“He who touches you touches the apple of His eye.” (Zec 2:8)
Text: Zechariah 3:1-5
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. 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?” Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and was standing before the Angel. 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.” 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 clothes on him. And the Angel of the Lord stood by.
The High Priest Joshua represents the whole people of Israel. They were “a brand plucked from the fire,” that is, just now barely and with difficulty saved from God’s wrath. “The Angel of the Lord” is Christ, who defends the miserable people against Satan. The “filthy garments” are their sins, of which Satan accuses them. The “rich robes” are the righteousness they receive from the Lord, who gives them courage to lift up their head with hope. Aren’t all the converted “brands plucked from the fire”? Haven’t they all been under wrath and all nearer the fire of condemnation than we know? Aren’t all believers delivered from the ungodly world, and isn’t it only by God’s wondrous grace that we are saved?
The believers are “seated in heaven” and stand always before God in Christ (Eph 2:6. Heb 12:22ff.). But Satan comes forth and accuses them; the book of Job clearly shows this. Only at the end of time shall the accuser of our brethren be cast down to carry out his raging wrath on earth (Rev 12:9ff). Certainly his power is already broken (Luk 10:17-19); but he still has permission to make his accusation and to go about and gather our sins and appear at our side when we stand before God. Woe to us if we did not have such an Advocate as we have (1Jo 2:1-2)! In our Bible passage Israel is just delivered from the fire. We learn about a penitent sinner’s justification. The soul has come before God, but is clothed with many sins: “filthy garments.” How impossible to live through it! Dear soul, if there were still just a single spot on you, a single little defect, or if you have just one impure desire within you, it would be enough to condemn you. How then will you be able to stand with your many great sins?
But God be praised! “The Angel,” God’s Emissary, our Lord Jesus Christ, has authority and power to say: “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! You have no right any more to accuse this one whom God has chosen and called and saved. I [Jesus] have been in the fire of the wrath and plucked him from it. Do you think I shall not defend him?” But the sinner stands there in filthy garments before the face of the Angel; the penitent doesn’t hide his sin, but confesses it and comes to the Lord as he is. Then the Lord says to His servants: “Take away the filthy garments from him.” “David said to Nathan: I have sinned against the Lord; and Nathan said to David: The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die” (2Sa 12:13). “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with rich robes.” “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” As He commanded, so it was done, and while His steward in the Gospel serves Him and extends to souls the forgiveness of sins, He stands beside them and guards them against Satan and guides them with His eye. That’s why we can sing: “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” (Isa 61:10). “Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he who condemns? It is Christ who died, and furthermore is also risen, who is even at the right hand of God, who also makes intercession for us” (Rom 8:33-34). Go forth, forgiven sinner, confident in the comfort of forgiveness and the defense of our heavenly Advocate. Keep your garments pure and walk in the Lord’s ways!
God, help us, that we might not sin. But when we sin, then chasten us, and forgive us for the sake of Your Son’s blood. And let the Spirit remind us that we have an Advocate in heaven, Jesus Christ, the Righteous One, so that we keep a free, good conscience and conquer the accuser of our brethren. Amen.
Though in a dark and fearsome hour
My sins may sore accuse me,
God shall sustain me by His power
And ne’er His grace refuse me.
More than my sins His grace abounds,
A truth that in His Word resounds
For all repentant sinners.
The Word of God can never fail;
It is the rock of ages,
When Satan doth my faith assail,
Or doubt its battle wages.
No more shall fear my soul enfold,
Since I by faith God’s grace behold,
Which every fear doth banish.
Brorson: By faith we are divinely sure L 165:5-6 ELH 229:3-4 tr. J. C. Aaberg; Translation © 1930, 1958 Lutheran Intersynodical Hymnal Committee. Used by permission of Augsburg Fortress.;