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The ultimate meaning
Joshua and the Angel
And He showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist [or accuse] him. And the LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, O Satan; even the LORD that has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments [as a picture of his past sins], and stood before the Angel. And He answered and spoke to those that stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And to him He said, Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with change of raiment.
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the LORD stood by.
And the Angel of the LORD protested [spoke strongly] to Joshua, saying, Thus says the LORD of hosts; If you will walk in My ways, and if you will keep My charge, then you shall also judge [guide] My house, and shall also keep My courts [in the sanctuary], and I will give you places to walk among these that stand by [the angel spectators]. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you, and your fellows that sit before you: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the BRANCH [in them].
Zechariah's vision of Joshua and the Angel applies with peculiar force to the experience of God's people in the closing up of the great Day of Atonement. The remnant will be brought into great trial and distress.
Those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus will feel the anger of the dragon and his hosts. Revelation 12:9, 17. Satan numbers the world as his subjects, he has gained control of the apostate churches; but here is a little company that are resisting his supremacy. If he could blot them from the earth, his triumph would be complete. As he influenced the heathen nations to destroy Israel, so in the near future he will stir up the wicked powers of earth to destroy the people of God. All will be required to render obedience to human edicts in violation of the divine law in scenes similar to those we have seen recorded in the book of Daniel. Those who will be true to God and to duty will be menaced, denounced, and proscribed. They will "be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends." Luke 21:16.
Their only hope is in the mercy of God; their only defense will be prayer.
As Joshua was pleading before the Angel, so the remnant, with brokenness of heart and earnest faith, will plead for pardon and deliverance through Jesus their Advocate. They are fully conscious of the sinfulness of their lives, they see their weakness and unworthiness, and as they look upon themselves they are ready to despair. The tempter stands by to accuse them, as he stood by to resist Joshua. He points to their filthy garments, their defective characters. He presents their weakness and folly, their sins of ingratitude, their unlikeness to Christ, which has dishonored their Redeemer. He endeavors to frighten them with the thought that their case is hopeless, that the stain of their defilement will never be washed away. He hopes to so destroy their faith that they will yield to his temptations, turn from their allegiance to God, and receive the mark of the beast. Revelation 13:16-17.
Satan urges before God his accusations against them, declaring that they have by their sins forfeited the divine protection, and claiming the right to destroy them as transgressors. He pronounces them just as deserving as himself of exclusion from the favor of God. "Are these," he says, "the people who are to take my place in heaven and the place of the angels who united with me? While they profess to obey the law of God, have they kept its precepts? Have they not been lovers of self more than of God? Have they not placed their own interests above Your service? Have they not loved the things of the world? Look at the sins which have marked their lives. Behold their selfishness, their malice, their hatred toward one another."
The living people of God have been in many respects very faulty. Satan has an accurate knowledge of the sins which he has tempted them to commit, and he presents these in the most exaggerated light, declaring: "Will You banish me and my angels from Your presence, and yet reward those who have been guilty of the same sins? You can not do this, O Lord, in justice. Your throne will not stand in righteousness and judgment. Justice demands that sentence be pronounced against them."
But while the followers of Christ have sinned, they have not given themselves to the control of evil. They have put away their sins before this time, and have sought the Lord in humility and contrition, and the divine Advocate pleads in their behalf. He who has been most abused by their ingratitude, who knows their sin, and also their repentance, declares: "'The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan.' I gave My life for these souls. They are graven upon the palms of My hands."
The assaults of Satan are strong, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord's eye is upon His people. This is the time known to the prophets as "Jacob's trouble" when the man of God fought against God thinking He was an enemy. Genesis 32:24. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but Jesus will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. Malachi 3:3. Their earthliness (not sinfulness) must be removed that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected; unbelief must be overcome; faith, hope, and patience are to be developed. Their attachment to this world must be broken so that they can live in the next.
The people of God are sighing and crying for the abominations done in the land. Ezekiel 9:4. With tears they warn the wicked of their danger in trampling upon the divine law, and with unutterable sorrow they humble themselves before the Lord on account of their own transgressions. The wicked mock their sorrow, ridicule their solemn appeals, and sneer at what they term their weakness. But the anguish and humiliation of God's people is unmistakable evidence that they are regaining the strength and nobility of character lost in consequence of sin. It is because they are drawing nearer to Christ, and their eyes are fixed upon His perfect purity, that they so clearly discern the exceeding sinfulness of sin. Their contrition and self-abasement are infinitely more acceptable in the sight of God than is the self-sufficient, haughty spirit of those who see no cause to lament, who scorn the humility of Christ, and who claim perfection while transgressing God's holy law. Meekness and lowliness of heart are the conditions for strength and victory. Psalm 24:3-4. The crown of glory awaits those who bow at the foot of the cross. Blessed are these mourners, for they shall be comforted. Matthew 5:4.
The faithful, praying ones are, as it were, shut in with God. They themselves know not how securely they are shielded. Urged on by Satan, the rulers of this world are seeking to destroy them; but could their eyes be opened, as were the eyes of Elisha's servant at Dothan, they would see the angels of God encamped about them, by their brightness and glory holding in check the hosts of darkness. 2 Kings 6:17.
As the people of God afflict their souls before Him, pleading for purity of heart, the command is given, "Take away the filthy garments" from them, and the encouraging words are spoken, "Behold, I have caused your iniquity to pass from you, and I will clothe you with change of raiment."
The spotless robe of Christ's righteousness is placed upon the tried, tempted, yet faithful children of God. The despised remnant are clothed in glorious apparel, nevermore to be defiled by the corruptions of the world. Their names are retained in the Lamb's book of life, enrolled among the faithful of all ages. They have resisted the wiles of the deceiver; they have not been turned from their loyalty by the dragon's roar. Now they are eternally secure from the tempter's devices. Their sins are transferred to the originator of sin as pictured in the Day of Atonement ceremony.
And the remnant are not only pardoned and accepted, but honored. "A fair miter" is set upon their heads. They are to be as kings and priests to God. While Satan was urging his accusations and seeking to destroy this company, holy angels, unseen, were passing to and fro, placing upon them the seal of the living God. These are they that stand upon Mount Zion with the Lamb, having the Father's name written in their foreheads. They sing the new song before the throne, that song which no man can learn save the hundred and forty and four thousand, which were redeemed from the earth.
"These are they which follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These were redeemed from among men, being the first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God."
Now is reached the complete fulfillment of those words of the Angel: "Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you, and your fellows that sit before you: for they are men wondered at: for, behold, I will bring forth My servant the Branch." Christ is revealed as the Redeemer and Deliverer of His people. Now indeed are the remnant "men wondered at," as the tears and humiliation of their pilgrimage give place to joy and honor in the presence of God and the Lamb.
"In that day shall the branch of the Lord be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth shall be excellent and comely for them that are escaped of Israel. And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remains in Jerusalem, shall be called holy, even everyone that is written among the living in Jerusalem."
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