Did you join me yesterday in visualizing the ‘multimedia show’? Did you join me at the Apollo for ‘Anna and the Apocalypse’, a Christmas zombie musical?
High priest Joshua faces the ‘angel of the Lord’ with Satan the accuser. This is a bit more judicial than Job’s challenge, where the gods are just hanging around and Satan is trash-talking Yahweh into a bet on a human. It comes from the same Persian cultural context, and is one of the few references to ‘Satan’ in all of Hebrew scriptures.
Picture Joshua as a bedraggled refugee, singed by fire, stinking of smoke, and certainly not presentable in any high court, let alone this one. He’s a ‘firebrand’ – a stick pulled from a fire already burning. God tells the angels to whisk him off and clean him up first.
God gives Joshua a job – on condition that he lives right. The event of setting a cornerstone for the Second Temple is put in cosmic context. The promise is extended: a ‘Branch’ is coming to rule, in the prophetic tradition of hope for a new Davidic ruler, a ‘shoot from the stump of Jesse’.
Imagine the contrast between the Jerusalem faced by Zechariah and the returnees from Babylonian exile, and the promise of hanging out under their own fig and olive trees in the future fulfillment of restoration!
Zechariah 3 (NRSV)
1 Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan* standing at his right hand to accuse him.
2And the LORD said to Satan,* ‘The LORD rebuke you, O Satan!* The LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?’
3Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.
4The angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Take off his filthy clothes.’ And to him he said, ‘See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you in festal apparel.’
5And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him in the apparel; and the angel of the LORD was standing by.
6 Then the angel of the LORD assured Joshua, saying
7‘Thus says the LORD of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, 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.
8Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch.
9For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the LORD of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day.
10On that day, says the LORD of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.’