“Take from them silver and gold, and make a crown, and set it on the head of Joshua, the son of Jehozadak, the high priest. And say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, “Behold, the man whose name is the Branch: for he shall branch out from his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord. It is he who shall build the temple of the Lord and shall bear royal honor, and shall sit and rule on his throne. And there shall be a priest on his throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”’” (Zechariah 6:11-13, ESV)
In today’s TBR, Tara-Leigh talks about all the blending of priestly and kingly symbols in Zechariah 6: the crown on the priest, the priest on a throne, the throne in the temple. She points out the name of the priest— Joshua, and how in Hebrew Joshua and Yeshua (Jesus) are the same name, and that they mean “Yahweh saves.”
So of course all this imagery foreshadows Jesus, who alone fulfills the role of messianic king and great high priest.
But there’s something else going on here, I think. In yesterday‘s reading (Zechariah 3) we saw Joshua the high priest wearing robes covered in filth (the Hebrew word is the one used for “excrement.” I know. Ewww.).
In his book King’s Cross, (which has been re-titled Jesus the King), Timothy Keller reflects on the preparation the high priest went through for the one day a year he stood before God in the Holy of Holies. He writes:
“A week beforehand, the high priest was put into seclusion – taken away from his home and into a place where he was completely alone. Why? So he wouldn’t accidentally touch or eat anything unclean. Clean food was brought to him, and he’d wash his body and prepare his heart. The night before the Day of Atonement he didn’t go to bed; he stayed up all night praying and reading God’s Word to purify his soul.
Then on Yom Kippur he bathed head to toe and dressed in pure, unstained white linen. Then he went into the holy of Holies and offered an animal sacrifice to God to atone, or pay the penalty for, his own sins. After that he came out and bathed completely again, and new white linen was put on him, and he went in again, this time sacrificing for the sins of the priests. But that’s not all. He would come out a third time, and he bathed again from head to toe and they dressed him in brand new pure linen, and he went into the holy of holies and atoned for the sins of all the people.
… When the high priest went before God there wasn’t a speck on him; he was as pure as pure can be.
Only if you understand that do you realize why the next lines of the prophecy in Zechariah 3 were so shocking: Zechariah saw Joshua the high priest standing before the presence of God in the holy of holies – but Joshua’s garments were covered in excrement. He was absolutely defiled. Zechariah couldn’t believe his eyes.
And so, while Joshua in Chapter 6 represents Jesus, I think Joshua in chapter 3 represents us, and how God sees us. No amount of ritual bathing or purification rites that Joshua did on his own would make him clean enough to stand before God. Isaiah 64:6 says that all our righteousness is as filthy rags. But just as God Himself clothed Joshua in pure vestments and took away his iniquity (3:4); He does the same with us. As Psalm 51 says, when God washes away our iniquity and cleanses us from sin, we are washed whiter than snow.
And here’s what is truly amazing: because Joshua represents us in Zechariah 3, there’s a level on which he also represents us in Zechariah 6. We are a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:9). We are joint heirs with Christ (Romans 8:17). We are ambassadors of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:11-21).
Beloved, we are representatives of Jesus to a lost world because Christ has already represented us to the Father!