TAKE AWAY THE FILTHY GARMENTS
Zechariah 3:4 - “And He answered and spoke 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 clothe thee with change of raiment.”
One of the greatest examples of justification in the Old Testament is found in Zechariah, Chapter 3. Let me set the scene: the prophet Zechariah had a vision of a divine court room. Joshua, the high priest (not to be confused with Joshua who led Israel into the promised land), stood as the accused. Satan stood as the prosecutor. Both stood before the angel of the Lord. The evidence was self-evident as Joshua stood clothed in “filthy garments.” Whereas the verdict should clearly have been guilty as charged, the command given was, “Take away the filthy garments.”
JOSHUA THE HIGH PRIEST
The high priest wore a “bonnet” with “holiness unto the Lord” inscribed on the front. In contradiction, Joshua stood before God dressed in filthy garments. The garment represented his spiritual condition. And yet, it went further than that. As the high priest, Joshua also represented the people he ministered to, on their behalf. Therefore, his garment also represented the sinful condition of Judah that warranted the Babylonian captivity in the first place.
GUILTY AS CHARGED
Joshua could not defend himself. Judah also had no defense. They were guilty as charged. It is interesting that Satan, who was present before the throne of God, was not given the opportunity to accuse Joshua. In reality, his words were not necessary. Joshua stood wearing the exact evidence necessary to prove his guilt. Joshua as well as Judah was incapable of dealing with the effect of sin. Man cannot wash away the filth of sin. Joshua stood guilty as charged.
THE LORD REBUKE THEE
The decision of the court was one I’m sure both Joshua, the accused; and Satan, the silent accuser, did not expect. Seated as the Judge was the Angel of the Lord, who is actually the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.
“And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment. And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?” (Zec 3:2).
This was no ordinary angel. Only Jesus could say, “I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee.” Only Jesus could say, “I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”
The doctrine of justification by faith is foundational to the Christian life and yet so often ignored and misunderstood. Justification does not disregard the true condition of man. “For all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Justification by faith realizes that although clearly guilty of sin, we are declared righteous by the heavenly Judge through placing our faith in the atoning work of Christ at Calvary.
UNWORTHY, YET DECLARED RIGHTEOUS
The commonly used definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” The basis of the Message of the Cross is that unworthy man can be acceptable to God through what Jesus Christ accomplished through His atoning sacrifice at Calvary. Unless we can admit we are dressed in “filthy garments,” how can we truly repent and have God remove our filthy garments?
On Thursday, July 7, 1977, I cried out to God for mercy and grace. That day, God said, “Take away the filthy garments...behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.”
As in the example of Joshua I was likewise justified. Justification by faith! Dear friend, has God said of you, “Take away the filthy garment”?