August 30, 2015

God Removes Guilt to Establish His People in Abundance: Joshua the High Priest

Speaker: Bret Rogers Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration Passage: Zechariah 3:1–10

Sermon from Zechariah 3:1-10 by Bret Rogers, Pastor
Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration (Part 5)
Delivered on August 30, 2015

Today, we look at the fourth of eight visions given to God’s prophet. Visions one, two, and three have already set the trajectory. God is rebuilding his temple-city. Vision 1—God returns to Zion to rebuild his city. Vision 2—God destroys all enemies who oppose his city. Vision 3—God floods the city with his glory and begins gathering people into his presence. But vision 4 presents us with a colossal problem: the people who are supposed to be in God’s presence are filthy with sin and guilt.

I mean, it’s great that God promises to rebuild his glory-city. But one of the biggest questions remains: how can guilty people enter God’s presence and live? Vision four not only raises that very question; it answers it. And the answer goes something like this: God removes guilt and then clothes his people to live in his city’s abundance.

The Colossal Problem: A Filthy Priest & People

Let’s look first at verses 1-3 where we get the colossal problem—the high priest is filthy with sin and guilt. Verse 1…

1Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2And 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?” 3Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments.

A priest’s role and his garments

In the Old Testament, God appointed priests to represent the people before him (Exod 28; Lev 6:8-8:36). God is holy, and his holiness is intensely good and pure (Exod 40:34-48; Isa 6:1-3). But that also means that God’s holiness was dangerous for anybody who lacked purity (Lev 10:1-3; Deut 4:24). It’s kind of like the sun: the sun is good, but if you get too close to it, you’ll die.

So, when God chose to dwell among an unholy people like Israel, he appointed special representatives to stand between his holy presence and his unholy people. The priests were set apart as holy to serve God this way (Lev 8:1-36). They had to be ritually pure and clean and consecrated for service (Lev 21:1-22:16). And when they met those qualifications, the priest would enter God’s presence on behalf of God’s people.

This becomes really clear in Exodus 28 when you look at the garments Aaron had to wear before the Lord. He couldn’t just enter God’s presence on his own terms—he had to be clean and he had wear the holy garments. And part of these garments were the ephod and the breastpiece of judgment. The ephod had two stones on the shoulders with the twelve names of the sons of Israel engraved on them. And the breastpiece had twelve stones, each stone representing one of the twelve tribes in Israel. As Aaron would enter the Holy Place, he would represent Israel before the Lord (Exod 28:30). He would carry the names of the people before God.

So the high priest had a crucial representative role. God dealt with his people’s sins through the priest (Lev 16:16, 21; cf. Num 18:1). He consecrated the priest, so that God might dwell with an unholy people (Exod 29:42-46).

Joshua’s filthy garments

But here we are in Zechariah. Zechariah gets a vision of God’s heavenly courtroom. The angel of the Lord is present—which on many occasions in the Old Testament amounts to a theophany. God himself manifests his presence in this angel (e.g., Exod 3:2; Ps 34:7). And Joshua the High Priest is standing before the Lord, not with the holy garments but with filthy garments.

We’re told in verse 4 that the filthy garments represent iniquity, another word for sin and the guilt associated with it (cf. Exod 28:38). Joshua is covered with sin. And it’s a most repulsive sight. The language here—filthy—is often used for human excrement (e.g., 2 Kgs 18:27; Isa 54:6; Ezek 4:12). Joshua is a cesspool. And if this is the state of the high priest in Israel, what do you think the people are like (cf. Hag 2:14)? More than that, what do you think it means for them entering the holy city? If their representative is this filthy, then what hope do they have before a holy God?

The scene by itself is devastating. They just returned from judgment in exile. That’s what’s meant by “a brand plucked from the fire” (3:2; cf. Amos 4:11). He’s like a smoldering stick plucked from the firey judgment of exile. Seventy years of paying for their sins. Now they’re back, and their high priest is still a cesspool of sin. Exile apparently didn’t do the job. It may have punished some sins (Isa 40:2), but it didn’t take away sin. “He’s still filthy, and that means we’re still filthy. What hope do we possibly have?” is the idea.

On top of that, Satan is at Joshua’s right hand accusing him, pointing out his guilt before the Lord. And notice, Joshua isn’t giving a defense. He isn’t saying anything. He is silent, because he knows he is filthy with sin and can’t do anything about it. Satan’s accusations are true…

The Gracious Solution: Electing, Cleansing, Clothing, & Pointing

They’re just not the whole story, thanks be to God. Satan never tells the whole story; and even the parts of the story he gets right, he twists for his own ends. The other side of the story is that God has grace that’s greater than all our sin, as the old hymn goes. Even in verse 2, we find hints that God has a plan to deal with this problem of sin.

God’s grace elects his people to dwell in Jerusalem

Standing behind that plan is, first off, his gracious election of his people: “The LORD rebuke you, O Satan! The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?” God chose to dwell with his people in his new city, Jerusalem. He didn’t chose them based on anything glamorous in them. He chose them simply because he loved them. And if God wants his elect people to fill his Jerusalem, then he will ensure they get there—that’s the point of the rebuke.

Who is Satan to bring a charge against God’s elect? They are his, and he will see to it that they are saved. Joshua is evidence of this. He’s the brand plucked from the fire of exile. Joshua is evidence that God’s purpose of election stands. God promised to bring back a remnant from exile; and Joshua is evidence that God is faithful to his word.

God’s grace cleanses from guilt & clothes with beauty

But even more is this: God’s electing grace—it never leaves sinners as they are. His electing grace purposes to make them into something beautiful, to take them somewhere wonderful (cf. Eph 1:4). His particular love for his people moves him to deal with the problem of sin by cleansing them and by clothing them. That comes now in verses 4-5…

4And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from [Joshua].” And to [Joshua] he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” 5And 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.

So the filthy garments are removed, and that symbolizes taking away Joshua’s iniquity. And remember, it’s not just Joshua’s iniquity, it’s also the iniquity of all the remnant Joshua represents. Then the Lord himself clothes Joshua with pure vestments. This isn’t something Joshua can do for himself. It’s something that only the Lord can do for Joshua. It’s by grace alone that God gives him pure vestments. And Isaiah helps us a little bit here with the “pure vestments.” Isaiah 61:10 gives us a complementary picture. Zion is rejoicing over the salvation God brings through his Servant. But when Zion rejoices, her song is that of a priesthood clothed with unimaginable beauty. Isaiah 61:10 says,

I will greatly rejoice in the LORD; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress…”

Same idea here with the pure vestments. They’re tailored for glory. Instead of clothes that give rise to Satan’s accusations, these clothes silence all accusations. The Lord essentially wraps Joshua in clothes suited for God’s holy presence.

And that’s where the whole deal with the turban comes in. You’ve got the Lord and his angels taking care of business, and it’s as if Zechariah can’t wait any longer for the crowning moment. He jumps into the vision himself; it wouldn’t make sense for him to hold back he’s so amazed: “Put a clean turban on his head!”

And this turban he calls for—if you think back again to Exodus 28—it’s the turban of the priest as he carried out his priestly duties. And it had a gold plate across the front; and inscribed on that plate were these words: “Holy to the Lord” (Exod 28:36-38). So why the turban? Well, it’s making a statement about the Lord’s redeeming work. His work is so complete that Joshua is now, set apart to belong to God and to serve God in his holy presence.

God’s grace makes Joshua holy for service in his presence

Which is exactly where the passage moves next. Joshua is now able to serve in God’s presence as he ought. Read it with me in verses 6 and 7:

6And the angel of the LORD solemnly assured Joshua, 7“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.

The consecration has a goal, in other words—to reinstate Joshua as high priest in God’s temple and really bring reform to the whole people he represents (cf. Ezek 44:23-24). He isn’t made holy to sit on his tail; he’s made holy to serve the people as God’s priest. He’s consecrated to spread holiness. He’s consecrated to usher the people back into the Lord’s presence. Notice that he now has the same right of access to God as the angels who helped clothe him earlier in verse 4 (Zech 3:4).

God’s grace in the priesthood points forward to a superior Priest

But why even keep this priest-thing going? If even the priests failed so miserably in the past, why bother reinstating Joshua? Because there’s still a question that must be answered. How can the Lord just cleanse Joshua like this? How can he just remove his filthy garments and give him new garments, seemingly without any penalty to be paid? That doesn’t fly even in our broken courtrooms on earth; and when it does happen, there’s outrage. What kind of judge sees a man’s wrongdoings, and hears the truth of the accusations brought against him, and then just lets him go, gives him a place of service in his courts? Where’s the required punishment? Where’s justice going to be satisfied?

The answer to all those questions is bound up with something God would do centuries beyond Joshua and Zechariah’s day. As long as the old covenant is in place—as it still was following the exile—the priests remain a sign for something God would do in the future. They were to be shadows of the substance that was to come (Heb 8:5). Their faithful service wasn’t an end in itself; it was a pointer to a superior Priest.

The Superior Priest

And that’s where the passage takes us next in verses 8-10: “Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you [these are his fellow priests, cf. Zech 5:10, 14], for they are men who are a sign” (cf. Isa 8:18)—a sign pointing to God’s future work through a superior Priest. And what kind of Priest would this be?

A Priest who also serves as King

Well to begin, he would be a Priest who also serves as King. “Behold,” verse 8 says, “I will bring my servant the Branch.” We know from 1:4 that Zechariah is familiar with the former prophets—prophets like Isaiah and Jeremiah. And sure enough, if we go back and read their books, we find this same title, “the Branch.” Zechariah is now expanding on previous prophecy, and linking the priest with the Branch. And the Branch is a codeword for God’s anointed King, who eventually comes from David’s family line.

So for example, in Isaiah 10:33-34 God chops down the Assyrians like a lumberjack chops down a forest. And all that remains are stumps everywhere. And then Isaiah 11:1 says, “there shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.” Jesse was King David’s father, and for a branch to come from his roots was for a descendent to come. He was supposed to sit on the throne, and bring God’s kingdom on earth—that’s the rest of Isaiah 11. Jeremiah 23:5 also speaks of this Branch coming to reign as the new King David and restoring righteousness to all the land, so that God’s people dwell safely (cf. also Isa 4:2; Jer 33:15; Ps 132:17; Zech 6:12).

A Priest who establishes a new covenant

Next, he would be a priest who establishes a new covenant. This one is a bit trickier; and it involves a bit more explanation. I’m getting it from verse 9, but you’ll find as we read verse 9 that things aren’t all that simple—I mean there’s a stone with seven eyes. Verse 9 explains why God is bringing his servant the Branch; and it reads like this in the ESV, “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.”

Whoa! What in the world is that about? Just among the studies I read this week on Zechariah 3:9, I counted fourteen different interpretations. I’m going to give you two of the best possibilities, and then give you a third possibility which is the way I read it—which you should also know I found nobody else saying. So you’re going to have to take your Bibles, and do as 1 Thessalonians 5:21 says, and test everything; hold fast to what is good. Eat the chicken, chunk the bones. But it would be dishonest of me to pretend like I thought it said something other than what I think it does.

So here are two views that I think have a lot going for them. The first view is that the stone is a direct reference to the Messiah. And a few things favor this view. We’re dealing with a passage about the Messiah. There’s also the surrounding context of the temple being built. And other prophecies in the Old Testament link the messiah with a stone, especially the cornerstone (e.g., Isa 26:18; Ps 118:22).

The weakness I find with this view is that it never gives a very good explanation for the engraving. And also, chapter 4 tells us that Zerubbabel will oversee the temple project, not Joshua (Zech 4:6-10).

But there’s a second view that does give a good explanation for the engraving, and it relates well to Joshua. I’d take this view, if it weren’t for the third view I’ll give you in just a second. The second view is that the stone with the engraving recalls the various stones on the priestly garments—whether that’s the stones with the names of Israel engraved on them, or the one gold plate on the priests turban with the engraving, Holy to the Lord. In either case, it has something to do with a stone on the priest’s garments, and that means the Branch/Messiah will come in a priestly role.

That’s pretty good. It fits the context really well; and it even matches the way the stones are described in Exodus 28. The difficulty I have with this view is that it requires you to translate “the seven eyes” as seven pairs of eyes—that would equal fourteen “eyes” and refer to the fourteen stones on the priests garments. But since there’s only one stone in our passage, that seems to be a stretch. Or better, some translate “the seven eyes” as seven facets of a single stone (e.g., Ezek 1:4, 7, 16), which you can see the ESV puts as one option in the footnote. And that would best refer to the one stone in the priest’s turban. It’s just that the priest’s turban had a gold plate, not a stone (Exod 28:36). And, the stone seems large enough, that it’s “set before” Joshua (Zech 3:9).

So, having said that, here’s my view—at least for now. The stone God sets before Joshua is a stone with the promise of the new covenant written on it: “I will remove the iniquity of this land in a single day” (cf. Jer 31:34; Heb 8:7-13). The only other place in Scripture where God himself writes something on stone is when we writes the Old Covenant on two tablets of stone and gives them to Moses (e.g., Exod 24:12; 31:18; 34:1, 4; Deut 4:13). But the reason he brings the branch is to establish a new covenant with the forgiveness of sins in a single day (cf. Zech 9:11; Matt 26:28). And you might say, “Well then what about the seven eyes? Does the new covenant document now have seven eyes?” Good question. Two responses.

First off, I think Zechariah 4:10 tells us exactly what the seven eyes represent. Remember that these visions are interlocking visions. They help explain one another. And in this case, Zechariah 4:10 helps us understand Zechariah 3:9. “For whoever has despised the day of small things shall rejoice, and shall see the plumb line in the hand of Zerubbabel. These seven are the eyes of the LORD, which range through the whole earth.” The idea is that as long as God’s eyes are set on Zerubbabel and his building of the temple, nothing will stop it from happening. I think these are the same eyes set on the establishment of the new covenant through the Branch—he just waits till chapter 4 to explain it a bit further.

Which leads me to the other part of my response: I think a better English translation of verse 9 can be found in the New American Standard Version. And it goes like this, you can see it on the screen: “For behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes.” Now that could mean the stone itself has seven eyes—like we see in the ESV—but it could also mean the stone has seven eyes gazing on it (cf. idiom in 2 Sam 22:28; 2 Chron 20:12; Jer 16:17; 24:6). And that’s exactly what would be implied by 4:10. These seven are the eyes of the Lord, and his eyes are fixed on this stone.

He will not take his eyes off this stone, until the Branch finishes the covenant. The promise to establish a new covenant is written by God in stone; and its outworking is certain because he doesn’t take his sovereign gaze off it until it’s all done. This is why he is sending the Branch, to establish a new covenant, and that new covenant is the forgiveness of sins, Jeremiah 31:34 says. So take it home, test it, and hold fast to what is good.

A Priest who brings an abundant kingdom

Lastly, the superior Priest to come will be a Priest who brings an abundant kingdom. Verse 10, “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 is using the categories of the past to describe the future. The idea of every one inviting his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree—that idea is sprinkled throughout the Scriptures to signify the abundance of God’s final kingdom. The promise begins back in Genesis 49:10. God promises a lion-like son from the tribe of Judah. He will establish his reign; and during that reign, the earth will be so prosperous that you can let the donkeys graze freely on the vineyards.

Then you move forward a little bit further to the kingdom of Solomon, who is a son from Judah. First Kings 4:25 says that “Judah and Israel lived in safety…every man under his vine and under his fig tree, all the days of Solomon.” But that kingdom was then lost to the exile. So then in step the prophets using the same categories, only this time they point to a future day, in which the same would be the case not just in Israel but all over the earth—and you can find that in Micah 4:1-4 and Isaiah 25:6-8 and Jeremiah 31:10-12 and Amos 9:11-14.

The superior Priest is Jesus Christ

So this is the superior Priest Zechariah waited for—he would serve as King; he would establish a new covenant in which there’s true forgiveness of sins; and he would bring his people into an abundant kingdom. Our New Testament tells us that Jesus Christ fulfills every part of Zechariah’s message. And there’s no better place in the New Testament where all four of our categories come together than in the book of Hebrews.

Hebrews is a book where Priest, King, covenant, and kingdom all weave together in the person of Jesus Christ. Jesus sat down at the right hand of majesty after making purification for sins (Heb 1:3)—King and Priest. Jesus was made to be like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Heb 2:17). Jesus is the priest after the order of Melchizedek—the priest-like king of righteousness—and that makes him the guarantor of a better covenant (Heb 7:2, 15-22).

Why better? Well, the former priests—like Joshua!—were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office. But Jesus holds his priesthood permanently, because he lives forever (Heb 7:24). Joshua died and stayed in the grave because he was a sinner; Jesus died and rose from the grave because he had no sin. Consequently, he is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them (Heb 7:25).

Or again, Hebrews 9. Jesus has opened the way for us into the Holy of Holies; he gives us complete access to God. How? He entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption…Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant (Heb 9:12, 15).

Jesus offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, and he sat down at the right hand of God [as King], waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet (Heb 10:12). And that ultimately means this, we have received an eternal kingdom that cannot shaken (Heb 12:28).

That’s the book of Hebrews in summary. And that’s how God answers the questions raised earlier about how he can cleanse and clothe sinners so freely, and let them serve in his presence. Jesus is the answer. Jesus silences the accusations. His blood takes away our sins. His righteousness gives us access to God’s throne. He rules the kingdom that can’t be shaken. And his salvation suits us for God’s abundant kingdom.

Living as those Cleansed & Clothed

So where might some of these things meet you and me this week? There are too many count, but I’ll leave you with four big areas where vision four led me this week.

Only Jesus’ righteousness saves, not your own

First of all, remember that only Jesus’ righteousness saves, not your own. Vision four is one of the simplest illustrations of our salvation. This is exactly what God does for us when we trust in the person and work of Jesus Christ. When you trust in Jesus Christ, God removes your guilt—he takes away your filthy garments—and he gives you Christ’s righteousness—he robes you with pure vestments. The righteousness that belongs solely to Jesus, God counts it as your own when you believe. He sees you now in Christ.

Pay attention here, because some people stop short of this when they talk about the gospel. When God justifies a sinner, he doesn’t just take away your sin; he gives you all of Christ. He doesn’t just get rid of all the guilt you earned; he gives you all the righteousness Christ earned. You cannot stand before the holy Judge merely acquitted for your sins; you must also be righteous. Christ became a man and obeyed his Father at every point—the climax of which is his death on the cross—so that his righteousness, his obedience, his moral purity would all be transferred to you when you believe.

If you’re not wearing these garments, you will not be able to enter God’s presence. And note that I said wearing them, not just knowing about them. Wearing them—they are part of you and shape you and transform you and thrill you. If that’s not true of you, you won’t be able to stand in God’s presence and live. But you can have these garments simply by trusting in Christ to save you. He will give them to you, and he will set you apart as holy to the Lord. What’s harder to do is to keep trusting that Jesus’ righteousness saves, not our own. And that turns up different ways in each of our lives, doesn’t it?

For example, husbands, you know in those moments when your wife comes to you, and gently corrects your sin, or tells you ways that you can lead her better, or maybe suggests that your tone was a bit harsh earlier. And rather than receiving her criticisms and welcoming the Lord’s grace through your bride, everything in you cringes at the thought that you could possibly be a sinner. I’ve found myself in the kitchen, and for fifteen minutes I’m trying to creatively justify my sin. Did you know that in those moments you are being tempted to trust in your own righteousness to save you? Rather than casting yourself down at the cross, you want to stand on your own, give your defense. That doesn’t fly in the Lord’s presence. Admit your sin and trust in Christ to save you.

Or maybe you’re at a ballgame with the family, and your child is acting up in front of others. And as it goes on, you get embarrassed and start wondering what others are thinking about you, and you begin to fear everybody’s judgment about your parenting, to the point that you find yourself angry that this little one smearing your reputation as the good parent that you are. Again, did you know that in those little moments Satan loves to chip away at your trust in Christ’s righteousness to save you? You will not stand before God based on your superior parenting skills, but solely on Christ’s righteousness given to you. That frees you to be patient and to find your acceptance with God, not with man.

Or maybe there are decisions you’ve made in the past that weren’t good. You carry the consequences of your actions, even as a Christian. And they follow you around, and they won’t go away even though you try to hide them. You feel ashamed, unclean, like at an outcast at times. I shared the gospel with a fella on Wednesday, who was ashamed to ask me for something to eat. He said he felt like scum for some of the decisions he made. He regretted his tattoos and the way he looked before others.

Maybe choices that you’ve made leave you feeling much like this friend I met on Wednesday. You have regrets over the way you’ve lived. Listen, you may be able to hide things from people, but you can’t hide from God. And he’s way more important. And you know what? He can hide you in the radiance of his Son. He can clothe you with splendor. Listen to me, he shared your shame and bore your shame in the cross. And that makes him a High Priest who not only can sympathize with your weakness, but pull you up out of it into glory. Who cares if the devil or other people accuse you of filth; let them—as Luther once said—list all the accusations they want, and then write at the bottom of the list, “Forgiven in a single day; righteous in Christ!” That’s where God’s eyes are fixed. Satan’s eye is fixed on your filth. God’s eyes are fixed on what he did to take it all away. So keep looking there too!

Only Jesus’ righteousness saves, not your own. Throw yourself on him every moment of the day. Don’t justify your sin, don’t hide your shame, confess it to your wife and kids and the church family. Walk in the light as he is in the light, and the blood of Jesus will cleanse you from all sin. Let your new garments free you to live in the acceptance that truly matters with God. Your sin doesn’t have the last word; Christ does. So humbly admit it and then trust Jesus to save you.

View your fellow believers as clothed in Christ

Second, view your fellow believers as clothed in Christ. You get a community dimension to this prophecy, not just in Joshua representing Israel but also right at the end in verse 10. Did you notice it? “In that day…every one of you will invite his neighbor to come under his vine and under his fig tree.” Yes, it speaks to the abundance of the kingdom we will share with each other in the future. But the future is supposed to shape how we view each other now. And these people want to be around each other.

I can’t help but consider how Christ’s righteousness has bearing on community with one another. If the Lord looks on his people as clothed in Christ’s righteousness, then ought we to look on each other through the same lens? Let’s say that a fellow Christian offends you or does things you don’t like. On those occasions, can you look at them as not just forgiven, but clothed in robes of righteousness? Can you disagree over a non-gospel issue (e.g., method of education, medicine, food), and walk away with the same fondness that God has for them in Christ? You both have the same clothes, and theirs are just as beautiful as yours.

If you can’t see that, you either think that you’re more worthy of the kingdom than others—which is self-righteousness—or you need Scripture to give you new eyes to see God’s people as they really are in Christ. The gospel creates something astounding—a whole community of people robed in Christ’s righteousness. Do you see each other that way? Do you treat each other that way? Do you speak about each other that way? This is who you are Redeemer, and the Scriptures dare us to believe it. It’s certainly where God is taking us.

Serve each other as fellow priests in Christ

Third, serve each other as fellow priests in Christ. We have new clothes, brothers and sisters, and they make all of us fit to serve before God together. Jesus is our Great High Priest, but the New Testament also refers to us as his kingdom of priests. You are a royal priesthood, 1 Peter 2:9 says. That means that you yourself have access to the presence of God; you can call out to him for grace to help in time of need. You can bring each other before his throne of grace (Heb 4:14-16).

Your daily life becomes set apart for his service, to spread his holiness in your marriage and to your children and to your coworkers with deeds of mercy. Hebrews 13:16 says “to do good and to share with others,” for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. These are the kinds of things you do as a priest in Christ. So as you learn of each other’s needs, meet them. Reach out to one another with hospitality. Find ways to intentionally keep each other prayed for and cared for. Counsel each other with the same sympathy Christ shows us. Direct each other away from what is unholy and point each other to what is holy. The nearer we are to his holy presence, the more we’ll be like him. You’ve all been clothed to take each other there. The veil has been torn; and the way opened by Christ. Let’s live together in his presence.

Come often to your High Priest for more grace

Lastly, come often to your High Priest for more grace. We have great needs, especially the need to grow in Christ likeness. We get weak in the fight against sin. We get weary in our love for others. We get dull to the glory of Christ. And we need more grace. When you are clothed in Christ’s righteousness, Hebrews 4 says we have access to the throne of grace. Ephesian 2 says we can come boldly, not because of who we are, but because of who Christ is. Know that if you belong to Jesus, you are welcome in God’s presence. Even when you sin, you are welcome. Your new garments fit you for heaven. And they will allow you entry into Christ’s abundant kingdom. Shall we cry out for more grace now in prayer.

other sermons in this series

Mar 20


Holy to the Lord

Speaker: Bret Rogers Passage: Zechariah 14:12–21 Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration

Mar 13


The Return of the King

Speaker: Bret Rogers Passage: Zechariah 14:1–11 Series: Zechariah: Return & Restoration

Mar 6