I The Eight Symbolic Visions, B The Communication of the Visions, 4 The Vision of the High Priest, Text: 3:1-10, Title: Our All-sufficient Priest


Joshua was a genuine priest of Israel and is listed among the returning exiles in Ezra 2:2. He is frequently mentioned as the high priest who along with Zerubbabel received the messages of the Lord from Haggai in both chapters of that book. He was the first of the high priests after the Captivity, succeeding, by hereditary right, his father Josedech, who died in Babylon. For his services in restoring the temple he is praised among great men in the non-canonical Jewish book Ecclesiasticus in 49:12. Zechariah writes about him because He is the High Priest of Israel at the time of this prophecy, but we should not miss the really important point of this chapter which is found in verse 8,  “Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come.” Joshua and the men around him were types or symbols of that which was to come. Many of the most important developments in God’s revelation are prefigured in Scripture through types and symbols. It can be a situation, or a person, or an action: Abraham offering up his only son Isaac as God gave His only Son, Israel being “baptized” in the waters of the Red Sea, the High Priest of Israel carrying blood into the Holiest on the Day of Atonement prefiguring Jesus ascension and entrance into the heavenly holy place, and the animal blood shed on Jewish altars picturing the Lamb of God who died in our place. Thus what we have here is a picture of the true priesthood which is fulfilled only in Him who is the Truth, our Lord and Savior. Consider then the the priesthood consecrated, the priesthood clothed, the priesthood commissioned, and the priesthood celebrated.

I The Priesthood Consecrated

The Lord God symbolically lays His hand on Joshua in verses 1 and 2, Then he 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?” Like all the people of God who returned from Babylon Joshua had been snatched from the fire, meaning he was rescued from captivity. Satan could bring accusations against every single one of them for all the failures that led to their exile. Were they worthy of being restored? No more than we are worthy of being forgiven and we most certainly are not. We are forgiven because God has chosen us to be objects of His mercy. As we read in Romans 9:14-16, What then shall we say? Is God unjust? Not at all! For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” It does not, therefore, depend on human desire or effort, but on God’s mercy. God’s election of Israel and renewed acceptance of her is the reason why Satan’s accusation is rejected as we read in Deuteronomy 7:7 and 8, The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your ancestors that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery, from the power of Pharaoh king of Egypt. Therefore Israel is not to be abandoned to the consequences of her sins, nor are God’s gracious purposes towards her to be frustrated. The priesthood and sacrifices are the agency through which Israel obtained acceptance with God in the Old Testament and thus God’s electing love is displayed first in the reconsecration of the priesthood in the person of Joshua.

II The Priesthood Clothed

In the ritual of the Day of Atonement the preparations of the High Priest were complex and demanded minute attention. These included living separately lest he be in the company of someone who died; avoiding possible sources of pollution; washings and sacrifices for his cleansing and purification; and precisely correct and prescribed attire. So all of that is what is in view in verses 3-5, 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.”  Then I said, “Put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him, while the angel of the Lord stood by. Twice it is mentioned that Joshua has filthy clothes and it is not a stretch to think of what those filthy clothes stand for. Isaiah 64:6 says all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in the sight of God. The word Isaiah uses means menstruous cloths. Here there is a different word for filthy. It is a Hebrew word which would be used by Fathers changing dirty diapers. That’s dirty, and that is how sin looks in the sight of God. The rich garments with which he is now dressed are, by contrast, symbols of righteousness and glory. Not only is the sin pardoned, but the wearer is restored to the full glory of his state. The head dress is a mark of his office, a priest’s mitre, and as High Priest this signifies that he is holy set apart for his duties. The head dress of the High Priest in the Old Testament bore upon its front the golden plate inscribed, “Holiness unto the Lord.” Thus Joshua may resume his priestly duties as the High Priest of Israel, and we cannot escape the obvious implication that Israel needed a better priest. According to the book of Hebrews, Jesus is that better priest, holy, harmless, undefiled and who put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself once for all. He didn’t need to be re-clothed because He is the righteousness.

III The Priesthood Commissioned

Now a charge is given to Joshua and with it precious promises intended to bolster his effort to keep the charge in verse 6-9, The angel of the Lord gave this charge to Joshua: “This is what the Lord Almighty says: ‘If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you will govern my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you a place among these standing here. Listen, O high priest Joshua and your associates seated before you, who are men symbolic of things to come: I am going to bring my servant, the Branch. See, the stone I have set in front of Joshua! There are seven eyes on that one stone, and I will engrave an inscription on it, says the Lord Almighty, and I will remove the sin of this land in a single day.” The High Priest Joshua is set apart as holy, so he must therefore make every effort to be holy and obey the Lord, but furthermore, because as we read in verse 8 he is a sign or symbol of the One who is coming he must redouble his efforts. He is guaranteed access to God if he does these things in the words, “I will give you a place among these standing here.” As the angels have immediate access, so will the high priest, but it is dependent on his fulfilling all the requirements, moral and ceremonial. Of course the high priest could not perfectly fulfill the requirements, but our great high priest, Jesus, did. He not only lived a perfect life, but he offered the perfect sacrifice. God commanded the animal offerings of the Old Testament,  but they were temporary. Again we read in Hebrews 7:11, If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood—and indeed the law given to the people established that priesthood—why was there still need for another priest to come, one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron? Jesus offered a greater and more perfect sacrifice and so we read in 7:26 and 27, Such a high priest truly meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens. Unlike the other high priests, he does not need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for the sins of the people. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself. He is the “branch” in verse 8. This is a common designation of the Messiah in the prophets and is found in Isaiah 4 and 11 and Jeremiah 23 and 33. He is a shoot out of dry ground, and in Jesus day the house of David was surely dry ground. Yet, from the depressed house of David a scion should spring, in whom all that was prophesied concerning the priesthood and kingdom of Israel should find its accomplishment. Messiah is also a stone that the builders, that is the Jews, rejected, but precious in the sight of God, the chief cornerstone, engraved by the Lord, and the rock on which the church is established. Finally the Lord declares that He will “remove the sin of this land in a single day.” The obvious meaning of this is that the man who is the “Branch” will bring about what thousands of years of priestly service in the tabernacle and temple and multiple millions of gallons of blood shed did not do. This of course occurred when Jesus our Savior bore our sins in his own body on the tree and those sins were removed as far from us as the East is from the West and were consigned to the depths of the sea.

IV The Priesthood Celebrated

The conclusion of our text in verse 10 is referring to a time when Messiah shall have come and accomplished all that has been mentioned in verses 8 and 9, “In that day each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree,” declares the Lord Almighty. The vine and fig-tree, which required a long time to produce fruit, are symbols of peace and prosperity. The picture is used in I Kings 4:25 to describe the peaceful conditions of Solomon’s reign, During Solomon’s lifetime Judah and Israel, from Dan to Beersheba, lived in safety, everyone under their own vine and under their own fig tree. In Micah 4:3 and 4 these same conditions are used to describe Messiah’s reign in the future, They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore. Everyone will sit under their own vine and under their own fig tree, and no one will make them afraid. When you go to church on Sundays you lay aside your fears under the sweet sound of the gospel of Jesus Christ. In  the gospel He says again to you “Fear not for I have overcome.” This is the same Messiah that Zechariah was privileged to describe here in this text, our great High Priest. Because they do not believe in Jesus as Messiah and because  there is no temple or bloody sacrifices, modern Judaism attempts to achieve forgiveness by sincere repentance, seeking forgiveness from those they have wronged and confessing to God. They do this every year on Yom Kippur because they do not know that long ago on a hill called Calvary the sin was removed in one day, and the blood of Jesus Christ cleanses from every sin.