Zechariah is remindful of the donkey, bringing to mind his famous prophecy of the Lord coming in peace, riding on a donkey.

Vision 1 – God’s pity for God’s people | Zechariah 1:7‑17

Vision 2 – God’s protection of God’s people | Zechariah 1:18‑21

Vision 3 – God’s purpose for God’s people | Zechariah 2:1-13

Vision 4 – God’s purification of God’s people | Zechariah 3:1-10

Vision 5 – God’s empowering of God’s people | Zechariah 4:1-14

Vision 6 – God’s perfecting of God’s people | Zechariah 5:1-4

Vision 7 – God’s purging of God’s people | Zechariah 5:5-11

Vision 8 – God’s protecting of God’s people | Zechariah 6:1-8

An angelic guide helped Zechariah understand what God was showing him, throughout the night.

PART 2: Meaning of the First Half of the Vision

Vision Four: The Priest Joshua and Satan

Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satanstanding at his right hand to accuse him. 

And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” 

Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.

The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.”

And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.” 

And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.”

So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with the apparel; and the angel of the Lord was standing by.

Then the angel of the Lord assured Joshua, saying, “Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“IF you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, THEN you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here.

“Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come:

* I am going to bring my servant the Branch.

* For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the Lord of hosts, and

* I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.

* On that day, says the Lord of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.”

Zechariah 3:1-10 (NRSV)

What Does it Mean?

  • High priest Joshua represented God’s faithful people.
  • Satan is the powerful enemy of humankind.
  • The angel of the Lord was a theophany of preincarnate Christ
  • Filthy clothes, by standing in God’s presence, in the brilliance of God’s light, it was impossible to hide the high priest’s true condition. His filthy clothes represented the transgressions and guilt of God’s people. Later, the prophet Isaiah would explain that all acts of righteousness are, in spiritual terms, no better than filthy rags, stained as they are with mixed motivations and error.
  • Festal apparel, by contrast, were the raiment God offers, fine linen, bright and purefor the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints, done in the pure inspiration of the indwelling Holy Spirit and by the pure power of God, flowing from within.
  • Turban completed the symbolism Joshua represented, for it was both the final piece of the high priest’s costume, and what it, in itself, represented was the tincture of Joshua’s role in Zechariah’s vision.

You shall make a rosette of pure gold, and engrave on it, like the engraving of a signet, “Holy to the Lord.” You shall fasten it on the turban with a blue cord; it shall be on the front of the turban

It shall be on Aaron’s forehead, and Aaron shall take on himself any guilt incurred in the holy offering that the Israelites consecrate as their sacred donations; it shall always be on his forehead, in order that they may find favor before the Lord.

Exodus 28:36-38 (NRSV)

In the first part of his vision, Satan, the accuser, was pointing out Joshua’s unholiness and sin, insinuating that God could not be that holy if the Lord chooses such an unholy people to join to God. By the same token, Satan was also insinuating to Joshua that God could not possibly love the people because of what they really were, truly filthy, their best efforts unholy before God.

Satan’s insinuation conflated the concepts of worthiness and deservingness, and Christians often do this today as well. It is claimed humankind is unworthy of God’s love, and that is what makes grace so glorious. But that teaching is a harmful misrepresentation of the truth.

The Lord has already settled God’s love on humankind, a love that has not changed from the first moment of humanity’s conception. That infinite and eternal love, that sacred treasuring of each person, inherently valuates that person. It is because God loves us that you and I are found worthy.


We are also undeserving. No person has ever been able to merit God’s love, nor earn God’s restoration. Each of us have fallen short in our own way, and honestly, we know it. Each of us knows it.

So, as usual, Satan twisted the truth to his own ends, and God rebuked him.

Jesus drives Satan (right) away in this 1860 woodcut by von Carolsfeld | By Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld – Die Bibel in Bildern, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5490828

Five centuries later, the Apostle John would see Satan accuse the brethren and sistren for the last time before his final demise.

Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, proclaiming,

“Now have come the salvation and the power
    and the kingdom of our God
    and the authority of his Messiah,
for the accuser of our comradeshas been thrown down,
    who accuses them day and night before our God.

Revelation 12:10 (NRSV)

You and I experience that inner voice that accuses and tears down, that drags us to dejection and despair, that stirs up aching self-condemnation and contempt. Recognize who that is! That is radioactive evil that literally comes from the pit of hell.

The Holy Spirit’s voice of conviction is one of cleansing and renewal, and though the process of confession, conviction, and commitment to change is often painful, it is the kind of hurt we know accompanies healing.

The Lord personally chooses and rescues God’s people from the fire of God’s wrath in a remarkable way. God’s righteous wrath over transgression, corruption, and death is the only response we could ever want from God. It is the infinite and eternal divine cleansing of the entire universe of all that sickens and kills, of all that is evil.

To be in God’s presence is to be in the presence of God’s holiness, which includes this divine wrath. But God’s response to evil is to remove it, and that same fire becomes the mighty power of life and warmth and joy to those who have experienced the removal of sin’s cancer.

So saying, Jesus had the filthiness that clung to Joshua removed, and in its place was the glorious covering of righteousness.

In his excitement, Zechariah asked that the high priest’s turban could be placed on Joshua’s head. It was not all that unusual for prophets to get swept up in what God was showing them as Isaiah’s unscripted gasp of shock and John’s frequent interjections show. God confirmed Zechariah’s desire, and the preincarnate Christ stood by with approval as Joshua was clothed in righteousness and the high priest’s turban was placed on his head.


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