Yahweh Remembers: He Removes Iniquity

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

On Ash Wednesday, we heard from our God that He does not remember our sins against us.  He did not leave His people in exile in a foreign land, nor does He leave us in the self-imposed exile of our sin.  Tonight we hear about the high priest Joshua.  Other than the prophets Haggai and Zechariah, Joshua was one of the two main people in Jerusalem after the exiles returned from Babylon.  The other was the governor Zerubbabel, to whom Yahweh says, “Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit, says [Yahweh of the heavenly armies]” (Zechariah 4:6, ESV).

Zechariah, as we found out last week, means “Yahweh remembers.”  Tonight, as we hear the words of the prophet Zechariah, we look in on the fourth of Zechariah’s eight visions: Joshua the high priest is standing before the Angel of Yahweh, and the Accuser is there to accuse Joshua before Yahweh.  This is the same Accuser who—as we heard on Sunday—tried to tempt the Lord in the wilderness of Judea.  We are not told what Satan has against Joshua, but it is clear that Jerusalem is not worthy of the God of creation, nor is Joshua worthy of the high priesthood.  How can God dwell in this broken-down city?  Who is Joshua to stand in the most holy place before Yahweh Himself?  The work on the temple would not be completed for another four years, and it was nothing like the temple Solomon had built.  As the book of Ezra records: “[M]any of the priests and Levites and heads of fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice when they saw the foundation of this house being laid” (Ezra 3:12, ESV).

And this Joshua, the new high priest for the returned exiles, is clothed in filthy rags.  How can he compare with the richly robed Aaron (Exodus 28) or the zealous Phinehas (Numbers 25:1-13)?  The Accuser has more than enough ammunition to use against Jerusalem and her high priest.  But Yahweh has chosen.  “[Yahweh] rebuke you, O Satan!  [Yahweh] who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!  Is not this a brand plucked from the fire” (Zechariah 3:2, ESV)?  Satan, you may not bring accusations against the chosen ones of Yahweh, whom He has kept for Himself out of the fire of His judgment.

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