Zechariah 3:1-10


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Zechariah 3:1-10

It has been several weeks since we were last in Zechariah, so let me remind you where we are. After a short introduction the prophecy begins with a series of eight visions, the so-called “Night Visions,” because it appears that the prophet received them all at night; perhaps in a single night. We pointed out that the eight visions are arranged chiastically, that is, in the form of an inverted parallelism. The outer visions, that is 1-3 and 6-8 focus on the larger, more universal perspective: God’s sovereign plan for the entire world and for the people of God in the world. The inner two visions, numbers 4 and 5 — the visions we find in chapters 3 and 4 — to retain the metaphor of focus, zoom in on Zechariah’s contemporaries, the small community in and around Jerusalem at that time, the people of God in their present greatly diminished circumstances, as crucial to God’s plan for the whole world, and do so by giving attention to the two men who are the leaders of that people, Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor. The point of a chiasmus, in which the readers’ attention moves from outward to inward, is to lay emphasis on what we will find in the middle, in this case the two central visions, numbers 4 and 5 of the eight. We have the first of those before us tonight.

Text Comment

v.1

We have so far been given to see angels, humble craftsmen, and empires as a whole. Now, however, we are introduced to a specific historical person. Each of the two central visions in the set of eight concerns a person who was vital to the life of the restoration generation of the Jews: Joshua, the high priest, and Zerubbabel, the political ruler or governor. As we learn from Haggai 1:12-14, these men were leading the effort to rebuild the templein the later years of the sixth century B.C. Zechariah will show us the significance of these two men for God’s unfolding plan his people and the world.

In his vision Zechariah is taken to some heavenly courtroom to find that a trial is in progress. Joshua is the defendant, the angel of the Lord is the judge, and Satan is the prosecutor.

As we mentioned when dealing with this personage in 1:11, the angel of the Lord is both identified with Yahweh and distinguished from him. In v. 2 he is both identified as “the Lord” and as one who reports the word of the Lord. He so closely represents the Lord that there is almost an identification of the two persons. It is this apparently intentional confusion — identification and distinction together — that has led many to find here a pre-incarnate appearance of the Lord Jesus, if only in a vision.

Satan, as you remember, is identified in both Job and the book of Revelation (12:10) as an accuser of the saints. That is, after all, the literal meaning of the word “Satan.” Indeed, there are scholars who think we should not use the proper name here but simply translate the term “the accuser,” whoever the accuser may have been. [McComiskey, 1069] I am more inclined to think that the person of Satan is in our view.

v.3

Satan has a case that appears quite strong. Joshua is standing before the Lord dressed in filthy clothing. The term “filthy” might be rendered with a still stronger adjective because the nouns related to this adjective refer to human excrement and vomit. [McComiskey, 1070] Perhaps “putrid” would do. He was not only filthy and stank, but as a priest he was unclean, incapable of service in the presence of God. Now, remember, for this is key: the priest represents the people before the Lord, so it is not only Joshua who is putrid but the people of God he represents.

But before Satan is even allowed to present his case, it is ruled out of order by the judge! [Duguid, 97] Joshua is not only declared not guilty, he is declared to be immune from prosecution because the Lord himself has chosen him and loves him, as he loves Jerusalem, which is to say, his people the Jews. “Brand plucked from the fire,” means in the first place, “delivered from exile in Babylon” but, in a deeper way, it surely means that Joshua was a “saved” man. Yahweh had saved Joshua from his sins. If you remember, John Wesley as a boy of 5 was saved from a house fire in the nick of time. Everyone had gotten out of the house before anybody realized that he was still in the attic asleep in his bed. He ever after referred to himself as a “brand plucked from the burning,” meaning that his life had been spared so that later he might first be saved and then spend his adult life serving the Lord.

v.4

In other words the high priest is ceremonially unclean. This should be a great problem. After all, what good is a rebuilt temple if the priest is unclean and cannot preside over divine worship there without offending God, without making matters worse for the people of God? And, as we said, it isn’t just Joshua who is unclean; the people he represents are as well. In their worship the acceptability of the people depended upon the fitness of the high priest. At least in some parts of their worship He carried them into the presence of the Lord as their representative. For that reason the high priest was to avoid at all costs every manner of ceremonial defilement. When, once a year on the Day of Atonement, he entered the Most Holy Place, he wore a gold plate on the front of his turban with the inscription, “Holy to the Lord.” [Webb, 85-86] Standing before the Lord so defiled would have been a serious breach of God’s law. That is Satan’s argument, but the Lord will hear nothing of it.

v.5

In the midst of this scene Zechariah himself pipes up and suggests that the dirty turban likewise be replaced, which was done. The dirty man, the foul man now stood before the Lord in the finery of his priestly office. The process that Satan had hoped would end with Joshua convicted and condemned, led off in disgrace, ended instead with his divine investiture! And, of course, not only Joshua himself, but by the implication of his office, the people he represented.

But the question is left hanging for the moment. How can this be? How can a righteous judge simply ignore the defilement of the accused standing before him? Is this the “sheer arbitrariness or wanton partiality” of a corrupt judge, or is there another explanation? We read on. [Webb, 87-88]

v.7

As always with the grace of God, the Lord’s favor is not an excuse for indolence, even less for disobedience or dereliction of duty. Joshua has sacred responsibilities to fulfill and only if he fulfills them will he and his people enjoy the blessing that God has lavished on this undeserving man and this undeserving people. Here again we have the same interplay between divine grace and human responsibility that lies face up on virtually every page of the Word of God.

What “right of access” refers to includes entrance into the presence of God as high priest in the temple, but that also means that the prayers of the people will be heard!

v.8

The men who “sit before you” are perhaps most naturally Joshua’s fellow priests. They are men who serve to signify something. They are, as we have learned to call such people and things, a “type,” a prophecy in flesh and blood. Their presence in Jerusalem was proof that God had not forgotten his people and that the divine blessing, long promised in the prophets, would eventually come. In particular that blessing is the appearance of “the Branch.”

By this time “the branch” was a technical term for the Messiah, the promised King who would restore the fortunes of the kingdom of God. Isaiah had spoken of a shoot that would grow from the stump of Jesse and of a branch that would bear fruit (11:1). Jeremiah had prophesied (23:5 and 22:30) that, while none of the descendants of Jehoiachin would ever sit on Israel’s throne, the Lord would raise up a righteous descendant from David, whom he calls a branch, who would bring salvation to God’s people and reign over the world with justice. What was so significant about Zerubbabel was that he was a direct descendant of David! And his ascent to the office of governor was paralleled by the revival of the Levitical priesthood in the person of Joshua. These two great offices awaited their perfect and eternal fulfillment in the Messiah who would be both priest and king. It is clear in Zechariah that neither Joshua nor Zerubbabel is himself the Messiah, but they are a sign of the Messiah. The offices that spoke of the coming one had risen from the ashes of the destruction of Jerusalem and the exile, had been restored, and were once more in the hands of faithful men. Insofar as nothing like this happened in the case of the northern tribes after they were carried away from the Promised Land by the Assyrians in the later 8th century B.C, insofar as the other nations that Babylon had destroyed reduced would never recover their former life, the fact that Judah has again a high priest in Jerusalem who is a descendant of Aaron and that the Persians had appointed a governor who just happened to be a descendant of David was a remarkable providence, so remarkable that it was a sign of things to come.

v.9

This stone is usually understood to be a part of the high priest’s clothing, a gemstone with seven facets. In a mixture of metaphors, the seven eyes symbolize that the Lord is watching over his people to bless them and bless their work, especially rebuilding the temple. We have the seven eyes of the Lord again in 4:10. [McComiskey, 1079] “Seven,” of course, means that he sees everything. In any case, the Lord has prepared this stone and engraved the inscription on it. In other words, the Lord has done and will do what needs to be done to remove the iniquity of his people.

To say that the Branch will deal with the iniquity of the land in “a single day,” anticipates 13:1 where we read “on that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness.” It is visionary language that is equivalent in force to such common NT thoughts as the Lord having died for our sins according to the Scriptures, or of his one sacrifice for sin or his having “appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself,” or his having been offered “once to bear the sins of many.” Here we are not told how he will remove iniquity, only that he shall and shall do it all at once and decisively. Don’t pass over this without thought. It is one of the uniquenesses of our faith as Christians that our salvation rests on something done once by a single person, and all of this is predicted five centuries before the event. Five centuries is a long time; five centuries would take us back to the 1500s, shortly after the New World.

v.10

Again, a characteristic foreshortening of Biblical prophecy. You are seeing the work of the branch together with its ultimate issue. The OT metaphor of sitting under the vine and fig-tree is a picture of perfect peace, happiness and provision. And it is a happy thought. Perfect blessing must be shared to be fully enjoyed.

The fourth vision of Zechariah unmistakably deals with the problem of sin and God’s way of dealing with it. In the chiastic structure of these eight visions, the fact that sin is dealt with in the center is a powerful way of teaching us that the key to the Lord’s entire plan for the world, the essential turning point in the history of the kingdom of God and of the world is what God will do through the Branch, the Messiah, to take away the sin of the world.

What we have here is as stunningly obvious, straightforward, and beautiful an account of what will be the great story of the New Testament as is the far better known servant song of Isaiah 53. We have here an unmistakable presentation of what we will learn in the New Testament to call “the gospel,” or the “good news.” Jesus Christ died for us, the just for the unjust, to bring us to God. He died for our sins, Paul said, according to the Scriptures. What Scriptures? Well Zechariah 3 for one! It is a message for the ages — this message about the Lord removing the iniquity of the land (remember, in the New Testament “land” disappears to be replaced by “world”) — but it is a message first and foremost for Zechariah’s contemporaries. In the immediate historical context, this was gospel for the Jews, because it meant that Yahweh was not going to hold their sins against them; that there was forgiveness with the Lord that he might be feared, and that they could still count on the fulfillment of the Lord’s many great and precious promises made to them. They hadn’t permanently ruined everything by their sin. But, of course, the relevance of that message is timeless. We need it as much as the Jews did at the end of the sixth millennium B.C.

What did this vision tell them and what does it tell us? Well in a powerful image it gives us the whole biblical scheme of salvation. First, Zechariah’s vision strips us of all pretense. What we see of Joshua here is what we are because it is what all men are: dirty and unclean. No point denying it. Denying that is how the Jews got into the mess they were in and it is how we have gotten into the mess we are in as Americans today. Our politics, left and right, have utterly forgotten that human beings can be counted on to do one thing: act in selfish, foolish, and self-destructive ways, all motivated by their spirit of rebellion against God. The social consequences of human sinfulness ought to be the starting point of our political discourse; but they are found neither at the beginning nor at any other point. No more obvious truth has ever been so universally ignored. We are sinners through and through and there is a fire set to consume us. It is possible to be plucked from that fire, but not everyone is or will be. Indeed, then as now, only some are plucked from that fire.

Second, for those who trust in God there is no condemnation, no matter that condemnation is what we deserve; no matter that the accuser has an air-tight case against us. [Webb, 89-90] Charitie Lees Bancroft’s hymn, Behold the Throne of God Above, written in 1863, was first made popular through its inclusion in a hymnbook published for the use of Charles Spurgeon’s Metropolitan Tabernacle, which they entitled, somewhat pretentiously, Our Own Hymnbook. In fact if you look in encyclopedias of Christian hymns, it is regularly abbreviated as O.O.H, Our Own Hymnbook. The church had been using two hymnbooks and decided to consolidate them into one with, of course, some additions and subtractions and Charitie Lees Bancroft’s hymn was included in that hymnal. If you remember, we were singing this hymn to a fine tune before anyone had heard the Vicki Cook tune to which it is now regularly sung and which has made the hymn popular again. The finest lines of that hymn, the ones that have made it as well-known as it is, might easily be thought to have originated in the poet’s contemplation of Zechariah 3:1-10.

When Satan tempts me to despair,
And tells me of the guilt within,
Upward I look, and see him there
Who made an end of all my sin.

Because the sinless Saviour died,
My sinful soul is counted free;
For God, the Just, is satisfied,
To look on him and pardon me.

Satan’s accusation, our unworthiness, and the Branch’s intervention are all here.

And, third, our sin has been removed by the Lord Jesus so that we might serve him, as we read in v. 7. The forgiveness we have in Christ is no excuse for an indolent life but is a summons, a spur to a faithful, fruitful one. Sin, redemption, and a transformed life: we have here the whole scheme of biblical salvation, five centuries before the appearance of the Branch.

The Western world, our world, the people you’re rubbing shoulders with every day have a problem with this three part message — sin, redemption, and transformation — in whatever form it is found in the Bible, and particularly with its first element. It cannot understand or appreciate redemption and transformation, it does not find them interesting or important, because the world does not see itself as dressed in excrement-stained clothing before a holy God; it sees no fire from which it needs to be rescued; and is not conscious of iniquity that only the Branch can remove. Why would there be a need for conversion when it is fundamental to modern social philosophy that no way of life is to be preferred to any other? You can’t get started in the Christian faith; you can’t make sense out of the Bible, if you do not see yourself in Joshua standing there in foul-smelling and filthy clothes. The rest becomes irrelevant if Joshua is not in fact unclean, deeply, disgustingly unclean, and unless there is a fire burning that threatens to destroy him.

Ralph Venning, the 17th century Puritan, wrote a famous book about sin which he entitled The Plague of Plagues. It was first published in 1669, four years after London had suffered the last great outbreak of the bubonic plague in the city’s history. Of course, they didn’t then know it would be the last. He used the scourge of that plague, so familiar to his readers, its terrifying onset — in those days when people heard that somebody in their city had gotten sick with the bubonic plague everything changed — its repugnant effects, and its lethal consequences, to make his readers feel sin’s horrifying nature and deadly effects. And in our day of medical advances and scientific research we could do the very same thing. When there is an outbreak of some contagion somewhere in the world – SAARS or the Ebola virus – medical researchers descend on the place and the people affected. They take blood samples and other evidence away to their laboratories. They work hard and fast to isolate the virus, to study it, to become familiar with it. Why? Because it is in this way only that they can find a cure. To produce a vaccine, one must first have discovered, isolated, and come to understand the virus.

What is more, when governments grow worried about the possible effects of some disease – such as the Asian Bird flu or Mad Cow Disease – they tell the press and the press trumpets the dangers to the general public.  The idea is that when there is an awareness of the danger, of the risk, people will not only be more alert, more careful, but there will be pressure applied to find a cure. People only demand that the government act and spend whatever is necessary when they are afraid for their lives and the lives of their children. People will put up with almost any inconvenience if they believe that their welfare depends upon it. Well, in a similar way, the Bible tells us often of sin’s deadly effects and horrifying consequences for the very same reason: to motivate us to find sin’s cure and to take the steps necessary to curtail and finally destroy its influence in our hearts and in our lives.  So long as a person is unconcerned about his sin he will never take those steps he must take to find forgiveness and deliverance. As has many times been pointed out: he who despises the disease, despises the doctor.

J.I. Packer puts it this way,

“The subject of sin is vital knowledge. To say that our first need in life is to learn about sin may sound strange, but in the sense intended it is profoundly true. If you have not learned about sin, you cannot understand yourself, or your fellow-men, or the world you live in, or the Christian faith. And you will not be able to make head or tail of the Bible.  For the Bible is an exposition of God’s answer to that problem of human sin, and unless you have that problem clearly before you, you will keep missing the point of what it says.  Apart from the first two chapters of Genesis, which set the stage, the real subject of every chapter of the Bible is what God does about our sins. Lose sight of this theme, and you lose your way in the Bible at once. With that, the love of God, the meaning of salvation, and the message of the gospel, will all become closed books to you; you may still talk of these things, but you will no longer know what you are talking about.  It is clear, therefore, that we need to fix in our minds what our ancestors would have called ‘clear views of sin.’”  [God’s Words, 71]

That is what Zechariah’s vision begins with: a representative man standing before God in clothes fouled with the stain and smell of excrement and vomit. But tell someone that this is a picture of his or her own moral condition before God and you are far more likely to offend than illuminate. It has always been difficult to get people to admit that they are bad — really bad — because our pride creates a powerful instinct to defend ourselves and excuse ourselves, no matter our constant, repeated, and very obvious moral failures. What is more, people in general have never had very clear notions of God’s holiness, the very idea of holiness that Israel’s elaborate rules of ceremonial cleanliness and defilement were intended to teach and enforce. People, when they read the Bible today, find that entire system contrived and unnecessary, if not downright silly. But difficult as it is for human beings to grasp the nature and scope of their sin it made perfect sense and was of vital importance. Without a sense of God’s holiness, his moral distance from us, his capacity to be offended by our failure to do what is right, it becomes very hard for people to appreciate their own unholiness or to measure it. The measurement of sin in the Bible is by way of a contrast, a comparison with the standard. And if the standard does not appear vividly in our minds, if it is not beautiful and attractive to us, its contrast must remain vague and weak in our minds.

A young Anglican clergyman once asked Alexander Whyte whether it were not possible here and now to be sanctified entirely — there was a lot of that teaching going around in those days in the 19th century — that is, to be kept free from all sin, to reach a point in one’s Christian life when he didn’t any longer sin; in fact were it possible for a Christian to become morally perfect while still in this world. He quoted to Dr. Whyte the testimony of a friend whose surrender had been so complete, he said, as to enable him to say that sometimes for days together he had not consciously disobeyed God. “No sir,” Dr. Whyte replied. “No man who knows what God is would say a thing like that – no man who has seen the exquisite holiness of God would say a thing like that.”  [G.F. Barbour, Alexander Whyte, 532-533] But people in our permissive world, in our self-referential society that rarely thinks about God at all, don’t know what God is like; they have never seen or felt his exquisite holiness and so they are not conscious of how utterly different their lives are from God’s and from what God requires of us.

In fact, so fundamental is this honest acknowledgement of one’s sins and sinfulness that it can be truly said, as Pascal said it, that “There are only two kinds of men: the righteous, who believe themselves sinners, and the rest, sinners who believe themselves righteous.” [Pensees]

We sometimes speak about the necessity of pre-evangelism in our culture. By that we mean that people are so far removed from the conceptual world of the Bible, so ignorant of reality as the Bible defines it, so accustomed to living in a world of their own imagination, that before they can be brought to understand the gospel they have to be restored to a sound mind about a set of other truths that are the presuppositions of the gospel, truths apart from which the gospel makes no sense. I am speaking of truths such as 1) that a personal God made the world and everything in it including each one of us, we, therefore, owe our lives to him; 2) that our moral intuitions as human beings are real things, a window on ultimate reality; and 3) that our tendencies to make moral judgments virtually with every breath we take bear witness to God’s judgment that we will eventually face, that is, we’ll have to answer for our lives in the same way we make everybody else answer for theirs if only in our minds; 4) that there is such a thing as sin, and so on. Now, to be sure, God can transform a deeply confused soul in a moment, flood it with light, and convince it of all of this at once. But, ordinarily, the further a people move away from a biblical worldview, a biblical understanding of reality, the fewer people there are who will understand and embrace the gospel. That is what we are finding in America in our time. The antinomian or lawless atmosphere of 21st century America, its permissive social philosophy, its moral relativism, all of this is an acid that eats away at the very convictions the gospel is designed to address, a barrier that hides from view the very problems the gospel solves. The gospel is uninteresting to most Americans today because it doesn’t scratch where they itch. It is a message about deliverance from iniquity and people, if they think about it at all, think iniquity is something the Puritans talked about long ago that has nothing to do with them today.

How many people do you know and how many representative Americans who would ever think to say about themselves what the thoughtful, insightful, and relentlessly honest John Duncan, the famous “Rabbi” Duncan of the 19th century Scottish Presbyterian Church, said about himself:

“I have never done a sinless action during the seventy years [of my life].  I don’t say but by God’s grace there may have been some holy action done, but never a sinless action during the seventy years.  What an awful thing is human life! And what a solemn consideration it should to be to us, that we have never done a sinless action all our life; [He means never once in which action we were loving God with all our heart, soul, strength and mind and we were loving our neighbor even more than we love ourselves, and we really love ourselves.] that we have never done one act that did not need to be pardoned.” [In Moody Stuart’s biography, 150]

How many acts do you perform in a day? And every single one of them has to be pardoned! How much of God’s grace and Christ’s righteousness are you consuming every twenty-four hours?

The proof of how hard it is for human beings to embrace the reality of their own sinfulness, their own moral defilement, their filthiness before God and so their desperate need for their iniquity to be removed, is that it took the utter destruction of Jerusalem, the devastation of the nation, the execution and death of thousands of Jews, the reduction of Judah to a shadow of its former self, to force this conclusion on the minds and hearts of those few Jews who returned to Jerusalem after God’s judgment had done its work. If you want to see what God thinks of people who refuse to admit their need of forgiveness — forgiveness not once or twice but every day all day — take a long look at David and Solomon’s great city now reduced to charred ruins, at the great Israelite empire that once ruled the Levant now little more than a few thousand people huddled in and about that wreck of their once great capital. That is how hard it is for people to admit that they are sinners; that the salient fact about them is that their lives are an offense to God; that their only hope of avoiding punishment for the moral travesty of their lives is the sheer mercy of God.

As John Newton once wrote to a correspondent:  “…that we are so totally depraved, is a truth which no one ever truly learned by being only told it.” [Letters of John Newton, pb ed., 133-135] This is a truth that has to be battered into the mind and again and again, because it will leak out as soon as it gets in. This is bracing realism for people, even for Christians, in our day.  We live in a day that has made an art of accepting people as they are. We have raised a refusal to judge and to condemn from mere good manners to an article of our secular faith. We have become past masters at silencing the conscience and have almost entirely forgotten how to awaken it. The parts of the Bible that seem most alien to the modern ear are now precisely those parts – and they comprise a large portion of Holy Scripture – that lay bare the sinfulness, the wickedness, the inexcusable and ugly venality, self-centeredness, and disobedience of even the very best human life. Modern Americans, including many in the church, hardly know what to make of statements like these of which the Bible is full:

“There is no one righteous, not even one.”
“There is no one who seeks God.”
“All have turned away, they have all become worthless.”
“There is no one who does good, not even one.”

In an age when it is almost an axiom and otherwise intelligent people repeat it almost as a mantra that people are basically good, it is no wonder that people find it beyond comprehension that what they are in themselves, their ordinary day-to-day selves, the Bible finds so disgusting and repellent. They don’t see themselves as haters of God; but that is what their attitudes, thoughts, and behavior make them according to the Bible. They don’t imagine that they are the children and servants of the Devil, but that is what the Bible says they are. They certainly don’t think of themselves as murderers, adulterers, thieves, liars, and idolaters, but the Bible says they are – all men are, all the time. After all, it takes just a modicum of good sense to look around the world and find that that is exactly what human beings are. They certainly don’t believe that they deserve divine wrath, that they deserve to be punished with everlasting destruction for who and what they are and how they live; but the Bible says they do. And, more and more, Christians themselves hardly think in these terms.

In the opening years of the 20th century – that is, more than a century ago – Alexander Whyte was well aware that people were losing interest in the sterner aspects of Christianity, the parts of the Bible’s teaching that were less pleasant and harder to accept. Remember, the First World War was yet to come and the Second after it; the Communist Revolution had not yet occurred. Life seemed quite rosy in Edinburgh in those days, especially in an upper class congregation like St. George’s. More and more of even his own people, especially among the younger adults, would have been happy to have sermons more like those that are common today, focusing on self-improvement and societal-improvement, sermons on love and the power of love and so on.  Late in his summer vacation of 1907, Dr. Whyte wrestled with this question. Should he give his church more of what it wanted? Other ministers of his denomination were preaching such sermons and some of his people had already gone off to hear them. As was typical of Whyte, when he needed to think a matter through he took a long walk. He told his congregation when he returned to the city after his vacation – to the acute displeasure of some of them – that it was on one of those walks that

“…what seemed to me to be a Divine Voice spoke with all commanding power in my conscience, and said to me as clear as clear could be: ‘No! Go on, and flinch not! Go back and boldly finish the work that has been given you to do. Speak out and fear not.  Make them at any cost to see themselves in Gods’ holy Law as in a glass. Do you that, for no one else will do it. No one else will so risk his life and his reputation as to do it.  And you have not much of either left to risk. Go home and spend what is left of your life in your appointed task of showing my people their sin and their need of my salvation.’  I shall never forget the exact spot where that clear command came to me, and where I got fresh authority and fresh encouragement to finish this part of my work.”  [G. F. Barbour, Life of Whyte, 531-532]

Perhaps it might be said that that promise of Dr. Whyte was the last gasp of that kind of preaching – at least by a really prominent preacher in the English speaking world – for a half century (until the preaching of Martyn Lloyd Jones). But there is little enough left of it in Christian pulpits nowadays. It isn’t what people want to hear. But, tell me, what does the rest of this vision mean if Joshua is not standing in that courtroom filthy and unclean? And why should anyone care about the coming of the Branch if there is no iniquity to remove from the land? And what is the grace of God if there is no fire? And why change clothes if the outfit we have on is good enough and one we like because it is fashionable?

Zechariah 3 is the message of the Bible in a nutshell. Until you see yourself as a sinner needing to be saved, the Bible has nothing to say to you and you have nothing to learn from it. Once you see yourself as a comprehensive sinner — which, after all, requires only a little honesty — the whole grand story opens to your view! The greatest thing that has ever happened to you or will ever happen is for Jesus Christ to take away your sins.