Zechariah 3

A Change of Clothes

Tell the Story

Share the story in one of these three ways. {5–10 minutes}

A Vision of Joshua the High Priest

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan1 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 rebuke you! Is not this a brand2 plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.

And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes,3 I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. 10 In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.”


[1] 3:1 Hebrew the Accuser or the Adversary
[2] 3:2 That is, a burning stick
[3] 3:9 Or facets

Israel was supposed to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests. Those two phrases mean basically the same thing. A nation was like a kingdom, and priests were the holy men of Israel.

Or at least they were supposed to be. The priests had a special job, which meant they could handle special things, wear special clothes, and go into special places. They were supposed to be the ones who offered sacrifices for the people so their sins could be forgiven. And they did do a lot of that. The problem was the priests were sinful too! The priests were holy men who were often not very holy.

During the days of Zechariah the prophet, there was a high priest named Joshua who stood before the angel of the Lord in dirty clothes. Joshua’s garments looked like he had been splattered with mud (or, even grosser, a dirty diaper). He looked filthy because he had been filthy. Joshua was a sinner who had disobeyed the Lord and had no right to stand before God, let alone make atonement for the people.

Standing next to Joshua was Satan, the nasty one we met as a snake in the garden. Satan loves to do two things: lie and accuse. He deceives people so they believe what is false, and he accuses people of wrongdoing. Sometimes his accusations are lies, but sometimes they are true. In this case, Satan was right. Joshua was a dirty high priest.

But God wasn’t going to let Satan get the last word in Joshua’s life. “The Lord rebuke you!” an angel told Satan. “This man is a stick snatched from the fire.” The Lord rescued Joshua from the fiery judgment he deserved.

And God gave him new clothes. The angel said, “Take away those filthy garments. Give him a clean robe, a clean sash, and a clean hat.” So the helpers around Joshua gave him a new outfit, from head to toe. Satan had no reason to accuse him anymore.

Then the angel had a message for Joshua. “The Lord has made you clean, all on his own. These new clothes aren’t yours, but God has given them to you. Now he wants you to live like you look. No more dirty ways. No more disobedience. It’s time to do things God’s way.”

But the angel wasn’t quite finished. He had one more thing to say, and it was a very good thing: “Listen up, Joshua and all your friends, a better priest is coming. He will be the Branch, the promised one from David’s family tree. And when he comes, the Lord will forgive all your sins and everyone will be invited to his kingdom feast.”

It was quite a promise. We might even think it was too good to be true. Except that we know a little more of the story than Zechariah or Joshua did. The one they were waiting for was the one we know as Jesus.


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