Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Daily Devotional Thought--Form the Old Testament (A Vision of Joshua the High Priest)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

I wanted to share with you Luther's writing from yesterday's reading in the Treasury of Daily Prayer. He writes about the OT reading from Zechariah, specifically 3:1-10:

Zechariah 3:1 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. 2 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?" 3 Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. 4 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." 5 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. 6 And 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. 8 Hear now, O Joshua the high priest, you and your friends who sit before you, for they are men who are a sign: behold, I will bring my servant the Branch. 9 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. 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."

Here are Luther's thoughts:

This is a wonderfully choice vision, for it very vividly reveals to us the heart and innermost emotions of the priest. He had heard the clear command of God to rebuild the temple. Then, after hearing that Word, he thought that he should listen to God, but he still kept wrestling with himself over the problem thus: "Who knows whether God intends to approve? Perhaps God will reject us sinners." This is exactly the way the human heart battles against sin in the presence of God. For Satan so inflates and exaggerates sins that the heart becomes convinced that God will reject it. It can
conceive of no other God but one who now threatens it with a beating or a flogging. So here the high priest Joshua, crushed and terrified by his sins, does not dare go on with his task. Therefore he is strengthened and encouraged to believe that the Lord is not angry, that He has turned away the accusation of Joshua's conscience and is accusing Satan himself, who so discourages the heart with the heinousness of its sin that it cannot go on to serve its calling.

The Lord rebuke you, [O Satan]. This is a very wonderful and sweet comfort. Everything is contained in the fullness of this comfort, so neatly has he arranged all his words, as if to say: "From now on, Satan, stop opposing the priest. The Lord orders all things cursed which you inspire the timid priest to think about and which frighten him from his task. You are causing him to be downcast before God and to dare nothing before men. You are acting as if the Lord had completely rejected Jerusalem. But the Lord has not done this. On the contrary, He has chosen it and loves it as His own possession."...

Everything in this vision is revealed in such a sway that the vision declares and reveals God's will to the priest. It strengthens the priest so that he no longer
doubts that God will approve of his ministry, that his filthy garments have been
changed, and that his sin has been taken away. Now he wears new clothes, that is, a happy and joyful conscience which no longer flees from God, which thanks nothing evil about God but hopes for every good thing. Thus the fresh clothes do not mean works but grace and faith. (TODP, p. 1154)

As Luther saw the priest comforted by God's gracious promises of forgiveness, so too may you be comforted by Christ's robes of righteousness, given to you in your own Baptism. Amen.

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