The Yom Kippur of God, Part 3

In this post I am going to touch briefly on Zechariah 3 and the connection that the prophetic scene has to the Day of Atonement. We saw in the last two posts that the Day of Atonement in Leviticus is a rite instituted directly following false worship on the part of the Levitical priesthood (Aaron’s two sons) and is to be performed every year for the sake of the sins of the people but especially to sanctify the Tabernacle, the Holy of Holies and the court, because it is among a sinful people. The High Priest has to offer a sacrifice for his own sin and that of his family along with the sins of the people of Israel. This is a crippling reality because it means that even the priests of the Lord are sons of Adam in an important sense.

After this we see that the prophet Isaiah is swept up into the presence of God and is supplied with an atonement that turns him into a fire-breather, a smoking incense of judgment to Israel as the Holy of Holies was to Aaron’s sons. He is, by the ministration of the Seraphim on behalf of Yahweh the Priest-King of the Heavenly Tabernacle, a representative of the Lord against the evil’s of the people of Israel especially the shepherds (priests and kings). Isaiah becomes a minister of fiery judgment against all the sons of Aaron who are idolatrous in fact, but use play-acting worship of the Living God to “sugar o’er the Devil himself”. His Day of Atonement is on behalf of the prophetic office, set apart as a judgment preacher representing the Temple to the people. He was a type of Christ in this way, I will explain in the next post.

Now we are discussing my favorite chapter of the Bible, Zechariah 3! Ahem… Anyways… I will quote directly the whole chapter here:

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. And the LORD said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken away your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 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 garments. And the angel of the LORD was standing by.
And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my charge, 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. Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. For behold, on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven eyes, I will engrave its inscription, declares the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day. In that day, declares the LORD of hosts, every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.” 
- Zechariah 3 (ESV)

Israel in exile is Israel still dead in her iniquities. The people who return to rebuild the Temple need encouragement to continue and God provides that encouragement through his prophet Zechariah. The point of the passage is that God will vindicate his people who are in their uncleanness and if they continue faithfully he will give them charge of the rebuilt Temple. This is all framed contextually in the coming of the Branch and the seven-eyed stone and the removal of all iniquity from the land, as it was removed from Joshua.

This sort of talk is important because Joshua is unclean ceremonially and the devil has a case against him for that reason. God then declares his sovereign election of Jerusalem (which has become, at this point because of the regathering of the people of God there, a dwelling place for God himself in his mercy cf. Zech 2:4) and Joshua. He then declares that Joshua’s unclean/sinful garments which prevent him from accomplishing his high priestly duties will be removed and, with them, his iniquity shall be atoned for or removed. The unclean high priest brings us back to Aaron needing a bull for his own sin offering in order to draw near to the presence of God. Joshua is another Aaron needing cleansing and holy garments.

But God does not end the scene with that picture. After charging Joshua with a command for faithfulness (which Joshua’s house fails to keep, by the way!) God points out to Joshua that he and those around him are a “sign”. They are something that points to something else. That something else is the Branch that will build the Temple and sit down in it as a Priest-King, namely Jesus. This Branch is mentioned and then the stone with seven eyes is mentioned. I think they are both Jesus, in this case, because Jesus is the Rock and in him is the fullness of the Spirit (described as the seven spirits of God in the book of Revelation). The iniquity removal (more Day of Atonement language) is based in Jerusalem (“the land”) and the person called the Branch who is a seven-eyed stone. This removal of iniquity will usher in a Solomonic age of glory for the Israel that is pointed to by the “sign” that is Joshua and the Second Temple restoration crew.

The Day of Atonement is, in light of the three points I have written in these posts, a quite important Day.

The Yom Kippur of God is for the sake of the iniquity rampant throughout the Old Covenant (Aaron’s iniquity needing a sacrifice) and for the sake of the Tabernacle of God, so that God can dwell amongst his people Israel.

The Yom Kippur of God is a matter of judgment on the unfaithful of His House. It is as much about redemption as it is about judgment for presumption and idolatry (in the case of Aaron’s sons and Israel in the time of Isaiah). God’s grace is dangerous and the removal of sin comes through fiery coals and is the forebear of faithful preaching of judgment and grace indicative of Isaiah’s ministry. In Isaiah we also see someone taking representative authority for the Israel of God. Isaiah is made an incense, or an ascension/burnt offering in order to remove his iniquity and to purge the land as well.

The Yom Kippur of God is also an eschatological concept that looks forward to a time when the iniquity of the shepherds and flock of the Old Covenant is taken away once and for all and Israel can dwell with her God with no accusation from Satan and garments of glory as a covering. All of the people of God have become the dwelling place because God is truly present with His people. This is evident because God dwells in Jerusalem, because His people are there. The Temple’s restoration is going to happen, but the people need not fear God’s lack of presence, because He was faithful through the flames of exile and will continue to be faithful to fulfill His promises to them.

The Yom Kippur of God is Messianic and supposes that a Priest-King will be the one by whom the iniquity of Israel is taken away. He will, after putting the iniquity away, build his Temple and take His seat on the Throne. That is the case that will be the subject of our analysis of the Gospels’ depiction of Jesus and his trial and sacrifice at Calvary on the cross. From that will flow the implications for the Church.

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    • Sid Salcido
    • December 23rd, 2010

    Hey Will,

    Great analysis of your surprising “favorite” Bible chapter (really? it is my favorite chapter in Zechariah, but…). I like how you place it in the context of Yom Kippur.

    I’d like to add what I think this “unrighteousness” has to do with. You rightly connect this to the sins of Nadab and Abihu, who offered their own version of incense not relegated by the Lord’s prescriptions. Basically they were doing a Frank Sinatra, “I did it…MY WAY.” It was stealing the glory and honor of God AWAY from Him. It was making decisions in the place of God and seemingly OVER-RIDING His commands. It seems to me that the redeemed people of Israel had fallen into the same trap, and felt that they would do things their own way, which is why their garments were “filthy.” You remember Isaiah’s famous statement that “our righteousness is as filthy rags” (Isa. 64:6) because they were attempting to usurp God’s own commands with their own brand of righteousness.

    Proverbs 30:12 pretty much sums this up: “There is a generation that are pure in their own eyes, and yet is NOT WASHED from their filthiness.” For God this is the height of perversity, that a man would assume that His own righteousness is sufficient or EVEN EXCEEDS that of the written word. The Pharisees were a good example of this kind of self-adoration. They were the only people who continually, among all the sinners of Israel, got a good rebuking from the Lord Jesus Christ. And that is because they don’t think He, or God the Father Himself, are necessary, and that THEY themselves are an assett to Him. Imagine that!

    There are a lot of Christians (so called) who fit that description, and hopefully they will answer God’s call, as Joshua did, and be cleansed from that filthy thinking.

    Thanks for your analysis. It was very good, Will.

  1. February 8th, 2011

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