#2 (Series on the "Promises of God")




TEXT:         Zechariah 3:1-10


INTRO:       If you were asked what the greatest problem in the world is what would you say?  Would it be poverty, dictatorships, weapons production, food scarcity, political unrest, war, racial tensions, etc.?   The answer is "NONE OF THE ABOVE."  The greatest problem the world knows is SIN!  Hence the greatest need is FORGIVENESS! 


All of the other problems of this world stem from the heart of man which is sinful, therefore the greatest message mankind has ever received is that there is a promise of forgiveness through Jesus Christ our Lord!


The world is starved to know about this forgiveness and although they don't always admit it this is the heart's cry of the human soul, to know the cleansing power of God's forgiveness and to be right with our Maker!


ILLUS:    The story is told in Spain of a father and his teenage son who had a relationship that had become strained. So the son ran away from home. His father, however, began a journey in search of his rebellious son. Finally, in Madrid, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in the newspaper. The ad read: "Dear Paco, meet me in front of the newspaper office at noon.  All is forgiven.  I love you.  Your father."  The next day at noon in front of the newspaper office 800 "Pacos" showed up.  They were all seeking forgiveness and love from their fathers. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 218.


God has promised forgiveness to all those who will reach out to Him and embrace the Son who has given Himself so we can be forgiven.


PROP. SENT:   The Bible teaches us that God desires to forgive us our sins, that all we need to do is come to Him and ask, when we do He promises to cleanse us completely!


I.   CONDEMNATION!   3:1-3


A.   Failure   3:1-2

1.   The Bible clearly states that "All have sinned ... there is none that is righteous all have fallen short of the glory of God"

a.   There is an innate sense in all people of their own condemnation.

b.   We either grow up seeking for forgiveness or we grow up deadening ourselves to that innate sense of sin so we don't accept it!

c.   In this way we are either growing more sensitive to our sinfulness or growing colder about our own sinfulness.

2.   Those who choose to harden their hearts over the years will never acknowledge their need of God.

a.   They grow cold toward spiritual things.

b.   They develop a pride that sees no need of God and others.

c.   The end of this kind of pride is eternal death.

3.  Those that choose to remain sensitive to their sinfulness will eventually be driven to a solution for it, to find a way to rid themselves of the condemnation of sin.

a.   They will either beat themselves up over time ... or

b.   They will come to accept the forgiveness God offers in Christ!


ILLUS:    Martin Luther was one who struggled with his sins. Before his break with the Catholic Church he went to confession every day and was so guilt-ridden by his sins he would almost have gone every hour.  On most nights Luther slept well, but he even felt guilty about that, thinking, Here am I, sinful as I am, having a good night's sleep.  So he would confess that. One day the older priest to whom Luther went for confession said to him, "Martin, either find a new sin and commit it, or quit coming to see me!" -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988), p. 456.


4.   Satan stood with Joshua to accuse him, no doubt there were things to accuse him of!  Zec 3:1  “Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him.”

a.   The guilt of sin certainly was there.

b.   A solution to the sin problem was needed!


B.   Filthy!   3:3

1.   There can be little doubt about Joshua's sinfulness as he stands before the Lord here, he is dressed in "filthy clothes."  Zec 3:3 “Now Joshua was dressed in filthy clothes as he stood before the angel.”

a.   Israel had spent 70 years commingling with a secular society in Babylon, no doubt some corruption had settled on God's people!

b.   Though a high priest Joshua was unclean himself!

2.   Underneath it all we are all built the same ... with the same desires for sin as everyone else, it would be easy to become soiled!


ILLUS:    Yehiel Dinur survived the holocaust of World War II.  Many years later, he was called upon to testify at the trial of Adolf Eichmann, one of the architects of the holocaust.  As he stepped into the courtroom and saw Eichmann, he broke down in uncontrollable sobs.  Was Dinur overcome by hatred?  Fear?  Terrible memories?  "No," said Dinur to Mike Wallace of CBS News.  "I was afraid about myself.  I am -- exactly like he is. – Source Unknown


3.   To be a separate people Israel and their high priest needed a full cleansing!

4.   The only thing that separates us from the rest of the world is that fact that we have been washed by the blood of the Lamb!


II.  CLEANSING!   3:4-5


A.   Forgiven!   3:4

1.   Joshua's first need was his own cleansing; he could not lead Israel until he dealt with his own need!

a.   The "Angel of the Lord" here is Jesus Christ Himself!

b.   Instructions are given by the Lord for these filthy garments to be removed!

c.   God does not take something away from us without giving us something better back!  Joshua receives rich clean garments!

2.   It is clearly stated here that the visual image presented has to do with the forgiveness of his sins.

a.   Only God has the power to remove sins from us!

b.   There is no other way to be cleansed from sin except through Christ!

3.   The power of being forgiven will equip Joshua to be a good high priest!

a.   There is great power in forgiveness!

b.   Forgiveness when experienced changes people's lives!


ILLUS:    During the Korean War a South Korean Christian civilian was arrested by the Communists and ordered shot. But when the young Communist leader learned that the prisoner was in charge of an orphanage, caring for small children, he decided to spare him and kill his son instead. So they took his nineteen-year-old son and shot him right there in front of the Christian man. Later, the fortunes of war changed and that same young Communist leader was captured by the UN forces, tried, and condemned to death. But before the sentence could be carried out, the Christian whose boy had been killed came and pleaded for the life of the killer. He declared that this Communist was young, that he really did not know what he was doing. The Christian said, "Give him to me and I will train him." The UN forces granted the request and the father took the murderer of his boy into his own home and cared for him. And today, that young man, formerly a Communist, is a Christian pastor, serving Christ. This is the power of forgiving love that can only be described as superabundant, the kind of love the dying Stephen reflected in the Book of Acts. -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) p. 224.


4.   A life changed by God's forgiveness is a life that can have dramatic impact on other people's lives!

5.   Forgiveness received changes our status before God from one who is a cast away to one who is "FAVORED" by God!


B.  Favored!   3:5

1.   The guilt of sin holds the world in its power, only when that power is broken through forgiveness then the evil in this world can be broken!

a.   Unforgiveness fuels the constant warfare in this world, the constant broken relationships, the constant anger seen in this world!

b.   But forgiveness from God can change the human condition in ways that no social program can, there is real power in God's forgiveness in conquering the human tendency to hate and retaliate!


ILLUS:    On the evening of April 25, 1958, a young Korean exchange student, a leader in student Christian affairs in the University of Pennsylvania, left his flat and went to the corner to post a letter to his parents in Pusan.  Turning from the mailbox he stepped into the path of eleven leather-jacketed teenage boys. Without a word they attacked him, beating him with a blackjack, a lead pipe and with their shoes and fists. Later, when the police found him in the gutter, he was dead.  All Philadelphia cried out for vengeance. The district attorney secured legal authority to try the boys as adults so that those found guilty could be given the death penalty. Then a letter arrived from Korea that made everyone stop and think. It was signed by the parents and by twenty other relatives of the murdered boy.  It read in part:  "Our family has met together and we have decided to petition that the most generous treatment possible within the laws of your government be given to those who have committed this criminal action--.  In order to give evidence of our sincere hope contained in this petition, we have decided to save money to start a fund to be used for the religious, educational, vocational, and social guidance of the boys when they are released --.  We have dared to express our hope with a spirit received from the gospel of our Savior Jesus Christ who died for our sins." -- A. Leonard Griffith, Beneath the Cross of Jesus -- James S. Hewett, Illustrations Unlimited (Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers, Inc, 1988) pp. 213-214.


2.   It is Zechariah that requests that Joshua now be given the "Turban" too ... the headdress of the High Priest now that Joshua is cleansed!

a.   Israel needed leadership that could only come from a cleansed man.

b.   On this headdress were inscribed the words, "HOLY TO THE LORD" according to Ex. 28:36-38

3.   Joshua was favored by the Lord not because he was better educated or because he was from a wealthy family or because he knew the duties of the Priesthood; he was favored by the Lord because he was cleansed from his sins!

a.   God not only desires to CLEANSE us but also to CALL us to service!

b.   A call cannot precede cleansing however!

4.   Israel had been influenced by Babylon during those 70 years, now they would be influenced by a cleansed leadership that was marked, "HOLY TO THE LORD!"


III.  COMMITMENT    3:6-10


A.   Faithful!    3:6-7

1.   With cleansing comes responsibilities!

a.   Those that have experienced God's forgiveness will not take it for granted and live a licentious lifestyle; this would mock God's grace!

b.   Joshua doesn't simply walk away from God's forgiveness without being challenged toward continued faithfulness!

2.   God's grace is not cheap, and we cheapen it if we receive it without any responsibilities on our part attached to it!

3.   I was born free as an American though I did nothing to earn this, but as an American I am not free to do nothing and still enjoy my freedom; I must accept responsibilities if this freedom is to be enjoyed throughout my lifetime!

a.   And so it is with our freedom in Christ!

b.   Forgiveness is given freely to those who ask, but once we have received it we must be responsible for how we live with it.

4.   God's request to the forgiven Joshua is to walk in God's ways, not just express them verbally but to practice them!


ILLUS:    A missionary in India was once teaching the Bible to a group of Hindu ladies.  Halfway through the lesson, one of the women got up and walked out.  A short time later, she came back and listened more intently than ever.  At the close of the hour the leader inquired, "Why did you leave the meeting?  Weren't you interested?"  "O yes," the Hindu lady replied.  "I was so impressed with what you had to say about Christ that I went out to ask your driver whether you really lived the way you talked.  When he said you did, I hurried back so I wouldn't miss out on anything." – Source Unknown


B.   Future    3:8-10

1.   The call to responsibility in the present has an influence on the future!

a.   Joshua's call was leading somewhere, to a future High Priest who would be "HOLY TO THE LORD" ... a branch ... a MESSIAH!

b.   This forgiveness now was predicated on the future work of Christ, the "branch" was a symbol of the future Messiah to the Jews.

2.   Forgiveness is part of God's plan for mankind now and tomorrow!

3.   Forgiveness is God's plan to destroy Satan and sin!


ILLUS:    Here is a great thought from William Bennett:  "Every saint has a past.  And every sinner has a future." – Source Unknown


4.   God has big plans!

a.   For the human race Christ will be the means to forgiveness.

b.   For Israel there is yet a future day when they as a Nation will experience God's forgiveness in a single day!  This is a reference to the day when Christ returns again to establish Israel as the capital of the world!

5.   The only mystery yet to be solved is why some will not receive God's forgiveness in Christ!

a.   Forgiveness from Christ is leading toward a bright future when those who have accepted that forgiveness will one day rule and reign with Christ in a world that is everything man has ever dreamed the world to be!

b.   But to those who run away from God's forgiveness they will miss out on all that God has in store for man, all the good things of God to come!


ILLUS:    I read the story recently of how Louis XII of France treated his enemies after he ascended to the throne.  Before coming to power, he had been cast into prison and kept in chains.  Later when he did become king, he was urged to seek revenge but he refused.  Instead, he prepared a scroll on which he listed all who had perpetrated crimes against him.  Behind every man's name he placed a cross in red ink. When the guilty heard about this, they feared for their lives and fled.  Then the king explained, "The cross which I drew beside each name was not a sign of punishment, but a pledge of forgiveness extended for the sake of the crucified Savior, who upon His cross forgave His enemies and prayed for them." – Source Unknown


6.   The choice is ours ... to be forgiven or to remain a failure!

a.   Not only does your present life depend on which choice you make but so does your future life!

b.   You can choose to run away from God and miss out on being in His kingdom or you can choose to face Him and be forgiven and find a place of honor in His kingdom.

c.   What will you choose? 

(1.  The promise of cleansing!

(2.  The place of condemnation!


CONCLUSION:   Joshua as priest, Zechariah as prophet, and Israel as God's people had just spent 70 years living among an ungodly Babylonian empire and a Medo-Persian one.  The years of commingling had soiled their lives but God comes to cleanse them from their sins and to restore them to useful ministry.  To those who open their lives today the Lord will still cleanse and call to service!  Will you respond?