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A New Dress Code

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And 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? Now, Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” And to him he said, “Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.” And 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.  Zechariah 3:1-5

Have you ever got the dress code wrong? Maybe you arrived in casual clothes while everybody else was dolled to the nines?  Or have you had other clothing mishaps? I recall many years ago, really enjoying a certain formal event, until I spilt a cup of black coffee down the front of my pale pink linen skirt! There was nothing I could do to remove or hide the damage. I felt every eye in the room was drawn to my stain. I felt ashamed and couldn’t wait to get away from the exposure. 

In this scripture passage, we hear words of amazing comfort and hope to all who similarly feel the shame of personal and corporate sin in the church. Here was Joshua, the chosen high priest to represent the people before God, finding himself the defendant in a courtroom with all eyes focused on his filthy robes, being accused by Satan of being unfit to appear before God.

How often do we hear that same accusing voice pointing out how unfit we are to serve? How many times do we try to come before God in prayer and find ourselves battling with condemnation because of our personal and corporate sin? How regularly do we experience a nagging unease as we join with others to worship, that we’re somehow contaminated and not presentable? How do we defend against the accusations that stir up shame?

For Joshua, it was God Himself Who took up Joshua’s case and throws Satan’s case out of court before he even gets started. Mud might stick, but a verdict of ‘unfit’ for one of God’s chosen ones would never stick! God Himself took on the clean-up project, symbolised by disrobing Joshua, followed by investiture in glorious clean, priestly garments. This change of clothes in Zechariah’s vision, points forward towards a day when what was prophesied would come in greater fullness.

So we look forward in Scripture and pick out similar language. We hear Jesus telling a story about a son smelling of pigs being invested with his father’s robe of honour, irrespective of merit.[1] We meditate on a Saviour Who in our place, allowed Himself to be shamefully stripped naked for crucifixion.[2] We rejoice as we anticipate a coming day when finally we will be perfectly robed in our bridal garments, fit for marriage to The Lamb.[3]

The story of salvation is told through the language of garments. Jesus, the only righteous One, was stripped of His righteousness, suffered the shame of our nakedness, so that we could receive His righteousness as our covering for our shame, becoming fit and presentable in Him for close communion with God.

What about today? For those of us in Christ, what are we doing with our new set of clothes? Are we growing into them? Paul explains we need to intentionally take off our old filthy rags or self-righteousness[4] and choose to put on righteousness and holiness in Christ each day in how we live. Why would I choose to wear my coffee-stained skirt when a pristine clean one is available? It seems so foolish, doesn’t it? Yet in reality, we know our own heart’s sinful bent towards independence rather than Christ-dependence. We need Holy Spirit’s help every day to choose a wardrobe of Christ-likeness that will glorify our Gracious God and silence the accuser!

Father, Help me to see myself as You see me, ‘in Christ’. May I put on the Lord Jesus Christ and wear the clothes that He has given me in His righteousness.  May the sacrifice of Jesus for me silence the enemy’s accusations. Amen.

[1] Luke 15:22 [2] John 19:23-24 [3] Rev 19:7-8 [4] Ephesians 4:22-24

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