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ZECHARIAH III. 1-4

In answer to the inquiry of our esteemed sister Ferguson, we reproduce what we published on a portion of the text more than twelve years ago, which will be found in volume 35, number 12, page 94. As there are comparatively but few who have preserved that paper, and as we have found no occasion to change the views we then expressed upon the subject, and as we then confined our remarks principally to what we understood to be presented in the third verse, we will add a few thoughts on the fourth verse.

“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” Contemporary with Nehemiah and Zerubbabel, at the time of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, Joshua presided as the high priest of Israel, and as such a type of the great High Priest of our profession, who is brought to view in the gospel, as presiding over the building of the spiritual and anti-typical temple, which of lively stones is built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Christ, as the builder of his church, was prophesied of by this same prophet, (in vi. 12, 13,) saying, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is THE BRANCH, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall rule upon his throne; and he shall be a Priest upon his throne; and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” The priesthood of Aaron and his sons claimed no regal power, no right to reign or rule, but was confined to the service of the altar, and continually engaged in offering sacrifices for the sins of the people; but in the figure of the man whose name is The Branch, is presented a regal or royal priesthood, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchisedec, and in it is presented the King and the Priest in one man, whose name is The Branch, and the Counsel of Peace between them both, that is, between the King and the Priest. AS all the approved kings of Israel counseled with the priests, and through them received counsel from the Lord, they in their communion and consulatation pointed to him, who should sum up all that was set forth by prophets, priests and kings, in the person of him who is our Prophet, Priest and King; the King of righteousness and Priest unto the Most High God, and all the counsel of peace involving and embracing the eternal salvation of his church and kingdom, is embraced in the official characters which are embodied in and sustained by our Lord Jesus Christ. Men sometimes volunteer their counsels, professedly for peace, and which they seem to flatter themselves will be an improvement on God’s counsel; but the counsels of men invariably conflict with the counsels of the Lord, which alone shall stand.

In offering a few remarks on the text which we have placed at the head of this article, we propose to notice Joshua in his typical relation to Christ, and of Christ in his vital relation to his church.

The person, priesthood and official service of Joshua differed in nothing essential from that of other priests of the same order; but in his name, and connection with the building of the temple, as also in his presentation in the subject under consideration, are found some expressive peculiarities in which he prefigures our Lord Jesus Christ.

But the position occupied by him in our text and its surroundings demands our special attention. The prophet says, “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.” Here, if we comprehend the figure, our Lord Jesus Christ is brought to view in his Mediatorial work in his priestly habiliments, as bearing all the tribes of his redeemed Israel, and stands for them, before the angel of the divine presence, in his holy law. The angel, or spirit of the holy law of God, is the angel of the Lord. God’s presence is called his angel; and God appears in his law demanding satisfaction for the sins which Christ in his priesthood came to expiate, and make atonement for. No priest or offering under the old dispensation could meet the demands o the law and justice of God, but our spiritual Joshua was able to stand before the angel; and although there resisted in his mediatorial work by Satan, sin, death, hell and the grave, he occupies the place, as one arraigned before the angel, to bear the judgment, and meet the awakened sword which God had commanded to smite the Shepherd. In his description of this dreadful conflict, Jude says, “Michael the arch-angel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses, said, The Lord rebuke thee.” From this declaration of Jude we learn what was the ground of contention. By the body of Moses, which God buried in the wilderness, and whose sepulcher could never afterwards be found, we understand is signified the power and dominion of the law, as administered by Moses over God’s people, Israel, whose demands were met and canceled by our Redeemer, and which in its dominion became dead to them, and they to it, by the body of Christ. In this conflict an effectual appeal was made to God to rebuke the disputing adversary. “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem;” the very God of election, whose sovereign choice of Jerusalem is in the eternal and immutable election of grace, rebuke thee. “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”

Observe the figure. After a seventy years’captivity of the children of Israel in Babylon, in which the city had been nearly demolished, the old temple destroyed, its consecrated furniture desecrated and carried away, and few of the citizens permitted to return, what more appropriate figure could represent this preserved remnant according to the election of grace than is here used, a brand plucked out of the fire? Nearly consumed, but a brand remains, which must inevitably have been consumed but for the election of grace. Now in the great redemption and deliverance of this chosen remnant our high priest appears before the angel of the Lord, clothed with filthy garments. His work is to purge and cleanse Jerusalem from all her uncleanness; and to do this, as her high priest he must represent her as she truly is, by an assumption of all her sins and pollutions. And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all. Bearing all the sins of his people, he stands before the angel of the divine presence. The flaming eye of the law and justice of the pure and holy God is upon him, and yet he stands clothed in filthy garments, before whose searching gaze no unclean or unholy thing can be tolerated, or allowed to live.

No greater affront could be offered to the law than for the priests to appear before the Lord except in consecrated priestly garments perfectly pure and clean. But, wonder, ye heavens, and be astonished, O earth, the High Priest of our profession before the presence of the angel of the Lord in filthy garments; behold he comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah, and he will stain all his raiment. He is made sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of god in him. He is numbered with the transgressors, and bears the sins of many. He is holy, harmless, separated from sinners, and higher than the heavens, – he who is the righteousness of God, is clothed in filthy garments, and stands before the angel. How could this be? The Word which was with God, even the Word which was God, is made flesh. He has taken on him the seed of Abraham, is made of a woman, made under the law; and in the assumption of the seed of Abraham all the transgressions of that seed are laid on him, and bearing them in his own body on the tree, he stood before the angel, with full ability to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and to finish transgressions and make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness. Having as our High Priest made an offering for sin, he has by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified. There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. Through the efficient Priesthood of our spiritual Joshua, a fountain is opened for the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. For he has himself borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, and endured the chastisement of our peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Truly such an High Priest became us. No other priest could, with our sins upon him, have stood before the angel. He only was able to bear the storm of wrath which was due to our transgressions; as none but Jesus was able to lay down his life, and then to take it up again. Not all the blood that flowed from Hebrew altars, nor all the sacrificial offerings made by Aaron and his sons, could have purged our hearts from an evil conscience, or qualified us to serve the true God acceptably. But he was delivered up for our offenses, and raised again for our justification; and so we are freely justified through the redemption that is in him.

The brand is rescued from the burning. The fire of righteous indignation and wrath is quenched by the one offering which Jesus Christ, through the eternal Spirit, made of himself unto God, and by the which he has obtained eternal redemption for us. Can we contemplate the subject without feeling emotions of love and gratitude to him who hath loved us and given himself for us? He endured the cross, he despised the shame, he suffered without the camp for us; and shall we, can we feel reluctant to go unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach? He has redeemed us unto God with his precious blood, plucked us as brands out of the fire, called by his grace, quickened us by his spirit, and assured us that we shall reign with him in glory. Then what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness? No service by him enjoined can be too hard; no sacrifice of ease or wealth, of time or substance, can be too great. If indeed we love him, let us keep his commandments.

“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 cloteh thee with change of raiment.”

In our former article, as copied above, we attempted to show that the anti-typical Joshua, or Jesus, the great High Priest of our profession, in taking on him the seed of Abraham, became a partaker of the same flesh and blood of which the children are partakers, was made flesh, made of a woman, and made under the law which we had transgressed, to redeem them that were under the law; and being clothed in mortal flesh, that is, flesh subject to death, and bearing in the body of his flesh all the sins of his people, his raiment was stained: though immaculately pure and free from blemish, except by imputation, yet loaded with all the iniquities of his people which were laid on him, he was made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. Thus arrayed in flesh and blood he stood before the angel of the divine presence of the law, answering to the figure of Joshua the high priest clothed in filthy garments; and when he had put away the sins of his people by the sacrifice of himself, and bowed his head in death, the divine law, and eternal justice, with all the “seven spirits of God,” stood by, the law was honored and justice was satisfied. The awakened sword of God’s avenging wrath had smitten the man who is God’s fellow, when he through the eternal Spirit offered himself for our sins, and by that one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified. Now the same God who had commanded the sword to awake against him, commands, saying, “Lift up your heads, O ye gates; and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, and the king of glory shall come in.” – Psa. xxiv. 7-9. The doors of death to him are unbarred, the gates of the grave are thrown open, and the mighty conqueror over death, hell and sin leaps forth, leaving the grave-clothes of morality, of sin and suffering, in the tomb. He is raised up from death by the glory of the Father, and in a wonderful change of raiment mounts his Mediatorial throne, receives the joy that was set before him, and sits down with his eternal Father upon his throne; and with all power in heaven and earth vested in him, receives the commission, “Rule thou in the midst of thine enemies,” with the assurance that his people shall be willing in this new-born day and dispensation of his power and glory. – Psa. cx. 1-3.

But mark the wondrous change of our High Priest’s apparel! No more a feeble babe in Bethlehem, no more a humble tenant of a manger, no more a man of sorrows and subject of grief; the mortal garments of flesh and blood, now begotten from the dead, has passed far beyond the power of death: death has no more dominion over him. That raiment which was mortal has put on immortality. Death in him is swallowed up in victory. His resurrected and glorious body is clothed with all the refulgent glory of the eternal Father. Clothed now in majesty and transcendent glory, he now holds and possesses all the glory which he had with the Father before the world began. – John xvii. 5. With a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed in a vesture dipped (baptized) in blood: “and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeath the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.” – Rev. xix. 13-16

In this change of raiment our glorious Redeemer is described in the first chapter of Revelation, saying, “Fear not: I am the first and the last: I am he that liveth, and was dead; and behold I am alive forevermore. Amen.” John saw him the midst of the golden candlesticks, or churches, as one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. Thus signifying that his change of raiment had divested his body, the church, from all pollution and filthiness, and the fair mitre covers the head, and the robe of his righteousness extends to the foot of his mystical body, clothing the whole church with garments of his salvation; and the golden girdle of eternal truth secures this change of raiment to the body, of which he is the Head. So the glory which the Father has given him as our High Priest, he has given and secured to as many as the Father has given him, that they may be one with him, even as he is one with the Father. – John xvii. 22

In conclusion, we say to sister Ferguson, and to all our readers, if we have been made experimentally to know our spiritual Joshua, if God has shown him to us as he did to his prophet, then may we with joyful hearts sing with the poet,

“My filthy rags are laid aside,
He clothes me as becomes his bride;
Himself bestows my wedding dress,
His robe of perfect righteousness.”

Elder Gilbert Beebe – Editorial
Middletown, N. Y., February 1, 1880

Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 3
February 1, 1880