Joshua the high priest must have been feeling an unbelievable amount of embarrassment and humiliation as he stood before God in Zechariah 3. The prophet Zechariah records that Joshua stood before the Lord, wearing filthy garments, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist (accuse and berate) him.
Now this filth that was on Joshua’s clothes was not incidental filth. It wasn’t that his clothes were dirty from walking down a desert road, or having worked with the animal sacrifices. Joshua’s filth was the type one would associate with rolling around in a pig pen. He was dirty, nasty and stinky, and there he was standing before God, and drawing insults from Satan.
The high priest was to represent the people before God, and in a way, Joshua was an accurate representation of his people that day. The nation of Israel was in the process of returning home after a 70-year captivity in Babylon… a captivity that was brought on by generations of sin, idolatry, and rebellion against God. After generations rejected God, swore their allegiance to make-believe gods, and engaged in sinful behavior that was so outlandish that even the heathen nations were taken aback, God allowed the Babylonians to conquer Israel (the northern and southern kingdoms.) That moment was the lowest point in Israel’s history.
Yet, in a way, Joshua’s story is bigger than Israel, and bigger than Old Testament history, because to some degree, we can all relate to Joshua. You see, in Zechariah 3, Joshua was at a low point in his life. Perhaps you’ve been in a low point in your life as well. Perhaps you’ve seen sinful choices destroy your life, rob your dreams, and drop you to a new low. Perhaps you’ve been in a place where you’ve wondered if you would ever recover.
Then comes Satan, who stands next to you to resist (or accuse) you. He inflicts pain, guilt, and doubt on you. Sometimes, he plants the thoughts of what happened into your head, making you relive it over and over. Sometimes, he speaks to you through those around you… and you hear what a low-life loser people think you are.
Yet, Joshua’s story in Zechariah 3 doesn’t end there. The Lord looked down on Joshua, and saw Satan resisting him, and the Lord rebuked Satan in Zechariah 3:2, “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
The Lord rebuked Satan by telling him that He had chosen Jerusalem, (Joshua’s people), and that Joshua was a brand plucked out of the fire… meaning that God would both rescue Joshua from the destructive flames, and that God would use Joshua’s experience for his good.
Then, God ordered a change of clothes for Joshua, and told him that He (God) had caused his (Joshua’s) iniquity to pass from him. In essence, God cleansed and forgave Joshua of his sins that day. The message here is that God will do the same for you.
If you find yourself in that place where you have hit rock bottom, constantly reliving the downfall, and others are piling on, turn to the Lord. Just like with Joshua, He will forgive you of your sins, clean up your life, and rebuke those who rebuke you as you continue to trust Him. And the kicker of the whole thing is that God wants to do that for you. John 3:16 does not say that God so put up with the world that He sent Jesus… John 3:16 says “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”