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Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD,
and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the LORD said to Satan,
“The LORD rebuke you, O Satan!
The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem
Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?”’
This third vision given to Zechariah the prophet captures the hope of the gospel, the fulfillment of the Covenant the Creator made with Abraham.
Zechariah lived and prophesied five centuries before the birth of Jesus, at the beginning of the return of the people of Judah from exile in Babylon. Joshua (‘Yeshua’ in Hebrew) had been appointed High Priest of the remnant and overseer of the hastily rebuilt – and unimpressive – Temple in Jerusalem.
Zechariah receives this vision of Joshua standing in the courts of heaven with Satan the Accuser standing beside him railing against him; and rightfully so. For Joshua is standing before the LORD himself dressed in filthy rags (v. 4). Here is a vision of the human dilemma. Joshua the High Priest of Israel – the one who represented God to his people, and his people to God; the one who represents the people into whom the Creator himself had poured his life, stands before God in filthy rags. The best that humanity could produce – aided and abetted by the Creator himself- is still not good enough.
Satan is rebuked by the LORD not because he is wrong in his accusation of Joshua- he is correct in his accusation!
Satan is rebuked by the LORD for failing to understand the LORD’s choice of ‘Jerusalem’ – the LORD’s choice of THIS people with THIS history symbolized by THIS filthy High Priest.
It is true that ‘This-people-with-this-history-embodied-in-this-filthy-High-Priest’ is at best a ‘brand plucked from the fire’ – is at best a people among all other peoples who have been snatched out of the fire of God’s judgment upon fallen humanity. In and of himself, even with all that God had done from him, Joshua is one who shares the fate of all others.
But what Satan does not understand, and Joshua cannot begin to comprehend, is that the LORD desires through this ‘burning brand’ to bring forth the true ‘Branch’ – another Joshua (‘Yeshua’)- through whom the LORD ‘will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day.’’ (v. 9)
The Gospel is all about this gracious choice of the Creator to not abandon his Creation, but rather to reclaim, redeem, and renew it at great cost to himself. This gracious choice began with the ‘snatching of a brand from the fire’ – the call and the covenant made with Abraham, and climaxes in the birth, life, and death of the ‘Branch’, Israel’s Messiah and Great High Priest, and thus the creation’s true LORD.
That is what we celebrate this Christmas season: the coming of the One who allows the Creator to fulfill his vision for his Creation, and enables us to participate in it!