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Author:Pastor Keith Davis
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Congregation:Bethel United Reformed Church
 Calgary, Alberta
Preached At:Lynwood United Reformed Church
 Lynwood, IL
Title:A New Wardrobe
Text:Zechariah 3:1-7 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Zechariah 3: 1-7

Heidelberg Catechism Lord's Day 23

Blue Psalter Hymnal Songs: 219, 437/438 (select verses),  91, 454

Zechariah 3:1-7

Clean Garments for the High Priest

1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satanstanding at his right side to accuse him. 2 The LORD said to Satan, "The LORD rebuke you,Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning sticksnatched from the fire?" 3 Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.4 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." 5 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. 6 The angel of the LORD gave this charge to Joshua: 7"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.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.

Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, several years ago there was a reality show on cable called What Not to Wear.  I know that my next statement might require me to turn in my “Man Card” at the door, but I confess that my wife and I watched the show and enjoyed it.             


This show was about two fashion experts who would select people for a “fashion intervention”.  Usually family members, co-workers or friends would send in pictures of a person in their family who really dressed out of style, whose wardrobe and hairstyle was stuck in the 80’s, and out of all the candidates, the fashion experts would select a person they thought needed help the most.


The intervention itself was always kind of embarrassing.  The two experts would show up and confront the person, point out all their fashion faux pas and tell them it was time for a change.  Part of the agreement was the person’s willingness to throw out their old, outdated wardrobe, and replace it with a new wardrobe that was fashionable and up to date (added to that they would do a complete make-over, complete with new hairstyle and makeup etc., so that in the end, they would look fabulous -- like a new person). 


In a similar sense, this is what is happening in the passage we read today.  In Zechariah’s vision, Joshua the high priest is undergoing a fashion intervention.  He’s getting a new wardrobe.  His filthy robes are removed and he’s given new garments, rich garments to put on.  


But you and I both know, this vision in chapter 3 isn’t about fashion.  This exchange of the high priest’s garments – from the filthy and unclean to the rich and clean represents something else.  It represents God’s removal of the spiritual filth of sin, and then God dressing his servant in true holiness and righteousness.  This is about justification – the way God makes his people righteous in his sight.    


This evening we are going to consider this passage in connection with LD 23, because this Lord’s Day asks (what could be) the single most important question in the entire catechism: How are you righteous, how are you made right with God?  The catechism gives us the answer that we see illustrated here in Zechariah 3.  Here, The Lord Gives Joshua a New Wardrobe.

1) The Lord’s Claim

2) The Great Exchange

3) The Call to Holiness   


1) The Lord’s Claim

Zechariah was a prophet of the Lord in the post-exilic days of Israel – after the Babylonian captivity.  Zechariah would have been a contemporary of the prophet Haggai.  Now that the people have returned from exile they are faced with the task of rebuilding the temple. 


And the message of Zechariah to God’s people is one of encouragement and admonishment.  The Lord reminds Israel that He is their God, and they are His covenant people who bear his name, and as such he calls his people to repentance -- to return to him and walk in his ways.


Here in chapter 3, the Lord reveals to Zechariah an incredibly comforting and encouraging vision.  It’s a vision of how the Lord graciously deals with his people.  In this vision, Joshua (the High Priest) going about his priestly duty.  He is standing in the Holy of Holies – which is to stand in the very presence of God. 


Only thing is, in the vision, the earthly surroundings are stripped away and Joshua is standing in the Holy of Holies above.  He is the very presence of the angel of the Lord.  BUT, as Joshua stands there, boys and girls, he has two huge problems.  The first problem (what I’ve already talked about) is that he isn’t wearing the proper garments.  Exodus 28 explains that the high priests garments consisted of a breast piece, an ephod, a robe, a woven tunic, a turban (mitre – head covering), a sash and also linen undergarments.


These were to be sacred garments --which meant that these were the garments to be worn only by the High Priest, and only while he entered the Most Holy Place to offer the sacrifice of atonement.  And in Leviticus 16:23-24 the Lord instructed Aaron that after the sacrifice was made, he was to take off those garments that he wore before the Lord, and put on regular linen garments as he went out to the people to sacrifice burnt offerings for them.


So these garments were worn only in the presence of almighty God, for the purpose of making the annual sacrifice of atonement.  And just as the priests were required to bathe their body before they put on the garments and went into the Holy of Holies, so too, their robes, their garments were expected to be white and spotless.  For the Lord is a Holy God, so He required that the priests were to come before him wearing holy garments, spotless and clean.


So to say that Joshua the High Priest was out of uniform would be a gross understatement.  He wasn’t fit to stand before the Lord. The Lord had every right, at that very moment, to strike Joshua dead where he stood, just as he struck down Nadab and Abihu, (the sons of Aaron) for wearing offering strange fire (or unauthorized incense) before the Lord; and the same way the Lord struck down Uzzah in his tracks for daring to touching the ark of the covenant with his hand when David was moving the ark back to Jerusalem. 


Psalm 96:8-9 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name; bring an offering and come into his courts. Worship the LORD in the splendor of his holiness; tremble before him, all the earth.  As Hebrews 12 reminds us, we are to worship the Lord with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire.


So that is Joshua’s first problem. Joshua’s second problem, boys and girls, is that someone else is there with him, standing in the presence of the angel of the Lord.  And this individual is NOT Joshua’s friend.  Satan is there, and he is there only for one reason.  He is there to accuse Joshua, to testify to the Lord against Joshua – pointing out that he is unholy and unclean. 


What we have here is a court room scene in heaven.  Satan brings the charges.  Joshua, of course is the suspect.  And to put it simply, Joshua is guilty as the day is long.  He has sin written all over him in bold black letters.  That’s what the filth on his garments represents.  If this was a murder trial, then the prosecution has an air-tight case.  They have the smoking gun with his finger prints on it, they have the blood stains on his clothes – he’s still wearing them in fact! 

Joshua is sure to be condemned.  But that’s when someone surprising happens.  In spite of the dirty clothes, in spite of the accusation by Satan that Joshua is a filthy sinner and deserves judgment and condemnation, the Lord Himself speaks up in his defense.  The Lord stakes his claim upon Joshua declaring: "The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?" 


Here is where we see that Joshua the High Priest (standing in the presence of the Lord) represents God’s chosen and precious people, His church.  That should not be a surprise to us – that is the role and calling of the priestly office.  He is the Mediator between man and God.  The priest stands before God in the Holy of Holies, offering the sacrifice to atone for the sins of the people; and then he goes out and stands before the people, and represents God as he sprinkles the blood of the sacrifice upon them and pronounces God’s forgiveness and benediction.


So when the Lord rebukes Satan because he dared to bring a charge against Joshua – He is speaking in defense of the people He chose for Himself – the very people he snatched from the fire. The very people whom He (time and time again) saved and delivered, and kept for himself. 


The Lord rebukes Satan for daring to accuse the people He has chosen to redeem.  I’m reminded of that wonderful passage in Romans 8 where the Apostle Paul makes the very same argument: 

Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? 


Neither height nor depth; neither angels or demons – not even the great Accuser of God’s people can bring a charge against us; not even the reality of all our sin and guilt can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus the Lord.  The Lord has spoken on our behalf.  The Lord has claimed us as His own, and He has washed us in His blood.  No one change that! No one can challenge that!  Thanks be to God for his unspeakable gift! 


2) The Great Exchange       

After the Lord Stakes His Claim upon Joshua, he gives him a new wardrobe.  Here we see the Great Exchange – we see a powerful illustration of God’s amazing grace – of what it means that God removes all our sins from us and makes us clean, even whiter than snow.


Look at verses 3-5.  This exchange begins by taking off Joshua’s filthy garments.  The angel said to those who were standing before him (probably other angels): Take off his filthy clothes.  Then he said to him, See I have taken away your sin.   That is the first half of the exchange: the removal of the filth of our sin and guilt.  And what does that prove, beloved?  What does that tell us already about the God we serve?  -- the God who claims us and defends us?   


This scene shows us something of enormous significance about God’s life-changing grace, namely, that God is God of sinners.  In other words, it dispels the very common notion that God is only for good people. 


As one time I thought this notion only existed outside the church -- that people who were living in sin 24/7 would never come to God because they considered themselves a lost cause, beyond saving, they were too evil, too sinful to be saved. But over the years I have come to realize that this mistaken notion, this wrong mind-set about God exists within the church as well.


Among our own children and young people, among our own parents and grandparents, we have this wrong theology that God is only for good people -- that the promises of God, as well as church membership, and full communion with the people of God is only for those who are holy enough to deserve it; that it is only for those who have reached that special level of spirituality where they have proven that they are worthy.


But I want you to look at Joshua.  What is he wearing?  What degree of holiness, what level of spirituality has Joshua attained that has given the Lord cause, or reason to speak up on his behalf and rebuke Satan, to claim him, to save him, to take away his sin?  What has Joshua done?  Again, what is he wearing?  He’s stands before God, covered in the filth of his sins.


Joshua has done nothing to deserve, to earn, to warrant what is about to take place.  God alone is acting on his behalf, and we call that grace.  We don’t come to the Lord when we think we are worthy.  We don’t profess our faith and then come to the Lord’s Table because we somehow have come to the point where we think we have arrives spiritually speaking.  No. 


We do so for one main reason: because we see how much we need Christ.  We see who we are dressed in our filthy clothes, covered in sin and we realize that we have no way of escape, no way of deliverance, no way of shedding those filthy garments, no way of salvation outside of the grace of God, who takes away our sin and shame and claims us as his own.


So young adults, why don’t you come to the Table of the Lord?  Why don’t you seek fellowship with Christ Himself, who is your Lord?  He commands you to come, to eat, and to drink, to remember and believe – not that you are worthy to eat and drink, but to remember and believe that your Savior Jesus Christ has removed your filthy garments, he has taken away your sins and now he has given you new garments to wear. 


So if you love Christ, if you understand what He did for you, and if you see yourself for who you are, then you will come to Him in faith, you will come to Him at his Table, and you will serve Him and love Him everyday of your life. 


Going on: after the angels removed Joshua’s filthy garments, the Lord commanded that new garments were to be put on him.   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.


Essentially, this action reinstated Joshua to his office, so that by clothing him with the proper and holy garments, Joshua could once again resume his rightful place and standing as the priestly Mediator of Israel.  The Lord restored him to his office.


And the Lord’s dressing or clothing of Joshua is symbolic of the righteousness which His gives us in Jesus Christ.  This is why this is such a powerful illustration of the Gospel and of the doctrine of justification.  For what does the Gospel proclaim to us?  It proclaims to us not just that God saves sinners, not just that God removes our sin -- but that God also grants to us a righteousness that is not our own.


In other words, God takes sinners like you and me – unholy, unrighteous, unworthy of God’s love, deserving only of God’s wrath and just punishment, and God forgives us for every sin we ever committed, and for the sin that clings to us (our sinful human nature), and then he declares us righteous in his sight by giving us (by clothing us) in a righteousness that is not our own.


LD 23 explains it this way: Even though my conscience accuses me of having grievously sinned against all God’s commandments and of never having kept any of them, and even though I am still inclined toward all evil, nevertheless, without my deserving it at all, out of sheer grace, God grants and credits to me the perfect satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness of Christ, as if

  • I had never sinned nor been a sinner
  • as if I had been as perfectly obedient as Christ was obedient for me.


Why did God do that?  God did that because of his sovereign choice in election.  He chose to save us.  We are as brands snatched from the fire – which is to say, we deserve to be cast into the fiery pit of hell.  But God, for the sake of His own glory and grace and good pleasure, plucked us out of the flames. 


And in order to meet the just demands of the law, and in order to satisfy God’s wrath against our sin, God sent His Son Jesus Christ into the world.  And God sent His Son to the cross, where Jesus could serve as both our sacrifice for sins and our High Priest.  II Corinthians 5 says that it was on the cross that God made Him who had no sin (Jesus who was fully righteous) to be sin on our behalf.  God counted all our sins not against us – but against Jesus.


God, as it were dressed Jesus in our filthy rags.  God dressed Jesus in our sin and guilt, and on the cross, God poured out upon His Son all the wrath and punishment that was due unto us, that was due unto Joshua, that was due unto Israel – until Jesus died, and God’s wrath and justice were satisfied.


And in his glorious resurrection from the dead, Jesus rose to newness of life; he rose in victory over death ad hell and the grave, over sin and Satan and all his hosts.   In Romans 4:25 Paul writes that Christ was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.


Christ’s glorious resurrection is the sign and seal and guarantee we have been clothed in Christ’s righteousness, dressed in his white robes – as if we had never sinned; as if we ourselves has been as perfectly obedient as Christ was for us.


That’s what it means to be right with God.   It means that we are counted righteous before God in Christ, so that Satan cannot accuse us.  It means God has covered over ever sin we have ever and will ever commit.  It means that you and I have an all expense paid trip to heaven, courtesy of the precious blood of the Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.


And notice, throughout this whole scene before us in chapter 3, what does Joshua do?  What actions does he take?  What is his posture?  Isn’t it on of complete passivity?  He does nothing.  He stands as the Lord sees to it that the filthy clothes are removed, and the clean and rich garments are put on. 


That too is a very subtle yet hugely important aspect of our doctrine of justification.  What must we do to own this, to claim this amazing gift o God’s grace?  We need only accept what God has said, and promised, and done for us in Christ with a believing heart – with a heart that trusts and rests in what Christ has done for us.  That’s called faith – true faith.


And unless we say – that’s what we bring to the table!  We have to have faith, the next question and answer of the catechism explains what this means.  Q. Why do you say that by faith alone

you are right with God?  A. It is not because of any value my faith has that God is pleased with me.  Only Christ’s satisfaction, righteousness, and holiness make me right with God. And I can receive this righteousness and make it mine in no other way than by faith alone.


We stand there and do nothing.  God, in Christ has done it all.  And the call to holiness that follows (vv. 6-7) is merely the charge that God gives to Joshua, the charge that God gives to all His people, to show our love for him, to show our gratitude to him, by walking in His ways.


Notice, this charge, this call to holiness comes after Joshua has been made clean.  It comes after He has been forgiven and restored.  These are not the conditions of God’s grace – as if Joshua will stay saved only so long as he is obedient.  If that were the case, no one could be saved.


This is but a life of joyful and faithful service that flows forth from the heart of those who have tasted and seen that the Lord is good!  When the foundation of our salvation is set firmly upon the Rock, upon the finished work of Jesus Christ, then the life that results will necessarily be a life of grateful devotion and service to God.


Now, that doesn’t mean that we will never sin again, that we will never fall short of the glory of God.  On the contrary, we sin everyday ad even the good that we do is tainted with sin.  But what it means is that God will not give up on us.  He is ours and we are his. 


And God also gives us His Holy Spirit who is at work within us, sanctifying us, purifying us, bringing to life the fruit of regeneration and justification – causing the fruit of the Spirit to grow even amidst the tares of this life.  Our God is so loving, so faithful, so good to us beloved!


In closing, sometimes when we go out to a special function, a wedding, a dinner, an anniversary we wonder: what should I wear?  And perhaps there are times when we get there that we wish we wore something else.  We feel (underdressed, overdressed or just poorly dressed). 


What a comfort it is to know that when we stand before the Lord our God (right now) but especially in the end, at the last day, that we won’t have to worry about what to wear.  Each of us will be wearing the same garments.  Christ has dressed his bride in white robes.  Revelation 19: 8-9 says Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready. 8 Fine linen, bright and clean, was given her to wear.  Amen.

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Pastor Keith Davis, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
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(c) Copyright 2014, Pastor Keith Davis

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