Salvation Is Not Cheap: σωτηρία, ας, ἡ … Cognate: 4991 sōtēría (from 4982 /sṓzō, “to save, rescue”) – salvation, i.e. God’s
We are all by nature, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, unclean and defiled in God’s sight. For before Him all our righteousness is as filthy rags (Isa. 64:6). Any and every man in his own name, and on the grounds of his own merits has no approach to God and no standing in the presence of God. He must find his cleansing and his moral fitness outside of himself if he desires “to ascend to the hill of the Lord and stand in His Holy place!”
First there must be a stripping of self (Phil. 3:7-9). A repentance from following the sinful way of man and then after this confession of his guilt and repentance, as with Adam and Eve, we must also be clothed by a garment which came by the blood sacrifice of another (Gen. 3:21). Then we will be cleansed and covered in the robe of righteousness (Isa. 61:1-4 – (10) 11 Revelation 7:9-13-17
SATAN REBUKED & MAN CLEANSED
The fourth vision deals with the problem of sin. Before the promised blessing of inhabiting God’s holy habitation can come about, there must be a spiritual transformation in Israel. God’s people, both then and now, have fallen into the mire of sin. Spiritual restoration must occur before God’s called out ones can fulfill their priestly ministry to the world. Both Israel then and God’s people by His new covenant have rebelled and experienced the ensuing filth and marring of sin because they have refused to heed the Word of the Lord.
Here Satan takes these sins of disobedience and prosecutes them before the Lord, making his case that they-we are neither worthy of salvation nor able to be servants to God. But here we have the glorious picture of the Angel of the LORD rebuking Satan and giving the representative of the people, and thus the people, full and final acceptance before God.
God’s people have been called to glory but because of their grievous sins and moral defilement, they must be cleansed or be excluded forever from the holy habitation of the Lord God. (Our text reveals the fact that the exceedingly great and precious promise has been given to the representative of His people, the great High Priest, when He returned from His redemptive mission for fallen man.) Let man understand that their salvation and restoration cannot rest on their own merits of worthiness but only upon the grace which cleanses and gives righteousness to His chosen people who let their great High Priest represent them.
This vision, using very graphic symbolism, is about the restoration of God’s people who having found inner deliverance from sin and its moral defilement will inherit salvation’s outward manifestation and all its attending blessings partially set forth in the first three visions.
THE LORD REBUKES SATAN, 1-2.
Verse one introduces the three main characters featured in the new vision. 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.
Joshua was the high priest who returned with the governor Zerubbabel at the head of the first colony of 49,697 exiles from captivity some sixteen years before. The name means YHWH is salvation. Jesus is the Greek translation.
The Angel of the LORD’s divine character, which shines out in a most striking manner in this vision, can be none other than the pre-incarnate Christ, the second person of the holy trinity. (See Josh. 5:13-15; Judg. 6:20-22; 13:19-22).
The high priest Joshua is standing before the Angel of the LORD expressing that he is in attendance upon or ministering to the Lord before whom he stands. The high priest is the mediator of his people. He stands before the Lord representing the nation. This was understood in Israel where the high priest represented the entire nation before God on the Day of Atonement each year.
The scene may be imagined as the high priest engaged in his high priestly duty of interceding for mercy on behalf of the people he represents. The Angel of the LORD comes down to answer his plea. But Satan, the sworn enemy of the church of God, with jealous eyes, looks on preparing to interrupt by his accusations in this dramatic court room trial. The prosecuting attorney is Satan, the defense attorney is the Angel of the LORD, the judge is the LORD, and the accused is the high priest. The decision; what to do with the sinful people whom the high priest represents.
Satan’ means ‘an adversary’ or ‘accuser’. Here he is specifically identified as ‘the adversary.’ Why God allows Satan to stand before Him as the accuser of the brethren (Rev. 12:10) is not answered in Scripture. But we do perceive a part of Satan’s character here. First, he lies and lures mankind into sin(s) and then when the seduction is accomplished, he turns around and becomes man’s accuser.
That is a solemn truth which should never be forgotten. A Christian’s sins do accuse him before the bar of God. They are all made visible there. But it is not mere malice against Israel or us which brings the deceiver there as our accuser, it is Satan’s hatred of God and his desire to frustrate God’s plans to show His love toward us.
In verse 2 the Angel of the LORD steps in and defends His people against their accuser. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebukes you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
Blessed be the Sovereign LORD! Our adversary may accuse us but it is not in his power to condemn us. Only the Judge has the power to condemn and also to acquit.
Read 1 John 2:1-2. Even though guilty we need not fear the accusations or the fury of Satan. For we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous, and He is our representative. Satan may roar but we, who can and do appeal to our High Priest who is also our judge, will never be devoured. All we must do is submit our wills to Christ and stand in the strength of Christ against Satan and God will send him fleeing (Romans 8:33-39).
The LORD rebuke you Satan! When God rebukes it involves a withering of power and suppression in the rebuke. When the LORD rebuked the Red Sea, it dried up (Ps. 106:9; Mk. 4:39). Notice that we don’t rebuke Satan, God does. Jude 8-11
The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem–What continually keeps us attached to God is not our strength to hold on to Him but His choice of us. If our position as God’s redeemed people depended on our faithfulness, then we would have all lost our salvation long ago; but our hope rests safely on the unchangeable character of God who has a hold of us. God acquits not because Satan’s accusations are false but because of God’s love for His people.
Here the choice of Jerusalem is used to signify the final working out of God’s purpose on earth which culminates with Jerusalem becoming the reigning earthly city despite all the enemies roaring and devouring.
Satan was seeking to thwart God’s purpose, or to suggest that in some way the divine choice of Jerusalem (1 Kgs. 11:13, 32; Ps. 132:13-16) was wrong. The LORD’S rebuke is not merely an expression of displeasure or disapproval at the sentiments expressed by Satan. It is accompanied by divine power to give effect to the rebuke.
Is this not a brand plucked from the fire? The Angel of YHWH bases His answer to Satan’s unrecorded accusations on the grounds that what His people had already suffered was punishment enough for their sins. Fire, of course, is a symbol of punishment.
And in a terrible sense, sin lights its own punishment fires. Israel had just been plucked from captivity, the Land of Babylon, where they were paying the penalty for their disobedience. God removed them from the utter destruction of the flame.
[PICKED FROM THE FIRE] John Wesley never forgot a terrible night of his childhood. He was only six years old at the time, and he had awakened in the family’s old rectory to find it ablaze from top to bottom. Everyone else had been dragged from the building, but by some extraordinary oversight he had been forgotten. At the very last moment, just before the roof fell in with a crash, a neighbor climbed on another’s shoulders and pulled the terrified child from a window. Later that scene was drawn for Wesley, and he kept the picture until the day of his death. He wrote under it this verse in the third chapter of Zechariah: “Is not this a brand plucked from the burning?”
Wesley’s experience in being literally saved from fire was unusual, but all of God’s people experience it in a far more important sense. Jesus Christ has rescued us from the fires of hell. We too are encouraged to do so for others. Jude 23 reads, “save others snatching them out of the fire.”
[Christians too are in a testing fire. And the time we spend on this earth is the only hell we will ever know.]
CLEANSING AND CLOTHING, 3-5.
A further description of Joshua’s condition is given in verse 3 to help clarify the situation. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.
The reason for Satan’s accusations is Israel’s impurity. The word for filth here Tsoyim is the strongest expression in the Hebrew language for filth of the most loathsome kind. Excrement would be a mild translation for it. And so the garments of the peoples’ representative are sickly defiled. This loathsome, smelly filth are the sins of the people as viewed by the Holy One. Only a forgiving God can love a people so deeply who are so defiled.
[LUTHER’S INK STAIN] Some of you may know someone who has visited the WARTBURG CASTLE in Eisenach, German. The tour guide regularly points out to the black spot on one of the walls of the room which Luther occupied during his benevolently intended imprisonment. Let me share the legend connected with it is this spot. One night during this mournful solitude, when suffering from great depression, because, as he himself expresses it in a letter to Melanchthon, dated May 24, 1521, “I do see myself insensible and hardened, a slave to sloth, rarely, alas! praying–unable even to utter a groan for the Church, while my untamed flesh burns with devouring flame”–the great Reformer dreamed that Satan appeared to him with a long scroll, in which were carefully written the many sins and transgressions of which he was guilty from his birth, and which the evil one proceeded to read, mocking all the time that such a sinner as he should ever think of being called to do service for God, or even of escaping himself from hell. As the long list was being read, Luther’s terrors grew, and his agonies of soul increased. At last, however, rousing himself, he jumped up and exclaimed: “It is all true, Satan, and many more sins which I have committed in my life which are known to God only; but write at the bottom of your list, ‘The blood of Jesus Christ, God’s Son, cleanses us from all sin.'” Then grasping the inkstand on his table he threw it at the devil, who fled. The memorial of the event being left in the ink-splash on the wall.
No picture can be painted too black of God’s peoples’ disobedience, backslidings, and apostasies. No human lips can sufficiently describe the heinousness of God’s peoples’ sins and transgressions. But when all the long and lengthy indictments have been read, write at the bottom of the list, the blood of Jesus cleanses us from all sin (Jer. 31:37; Lev. 26:44).
In verse 4 the Angel takes action that neither Joshua nor mankind can take for themselves. “And He spoke and said to those who were standing before Him saying, “remove the filthy garments from him.” And again He said to him, “See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.”
In the first three visions reveal God’s grace toward His people in the judgment of her enemies and in the restoration of them and their land. How can an infinitely holy God have such plans with a sinful people? How can the wondrous manifestation of divine mercy to them be consistent with God’s righteousness (Ezek. 36:16-32)?
God has given us the answer prophesied long before the actual event occurred. When the great High Priest took our defiling filth upon Himself and gave Himself as sacrifice for it and us. If by faith we have united our self with the High Priest, Jesus Christ, then He represents us before the Judge. Therefore, there ensues a wondrous transference of character. Our sins become His and His righteousness becomes ours. He takes our sin away and imputes to the sinner who receives His offered grace is His own righteousness. Praise the name of Jesus!
The act envisioned here is performed by the attendants in strict adherence to the Lord’s command and is symbolic of what happens to the individual sinner be he Jew or Gentile who trusts Christ. God never alters the Robe of Righteousness to fit the man, but He alters the man to fit the robe.
Two elements occur in this transaction: First, the taking off–the removal of the filthy garments from him is emblematic of the taking away of sin (Romans 3:25, Eph. 1:7). This action is the result of forgiveness for sin.
Second, the putting on–the clothing in festive robes portraying the imputation, clothing of the righteousness of God through Christ accounted to the believing sinner (Romans 1:16-17). The symbolic transaction of the old character being removed and the new character of purity, joy and glory being given as its replacement.
Note the striking contrast from the filthy, smelly excretement stained garment to the splendid, costly, pure robe (Romans 3:22-26). God not only forgives, He clothes us in the costly robe of Christ’s righteousness.
First He cleansed, then He clothed and now He crowns in verse 5. Then 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, while the Angel of the LORD was standing by.
A glistening turban completes the attire. This is not such as might be worn by anybody but is the type of headdress worn by princes and kings. The high priest wore a turban that had written upon it (Ex. 39:30-31) godesh layahawah; Holy to the Lord. Every person who received the Christ in this life will one day be made completely holy to the Lord.
Here we see the LORD standing by approving and directing Joshua’s cleansing, clothing, and crowning because of the fact that God’s mercy and righteousness were bestowed on the basis of the messianic servant’s substitutionary atonement.