Dr. Reed Lessing, the author of our series on the book of Zechariah, tells the story of a time when he was stuck in the Atlanta airport. His flight to St. Louis for whatever reason was canceled. The next flight was jam-packed and he knew that if he didn’t get on that one, he was going be stuck in Atlanta all night. As he is sitting there trying to figure out what to do, he notices a ticket sticking out of the jacket of the man next to him. The man was asleep and he had a cane propped up against his seat. Dr. Lessing thought, “What a lucky break! I could snatch the ticket from his pocket, slip away into the concourse crowd and then reappear just in time to board my flight!” But then his conscious kicked in. Bad idea! He could see the headline, “Read Lessing – Lutheran Pastor – Lands in Jail!” Not a headline anyone, let alone a pastor wants to wake up to.
So instead of stealing the ticket, he went up to the Delta Airline ticket agent. “Please get me home to St. Louis. Anything airborne will do: 747, regional jet, crop duster, hang glider, a kite!” After pouring on all of his charm and amazing wit, the only thing he heard was, “You’re on the standby list.”
No! No! Not the standby list! No one likes the standby list. That’s like almost making the varsity team or almost getting that date with a special person in college. As Dr. Lessing slumped away from the ticket counter, a guy standing next to him says, “Looks like you’re stuck buddy … big time.”
Your kingdom come. Satan doesn’t want God’s kingdom to come. Satan will do anything so God’s kingdom never comes into our lives. Satan says, “Looks like you’re stuck buddy … big time.” This is the story of Zechariah 3-4.
Zechariah begins with accusations. “Then he showed me Joshua, a different Joshua from the book of Joshua, the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him” (Zech. 3:1). A more literal translation of the Hebrew would be to satanize him. Satan throws the book at Joshua, who has just traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem. Joshua was going to serve as high priest in the rebuilt temple. Sacrifices would soon be offered. God’s people would soon be covered with divine mercy and grace. God’s kingdom was coming! But Satan says, “Not so fast!”
Zechariah says, “Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed in filthy garments” (3:3). The word “filthy” in Hebrew denotes the maximum amount of filth possible, utter defilement. Other words you could use would be “excrement” or “vomit.” A sewer of pollution covers Joshua! Why? Well Joshua was born in Babylon, a defiled and unholy land. How can an unholy priest remove the sins from unholy people?
All is lost! Joshua is on the standby list, stuck in a noisy airport like O’Hare in Chicago, with pushy people, a loud PA system and overpriced food. The accuser chuckles and says to the high priest, “Looks like you’re stuck buddy … big time.”
Satan, the great accuser, also rubs our face in our filth so we feel stuck and in utter despair. Satan points out, just like with Joshua, that we’ve lived in a defiled and unholy land. What? We’re perfectly at home in the ghetto of gossip, the jungle of judgment, the precinct of pride and the slums of slander.
If you’ve ever felt shame and disgrace, it was Satan’s whisper that crushed your heart. If you’ve ever felt alone and abandoned, it was all according to his plan. If you’ve ever felt useless and no good, it was his accusing finger in your face. Zechariah 3-4 though moves us from accusation to …
Intercession. It’s Jesus! Jesus intercedes for Joshua. Now hold on! Jesus in the Old Testament? It might sound strange to think of Jesus as present and active before his birth in that messy manger, but long before Jesus became flesh in Mary’s womb, he was present in the world as the angel of the LORD. “Joshua the high priest was standing before the angel of the LORD” (3:1). “Joshua was standing before the angel” (3:3). “The angel said” (3:4). “The angel of the LORD was standing by” (3:5). “The angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua” (3:6).
Jesus stands in Joshua’s court! In Zechariah 3, God also calls Jesus “my servant.” This is the same Servant Isaiah describes as being stricken by God and afflicted. The same Servant who was pierced for our transgressions and crushed for our iniquities.
In Zechariah 3, God also calls Jesus “the Branch.” This comes from Jeremiah 23:5 where he says, ““The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land.”
What’s more is that in Zechariah 3, God calls Jesus “the stone.” This comes from Psalm 118:22 which says, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.” So what happens to Satan when he’s in the presence of the angel of the LORD, who is the servant, the branch, and the stone?
“And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you!” (Zech. 3:2). The Hebrew verb translated “rebuke” denotes a defeating and driving back an enemy with anger and rage. The angel of the LORD essentially says to Satan, “Get on outta here! How dare you bring charges against Joshua! You have absolutely no authority in this court! Leave immediately and I don’t ever want to see your sorry face around here again!” And at this Satan is speechless! He falls to the ground like a popped balloon. Does he give up and go home? For a little while … but not forever.
Five-hundred years later Satan again went to court with the angel of the LORD. Only this time the accuser sends Judas to the garden, Peter to the courtyard, Pilate to his palace and Herod to Jerusalem. All this so the crowds would send Jesus to the cross. The Servant is led like a Lamb to the slaughter. The living branch is pruned, uprooted and cut down. The Stone is pulverized, pummeled, and crushed to pieces.
But get this! The angel of the LORD still intercedes, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” Accusation leads to intercession, for Joshua and for us. This leads to …
Resurrection. In spite of Satan’s best efforts, the kingdom still comes! Resurrection happens! Solomon’s temple will be rebuilt. In Zechariah 4, the governor of Persian, Zerubbabel, lays a foundation stone for the new temple. “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also complete it” (4:9). It’s 520 BC and Zerubbabel takes a leftover stone from Solomon’s temple and uses it to build a new temple. This rebuilt temple previews the rebuilt temple. We call that the resurrection. Jesus says, “Destroy this temple and in three days I will rebuild it.”
See the joy! See the happiness! See the utter delight! The Servant is alive! The Branch is flourishing and is stunningly beautiful. And the Stone the builders rejected has become the Cornerstone. The LORD has done this and it’s still marvelous in our eyes!
Baptized into Christ’s Easter victory, we’re not stuck on a standby list, destined to live a life of hopeless despair. No! We’re flying home in first class and our destination is the new heavens and the new earth. How can you be so sure? The angel of the LORD, our Lord Jesus Christ, still stands in our court, interceding for us, rebuking Satan and coming to our defense.
Is Jesus really that generous? That loving? That giving? Uh… yes! Yes, he is! Jesus doesn’t say, “Everyone who achieves” or “everyone who succeeds” or “everyone on the board of trustees.” No, John 3:16 say everyone who believes will be saved.
Zechariah 3-4 moves from accusation to intercession to resurrection and to exhortation. “Not by might and not by power but by my Spirit” (4:6). We overcome the accuser by God’s Spirit. God’s Spirit working through God’s Word. God’s Word points us to Jesus.
In Zechariah, we see Satan for who he really is. A deadly enemy? You bet. A supernatural creature who can do great harm? Without a doubt. The tormentor of our souls? Most certainly. Does Satan hate Jesus and hate us? You can count on it. But count on this … Satan is a defeated enemy who has no authority over us … whatsoever!
How do we overcome the accuser; live in confidence and courage; ooze joy and great delight? “Not by might and by power but my Spirit.” Amen.
The peace of God, which surpasses all human understanding, guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord, now and forever. Amen.