3 1] Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2] And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
3] Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel.
4] Then He answered and spoke to those who stood before Him, saying, “Take away the filthy garments from him.” And to him He said, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.”
5] And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”
So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clean clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by. NKJV
In these five verses, there is a picture of redemption. There is so much here. There is the opposition of the adversary, v. 1. Joshua is the target of Satan’s opposition because he stands as the mediator for God’s people before God. He is the one who intercedes for them on the Day of Atonement and sprinkles the sacrificial blood on the mercy seat. But Joshua has a problem. He is clothed with filthy garments.
He also stands as representative of the nation of Israel. Though they are God’s chosen people and will yet stand in His favor, right now, they are outside of His grace. They have been set aside for a time because, in the person of the High Priest of the Lord’s time, Israel rejected their Messiah when He came. In Mark 14:53-64, Mark’s account of one of the so-called trials of our Lord, we read:
53] And they led Jesus away to the high priest; and with him were assembled all the chief priests, the elders, and the scribes.
55] Now the chief priests and all the council sought testimony against Jesus to put Him to death, but found none.
60] And the high priest stood up in the midst and asked Jesus, saying,”Do You answer nothing? What is it these men testify against You?” 61] But He kept silent and answered nothing.
Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, “Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?”
62] Jesus said, “I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.”
63] Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “What further need do we have of witnesses? 64] You have heard the blasphemy! What do you think?”
And they all condemned Him to be deserving of death. NKJV
When the high priest tore his clothes, he disobeyed a direct order from God. In Leviticus 21:10, we read that God told the Levites, “He who is high priest among his brethren, on whose head the anointing oil was poured and who is consecrated to wear the garment, shall not uncover his head nor tear his clothes, NKJV emphasis added. The very ones responsible for Israel’s spiritual health were the ones who ultimately led to her destruction.
So perhaps it is fitting that Zechariah sees another high priest, this one clothed in filthy garments instead of garments befitting his office and responsibilities. The priesthood had been defiled.
But we can’t simply point at Joshua; apart from the Lord Jesus, we are all clothed in filthy rags. Even though that verse, Isaiah 64:6, refers specifically to Israel, it’s true of all of us because, as Romans 3:23 says that we all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And Isaiah 64:6 is about our righteousnesses, those little acts of piety and religion that we think so much of. In truth, though, we really have very few of those. Most of the time do we really think about the things of God? We’re too busy with the things of life. What must those lives be like in the sight of God?
However, in Isaiah 61:10, Isaiah wrote,
I will greatly rejoice in the LORD,
My soul shall be joyful in my God;
For He has clothed me with the garments of salvation,
He has covered me with the robe of righteousness, NKJV.
And Paul wrote in 2 Corinthians 5:21, He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him, KJV.
In v. 4 above, Joshua’s filthy garments are removed and the LORD tells him that his iniquity has been removed. He doesn’t say how that was done, just that it was.
That’s not all.
In place of his filthy garments, Joshua was to be clothed with rich robes. In addition, Zechariah tells us in verse 5 that he told them to put a clean turban on his head. Nothing is said as to why he made this request. Perhaps it was to complete Joshua’s official outfit.
We, too, have been clothed and made fit to stand and to serve in the presence of God.
There’s an interesting phrase at the end of v. 5: And the angel of the LORD stood by.
This angel is quite possibly the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus: the Word described in John 1:1. He will have much to say in the rest of the chapter.
For now, we live in terrible times. Indeed, I could almost say they are unprecedented times. But there is One standing by, and when the time is right, He will step in and clean up the mess that’s been made of His creation, His church and His nation.
“Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”