Summary: The fourth vision, The Cleansing of the High Priest, addresses the problem of a holy God who desires to accomplish great things through his sinful people.
The book of Zechariah is filled with prophetic visions that were seen by Zechariah the prophet. “The fourth vision, The Cleansing of the High Priest, addresses the problem of a holy God who desires to accomplish great things through his sinful people.” (NAC Commentary: Zechariah, p. 132)
“Joshua the high priest appears also in Ezra 2:2 and Nehemiah 7:7 as ‘Jeshua.’ The name means ‘Yaweh saves.’ Joshua also figures prominently in Haggai…We also know that Joshua was the son of Jehozadak…who was the son of Seraiah, the chief priest when the exile began in 587 BC. The Babylonians executed Seraiah, and presumably Jehozadak fathered and raised Joshua in Bablylon. Joshua was probably an old man by the time of Zechariah’s vision.” (NAC, p. 133)
I. The Cleansed Priest
a. The position of the priest
i. Here stands this old man in this divine court. As we will see in a minute, this priest Joshua is the accused! On this day, the white hot light of a cosmic inquisition shines upon Joshua. Although he is a priest, he stands on this day as the accused.
ii. There is a heaviness that hangs over this spectacle. The gravity of the situation cannot be overstated, for on the right side of this priest there stands another. This dark figure casts an ominous shadow. This dark figure is not given a personal name. Rather, the figure is referred to by the Hebrew word, “satan.” While we cannot confirm directly from the text that this figure is the fallen angel known as Lucifer, or referred to by the proper name “Satan” in the New Testament, there is also no reason to deny it is Satan himself.
iii. Revelation 12:7-12 "And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. And I heard a loud voice saying in heaven, Now is come salvation, and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of his Christ: for the accuser of our brethren is cast down, which accused them before our God day and night. And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony; and they loved not their lives unto the death. Therefore rejoice, ye heavens, and ye that dwell in them. Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time."
iv. Satan’s favorite activity is to present evidence of guilt before the heavenly court. Notice please that Satan is positioned to the right of Joshua. The right side was the place of accusation under the law. For example, Psalm 109:6 says, “Appoint an evil man to oppose him; let an accuser stand at his right side.” Satan’s mode of operation today is still the same. Today he continues to accuse the brethren. He continues today to attack the saints of God.
v. He still stands before the throne of God and argues that we are sinful. He argues that we deserve judgment, and not forgiveness. But look what happens!
vi. While Satan is vehement in his rebuke of Joshua, the Lord steps in and says, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan.” Joshua’s defender was none other than the judge Himself.
vii. While Satan lobbed his objections, the judge steps in and declares the objections “overruled!”
viii. “The word rebuke ‘indicates a check applied to a person or peoples through strong admonitions or actions.” (Holman OT Commentary, p. 161)
ix. “Take note that this rebuke comes at the right season. When Satan accuses, Christ pleads. He does not wait till the case has gone against us and then express his regret, but he is always a very present help in time of trouble. He knows the heart of Satan, being omniscient God, and long before Satan can accuse he puts in the demurrer, the blessed plea on our behalf, and stays the action till he gives an answer which silences for ever every accusation.” (Spurgeon)
b. The accusation against the priest
i. This vile accuser seeks to parade a litany of offenses committed by the High Priest before the Judge. In verse 4 we discover that Satan’s charges were that Joshua was sinful and unworthy of divine favor.
ii. Is this not a brand plucked from the fire? The Lord of Hosts ask the question, “Is this not a smoldering stick plucked from the fire?
iii. “So it is with the child of God. What is he at the best? Till he is taken up to heaven, he is nothing but a brand plucked out of the fire. It is his daily moan that he is a sinner; but Christ accepts him as he is: and he shuts the devil’s mouth by telling him, ‘Thou sayest this man is black - of course he is: what did I think he was but that? He is a brand plucked out of the fire. I plucked him out of it. He was burning when he was in it: he is black now he is out of it. He was what I knew he would be; he is not what I mean to make him, but he is what I knew he would be. I have chosen him as a brand plucked out of the fire. What hast thou to say to that?’ Do observe that this plea did not require a single word to be added to it from Joshua.” (Spurgeon)