<< JOSHUA, THE HIGH PRIEST, ETC. >>
And he showed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the angel of Jehovah, and Satan standing at his right hand, to resist him.
And Jehovah said unto Satan, Jehovah rebuke thee, O Satan; even Jehovah, who hath chosen Jerusalem, rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?
Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the, angel. And he answered and spake unto those who stood before Him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him He said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.
And I said, Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head, and clothed him with garments. And the angel of Jehovah stood by. And the angel of Jehovah protested unto Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house, and shalt also keep My courts, and I will give thee places to walk among those that stand by. Hear now, O Joshua, the high priest, thou and thy fellows that sit before thee: for they are men wondered at: for behold I will bring forth My servant, the Branch. For behold the stone that I have laid before Joshua; upon one stone shall be seven eyes: behold, I will engrave the graving thereof, saith Jehovah of hosts ; and I will remove the iniquity of that land in one day.
In that day, saith Jehovah of hosts, shall ye call every man his neighbor under the vine and under the fig-tree.-ZECHARIAH iii.
THE text is a prophecy that the infernal false principles of the Israelitish Church would infest the First Christian Church, which would be established by the Lord but which would fall into many falsities of ignorance; but that the Lord would remove such falsities, and would give the church truths, instead; and that the men of the church would have the understanding of truth, from the Lord, in the measure in which they would reject falsities from their minds and lives.
And, as all Divine prophecies are universal In their scope, covering all human conditions to which they are applicable, so the text also prophetically reveals. Conditions of the First Christian, Church, at the Second Coming of the Lord, and the formation and establishment of the New Church, symbolized by the descent of the New Jerusalem, as narrated in the Apocalypse.
THE LITERAL PICTURE.
The Jews who had been in captivity in Chaldea, had returned to Palestine, to find their country and its people in a degenerated condition. The temple of Jehovah, in Jerusalem, had fallen into decay, and the service and ceremonies of the church were neglected. Some of the Jews recognized and deplored the evil of these conditions ; but they feared that their national and personal evils had been so great that they could not expect the forgiveness of Jehovah, nor His help in the restoration of the people and of their former institutions.
But the prophets, especially Haggai and Zechariah, encouraged the leaders to make great efforts towards the restoration of Israel, and especially for the rebuilding of the temple of Jehovah. And, for their encouragement, the vision narrated in our text was given to Zechariah; in which Joshua, the high priest, was represented as a man accused of a serious crime, ,and brought before the judgev and confronted by his accuser; and, according to custom, clad in neglected and filthy garments. But the Lord is represented as pardoning the criminal, and, ordering his release, and his restoration to his former conditions; thus representing that the Lord would pardon and forgive Israel, and restore former conditions of prosperity, if the people of Israel would walk according to the Lord’s’ commandments, and reform their lives.
THE SPIRITUAL MEANING.
But, in the spiritual meaning, this dramatic picture of Joshua and Satan brought to Judgment, represents the dominant condition of mind in the Jewish Church, in which the Divine Word was falsified by the spirit of self-derived intelligence.
Joshua, as the high priest of Jehovah, here, represented the Lord. as to the Divine Word, and also in another sense, as to the natural humanity of the Lord; for those who profaned and perverted the Divine Word, even in its letter, would reject and despise the Lord, as ” the Word made flesh.”
Man’s selfish mind is always ready to accuse the Divine Word and the church of falsity and inconsistency. But the purpose of the Lord is not to condemn men, but to save them from their own evils and falsities; and so the Lord always rebukes Satan, the adversary, and the accuser of men. And this rebuke involves not only condemnation of Satan, but also the earnest Divine effort in opposition to Satan’s work. The more Satan can prove that men are burning in the fires of evil, the more the Lord seeks to rescue each individual person, as we would pluck a burning stick from the fire.
Satan is not a personal proper name; but an official title, meaning “an adversary,” as, for instance, an adversary, or opponent, in a suit at law. But the First Christian Church, taking everything in the Bible as literally as possible, supposed Satan to be an individual person, a fallen angel. But, in fact, there is no such great personal devil, an adversary and antagonist to the Lord. The devil is the principle of evil, in the heart of an unregenerate man, either on earth or in one of the hells; and any man in whom evil forms his fixed character is a devil. Speaking of Judas, Jesus said, ” Have I not chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?”
A distinction is made between the devil and Satan, the devil meaning the principle of evil, in the aggregate, and Satan meaning falsity in the aggregate. Satan resisting Joshua, the high priest, represents the spirit of sensuous falsity, operating in the individual mind of a man, or in the aggregate mind of the church, and antagonizing the Divine Word, especially in its life and spirit, and this, often, even while those who are in falsities profess to be governed by the literal sense of the Divine Word.
In every line of human life on earth, personal, official, or commercial, when we seek to do right, Satan stands at our right hand, to resist us; to alarm, depress, and discourage our efforts.
The hand represents power, which we exert especially by means of our hands. The right hand represents the power of the will, or heart, in its love of goodness. And the left hand represents the power of the understanding, or intellect, in its knowledge of truth. Satan standing at the right hand represents the false principles of our unregenerate nature exerting themselves to destroy the good which is in our hearts, from the Lord.
Thus Satan is the adversary, the accuser of the brethren, representatively personified. And when, by regeneration, this false spirit is cast out of our mind, our condition is represented in another picture, given in the Revelation xii. 9, 10: ” And the great dragon was cast out that old serpent, called the Devil and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world…. Now is come salvation and strength, and the kingdom of our God, and the power of His Christ; for the accuser of our brethren is cast down.”
Among- the Orientals, when anyone escaped a great danger, he was called “a fire-brand,” or “a brand plucked from the fire,” where, otherwise, he would have been destroyed. And the same figure of speech is applied to spiritual dangers, and to a repenting sinner, who is saved from the fires of hell.
By Oriental custom, a prisoner charged with a capital crime, was allowed to go without attention to his personal appearance; and he was clothed in filthy and ragged garments, as appropriate representatives of his supposed character. A similar custom existed among the Romans; and such accused persons were called “sordidati,” or filthy ones. And, in English, the primary meaning of the word “sordid” is filthy, vile. Garments, which clothe the body, represent the truths which clothe our affections, i.e., which enable our affections to present themselves properly. Good and honourable persons, especially in their appearance in public, are properly clad in decent clothing. But a low, mean, degraded, and filthy person seems appropriately clad in filthy clothes, or in rags. The mind has a natural perception of the fitness of things, in these representatives. And so, in the Scriptures, clothing is often mentioned in the way of representing spiritual conditions. In Isaiah lxi. 10, it is said, “I will greatly rejoice in Jehovah; my soul shall be joyful in my God: for He hath clothed me with the garments of salvation: He hath covered me with the robe of righteousness;” referring to the glorious truths which are given to the regenerate mind, by the Lord.
CHANGE OF GARMENTS.
When Jesus was transfigured before His three disciples, it is said that “His face did shine as the sun and His raiment was white as the light.” In this case, ‘even the appearance of the garments was changed. And a change in the appearance of garments, or, a change of garments, represents a change in the state of mind of the man who beholds these things, or who is thus represented.
Filthy garments represent the false principles which spring from evil. And to have the high priest clad in filthy garments is, representatively, to have the Church taught falsities instead of truths; and to ascribe falsities to the Lord’s Word, and thus to the Lord, i.e., to pervert and falsify the teachings of the Divine Word; and to hold in contempt the Divine Humanity of the Lord. But to takeaway the filthy garments of Joshua, and to clothe him with good clothing, is to restore to the church the understanding of the Divine Word, and thus to lead the church to reject the falsities of self-derived intelligence. And, in this way, the Lord regenerates the church, and causes the iniquity of men to pass away; i.e., to be rejected by men, and remitted to the hells, whence it came.
After clean garments were given to Joshua, “they set a fair mitre upon his head.” A mitre, or bishop’s official hat, represents the intelligence and wisdom of the church, from knowledge and love of the spiritual truth taught by the Lord, in His holy Word.
WALKING IN THE LORD’S WAYS.
The angel then said to Joshua, “Thus saith Jehovah of hosts: If thou wilt walk in My ways, and if thou wilt keep My charge, then thou shalt also judge My house; and shalt also keep My courts.” That Joshua should walk in the ways of Jehovah, represented that the church should live according to the teachings of the Lord’s Word. The proof that anyone sincerely believes a truth is that he obeys that truth in all his life, inwardly in his affections and thoughts, and outwardly in his conduct.
Joshua, as the high priest, had charge of the church, as the servant of the Lord. It was the Lord’s charge, but, in a certain way, delegated to the priest. And so the church must have charge over the Divine things of goodness and truth, entrusted to the church, either the church in the aggregate body, or the church in each man’s mind.
To judge the Lord’s house was to lead the house of Israel. But, spiritually, it is to apply the good principles of the Divine Word to the conduct of life, when the rational mind is opened to see spiritual truths, in their principles and in their practical application. To keep the Lord’s courts is to keep the externals of the church in good order.
The prophets and the priests of Israel were official representatives of the Lord — they were signs before the people; and, as such, their doings were closely observed by the people. Ezekiel, at the command of the Lord, enacted a parable before the eyes of the Israelites, removing his household goods, as if to go into captivity. And then the Lord instructed Ezekiel to say to the people, “I am your sign; like as I have done, so shall it be done unto them: they shall remove and go into captivity.” (Ezekiel xii. 11.) These are the things meant by the men that sat before Joshua being “men wondered at;” i.e., men who were signs to the people.
But the greatest of all signs to men would be the Messiah, the Lord, Jesus Christ, meant by the Branch, the Humanity which should grow out of the Divine Jehovah. “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stern of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots.” (Isaiah xi. 1.) ” Thus speaketh Jehovah of hosts, saying, Behold the Man whose name is the Branch: and He shall grow up out of His place, and He shall build the temple of Jehovah : .. . and He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon His throne: and He shall be a priest upon His throne.” (Zechariah vi. 12, 13.)
“The stone that I have laid before Joshua,” represented the Divine Word, even in its literal sense, set before the church, that the people may ascribe the truth to the Lord. And this Word would serve as a cornerstone of the new temple to be built in the minds of the people of the church. In its highest sense, this stone is the Humanity of the Lord, as the foundation of the church on earth, and of the inward temple in every regenerate mind. “Behold, I lay, in Zion, for a foundation, a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner-stone, a sure foundation.” (Isaiah xxviii. 16.)
This stone is said to have seven eyes. Eyes, by which we see, represent the understanding, or intellect, by which the mind sees. Seven represents that which is perfect and holy. To have seven eyes, representatively, is to have full and perfect understanding of the truth. But, as it is a stone which the Lord lays, or sets, it represents the perfect watchfulness and providence of the Divine Wisdom. When the prophet Zechariah had seen a golden candlestick, with its seven lamps, the Lord said ” These are the eyes of Jehovah, which run to and fro through the whole earth” (Zechariah iv. 10); i.e., the perfect Divine Providence.
To engrave upon this stone is to impress the Divine Wisdom upon the Divine Word, even in its letter. And when the Divine Word is received by the church, as the truth of the Lord, loved, understood, and practised, then the iniquity of the land shall be removed.
VINE AND FIG-TREE.
And then “every man shall call his neighbor, under the vine, and under the fig-tree.” In the hot countries of the Orient, in times of prosperity, families would often take their meals in the open air, under the shade of trees and vines, especially the grape-vine and the fig-tree, because these were the common possessions of the country, yielding the fruit for the table. In such times, a passing neighbor, or traveller, would be invited to join the family in their repast. And these things became the representatives of peace and prosperity. The grape-vine represented spiritual truth, bearing the grapes of spiritual goodness. And the fig-tree represented natural truth, bearing the figs of natural goodness. And thus when a man could rest and eat in peace, under his own vine and fig-tree, he represented a condition of mind in which the man of the church, well instructed in truth, can rest in the spiritual peace of regeneration, in the love and understanding of both spiritual and natural goodness. “And Judah and Israel dwelt safely, every man under his vine and under his fig-tree, . . . . all the days of Solomon.” (I. Kings iv. 25.)
These representative promises were given to ancient Israel; and they are given to us, also, and to every other age of the church; for the Divine Love and Wisdom are earnestly seeking to bless men, at all times, and in all places. All these glorious pictures of noble spiritual conditions may be portraits of our lives, to-day, if we are willing to search out our evil tendencies, and to repent of our evils, and to reform our lives. Our Lord has promised that “No good thing will He withhold from them that walk uprightly.” O Lord, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee.”
Author: Edward Craig Mitchell 1903