Friday, January 28, 2011

God Changes Our Clothes

Zechariah 3 records an awesome vision God revealed to the prophet Zechariah. In it the prophet saw Joshua the high priest. But there was a problem; Joshua was "clothed with filthy garments" standing before the angel of the LORD. The ESV Study Bible notes helps us understand that these filthy garments were "more precisely...garments soiled with excrement, which would automatically defile the wearer." Filthy!

What a picture of sin! We tend to forget how disgusting and defiling sin actually is. We make excuses for it, justify it, say that it's not so bad compared to others, etc. But in the presence of the holy and pure God our sin is like filthy rags. It's like wearing clothing completely soiled with dung, wet and nasty and clinging to us, defiling us in the presence of God.

But this was worse - this was the high priest of Israel, God's chosen people! His duty was to represent the people to God, to come before God's presence on the people's behalf; to make acceptable sacrifices and make atonement for the people. How could he do that if he himself was defiled? His wearing of these disgusting clothes in the presence of God showed that the whole nation was unacceptable to God!

Praise God this isn't the end of the story! If not for God's own choice to save his covenant people, we would be lost - defiled forever and cut off from God's presence! We cannot change our own clothes. We try, by turning over a new leaf and attempting to be 'better.' Adam and Eve turned over a new leaf after their sin in the garden, but fig leaves could never cover their sin. Neither will our good works. Our defilement comes from our hearts. Our clothes are soiled because we are soiled. Our disgusting sins are only the evidence of hearts that are corrupt before a holy God. We can't cleanse ourselves. But God can!

Zechariah the prophet continued to watch the vision as God did something about Joshua's soiled clothes. The filthy garments were removed and the word came, "I will clothe you with pure vestments" (3:4). God took away the sin and gave Joshua righteousness! Now the high priest of Israel could stand before God on behalf of Israel in pure clothes - acceptable to God and welcomed in his presence. The people were accepted through the mediating of the priest. What man cannot do to rescue ourselves from our sins, God does!

This was a specific vision for a specific time in Israel's history. But it speaks to us as well. Christ is our high Priest, representing his people to God. There was a time when our Priest, Jesus, stood before God with filthy garments as disgusting as Joshua's. What! Christ, the sinless Son of God? When did he wear soiled clothing before God?

It was at the cross, when he put our clothes on.

Jesus willingly robed himself in the filth-stained clothes of the people of God. He was judged by God in our place, for the things we have done. He bore our sins in his own body on the tree (1 Peter 2:24) and took our curse (Galatians 3:13) and became sin for us (2 Corinthians 5:21). Why? So that we could wear HIS clothes! His spotless robe of righteousness!!! " that in him we might become the righteousness of God" (2 Cor 5:21b).

Jesus exchanged clothes with us. He took our sin-soiled garments and bore the penalty from God for us. But he rose from the grave and forever shines in his righteousness, brighter than the sun! And all his people are forgiven and cleansed, and given the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ (Romans 3:22)!!! Hallelujah! Welcomed into the presence of God! Washed and sanctified and forgiven! Clothed forever in Jesus' righteous robe!
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness...  Isaiah 61:10a, ESV
God doesn't just cover up our sins. He has taken them away. He has given us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26) and is sanctifying us not only in our position before God, but in our earthly experience. So Jesus' righteousness is applied to our account, but also worked out increasingly in our lives!
Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. Revelation 19:7-8, ESV
Has God changed your clothes through faith in Jesus Christ? Rejoice!

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