Zechariah 3 – Joshua the Priest, the Symbol

Zechariah 3 Bible with Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Espresso Beans

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Today’s PassageZechariah 3

Today’s chapter introduces Joshua the high priest. Satan is prepared to accuse him, but the Lord steps in to his defense, takes away his dirty garments, and has him clothed with new robes and a clean turban. Upon reading the passage, I wondered: who is Joshua? While I had some theories, I wanted to get my hands on reliable information about Joshua before I started speculating, and I have vast swaths of information from all over the globe at my fingertips because it’s 2017.

I’m glad I did my research, because two of my three theories were at least partially if not thoroughly wrong. Here’s what I discovered.

Joshua, the high priest serving in the reconstructed Jerusalem temple, was likely a contemporary of Zechariah. We’ve actually seen him before; Haggai mentions him several times (Haggai 1:1, 12, 14; 2:2, 4), but I breezed right past those references without a second glance. Our good friends at Gotquestions.org inform us that he additionally shows up in Ezra 5:1-2 and Nehemiah 7:7, where his is rendered as “Jeshua”–same dude. However, he’s not the same as the Joshua who was Moses’ successor in the book of Joshua. Did his parents name him after the Mosaic Joshua? Perhaps. One can certainly speculate.

They certainly had his name’s meaning in mind when they selected it. The name “Joshua” is derived from YHWH, the ancient Hebrew name for God, and the Hebrew verb yasha, meaning “to save.” Punch those together, and you get “God saves” or “God is salvation;” the name is intended to convey that God and salvation go hand-in-hand. Moreover, when you transliterate it into the Greek alphabet, you get Ἰησοῦς: Jesus.

Christianity’s namesake, its Messianic savior, bears as his name “God saves.”

And Joshua the high priest, as he appears in Zechariah’s vision, symbolically points to the Messiah. I’m cautious–often too cautious–to embrace symbolic interpretations, but here the angel of the Lord comes right out and says it: “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” (8). A few hundred years before Zechariah’s time, Isaiah prophesied about the Messiah, calling him the Branch (Isaiah 11:1-5) and the servant of the Lord (Isaiah 42:1-4). In Zechariah’s vision, Joshua the high priest is intended to point forward to the Messiah.

But what does the vision mean, exactly? Now that we’ve got the facts straight about who Joshua is, we’re in a position to actually dig into their significance and answer this question. We’ll continue the discussion tomorrow.

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