1 Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the Angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to oppose him. 2 And the Lord said to Satan, “The Lord rebuke you, Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
The fourth vision shows the need for Israel’s cleansing from sin and the reinstitution of its priestly office. Israel’s internal cleansing from sin begins with the cleansing of its high priest. Verses one through five address Satan’s accusation against the high priest and how God deals with that accusation.
Then he [the interpreting angel] showed me [Zechariah] Joshua the high priest
This Joshua was the first high priest of the returning remnant from Babylon. His father, Jehozadak, was a priest taken into captivity in 586 BC (1 Chr 6:15). Joshua had an essential role as high priest in rebuilding the temple (Ezra 5:1-2; Hag 1:1-15). The high priest was Israel’s primary representative to God. He alone entered the holy of holies once a year on the day of atonement (Yom Kippur). He stood as the representative of Israel before God. He was a symbol of what happens and will happen to the nation.
standing before the Angel of the Lord,
The Angel of the LORD here is the pre-incarnate Christ. “Standing” here represents standing in the presence of the LORD to serve (Deut 10:8; 2 Chr 29:11).
and Satan [literally, accuser] standing at his right hand to oppose him.
“Satan” means the adversary. He accuses those who sin. If Joshua the high priest were rejected by God, then Israel as a nation would be rejected because the high priest stood before God, representing the nation of Israel.
And the Lord [second person of the Trinity] said to Satan, “The Lord [first person of the Trinity] rebuke you, Satan!
The LORD speaks to Satan yet distinguishes Himself from “the” LORD in the following phrase. Satan functions as the prosecutor of Joshua. Now the prosecutor is on trial.
The Lord who has chosen [Hebrew: continuance of the choice] Jerusalem rebuke you!
This is a judicial rebuke of Satan. The rebuke rests on the LORD’s choice of Jerusalem. God chose Israel above all other nations and has not gone back on that choice (Hebrew). His choice is permanent. Note that the intention was Jerusalem, not the high priest Joshua. Thus, the emphasis on the nation Israel here.
Is this not a brand plucked from the fire?”
The “brand plucked” here is a burning stick. This stick is a symbol of the returning remnant who survived the fires of Babylonian captivity.
This is a statement about the acquittal of the high priest Joshua. The high priest represented the nation of Israel on the Day of Atonement (Lev 16:1-10). The LORD acquitted him on behalf of the entire nation. The nation was snatched from the Babylonian exile. God spared the nation from total annihilation. God was not finished with the southern kingdom of Judah just because He sent them to Babylon.
Believers today have an Advocate who represents them continually to God.
God forgave the representative of Israel, Joshua the high priest, not because he was moral or religious, nor because he determined to do better, but because of His choice by grace (Ro 9:16; 11:5). How can we stand in the light of how we have violated God’s character? The only answer is that we have a Defender, an Advocate who pleads our cause before God (1 Jn 2:1-2).