Reference: Ezra 3:1-9; 5:1-2; Zechariah 3
Heart of the Story: God replaced Jeshua’s clothes, polluted by sin, with clean garments and demonstrated that God—not sacrifices, altars, or temples—forgives and justifies.
Story Line:When the Jews returned to Jerusalem from the Babylon captivity, Jeshua (also known as Joshua) was the chief priest. He and Governor Zerubbabel were the Jewish leaders during the early Restoration years. As soon as they arrived in Jerusalem, the restored exiles rebuilt the temple altar and began to make sacrifices on it (c. 537 BC). Then, they started to lay the temple foundation. Jeshua, his sons, and brothers supervised temple builders.
Because non-Jews living in the area opposed temple construction, rebuilding slowed down (536-530 BC) and eventually ceased (530-520 BC). For about 16 years, Jeshua and fellow priests offered sacrifices on the rebuilt altar; but, returned Jews spent most of their time building homes, cultivating crops, and nurturing livestock. During these years, harvests were poor. On August 29, 520 BC, God declared that harvests were poor because the Jews neglected to build his house. He stirred up the spirit of Jeshua, Zerubbabel, and the Jewish remnant, so that within a month they resumed building God’s temple.
About a month later, God gave the prophet Zechariah eight visions. The fourth vision focused on the chief priest Jeshua. Jeshua stood in front of the Angel of the Lord. Satan stood at Jeshua’s right side and accused Jeshua of sin. Immediately, the Angel said, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan” (Zechariah 3:2 NIV). The Angel told Satan that the Lord chose Jerusalem. Jeshua was a burning stick that God snatched from the fire.
The Angel ordered that Jeshua’s filthy garments be replaced with rich, clean garments. The removal of Jeshua’s dirty garments signified the removal of his sin, and demonstrated that God had the power to justify, or make Jeshua clean. A clean turban was placed on Jeshua’s head. The turban was a priestly mark of authority and signified direct access to God.
Pondering Relationships: The Restoration was about 1000 years after God established the priesthood; yet, God still worked through priests. Initially, the priest Jeshua was dressed in filthy clothes. In scripture, often the condition of an individual’s garments denoted their character. For example, soiled, filthy garments depicted sin; while white or shiny garments spoke of being made sinless or cleansed. The pre-exile priesthood wasn’t holy before God. Priests introduced foreign altars and idols into the temple, and led Israel and Judah to worship idols. The new turban affirmed the priest’s rightful access to God the mediator between Jew and God.
After reclothing Joshua, the Angel of God told Jeshua that if he would walk in God’s ways, keep God’s requirements, and govern God’s house, then God would give Jeshua and priests a place among those standing in the presence of God! Standing in the presence of God meant that priests would have direct access to God.
Amazingly, the Angel didn’t stop with this awesome declaration. The Angel told Jeshua that he and the priesthood were symbolic of things to come. God would send the Branch, i.e., the Messiah, who will remove the sins of the land in a single day.
Reflection: How does the story of the priest Jeshua symbolize Christ? Explain how relationships among Jeshua, God, and the returned exiles mirror the relationships among Christ, God, and his church.
Priests were central to the Israelite nation. They were to help the Israelites adhere to God’s laws. Unfortunately, some priests were just plain down awful. My book Lesser Known Bible Characters tells the stories of some great priest of the Old Testament and an excellent New Testament minister. You can purchase this book at Carolyn Roth Ministry (http://CarolynRothMinistry.com/
Copyright July 1, 2015: Carolyn A. Roth.