Zechariah’s fourth vision

The angel of the LORD returns in the fourth of Zechariah’s eight visions. This time, however, the scene does not feature horses, a man, and myrtle trees. Rather, the prophet is granted access to a heavenly courtroom, where the high priest Joshua stands before the angel of the LORD (defender and judge), Satan (accuser), and attending angels. The setting here closely resembles that of the divine council before whom Satan accuses Job (Job 1-2). The key difference, however, is Joshua’s crushing guilt versus Job’s innocence. We pick up Zechariah’s fourth vision in verse 1 of chapter 3:

Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD, with Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan: “The LORD rebuke you, Satan! May the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Isn’t this man a burning stick snatched from the fire?” 

Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. So the angel of the LORDspoke to those standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes!” Then he said to him, “See, I have removed your iniquity from you, and I will clothe you with festive robes.”  

Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So a clean turban was placed on his head, and they clothed him in garments while the angel of the LORD was standing nearby.

Then the angel of the LORD charged Joshua: “This is what the LORD of Armies says: If you walk in my ways and keep my mandates, you will both rule my house and take care of my courts; I will also grant you access among these who are standing here.

“Listen, High Priest Joshua, you and your colleagues sitting before you; indeed, these men are a sign that I am about to bring my servant, the Branch. Notice the stone I have set before Joshua; on that one stone are seven eyes. I will engrave an inscription on it” ​— ​this is the declaration of the LORD of Armies ​— ​“and I will take away the iniquity of this land in a single day. On that day, each of you will invite his neighbor to sit under his vine and fig tree.” This is the declaration of the LORD of Armies.

Zech. 3:1-10

It’s important to note, first of all, that this is not the same Joshua who succeeded Moses as leader of the Israelites. Many centuries divide these two figures. Rather, Joshua serves as high priest on behalf of the nearly fifty thousand exiles who have returned from Babylonian captivity. His role is to represent all of God’s people. As such, his filthy garments symbolize not only his sin, but the sins of the Israelites, which have prompted Yahweh to vomit them out of the Promised Land for violating terms of the Mosaic Covenant (Lev. 18:24-30). In fact, the word translated “filthy” is linked to the Hebrew term for human excrement. It is one of the strongest expressions in the Hebrew language for something vile. 

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Article VIII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: The Lord’s Day

Following is another in a series of columns on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

The earliest Christians shifted their day of observance from Saturday to Sunday because Christ appeared to his disciples on the first day of the week.

Article VIII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“The first day of the week is the Lord’s Day. It is a Christian institution for regular observance. It commemorates the resurrection of Christ from the dead and should include exercises of worship and spiritual devotion, both public and private. Activities on the Lord’s Day should be commensurate with the Christian’s conscience under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.”

The designation of Sunday as the Lord’s Day is rooted in Scripture and in Christian tradition dating back to the days of the apostles. For example, Luke records that the apostle Paul and the disciples gathered in Troas for the breaking of bread and preaching on “the first day of the week” (Acts 20:7).

However, since a Jewish day begins at sundown, worship in Troas took place on Saturday night as Westerners reckon time. It helps us empathize with the sleepy-headed Eutychus, who wearied of Paul’s preaching and fell to his death from a third-story window, necessitating a miracle to restore his life (Acts 20:8-12).

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we see followers of Jesus gathering for worship on the first day of the week, which came to be known as the Lord’s Day (1 Cor. 16:2; Rev. 1:10). For Israelites, this could be any time from sundown on Saturday to sundown on Sunday.

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Zechariah and the angel of the Lord

Zechariah’s prophetic ministry begins after Israel’s return from exile in Babylon. The first part of the Book of Zechariah covers the prophet’s early days in ministry in Jerusalem, from 520 B.C. until completion of the second temple in 515 B.C. During this time, Zechariah – whose name means “the Lord remembers” – encourages the Israelites to complete the temple, restore the priesthood, and purify the city. 

The later portions of his ministry, which some scholars date as late as 470 B.C., foretell the coming of Israel’s true king, the Messiah, who is to reign over Jerusalem. Zechariah outlines God’s future prophetic program for Israel from Messiah’s first coming to his second coming. He offers a message of hope, urging the people to look up. The Lord remembers his people and will come to deliver them in the last days.

The first six verses of chapter 1 come in the wake of Haggai’s challenge to the people to finish rebuilding the temple in Jerusalem. Back in the city for nearly two decades, and having laid the temple’s foundation amid great fanfare, the Israelites have fallen prey to opposition and discouragement – so much so that they haven’t picked up a tool in sixteen years. Haggai’s primary purpose is to get the people to restart construction of the temple. 

Now, Zechariah urges the people to repent as well, for without spiritual renewal, a new temple is hollow tribute to their sovereign deliverer. Yahweh vows to return to his people if they return to him (1:3). The Israelites embrace God’s call, in contrast to previous generations that persisted in sinful rebellion (1:6). The stage is set, and the Lord is prepared to bless his people and restore the place where he has chosen for his name to dwell (cf. Deut. 12:5; 1 Kings 14:21; Neh. 1:9).

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Daniel 10: Who is the man dressed in linen?

In a final look at appearances of the angel of the LORD in the Book of Daniel, we should consider Daniel’s final recorded vision (Dan. 10-12), which includes the appearance of a “man dressed in linen.” It is now the third year of King Cyrus’ rule (536/535 B.C.). Daniel is about eighty-five years old. He enters an extended time of prayer and fasting as he mourns, perhaps because the Samaritans are hampering work on the temple in Jerusalem (cf. Ezra 4:5, 24). As he stands on the banks of the Tigris River, he enters what is clearly a visionary state (Dan. 10:1, 7). Here’s how Daniel describes it:

I looked up, and there was a man dressed in linen, with a belt of gold from Uphaz around his waist. His body was like beryl, his face like the brilliance of lightning, his eyes like flaming torches, his arms and feet like the gleam of polished bronze, and the sound of his words like the sound of a multitude.

Dan. 10:5-6

Only Daniel sees the vision. The men with him, however, are aware something supernatural is taking place. They are stricken with such terror that they run and hide. As Daniel stands alone, studying the vision, his strength is sapped, his face grows deathly pale, and he finds himself powerless. He listens to the words this man speaks and then falls facedown into a deep sleep (10:7-9).

Daniel describes the man as dressed in linen. Priests (Lev. 6:10), angels (Ezek. 9:2-3, 11: 10:2, 6-7), saints in heaven (Rev. 3:5; 6:11; 7:9, 13), and even God (Dan. 7:9) are depicted as clothed this way, so Daniel gives us additional details. The man wears a golden belt around his waist. This suggests wealth and power – perhaps a king or a judge. His body is like beryl, or chrysolite (Hebrew tarsis), a yellow-colored precious stone. His face is as brilliant as flashes of lightning, and his eyes gleam like flaming torches. His arms and feet (which include the legs) shimmer like polished bronze, indicating that his body has a fiery appearance, like burning metal. When he speaks, the sound of his words carries the strength of many people.

So, who is this man?

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Article VII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000: Baptism and the Lord’s Supper

Following is another in a series of columns on the Baptist Faith & Message 2000.

Southern Baptists refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances, meaning the Lord commands believers to carry out these symbolic activities, which picture the finished work of Christ and prepare us for his imminent return.

Article VII of The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 reads:

“Christian baptism is the immersion of a believer in water in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is an act of obedience symbolizing the believer’s faith in a crucified, buried, and risen Saviour, the believer’s death to sin, the burial of the old life, and the resurrection to walk in newness of life in Christ Jesus. It is a testimony to his faith in the final resurrection of the dead. Being a church ordinance, it is a prerequisite to the privileges of church membership and to the Lord’s Supper.

“The Lord’s Supper is a symbolic act of obedience whereby members of the church, through partaking of the bread and the fruit of the vine, memorialize the death of the Redeemer and anticipate His second coming.”

Southern Baptists refer to baptism and the Lord’s Supper as ordinances. That means the Lord commands believers to carry out these symbolic activities, which picture the finished work of Christ and prepare us for his imminent return.

Ordinances have no saving value, for a person receives everlasting life only by faith in Jesus. Even so, baptism and the Lord’s Supper are important acts of obedience.

Some, like Roman Catholics, refer to baptism and Holy Communion as sacraments, meaning they are necessary for salvation.

Others, like Presbyterians, also call baptism and the Lord’s Supper sacraments, but that doesn’t mean they are necessary for salvation. Rather, they are “means of God’s grace” – special ways that God speaks to our hearts, gives us a visible way of establishing the difference between believers and unbelievers, and prepares us to serve him.

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