In his next vision from God, Zechariah observes Joshua, the high priest of Israel, standing in God’s presence, perhaps in his role as intercessor on behalf of the city of Jerusalem. During his time there, the priest was accused by Satan, probably for sins. Instead of agreeing with the devil’s assessment, the Lord rebuked Satan and reminded him that Jerusalem was a divinely chosen location and that Joshua was a ‘brand plucked from the fire’.
Unexpectedly, we see that Joshua is wearing filthy clothes. His attire told everyone that he was a sinner. Nevertheless an angel assured Joshua that his sins had been taken away and a new set of clean clothes was ready for him to wear. Since the angel had personally taken Joshua’s sins away, we should regard him as a divine being, the Angel of the Lord, a reference to Jesus before he became incarnate. In addition to taking away Joshua’s sin, the Angel also provided him with suitable clothes to wear in God’s presence, and this illustrates the righteousness of Jesus which is given to all who trust in him and which enables them to be in God’s presence.
Another angel then passes on a message from God to Joshua. First, his life of involvement in the temple required constant and comprehensive dedication to the Lord’s commandments (vv. 6-7). It was not sufficient for him to have on the clean clothes. This is a picture for us that depicts the fact that the status of justification always demands the practice of sanctification. In other words, we show that we have been justified when we live according to God’s Word. Our obedience does not justify us, but it is clear evidence that we have been justified.
Moreover, Joshua was reminded that he and his colleagues were signs that God was going to do something truly amazing (vv. 8-10). He was going to send his servant the Branch (Joshua and Zechariah would know what previous prophets, such as Isaiah [4:2; 11:1] and Jeremiah [23:5; 33:15], had said about the Branch). It is a title of the Messiah. When he came, he would remove iniquity from the land in a short time. After that had been done, the people of the land would have fellowship with one another (meeting one’s neighbours under vines and fig trees).
What was future for Joshua is now the past for us. But Christians too are signs that the Messiah has come and made atonement for their sins. And one of the easiest ways for them to function as clearly-read signs is to have fellowship together.