselves with ourselves, or with others, and to argue that the habit of our soul is not specially defiled. Alas! we reason thus in the dark. But when the white light of the throne of God breaks on us, we cry with Job: "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet wilt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." The more we know of God, the more we loathe ourselves and repent. What is to be done under such circumstances? Renounce our priesthood? Disclaim its God-given functions? No: remain standing before the Angel. He knows all — we need not shrink from His searching eyes — but He loves infinitely. He has power to make our iniquity pass from us, and clothe us with change of raiment — that white linen which is the righteousness of saints. It is at such moments, however, that our great adversary puts forth his worst insinuations." Satan standing at his right and to be his adversary. Since he was cast out of his first estate, he has been the antagonist of God, the hater of good, and the accuser of the brethren. He discovers the weak spots in character, and thrusts at them; the secret defects of the saints, and proclaims them upon the house tops; the least symptom of disloyalty, inconstancy, and mixture of motive, and flaunts it before God's angels. He is keen as steel, and cruel as hell. Ah, it is awful to think with what implacability he rages against us! When we pray, he is quick to detect the wandering thought, the mechanical repetition of well-worn phrases, the flagging fervour. When we work for God, he is keen to notice our desire to dazzle our fellows, to secure name and fame, to use the Cross as a ladder for our own exaltation instead of our Master's. "Is this," he hisses, "the kind of service which Thy chosen servants offer Thee?" And when, like Job, we do bear trial patiently and nobly, the great adversary suggests that we do it from a selfish motive — "Doth Job serve God for nought?" Satan cannot reach the Son of God now, save through the members of His body; but he misses no opportunity of thrusting at Him, as he accuses them. Let us notice the intervention and answer of the Angel of the Covenant.

1. It is spontaneous and unsought. Before Joshua had time to say, "Shelter me," his faithful Friend and Advocate had cast around him the assurance of His protection, and had silenced the adversary. "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." As the Aaronic Priest, He died; but as the Melchizedek Priest, He ever lives to make intercession on our behalf; and as the torpedoes of the enemy are launched against us, He catches them in the net of His intercession, and makes them powerless to hurt. Before we call, He answers.

2. It is founded on electing grace. For He says: "The Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee." Before ever He chose her, He must have foreseen all that she would become, her backslidings and rebellious, her filthy garments, her wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; but, notwithstanding all, He set His heart upon her. Satan could allege nothing which the Advocate had not weighed in the balances of His Divine prescience. He had realised the very worst before making His final choice. Yes, thou great adversary, thou canst not tell our Lord worse things about us than He knows; and notwithstanding all, He loves, and will love.

3. Moreover, it has already done too much to go back. The point of the metaphor which follows is very reassuring. "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" You have been writing all the morning at your desk, answering letters, assorting papers and manuscripts, destroying much that there was no need to keep. After two or three hours of work, there is a heap of papers which you wish to destroy, and you place them in your stove or fireplace, the fire kindles on them, and they begin to blaze. Suddenly, to your dismay, you remember that there was a cheque or note amongst them, or a letter with an address, or a paper which has cost you hours of work. As quick as thought you rush to the kindling flames, and snatch away the paper, and attempt to stay the gnawing edge of flame. But what an appearance the paper suggests! It is yellow with smoke, charred and brittle round the edges, scorched and hot, here and there are gaps — it is a brand plucked out of the fire. Would you have snatched it out if you had not valued it? And, after you have taken such pains to rescue it, is it likely that you will thrust it back to destruction? And would Jehovah have snatched Israel out of Babylon, and expended so much time and care over her, if at the end He meant to destroy her? The fact of His having done so much, not only proved His love, but implied its continuance. What depths of consolation are here! As we look back on our lives, we become aware of the narrowness of our escape from dangers which over whelmed others. We have been involved in companionships and practices which have ruined others irretrievably; but somehow, though we are charred and blackened, we have escaped the ultimate results. We have been plucked out of the burning. What can we infer from so gracious an interposition, except that we have been preserved for some high and useful purpose?

(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)


1. He stands before the Angel of the Lord.

2. He stands before the Angel of the Lord as an accused person.

3. He stands before the Angel of the Lord as an accused person, to pray.


1. It was prompt.

2. It was directed against Joshua as the high priest.

3. It assumed the form of accusation against Joshua.

4. It was intended to interrupt or thwart Joshua in his prayer.

(G. Brooks.)

Israel was then what Christendom is now; and the prophet in this chapter must be considered as instructing not the house of Jacob alone, but the whole family of God in Christ. The vision of Zechariah is a solemn picture of what is now going on. Taking the vision to refer to the Christian Church, inquire into the truths which it involves, and how it tallies with external events. Trace its reality in the dispensation of the Gospel. Illustrate from the manifestation of Christ to the Gentile world. The Church ever comes before us as a community enlarging its borders, absorbing into itself human belief, supplanting other modes of worship. But there is another side of the picture. The Christian history is full of the opposition and violence with which the onward march of the Cross has been uniformly encountered. The lives of Christian missionaries are ever lives of risk and pain. Such is the external history of the propagation of the Gospel. Where lies the cause that after eighteen hundred years Christianity has not conquered a majority of the human race? The cause of Christianity is the cause of Christ. The resistance of the devil has been partly open, but his resistance has been secret and stealthy: it has mainly sought to undermine rather than cast down; to weaken from within rather than assail from without. A chief cause of the slow progress of the Gospel among men has been, the want of unity. This is seen in sectarian separation, and in diversity of doctrine. The history of the world, of the Church, yea, of every individual soul, is but the outward result of the mystic vision of Joshua the high priest, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.

(J. R. Woodford, M. A.)

This vision is of less obvious interpretation than the preceding, perhaps for the reason that its truth lies nearer the deepest throbbings of the human heart. A sense of sin and a feeling of hopeless ill desert are among the deepest emotions of a heart that has been touched by the Holy Spirit. This is the ever-recurring state of the heart both individually and collectively, because it rests on the ever-during relations that connect man with God. A sense of sin fairly awakened produces despair if we are thrown back on the resources of reason. We cannot hope in God, for we tremble before His justice. Thus it was with the Jewish Church at this time. They felt that they had sinned, and hence had no ground in themselves to hope for God's favour. They knew that their priests had also been unfaithful, and hence they had no hope in them. Why, then, go forward with the temple, when both priest and people must defile rather than hallow its courts? These were the suggestions of Satan, to deter them from their work. God will not accept so vile and faithless a heart, so lame and mutilated a service as you render Him, says the tempter, therefore you had better abandon it all, and enjoy sin at least, if you cannot enjoy holiness. This brings us to the heart of the vision. It is designed to show the people of God that their personal demerit is no ground for distrusting the mercy of God, for He receives them not because of their own righteousness, but that of Another; and that at this particular period the unworthiness of the priesthood was no reason for their destruction and the overthrow of the temple, as they were typical, and the end of their instruction was not yet served.

(T. V. Moore, D. D.)

This part of the vision has respect to Joshua and his accuser. It exhibits Joshua —


1. In his office. High priest. One part of his duty was to consult the Divine will in matters of difficulty. Another part was to intercede on behalf of the nation. Possibly he was now before God, confessing the sins of the people, and pleading for that pardon which a God of mercy is ever ready to bestow.

2. In what place was Joshua executing his office? The temple was not built, and the particular place is not named. He was "standing before the Angel of the Lord." This was the Lord Jesus Christ, the Angel of the Covenant.

II. HIS ENEMY. Satan means adversary. Look at —

1. The actings of the adversary. Satan stood at Joshua's right hand. But why? To resist him. But he might do this either by tempting Joshua or by accusing him. The right hand was the usual place for accusers in public.

2. What were his motives for accusing Joshua? His motives as a tempter we can well understand; but what were his motives for accusing Joshua of negligence in the work of God? Did Satan then wish that the work of God should go on vigorously?

III. HIS ADVOCATE, Jehovah Himself. The Lords defence of Joshua is grounded —

1. In His love toward the Church.

2. On His past mercy to Joshua. The defence which the Lord Jesus makes for His people now is substantially the same as it was then. Past mercies are grounds of Christian confidence, and should be viewed as pledges of future blessings.

IV. THE APPAREL OF JOSHUA. "Filthy garments." Probably the garments worn in the time of captivity.

1. His dress was unsuitable.

2. Suitable apparel was provided for him. "I will clothe thee with change of raiment." The righteousness of Christ is to all, and upon all, them that believe. Ask —

(1)Are we attending to our duties?

(2)Are we sensible of our defects?

(3)Are we confiding in an Almighty Advocate?

(J. R. Woodford, M. A.)


1. He stood to minister before the Lord. Whereby we learn —(1) That as ministers of the Lord have their mission from Him, so they ought to receive instruction from Him.(2) Having received instructions, they ought with all readiness to obey them.(3) That they are always in the eye of God, to counsel them in their duties, to search them in their performances, to hear them in their petitions, to protect them in their dangers.

2. He stood as a defendant, as one accused, to answer for himself and others. The sins of the age were then general, such as, neglect of building the temple, marrying strange wives, etc.


1. He withstands us as a tempter. If we do our duty, Satan is at our right hand to hinder us; if we do not our duty, he is there to accuse us. He stands at the working hand. Usually, the more work the more temptation, and the more public the work the more sharp and eager the temptation.

2. He opposes as an accuser. He resisted Joshua by stirring up the Samaritans to hinder the building of the temple. He resisted him in his ministry, by accusing him of his failings. What these were we may guess.

(1)He ministered not in the priest's robes, but in filthy garments.

(2)He delayed the building of the temple.

(3)His sons were, some of them, defiled with strange wives.

III. THE ADVOCATE — THE LORD. Christ is the Church's Advocate. Satan is at our right hand; Christ is at God's right hand. Joshua does not plead his own cause; he answers by his Counsel, his Advocate pleads for him.


I. God's gracious election. "The Lord which hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee." The doctrine of adoption by free grace is the strongest weapon that we can wield against the malice of Satan.

2. Joshua's past deliverance. "Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?" Past mercies are pledges of more. If God snatch out of the fire, He will bring unto His temple: if He lay a foundation, He will bring forth the headstone.

(Bishop Reynolds.)

Outlines by a London Minister.
1. The representative characters of the high priest and of Satan. Joshua represents the Jewish nation, especially the godly people in it. His filthy garments were emblematic of the moral defilement of the nation, and of their low and poor condition. Satan is the representative of all evil forces. He represents the majority of this world, but the minority of the universe.

2. The motives which at this time brought them into God's presence. It is implied that the high priest was there to plead for his nation. Satan was there to oppose this restoration to God's favour, — to bring forward reasons why it should not be granted.

3. The reason why the promise and the symbol should have their perfect fulfilment. One life, or one act in a life, is sometimes of such a nature or character as to send down a blessing to future ages; it seems to gather within itself all the wisdom or all the goodness of the past, and to bring them all into a centre of blessing for the present and the future. The life of God's Son, and especially His death upon the Cross, gathered up all that had been shadowed forth in the prophets and priests of old. His perfect life and sinless death and intercession were sureties that the promise given to the Hebrew people, through Joshua, should certainly be fulfilled. The vision embodies the blessed results of Divine forgiveness through the life and death of Christ, which are so beautifully set forth by the greatest of Old Testament prophets, Isaiah (see chaps, 11 and 12).Learn —

1. Evil spirits may plead with God against men, as the good plead for them. Many human beings send up desires against the prosperity and happiness of their fellow men.

2. The man who would be a benefactor of his fellow creatures must be an intercessor for them.

3. The elect of God are those who fulfil the conditions of fellowship with God. Divine forgiveness springs from Divine grace, but the proof that it has reached us must be found in the fact that we fulfil the only conditions ripen which it is granted.

(Outlines by a London Minister.)

1. Joshua, before the Angel of the Lord, represents a sinful people.(1) Sin is impurity. What dress is to the body, moral character is to the Soul. Impure garments are the symbol of sin. Iniquity is described by the most loathsome objects in nature — an infant uncared for; the vomit of the dog; the wallow of swine; the exhalations of the sepulchre. A Greek philosopher said, "Evil destroys us like a wild beast."

2. God saves through instrumentality. There are two classes: the good, who stand by all beneficent influences; and Satan, all that hinders good, evil spirits, bad men, corrupt hearts. The day of Gospel grace is neither day nor night. It is a conflict of contending forces. We live between Ebal and Gerizim. Everyone who undertakes anything good will find agencies obeying the command, the Angel of the Lord assisting. And He will find Satan standing at his right hand, — the place of power — to resist him.Reflections —

1. We observe the same method of work in the natural world, and in civil society, as in the Church. All are the work of one God.

2. Why does God permit sin? He works by the balance of contending elements everywhere.

3. The position of an unsaved sinner is as when a chief falls wounded between two contending armies: both fight for him. For which does he fight?

(J. S. Fulton.)

The Church is a holy priesthood. Regard Joshua as representing the humble, penitent believer.

I. JOSHUA IN HIS DIFFICULTIES. Standing before the Angel of the Covenant. No careless person, but a poor sinner Seeking to stand before the Lord Christ. Satan is near him as his accuser. When the sinner awakened stands before the Angel Jehovah, how often does the devil, by doubts and insinations, seek to turn him aside. So the Angel Jehovah becomes his helper.

II. THE LORD'S ACCOUNT OF JOSHUA. Scorched, but delivered by power, the Sinner saved by grace. The powerful hand of the Lord, by His Word, in His providence, by the work of the Holy Spirit on the heart, has arrested and plucked him from the burning.

III. THE RELIEF AT HAND. The Angel of the Covenant answers Satan's accusations. Joshua had special holy garments pro vided for him. But even these were filthy and polluted. He must be stripped and reclothed.

IV. THE HAPPY RESULTS. The pure mitre conspicuously a part of the priest's dress. The angel, etc., stood by to help and comfort, to put Satan to flight, to counsel and to direct, to be his guide as well as his deliverer. We now stand before the Angel Jehovah, the messenger of light and life and glory, when we come into His house of prayer; and we must stand before Him when He cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see Him.

(E. Auriol, M. A.)

The visions of Zechariah were intended to encourage the rebuilding of the temple. The resumption and successful prosecution of the work upon the temple devolved not less upon the ecclesiastical than upon the civil power. Zerubbabel and Joshua must cooperate. The former was ready; the latter needed to be extricated from the Slough of Despond.

1. At the opening of the vision the prophet saw Joshua standing to be judged before the Angel of God.(1) And he was clothed in filthy garments. The best of human kind is not perfect. The contrition of Joshua was, therefore, becoming in him, and all the more because of his official position. Before the all-searching eyes his garments were mere shreds and tatters. And therein he was indeed a just representative of the people.(2) Satan stood at his right hand to resist (i.e., accuse) him. There is no lack of accusers. God's people are always at the bar of judgment, and alas, they have little enough to say for themselves. Guilty is the plea.

2. Next in the vision the Lord Himself appeared to vindicate Joshua. He stands as the champion of His people; His ear is ever open to their cry. He is the champion of all the weak and humble.(1) In this instance He rebuked Satan; not because there was no truth in His charge that Joshua was unworthy to minister at God's altar, or have part in the rebuilding of the temple, but because of other considerations, which made his accusations null and void.(2) The Lord having rebuked Satan, said to His own attendant angels: "Take away from Joshua his filthy garments." Thus does He unclothe His people of their filthy rags, and make them worthy to minister before Him. He is a great forgiver. Thus the Lord encouraged Joshua, and qualified him, despite his personal unworthiness, to offer sacrifices and join with Zerubbabel in the rebuilding of the temple. And thus does He stand at the heavenly tribunal as the vindicator of the least of His little ones.

3. Then, in the vision, the prophet saw Joshua arrayed in garments white and clean. "I will clothe thee with change of raiment." Nor was this enough. "Let them set a fair mitre upon his head." Thus was he encouraged to exercise anew and with increased diligence the functions of his priestly office.

4. The vision closes with the words of a solemn compact or covenant, for the sealing of Joshua's restoration to service. The promise of perpetual blessing is conditioned on patient continuance in well-doing. To him that hath shall be given. A covenant would scarcely be a covenant were there no stone of remembrance. Here the stone had seven eyes in it. "Branch" interprets it. Under this title the Messiah was frequently mentioned. Thus the name of Christ Himself is set as the seal of His covenant with Joshua and his people.

(D. J. Burrell, D. D.)

Monday Club Sermons.
Joshua appears to Zechariah in his dream, — Israel's representative, clothed not in the splendid priestly attire, with its immaculate purity and costly jewels, but in garments worn and soiled, symbolical of the nation's sins. Before the humiliated priest is the Angel of the Lord, and at His right hand is Satan. The question is, which shall conquer, the Angel or the adversary? But not long is the question unanswered. Joshua is as a brand plucked from the burning. Israel, despite her sins and her familiarity with the tempter, shall be saved and forgiven. Then, when reclothed, the faithful monitor urges upon Joshua the necessity of obedient, whole-souled service. And then comes the promise of the greater High Priest, the Branch of David, the Messiah Himself, and the stone of the new theocracy, with its seven eyes running to and fro throughout the world, and finally the millennial peace, when Israel shall sit in peaceful forgetfulness of all her tribulations, under her own vine and fig tree. The dream yields important lessons.

1. The representative function of the priesthood. Joshua stood for Israel. The soiled clothes in which he appeared indicated that both the priesthood and the people were leading lives which were not altogether in accordance with the Divine will, and from other sources we know that the priests of that day were given over to worldliness and materialism. While the priest can hardly fail to take somewhat of the tone of his life and character from the people to whom he ministers, it is also true that, because of his high position as a moral teacher and guide, he is under peculiar obligations to give the tone to his people, and determine in a large measure by his own words and life the standard of their lives.

2. The truth of angelic influence and guardianship. Joshua between the Angel and the adversary. The human soul facing the right and the wrong. But the Angel prevails. The temptation may be a mighty one, the guilt may be great, but Satan is never allowed to go unchallenged. No child of humanity is ever left alone under the power of evil. He may sometimes feel alone. He may get so low in the pit, may become so hardened in sin, that he loses all sense of God's presence, and feels that there is no help for him in this world or the next. But God cannot, even for an instant, leave one of His children wholly, alone with the powers of evil.

3. Another lesson is, that man's extremity is God's opportunity. The occasion of this vision was doubtless the discouragement of some of the more thoughtful Israelites, on account of their national sins. The exciting experiences since the return had tended to hold their minds to material interests, and make them forget their spiritual obligations. Notwithstanding the tendency to formalism under an established order of things, it is probably true that religion reaches its highest spiritual ideals under conditions which are not liable to frequent changes. But God does not forsake His children. He is with them always in the form of a searching and rebuking conscience. When the nation or the individual begins to feel deep down in his heart that a great wrong has been done against God and conscience and truth, then, and not till then, is the way open for forgiveness and restoration. Note the last scene of the vision. Strange enough, we find coupled with this revelation of the Divine heart the prophecy of the Messiah, who Himself was that Divine heart made flesh, and clothed with the features of humanity. Under Him shall the iniquity of the land be removed and the millennium shall dawn.

(Monday Club Sermons.)

I. A GREAT ADVERSARY OF GOD'S PEOPLE BROUGHT BEFORE US. It is strange how every good work meets with resistance in this world. He Who would effect reforms, especially in religion, has to stand alone, at least, at first, with none enlightened or brave enough to give their support. "I am sometimes," wrote Robertson, "tempted to doubt whether any one who tries to open people's eyes in religion is to be reckoned as a sublime martyr or an egregious fool. The cross, or the cap and bells? Certainly, had it not been for One, I should say the cap and bells." Paul was accounted a fool for Christ." Wickliffe, Luther, and all great, reformers have borne the same antagonism, and many prophets have cried out, Who hath believed our report?"

"Truths would you teach, or save a sinking land!

All fear, none aid you, and few understand."Even in such a work as the rebuilding of the temple it was so. And the Bible lifts the veil and lets us see that behind the human actors there are malignant forces at work, — a truth which, though mysterious, is sustained by history and experience.

II. OPPOSED TO THE ADVERSARY IS THE FAITHFUL AND UNCHANGING GOD. While there is such conflict before truth and godliness prevail, yet the victory is sure. God's servants have to wrestle with principalities and powers, but greater is He who is for them than all who can rise up against them.

1. God's interposition is a restraining of evil. "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." He wounds the head of the dragon; puts checks upon the forces which threaten the Church and cause of Christ; turns the weapons forged against her into instruments of retribution to her enemies.

2. God encourages and aids His servants. Joshua is forgiven, clothed in festal garments, crowned with a clean mitre, assured of success, and promised future freedom of approach. There is enough of encouragement for those who take the Lord's side, if only they will use it.

III. THE PROMISE OF A DIVINE SAVIOUR AND KING. Every book of the Old Testament, either by word or type, predicts a coming Christ who is now arrayed in the attributes of God, and now represented as a suffering but conquering Servant. It was a promise which had many partial fulfilments in God's anointed servants before He was incarnated in Jesus. But Jesus was the Christ of whom others were only figures and signs. He was the Branch extolled by Isaiah, and predicted by Zechariah. The vision still points to a future in which all prophetic hopes will be fulfilled.

(T. Vincent Tymms.)


1. The person who is resisted. This is the exact picture of an awakened soul: he comes and stands before Christ, clothed with his filthy garments, conscious that in himself he is lost, but resting on the Saviour's power and willingness to save. Wherever we see a soul living in sin and departure from God, there we may see the work of Satan. But wherever we behold a soul forsaking sin, and seeking to live a holy and consistent life, there we behold the work of the Holy Ghost. Consequently, when Satan rises up to resist the sinner he rises up to resist the Holy Ghost.

2. The manner of, Satan's resistance. There is allusion to the customs of ancient courts of justice, in which the accuser always stood at the right hand of the accused. How does he resist him? —(1) Before God, bringing forward his sins, and demanding the awful sentence of violated law.(2) Before himself; troubling the sinner's conscience, and striving, by every wile, to keep him from Christ, and by suggesting the greatness of our sins.(3) Satan keeps the sinner from the Saviour, by suggesting to him his unworthiness, and the uselessness of expecting mercy.

4. Satan hinders by suggesting that Christ is unwilling to save, since you have so often spurned and rejected Him.

5. And by suggesting that repentance is too late.

II. THE LORD JESUS CHRIST AS THE REBUKER OF THE ADVERSARY. He is the high priest within the veil, the sinner's Advocate. Notice the manner in which Satan is silenced. Two ways —

1. God's sovereignty. "The Lord hath chosen Jerusalem." God's choice is without repentance.

2. The soul Satan desired to have was already beyond his reach. "Plucked out of the fire."

(A. W. Snape, M. A.)

Regarding the vision as a symbolical revelation of Joshua, in his representative aspect as the high priest of the Jewish people then existing, we feel authorised to infer from it two or three ideas touching the intercessory functions of good men while on earth.

I. That the good man, in HIS INTERCESSORY FUNCTIONS ON EARTH, HAS TO BEAR BEFORE GOD THE MORAL IMPERFECTIONS OF HIS RACE. Joshua had on "filthy garments." This was evidently intended to represent the corrupt state of the Jewish people. The seventy years' captivity had not purified them; for now, instead of setting themselves to the work of rebuilding the house of the Lord, they were taken up with their own personal concerns, and excusing themselves by saying, "The time is not come." Here, then, is a characteristic feature of a good man's intercession while on earth. He has to bear the imperfections of his fellow creatures before God. And does not this benevolent feeling lie at the basis of all moral excellence? There is not a saint nor an angel in heaven, we suppose, who does not desire the progress of kindred spirits; and what is this but intercession? But that which distinguishes the intercession on earth is, that we have to remember the moral corruption of our race. In heaven there is no defilement. All there are either clad in the robes of pristine holiness, or in garments washed and made white by the cleansing influences of redemptive love. But here all are in "filthy garments," — garments stained by sensuality, worldliness, idolatry, falsehood, and dishonesty. Here the pious parent has to appear before God for sinful children, the minister for sinful people, and the pious sovereign for a sinful nation.

II. That the good man in his intercessory function on earth HAS TO CONTEND WITH A MIGHTY SPIRITUAL ANTAGONIST. The existence of some mighty spirit or spirits, who are determined foes of truth, virtue, and the happiness of man, is rendered more than probable by a number of considerations, independent of the testimony of the Bible. Such, for example, as the general belief of the race, the conflicting phenomena of the moral world, the unaccountable opposite impressions of which all are conscious. Now, this enemy stood up to resist Joshua in his intercessions. And who will say that he is not now specially active with the good man when he draws near to God? In how many ways may he hinder our prayers? Sometimes he may suggest to us, even in the very time of our prayers, doubts as to the existence of God; we may be tempted to ask, Are we sure that there is a God? May not the idea be a delusion, for who has ever seen or heard Him? Or, granting His existence, he may suggest whether He would condescend to attend to the affairs of an individual. Or granting that He does exist, and that He attends to the prayers of some, Satan may suggest that I am too worthless for HIS notice, that It is presumptuous for me to address HIS awful Majesty; I am too great a sinner ever to be attended to. This, again, is a peculiarity of our intercessory functions on earth. In heaven, we presume, no enemy will intrude on our devotions, no Satan will stand up to resist as we appear before God. No power there to darken our faith with cloudy doubts, nor to cool the ardour of our devotions!

III. That the good man, in his intercessory functions on earth, HAS THE SPECIAL ASSISTANCE OF A DIVINE HELPER. Whilst Satan stood up against Joshua there was One who stood up for him; the Lord — called also, "the Angel of the Lord." The scene illustrates two thoughts concerning the help rendered.

1. It was rendered sympathetically. "Is not this a brand?" etc. Consider the suffering to which they have been subject. Christ is full of sympathy.

2. The help was rendered effectually. The old "filthy garments," the emblem of impurity and guilt, were taken away, and he was clothed in other garments; that is, their guilt was removed, they were restored from their degradation. And the "mitre," the emblem of dignity, was put on their head. They were raised once more to the glory of an independent nation. See(1) That if you would effectually help your race you must appear before God as an intercessor. Other means are to be employed. Promote general knowledge, advance the arts, help on com merce, above all, diffuse the Gospel of Jesus; but, in connection with all, you must appear before God as Joshua did for Israel. It is in this way you will change the world's "filthy garments," and get for it the "raiment" of purity and the "mitre" of honour.(2) That if you would effectually appear before God you must have the help of Jesus Christ. Ever as we attempt to approach the ever lasting Father in devout thought and worship, do we not find some opposing force like this Satan, or rather, this Satan himself, "standing" at our right hand to "resist" us? What is to be done? Are we to retire? — cease all endeavour to commune with the loving parent of our souls? God forbid! Our doom is sealed in midnight and anguish should this be so. There is no happiness for any finite spirit but that which flows from intercourse with the eternal Fountain of good. Our only hope is in getting HIM — the great Mediator — with us, who shall repel our foe, drive him from our presence with the words, "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan."


The Jewish Church is represented by its head, the high priest Joshua; various objections are brought against it, but the Lord overrules them all, declaring His will, that it shall be restored to His favour, notwithstanding its past guilt or present degradation. This transaction represents to us the way in which every true child of God becomes a partaker of the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.


1. He is exposed to condemnation. It is the condition of us all. Conscience acknowledges this. The Christian, in himself, has no reply to the accusations of Satan.

2. He is an object of God's abhorrence. Indicated in Joshua's filthy garments, offensive in the Lord's sight.

3. He is on the very brink of destruction. A brand actually in the fire.

II. HIS HAPPY ESTATE BY GRACE. In spite of every hindrance, Joshua is accepted — the Christian is saved.

1. His conviction is quashed. It is not urged that there are no grounds for condemning him. The charges are tacitly allowed to be true. But at the critical moment there is an arrest of judgment. The accuser is for bidden to proceed, — "the Lord rebuke thee." There is no ground for this exemption, save the Lord's free and unmerited choice.

2. He is clothed afresh, through the merits of the Saviour, and with the graces of the Spirit of God. The filthy raiment of guilt is what we cannot lay aside, but Christ took it away. And He brought in an everlasting righteousness.

3. He is effectually saved from ruin. Inquire whether this all-important change has taken place in you.

(J. Jowett, M. A.)

Here is represented unto the prophet Christ, who is the Lord, taking the defence of Joshua, and by His intercession (acting as the angel of the Lord) pleading that Satan may be rebuked, confounded, and restrained in his malicious and cruel design to destroy them whom God had chosen, and them who, having been almost consumed in trouble, were miraculously plucked out and preserved from total ruin. Doctrine

1. Christ, in His office of mediation and intercession, is the strong refuge of the Church against Satan, who is sufficient to oppose all his machinations, being Himself God equal with the Father, zealous for and affectionate to His people and their weal, and the Father being engaged to help Him and His by virtue of the covenant.

2. Albeit the ground of Satan's accusation of the Lord's people before God, and in their own consciences, may be true and just, yet his insatiable and cruel malice in prosecuting that controversy to their destruction, and casting out of God's favour, is so far from being Christ's allowance, that it is hateful unto Him, and will be effectually suppressed by Him. This is imported in His intercession — "The Lord rebuke thee," or restrain thy malice, and make void thy intention.

3. The Lord's election of and free love toward His people is that whereby they are allowed to answer Satan's temptations, which otherwise might be heavy upon them. And where the Lord hath chosen and purposed to do good unto a people He will also have a care of their ministers for their sake. This we are taught from Christ's first reason of intercession — "The Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee." God having chosen them, Satan's bill (how true soever) could not be heard to destroy them, or to reject Joshua their minister.

4. Though the people of God may be cast into painful and hard trouble, and may be kept in it till it come to some extremity that they may be purged, yet shall they certainly be rescued and brought out again; for so was it with Joshua, and this remnant, "a brand pluckt out of the fire," a stick half burnt, and yet thought worth the pulling out.

5. As the former afflictions of the Lord's people do so endear them to Christ's heart that He will not hear Satan's accusations, so His eminent appearing for them in trouble is a pledge that He will not destroy them, but perfect His work notwithstanding Satan's machinations; or this is the force of the second reason of Christ's intercession, "Is not this a brand pluckt out of the fire?" As if He had said, — Should My anger smoke yet against My people who are already almost consumed by it, and whereof they yet bear the marks? Should I not make an end of pleading with frail flesh and shall I prove so foolish a builder as when I have appeared, in bringing them out of consuming trouble, giving them a remnant to escape, I should again forsake them, and let all My pains be in vain?

(George Hutcheson.)

Sin in act or in heart takes all the meaning and joy out of God's richest promises and gifts. So it prevented the Israelites from appropriating the former gracious words until its baleful influence was removed by the fourth vision of our lesson. It is a vision of free forgiveness for the nation. Joshua, the high priest, represents Jerusalem and the people. His filthy garments are symbols of their sins, and his clean raiment is a pledge of their pardon.

I. THE ADVERSARY. Who was the great opponent of those afflicted Hebrews? Was it the nations around? Or was God Himself against them? The vision reveals their true enemy. It was neither of these, but the great adversary of souls; he who tempted Christ, the prince of darkness. The foe of man is Satan, not man; much less God, who so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son to save it. The very names of this enemy betray his character. The Hebrew word Satan means "adversary." And here, exemplifying his name, he is standing at Joshua's right hand "to be his adversary." When did he ever do a deed or suggest a thought really to help or bless a man! The assaults of Satan are well timed. It was when Joshua stood in foul raiment, symbol of the moral uncleanness of the people, and when the bright hopes of the returning exiles were fading away, that Satan seized the opportunity to accomplish their ruin. The days of sin, failure, despair find him at hand to do his fatal work. God's past dealings with us are a pledge of the future, an assurance of final victory.

II. PARDON. How vivid and repugnant sin must have become under such a symbol. The garments were not coarse, or old, or worn and soiled with use, but filthy. By such striking symbolism God taught His chosen people to hate sin. This was no euphemistic language softening and covering the wrong-doing, but rather a proclamation of it. Sin masked under the forms of fashion or elegance is doubly dangerous. With garments so filthy, but one thing can be done. They cannot be covered up. The blackest spots cannot be sponged off — as men try to do with their guilt; for every thread of the clothing is defiled. Moreover, the wretched man seems powerless to remove the unclean garments. In fact, they are part of him, they are his life, his character, himself. God must work the deed which shall free him from the burden of his sins. "Take away the filthy garments and clothe him in fair raiment," "I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee."

III. SUBSEQUENT LIFE. Pardon was never intended to be the end of effort or of progress. Accordingly, the Angel of Jehovah does not pardon Joshua and dismiss him; but rather pardons and then hastens to declare solemnly: "Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: If thou writ walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge," then thou shalt have the honour of priesthood, with its authority and its free access into God's presence. After pardon comes obedience. The order cannot be reversed. Joshua's previous efforts to obey were vain. Only with the consciousness of forgiveness can there be full and unconstrained obedience. But after one is pardoned, walking in God's ways is the condition of further blessing. Not that God who has forgiven once is unwilling to forgive again. He is love, and His mercies are everlasting. But a man cannot wilfully and constantly transgress God's law, and continually and lightly seek forgiveness. Upon the high priest there was an especial obligation to careful obedience. He was in a sense God's representative. His office carried with it wide influence for good or evil. Before God, indeed, all are under the same supreme law of right. But towards, their fellow men, some are under heavier obligations than others. The obligation rests most heavily on the representative of God, the teacher or preacher whose influence is wider than that of one in a humbler sphere, and whose opportunity to help and guide is greater. Our opportunity to serve man is the measure of our responsibility to man. A larger promise limited to no man or family is now introduced by the emphatic words, "Hear now...for behold." It is an old promise renewed. From earliest ages the hopes of all godly Jews had centred about one dim future figure, ever expected, ever receding. Moses spoke of Him as a prophet, the highest ideal in his mind. David sang of Him as a righteous king, the loftiest conception of man in that age. The coming One was pictured as the servant of Jehovah, and as a sprout growing up out of dry ground from the stump of the fallen house of David. But still He was the hope of Israel. The lowly names by which He was known became transformed into titles of honour and glory. "Behold I will bring forth My servant, the Branch." That promise has been fulfilled to us. And when we, like Zechariah, would urge as a motive for action God's greatest gift, we must speak of that same Servant, of His life and death and resurrection. Wonderful power in human life. His name brought fresh zeal and courage into the feeble remnant under Joshua and Zerubbabel twenty-five hundred years ago. It has never lost its power. This great promise of the Branch, pledge of the continued care and favour of Jehovah, is naturally accompanied by more definite promises of immediate help. The seven eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro through the whole earth and are the symbol of perfect watchfulness, shall be directed to each stone, of the temple now building under great difficulties. More than that, He will "engrave the graving thereof," He will give the stone its beauty. He will both watch and work with His people. Man's work is ever incomplete. In spiritual matters, no less than in temporal, our work needs and certainly receives its vitalising and beautifying power from Him who transforms the elements into flower and fruit. Peace and prosperity complete the picture of the future of the forgiven people. Everyone shall call his neighbour to come and sit under his fig tree. Righteousness and peace with God were doubtless included in this favourite Hebrew thought, but temporal peace, with all its glorious blessings, was the chief element in the anticipated reign of the Messiah. Some of the loftiest conceptions of the Jewish religion are found in these verses. Each is a shadow of a vastly greater and more inspiring truth which is familiar to the Christian.

(G. R. Hovey, D. D.)

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