And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.…
We learn from the Book of Ezra (Ezra 2:36-39) that among the exiles who returned with Zerubbabel from Babylon, were Joshua or Jeshua, and 4289 priests. But they were in a sorry plight — their character is described by the prophet Malachi; and it was in sad contrast, as he suggests, to the original type of the priesthood represented in Phinehas. As a judgment on the priesthood, the whole body had fallen under great reproach (Malachi 2:9). The sense of shame becomes more acute when we stand before the Angel of the Lord. "He shewed me Joshua, the high priest, standing before the Angel of the Lord." In the world's twilight much may pass muster which, in the light of that sweet, pure face, must be utterly condemned. Garments which served us well enough in the short, dark winter days are laid aside when spring arrives; they will not bear the searching scrutiny of the light. In the ordinary life of our homes, we are less particular of our attire than when, on some special occasion, we have to undergo the inspection of stranger eyes. Thus we are prone to compare ourselves with ourselves, or with others, and to argue that the habit of our soul is not specially defiled. Alas! we reason thus in the dark. But when the white light of the throne of God breaks on us, we cry with Job: "If I wash myself with snow water, and make my hands never so clean, yet wilt Thou plunge me in the ditch, and mine own clothes shall abhor me." The more we know of God, the more we loathe ourselves and repent. What is to be done under such circumstances? Renounce our priesthood? Disclaim its God-given functions? No: remain standing before the Angel. He knows all — we need not shrink from His searching eyes — but He loves infinitely. He has power to make our iniquity pass from us, and clothe us with change of raiment — that white linen which is the righteousness of saints. It is at such moments, however, that our great adversary puts forth his worst insinuations." Satan standing at his right and to be his adversary. Since he was cast out of his first estate, he has been the antagonist of God, the hater of good, and the accuser of the brethren. He discovers the weak spots in character, and thrusts at them; the secret defects of the saints, and proclaims them upon the house tops; the least symptom of disloyalty, inconstancy, and mixture of motive, and flaunts it before God's angels. He is keen as steel, and cruel as hell. Ah, it is awful to think with what implacability he rages against us! When we pray, he is quick to detect the wandering thought, the mechanical repetition of well-worn phrases, the flagging fervour. When we work for God, he is keen to notice our desire to dazzle our fellows, to secure name and fame, to use the Cross as a ladder for our own exaltation instead of our Master's. "Is this," he hisses, "the kind of service which Thy chosen servants offer Thee?" And when, like Job, we do bear trial patiently and nobly, the great adversary suggests that we do it from a selfish motive — "Doth Job serve God for nought?" Satan cannot reach the Son of God now, save through the members of His body; but he misses no opportunity of thrusting at Him, as he accuses them. Let us notice the intervention and answer of the Angel of the Covenant.
1. It is spontaneous and unsought. Before Joshua had time to say, "Shelter me," his faithful Friend and Advocate had cast around him the assurance of His protection, and had silenced the adversary. "The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan." As the Aaronic Priest, He died; but as the Melchizedek Priest, He ever lives to make intercession on our behalf; and as the torpedoes of the enemy are launched against us, He catches them in the net of His intercession, and makes them powerless to hurt. Before we call, He answers.
2. It is founded on electing grace. For He says: "The Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee." Before ever He chose her, He must have foreseen all that she would become, her backslidings and rebellious, her filthy garments, her wounds and bruises and putrefying sores; but, notwithstanding all, He set His heart upon her. Satan could allege nothing which the Advocate had not weighed in the balances of His Divine prescience. He had realised the very worst before making His final choice. Yes, thou great adversary, thou canst not tell our Lord worse things about us than He knows; and notwithstanding all, He loves, and will love.
3. Moreover, it has already done too much to go back. The point of the metaphor which follows is very reassuring. "Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?" You have been writing all the morning at your desk, answering letters, assorting papers and manuscripts, destroying much that there was no need to keep. After two or three hours of work, there is a heap of papers which you wish to destroy, and you place them in your stove or fireplace, the fire kindles on them, and they begin to blaze. Suddenly, to your dismay, you remember that there was a cheque or note amongst them, or a letter with an address, or a paper which has cost you hours of work. As quick as thought you rush to the kindling flames, and snatch away the paper, and attempt to stay the gnawing edge of flame. But what an appearance the paper suggests! It is yellow with smoke, charred and brittle round the edges, scorched and hot, here and there are gaps — it is a brand plucked out of the fire. Would you have snatched it out if you had not valued it? And, after you have taken such pains to rescue it, is it likely that you will thrust it back to destruction? And would Jehovah have snatched Israel out of Babylon, and expended so much time and care over her, if at the end He meant to destroy her? The fact of His having done so much, not only proved His love, but implied its continuance. What depths of consolation are here! As we look back on our lives, we become aware of the narrowness of our escape from dangers which over whelmed others. We have been involved in companionships and practices which have ruined others irretrievably; but somehow, though we are charred and blackened, we have escaped the ultimate results. We have been plucked out of the burning. What can we infer from so gracious an interposition, except that we have been preserved for some high and useful purpose?
(F. B. Meyer, B. A.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And he shewed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.