“He that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye.”
Zechariah 3, 1-5. And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him. 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? Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel. And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said. Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord stood by.
Joshua the high priest represents the whole people of Israel. It was a “brand plucked out of the fire that is to say, just now barely and with difficulty saved from the wrath of God. The “angel of the Lord” is Christ, who defends the wretched people against Satan. The “filthy garments” are their sins, of which Satan accuses them. The “change of raiment” is the righteousness which they receive of the Lord, and which gives them courage to lift their heads with hope. — Are not all who have been converted “brands plucked out of the fire”? Have not all been the children of wrath, and nearer then we are aware to the fire of perdition? Have not all the faithful been plucked out of the godless world; and is it not by the wonderful grace of God alone that we are saved? The faithful “sit together in heavenly places,” and stand ever before God in Christ (Eph. 2, 6. Hebr. 12, 22 sqq.); but Satan is at hand to accuse them. This is shown clearly by the Book of Job. In these latter days “the accuser of the brethren” has been cast out to wreak all his furious anger on the earth (Revelations 12, 9 sqq.). His power is, to be sure, already broken (Luke 10, 17-19); but he still is permitted to act as our accuser; and he goes about, and gathers up our sins, and places himself with them at our side, when we stand before God. Unhappy we, did we not have the advocate that we have! (1 John 2, 1. 2). In our Bible lesson Israel has just been plucked out of the fire. We are instructed in regard to the justification of a penitent sinner. The soul is before God, but is clothed with many sins, “filthy garments.” How impossible for it to pass muster! Even if there were but one spot on you, one single little blemish; or if only one unclean desire had stirred in you; this would yet be enough to condemn you. How, then, shall you be able to stand before God with your many and great sins? — However, praise be to God! The “angel,” God’s messenger, our Lord Jesus Christ, has authority and power to say: “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan! Thou hast no more any right to accuse this man, whom God hath chosen and called and saved. I, Jesus, have been in the fire of wrath, and plucked him out of it; shall I, then, not defend him?” The sinner stands before the angel’s face in filthy garments; the penitent man does not hide his sin: but confesses it, and comes to the Lord “just as I am.” Then the Lord says to his servants: “Take away the filthy garments from him.” “David said unto Nathan, I have sinned against the Lord. And Nathan said unto David, The Lord also hath put away thy sin; thou shalt not die.” “Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” “Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him,” and “set a fair mitre upon his head.” It is done as he commands; and while his stewards in the gospel serve him; and deal out to the souls forgiveness of sins, he stands by, and defends them against Satan, and guides them with his eye. For this reason it is that we can sing: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness.” “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” Go thy way, thou pardoned sinner; be of good cheer by reason of the comfort of forgiveness and the defense by our heavenly advocate; keep your garments pure, and walk in the ways of the Lord!
Help us, O God, that we sin not! But when we sin, do thou chasten us; and forgive us for the sake of thy Son’s blood; and let the Spirit remind us that we have an advocate in heaven, Jesus Christ the righteous; so that we preserve a free and good conscience, and obtain victory over the accuser of the brethren. Amen.
Still for us his death he pleads,
Prevalent, he intercedes,
Near himself prepares our place,
Harbinger of human race.
There we shall with thee remain,
Partners of thy endless reign,
There thy face unclouded see,
Find our heaven of heavens in thee.