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A VISION OF THE HIGH PRIEST
A SERMON ORIGINALLY DELIVERED AT
THE HIGH HILL UNITED METHODIST CHURCH
THE FEDERATED CHURCH OF ATHENS
26 AUGUST 1990
By Frank L. Hoffman, Pastor
Preparation Verse: (Isaiah 61:10)
I will rejoice greatly in the Lord,
My soul will exult in my God;
For He has clothed me with garments of salvation,
He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness,
As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland,
And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
Last week we talked about the people of the nation of ancient Israel having gone astray, and compared it with our nation and the Church becoming worldly.
Today, I would like us to focus our attention on a particular religious leader who served the Israelites as high priest during a period more than 500 years before Jesus Christ's incarnation. His name was Joshua, which is the Hebrew form of the name Jesus.
The prophet Zechariah speaks of him in the third chapter of his prophetic message. Please turn with me in your Bibles to this passage, and read along as we hear his message as seen in his vision.
Let's begin with verse 1:
1. Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him.
Here is Joshua, the highest priest in the land, trying to make a petition to the Lord on behalf of himself and the people he served, and Satan is there with him to accuse him.
And not only is Satan there, but he is on his right hand side, the place of honor. There is no other strong and truly Godly person to stand with him.
Feel for Joshua!
Feel the agony in his heart, for he is truly trying to correct the ungodliness around him.
Every place Joshua turns, Satan is there to accuse him – even before God.
Listen to what happens, as we continue with verse 2:
2. And the Lord said to Satan, "The Lord rebuke you, Satan! Indeed, the Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?"
Satan doesn't want any righteous people around. He will do everything in his power to trip us up and send us to hell.
But the power of God is greater than the power of Satan, and Satan can have no lasting power over us, unless we allow him.
Susan Wesley must have been thinking of this when her home was on fire and her son John, who was inside, was brought out safely.
Like Joshua, John Wesley was saved from the fires of destruction. And what John Wesley began has affected millions and millions of people, convincing them that they should turn to God for salvation.
Not all followed his leadership, and not all of the modern-day Methodist priesthood has remained unstained and clear of Satan's power; and for this to have happened, they had to have allowed it to happen.
But Joshua stayed true to God, and came forth and presented himself and his petition, just as he was.
3. Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments and standing before the angel.
When the forces of evil are all around us, it is sometimes difficult not to become soiled in the process. Even though we don't want it to happen, it can happen.
But our God, who sees the intent of the heart, knows the truth about us; and if we have a repentant heart and truly desire to be cleansed, He will cleanse us.
4. And he spoke and said to those who were standing before him saying, "Remove the filthy garments from him." Again he said to him, "See, I have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes."
5. Then I said, "Let them put a clean turban on his head." So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel of the Lord was standing by.
Well, Satan is gone and so is all the unrighteousness that stained Joshua.
God did it all.
No human did it.
Do you think that sometimes we look in the wrong place for help?
And don't you also think that we usually give up too soon?
Hang in there!
God knows the truth.
And God will help us get started again, on the right foot and with greater strength, just as He is about to do with Joshua.
Upon seeing the works of the Lord, even Zechariah, who is himself a priest, cannot contain himself and he expresses his desire for the final cleansing and priestly recognition. For upon the turban is a gold plate inscribed with the words, "Holiness to the Lord."
6. And the angel of the Lord admonished Joshua saying,
7. "Thus says the Lord of hosts, 'If you will walk in My ways, and if you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are standing here.
8. 'Now listen, Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who are sitting in front of you – indeed they are men who are a symbol, for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch.
Even the cleansed high priest requires to be redirected by the Lord, in order to set him straight upon the Lord’s path.
Pay special attention to the fact that he is first directed to set his personal way in order, then the way of service in the Temple, not the other way around.
Only after accomplishing these two things will Joshua be able to properly govern and have free access to heaven.
Joshua had become stained from the corruption around him, but he was stained nevertheless, and part of that soiling affected his personal life and his ministry. That soiling had to leave before he was an acceptable priest again.
And those who are gathered with Joshua – his friends, his fellow priests – are also soiled. They are seeking to please the people in their day-to-day lives, but they are not seeking to save them forever from the wrath to come.
Joshua obviously knows what is happening and is worried in his soul about it, but seems powerless to do anything about it on his own.
Perhaps it is his friends, his close friends, who are as Satan at his right hand, trying to pull him in the wrong direction.
"Come on Joshua, why be so up-tight? Everyone is doing these things you say not to do. What's so bad? No one is getting hurt. If the people enjoy what they are doing, let them do it."
Doesn't this sound like today?
Joshua knew the truth, but didn't want to hurt the people’s feelings; thus the Lord had to admonish him.
Our great High Priest, Jesus Christ, also took upon Himself our sins, our soil, so that through our repentance and acceptance of Him, we could be free from all condemnation.
But unlike Joshua, Jesus' soiling never affected His ministry, for He remained sinless.
And this is what Zechariah's vision is all about. For as Joshua is being restored in the priesthood, in order that he might lead others to become cleansed as he was, so also will God bring forth a new and greater High Priest, His servant the Branch, Jesus Christ, to save the world.
Let's return to our reading and hear the rest of the message:
9. 'For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,' declares the Lord of hosts, 'and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
10. 'In that day,' declares the Lord of hosts, 'every one of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and under his fig tree.' "
Thus Jesus is prophesied to come forth to save His people in the future, as Joshua is being called upon to perform his high priestly office in his day, and as we are similarly being called today.
But we know that when Jesus came, He fulfilled the first part of this prophesy, but the second part will only be fulfilled when He returns.
Remember that we are to live in the promise of Jesus' return by being living examples of the heavenly will of God where there will no longer be an mourning or pain or death for any human or other animal.
So we, who are charged like Joshua and his friends, are to be cleansed from our soiling and admonished for not telling the truth and for just “tickling the ears” of the people, instead.
The stone that is set before Joshua can be seen as the "Rock of Salvation" – Messiah, Jesus Christ – who sees all our weaknesses and all our needs.
But the engraving is a personal thing. It is for our own name, if we truly set our heart upon the Lord.
Without our names having first been written on the stone, there will be no
heaven and no everlasting life with the Lord for any of us.
The question each of us must ask our self is, "Am I absolutely sure that my name is written down?"
Am I so sure that I would bet my life on it?
For this is exactly what we are doing!