When Our Sin Abounds God's Grace Surpasses
When Our Sin Abounds God's Grace Surpasses
The room glows with an atmosphere of reverence and mystery. To find oneself in the midst of such a place brings feelings of both fear and anxiety. With curious onlookers staring in anticipation of a verdict, the courtroom is almost dripping with anxiety. Only two choices are possible in such a situation, namely, guilty or justified. With a single word a person could find him or herself in an inescapable position of guilt and condemnation or of innocence and freedom.
Too often in a world stained with sin, the ability to truly determine the innocence or guilt of an accused person is at best speculation and assumption. As one flips through the pages of time and considers the many people who have either been wrongly condemned or wrongly justified, it is only natural to ask, “Is life fair?” The answer to such a question is up for debate; however, the probable outcome for everyone is that life at times will appear to be fair, but sooner or later the sour taste of reality will bring one to conclude a simple “no” to the question. Nevertheless, before crying out in inconsolable frustration for justice to be had, one should consider his or her own position. Such consideration may produce the overwhelming feeling of self-satisfaction and security if it is done by comparing oneself to other earth dwellers whose garments are more soiled than ones own. However, if we seek to determine our measure of innocence and cry out for our own well deserved justice, the comparison we must engage in is between oneself and the one and only standard bearer of righteousness; namely, Jesus Christ the righteous One.
Based upon such a comparison is there any who are truly righteous or who can escape the verdict of “guilty” before a judge who knows all? When standing in the courtroom of a righteous and holy God, is it fairness that we want or could it be that mercy is our greatest friend when we carry with us the irrepressible stain of unrighteous guilt? When Satan throws the darts of accusation before man and God, can the accusation be refuted by revealing ones innocence? Can we stand unflinching before the accusations of wrong doing and rebelliousness? Sadly, the answer to such a question is no...for there are none who are righteous, not even one! Left in such a circumstance to fend for ourselves hope takes wings a flies to heights unreachable. However, what if there was a way for the guilty to be declared righteous, for the sinner to be pardoned or for the hopeless to find hope?
It is this time stopping picture that is broadcast from Zechariah 3:1-5. After hearing the words of the prophet Haggai and returning to the work of rebuilding the Temple, the prophet Zechariah shines lights of encouragement and hope on the people of God. The message of “justified by grace, covered by righteousness” rings loud and clear through these brief words and it is a message that brings hope to all who seek to escape their rebellious traitors heart.
Zechariah 3:1 records the following, “And he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” The scene is all too common in the life and mind of a Christian. The “father of lies”, Satan himself, whispers into the ears many misdeeds that we so prone to fall to. However, one must not presume that the substance of what Satan whispers in the ears is always that which is a lie. Often, the lie is not found in the description of the deed, but in the omission of God’s mercy. As one gazes into this particular courtroom, he or she would do well to keep in mind the fact that Joshua, the high priest, stands as the defendant, whereas Satan stands as the finger pointing prosecutor. The picture could easily be one of lost hope and sure condemnation were it not for the fact that Joshua, who represents the people of God, had a prestigious defense attorney on his side; the angel of the Lord. Determining who the angel of the Lord is proves quite simple when one is reminded of the fact that according to John 2:1, when sin comes into the picture of a believers life, we are to rest assure that Jesus Christ is right by our side as the Advocate.
Zechariah 3:2 records the following, “And the LORD said unto Satan, The LORD rebuke thee, O Satan; even the LORD that hath chosen Jerusalem rebuke thee: is not this a brand plucked out of the fire.” As Satan speaks in hopes to oppose and ridicule, the voice of one with authority speaks up. The one whom has such authority at his command can be none other than the Lord Himself. It is interesting to see that Joshua never speaks in this classic court case; a fact that can only remind one of his or her own inadequacy in such a position.
This picture of helplessness is clearly seen in Zechariah 3:3 which states, “Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel.” The stench of such filthy garments is quite sobering when considering the fact that it is a smell that we each are quite familiar with. It is an odor that seems inescapable in spite of our best efforts. Though its true that we grow accustomed to the filthy garments and simply accept them as the only wardrobe available, this does nothing to alleviate the despicable sight and odorous life that we so nonchalantly live.
The statement that follows is one that offers not only a ray of hope but also a reason for humility. Zechariah 3:4 records the following, “And he answered and spake unto those that stood before him, saying, Take away the filthy garments from him. And unto him he said, Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment.” To adequately describe such a transaction, from condemnation to justification and from filth to royalty, is a task that calls for much more than time.In fact, I suspect that all of eternity will be an ongoing exposition of this great, unfathomable, and inestimable truth of the sinner becoming Saint, the rebel becoming friend, the orphan finding a Father, the filthy becoming clean, and the guilty being forgiven. John Piper describes it well by stating,“There are two reasons why it is not abominable for God to justify the ungodly. First, the death of Christ paid the debt of our unrighteousness, and second, the obedience of Christ provided the righteousness we needed to be justified in God’s court.” (The Passion of Christ)
In reality, the court case is quite unfair for the accuser. Though he may be the father of lies, his opposition is the Lord of truth and righteousness. What darkness has the power of defending itself against the luminous radiance of the Son of Righteousness? Who is this one who is able to snatch the firebrand of God's people from the exiled hands of the rebellious accuser? Without a doubt, the One who alone is capable of doing so has hands which bear the scars of his great act of deliverance.
Zechariah presented a message of hope and encouragement to the people of God. As the exiles returned to Jerusalem, the ruins of what used to be would surely be devastating. So often it is the ashes of what used to be that the people of God are so burdened by. Situations such as marriages, ministries, relationships, and careers that go up in flames tend to always leave the memorable ashes of what has passed. The hope that arises out of such a dilemma is that Christ as our advocate is always standing by. The scene may be in a courtroom full of accusations, or in a life full of pain, but the message of hope is always there. Zechariah says it this way, “So they put a clean turban on his head, and they put the clothes on him. And the Angel of the LORD stood by.” Look to Christ our great deliverer and take joy!