The Priest in Filthy Garments (Zechariah 3)

The Priest in Filthy Garments (Zechariah 3)



    • Thatcher covered in spaghetti. Giving him a napkin would’ve only made it worse. He needed someone else to get him clean.
    • All of us are covered just like Thatcher, but instead of spaghetti, we covered with sin. Sin covers every part of us.
    • Point: In order to be saved God must remove your sin and clothe you in an alien righteousness [Substitution].
    • Zechariah 3 = Gospel according to Zechariah (Clear picture).Pray and Read Zechariah 3
    • Christ as our Redeemer:
      • A Prophet who can replace our ignorance.
      • A Priest who can remove our iniquity.
      • A King who can conquer our insurrection.
    • Purpose – Christ brings reconciliation.
    • Last time I said Evangelicalism’s critical problem is that “Gospel”/“Christ” can be assumed or expressed in a repetitive/formulaic way.
    • This time (point at us specifically) – Tendency to complicate the gospel w/ doctrinal litmus test for acceptance.
      • The gospel is not as complicated as we can make it sound.
      • Yes, a depth that we can never plumb the bottom of.
    • Hope > Heads raised heavenward in awesome wonder that God would save a wretch like me.

The Role of the Priests (Heb. 5:1–4)

    • Prophet = God’s representative > people (God’s mouthpiece).
    • Priest = People’s representative > God (Lev.16:32–34; Heb. 5:1).
    • Primary function was to oversee the sacrificial system which teaches us God’s concern for sin.
      • Sin deserves death.
      • Substitution is possible.
      • Reconciliation/Fellowship is possible.
    • Problems with the priesthood:
      • Priests died
      • Priests sinned
      • Humans worth more than a bull.
      • Required repeated offerings.

Introduction to Zechariah

    • Hosea pre-exilic prophet.
      • Warned of Judgment for their unfaithfulness.
      • Promised a future reconciliation.
        • Israel and Judah would be reunited under one head.
        • Partial fulfillment in the post-exilic period – Zerubabbel.
    • Zechariah post-exilic prophet.
      • Over 200 years after Hosea’s ministry.
      • 8 visions:
        • 1–2 = God is in control and He promises protection to those who return to him.
        • 3 = God’s love and commitment to His people who have returned to him.
        • 4 = How a sinful people can find acceptance before a holy God.
    • The purity of the returned exiles was a major concern.
      • Haggai calls them to rebuild the temple.
      • Zechariah calls them to repentance and covenant renewal.
    • The original hearers felt a sense of letdown (unmet expectations).
      • Ignored their own sin (haughty).
      • Paralyzed by shame (condemned).
    • Don’t we all have something to learn from this?

Joshua’s Condition (1–3)

      • v.1, Courtroom Scene:
        • Angel of the Lord = Judge at the front.
        • Joshua the High Priest = Defendant on trial.
        • Satan = Prosecutor at the right hand (Ps. 109:6).
      • v.2, “Brand plucked from the fire” = Judgment in exile. He was delivered from exile. Preserved yet…
      • v.3, Filthy = Human excrement/vomit. Vileness. Defiled by sin.
      • Joshua’s clothes were nothing like the “holy garments” God instructed the priest to wear in Exodus 28:
        • “Holy” represented “glory and beauty”(v.2).
        • Twelve tribes on breastplate (vv.29–30).
        • Turban = “bear the guilt of the holy things consecrated and offered to the Lord” (v.36). Zechariah calls for a royal turban.
        • Garments provide special access to God. These garments were required, “lest they bear guilt and die” (v.43).
      • Joshua is unacceptable > He should die.
      • What about us?
        • Our problem is not a specific sin. God does not withhold his peace from us because we are involved in a particular kind of sin. Sin has affected everything and everyone.
        • We are wholly inadequate to stand before God because every part of us is tainted by sin.
        • Your problem is not that you are committing a sin, but that you are a sinner. Your problem is not that you have looked at someone with lust, or that you stole a piece of candy in the supermarket when you were a child, or that you – at one time – told a little white lie. All of those are small examples that daily you fall short of the glory of God.
        • And because of that, you have a guilty conscience (whether or not you believe there is a God).
        • Our Response:
          • We are seeking forgiveness.
          • We are growing numb in our sin.
      • Satan’s accusation is actually true (and Joshua knows it), but rather than condemnation, the result is cleansing.

Joshua’s Cleansing (4–5)

      • Pure, Clean Garments = Forgiveness, Righteousness, Glory.
      • The removal of sin is not enough, we must also have the righteous deeds of Christ attributed to us.
      • Notice Joshua’s role. He simply stands there.
      • The Accuser is silenced! (Rom. 8:1)
      • Application:
        • Unbeliever – Receive forgiveness! Let your filthy conscience be cleansed by placing your hope in Jesus Christ.
        • Believer – Rest in what you have received!

Joshua’s Charge (6–7)

    • The charge follows the removal of Joshua’s filthy garments.
    • Because Joshua has already been accepted (justified), he can now hear this charge in a new light (sanctification).
    • Illus: Calvin’s use of the 10 Commandments in his liturgy.
      • 1st Use – Curb: Encourage civil obedience.
      • 2nd Use – Mirror: Before Confession of Sin.
      • 3rd Use – Guide: After the Confession of Sin.
    • 3rd use cherished because our inheritance is guaranteed.
    • Progressive Sanctification – No longer live in sin.

Messianic Fulfillment (8–10)

    • Section full of symbols to be taken individually.
    • v.8, Joshua = a sign of the Messiah.
      • Servant = Brings redemption through suffering (Isa. 53:4–11).
        • Our iniquities were laid on him.
        • He stands in our filth: Sin + Righteous deeds “Filthy rags”.
      • Branch = Davidic King (Jer. 23:5–6; Isa. 4:2; 11:1).
      • Priests symbolize the work of this servant-king.
    • Christ is our True and Lasting Representative who stands before the Father in ourfilthy garments and defeats sin by paying the penalty of death. The priest who sacrificed Himself.
    • Significance of the…
      • v.9, Stone = Yahweh’s perfect eyes (7) watching over the building project.
      • A Single Day = Easy to understand for us, but put yourself in their shoes. They saw an endless procession of sacrifices day after day after day. This would’ve been shocking. Jesus Christ would accomplish in a single day, what a countless number of animal sacrifices could never achieve.
      • v.10, Vine & Fig Tree = peace and prosperity. Prior to that day, vines and fig trees were to be protected from enemies who would rob them of their fruit (Judges). But after “that day” peaceful sharing would occur.
    • All of these symbols point us forward to Christ. They flow out of the work done to preserve Joshua’s life and ministry.


  • Point: In order to be saved God must remove your sin and clothe you in an alien righteousness.
    • The prescription is the same for everyone, no matter how “good” you are.
      • You may not even notice the stench of your sin,
      • You may be so overwhelmed by the oder that you are ashamed to do anything.
    • Either way, your need remains. You stand before a holy God in filthy garments.
    • Your role is to simply rest & receive the work of Christ done on your behalf.Let us pray


  • I want to invite the elders to come forward to assist in distributing the elements.
  • Just like Joshua received the robe of righteousness that symbolized Christ’s perfect life, we are now seated at the table of the Lord’s Supper prepared to receive a meal that symbolizes Christ’s perfect death.
  • This is a “family meal”:
    • Warning – 1 Cor. 11:27–29.
    • Blessing – 1 Cor. 10:16–17.
  • Words of institution – 1 Cor. 11:23–24.

Benediction: And now to God’s elect, Whom He has upheld since they were conceived, Carried since they were born, Hear His good promise; I am he; I will sustain you, I will carry you, I will rescue even to your old age.


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