Satan is Full of Hot Air

Zechariah 3


We talk a lot about being physically fit but what about being spiritually fit? When we mention being spiritually fit, we mean being qualified to have a relationship with God and fit for heaven. You may want to get physically fit so you can walk the Appalachian Trail or kayak across Lake Michigan. But to become spiritually fit requires only something God does for us. We cannot make ourselves fit for a relationship with God. Satan understands this and so can accuse us before God condemning us in our spiritually unfit condition. But we will see that God can and does make us spiritually fit for a relationship with Him and then prepares us for works of service consistent with our new identity. This is illustrated in the vision of the Priest in Zechariah 4.

Joshua, the high priest whom Zechariah personally knows, appears in the prophet’s vision in a state of ritual impurity. This condition is so acute that Satan is condemning him for it in the very presence of God. God, however, views Joshua as a chosen vessel and demands that he be provided appropriate attire to demonstrate this. This is done and Joshua is then told that if he is faithful to God he will have a prominent place in God’s purposes. In reality the lesson is that Joshua and those with and around him are a sign of what God is about to do by means of His servant the Branch, who will become the Temple foundation stone of redemption and restoration. Here is what we learn.


Accusation of Impurity 1-3

In the vision Zechariah is shown Joshua, the high priest of Israel. Joshua is standing in a tribunal where he is being accused of unfitness for the priestly ministry as implied by v 3. The judge is the messenger of the Lord most likely Jesus Christ. In the Bible the adversary, Satan, always argues his case before God just as He did with Job (1:6-7) and according to Revelation 12:10 will continuously do so until he is finally cast down. It is clear throughout scripture that he attempts to subvert God’s sovereignty. God allows this pugnacious demeanor for His own purposes. In 1 Chronicles 21:1 even David’s temptation to number Israel is attributed to Satan. We also learn that Satan had requested the possibility of sifting Peter like wheat to limit Peter’s allegiance to Christ. So Satan is active in his pursuit of accusation and condemnation. Here the accusation seems to be associated with Joshua’s fitness to participate in and lead the cultic ritual of the High Priest. He is clothed with filthy garments. So the challenge seems to be Joshua’s right to function within the religious community this way. Indeed Joshua in this condition is unfit and unsuitable for service.

Chosen by Grace 2

God Himself rebukes Satan v 2! Satan has overlooked at least two things in his high-handed condemnation of Joshua” (1) God has chosen Jerusalem. First, this orients the vision toward the end times when Jerusalem will be the center of attention and second, this draws attention to Jerusalem as the place of God’s holy habitation within the Temple. God has indeed chosen Jerusalem and placed in prominently in His future plans. (2) God has declared Joshua to be a brand plucked form the fire. God does not say that Satan’s accusations are baseless but that God has chosen and stepped in and rescued Joshua. When it looked as though all was lost for the covenant community God graciously stepped in and delivered this remnant of which Joshua as High Priest symbolizes. Yes the nation may still be impure but God God’s elective grace is till in effect and so Joshua has been snatched from the fire and God will do something wonderful for him. Satan only saw the outward appearance but of course God sees the heart.

Cleansed from Impurity 3-5

So what can be done about Satan’s condemnation of Joshua as unfit for service? God cleanses him and makes him fit. Here is the high priest dressed in garments stained with excrement v 3. Actually in this state the high priest is defiled and spiritually disqualified. According to Leviticus 22 Moses instructed to excommunicate any priest who attempts to serve with uncleanness upon him. This was absolutely forbidden. But at this point God chooses not to condemn Joshua too but commands those attending him to remove those garments and replace them with royal apparel v 4. While these robes are being exchanged God declares ‘See I have taken your iniquity away from you’. The point is that this removal of spiritual impurity and defilement replaced with royal and glory apparel is an act of grace—God causes it to happen. Then a new turban is placed on his head v 5. The defilement and impurity have been dealt with so radically that he now appears fully cleansed and utterly holy. It is this election of Joshua that defeats Satan and his accusations.


God chose us before the foundation of the world while we were yet sinners in our sin. We are elected by God and chosen by Him. But our election does not save us. We are still in our sin. Like God removed Joshua’s filthy garments, we have been chosen, redeemed, justified, and sanctified. Taking away our iniquity is redemption. Putting on clean robes is justification. The clean turban on the head is sanctification. God has elected us and utterly saved us. Satan cannot touch us with his accusations. God has cleansed us in Christ.


All of this cleansing and purifying was to prepare Joshua for a larger and greater role within the covenant community. To fulfill this Joshua will have to abide by at least two conditions, which will require his obedience as part of this brand new relationship. He has not been cleansed for nothing. He must now respond to this act of grace by assuming the responsibility his cleansing and renewal calls upon him.

Walk in God’s Ways

His cleansing was unconditional. God simply acted in election and grace to remove his impurity and cleanse him. His service is conditional. It includes staying true to the covenant obligations God has made with Israel. As high priest this was particularly his concern. In Deuteronomy God promises His watch care for the nation if they walk in His ways, fear him, love him, and serve him. So discipleship is taking up our cross and following Christ.

Perform my Service

As the High Priest he is obligated to keep God’s charge. His office is tied to the covenant relationship God has with Israel. The entire point here is that Joshua’s commission is to his priestly function within the framework of the covenant relationship God has established with the people of Israel. This is the service he is to perform faithfully. The beneficial outcome of this service will be three-fold: (1) Joshua will govern the house of God. He will have charge of the Temple and all of its functions on behalf of the people and their relationship with God. (2) Joshua will keep the courts. This may refer to the entire enclosed area extending his watch over the Temple’s courts and surrounding enclosures. (3) Joshua will have free access among those who are standing. As high priest he is the dominant figure in the nation and these standing ones may be those attending with him in the temple services, and the people as well.


Works does not save us but we are saved unto good works. God takes seriously our service for Him and His kingdom. My salvation implies a responsibility, which is rewarded by service for God. Salvation is only the way to enter the kingdom. There is no other way. We must be cleansed from sin and clothed in righteousness. But it is God’s Kingdom we are part of now. And so we must work the works of that kingdom once we come into it. And that service God says, He will reward just as he promised to Joshua.


Coming of the Branch 8

The vision is complete and now followed by a visionary pronouncement. Joshua and those with him are a symbol. They all have to do with the coming of the Branch. That is, this coming will revive and restore Israel as a priestly nation. Joshua has just been revived and restored as high priest. This Branch will come as a servant—the incarnation of Christ—and eventually fulfill all of the conditions of the covenant. Joshua and his friends is a sign of the coming of the branch of Jesse—a ruler from David’s house. So just as Joshua rules over the Temple and the religious cult of the covenant community so the Branch will come to exercise His dominion.

The Stone and Eyes 9-10

There is a stone before Joshua with seven eyes. We know that Jesus at his first advent was a stumbling stone and a rock of offense (Mt 21:42; 1 Pt 2:7-8). Today He is the chief cornerstone of the church (Eph 2:19-22). But then he will be the foundation stone of God’s future temple. This stone is described with seven eyes suggesting omniscience. 2 Chron 16:9 says Gods eyes run to and fro over the whole earth to show himself strong on behalf of those whose heart is upright toward him. God has universal attention and unlimited dominion. Engraved on this stone “I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.” Cornerstones bare inscriptions and this one suggest it is the temple cornerstone where removing sin was the special attribute of the temple. Like Joshua’s cleansing, the entire nation will one day be cleansed and forgiven when the Branch comes to rule and reign. That cornerstone will consummate this regeneration in one day! Then the prosperity of the kingdom will kick in v 10. When this happens everyone will invite his friends to sit in peace with him under the vine and the fig-tree.


The only final solution to world peace will be the dictatorship of a righteous Messiah in the Temple of Israel in the city of Jerusalem amongst his people whom he has promised this peace and prosperity. The entire earth will benefit form his righteous rule in that day. Until then, military conquest and political negotiation will make peace allusive.