This is the position that Satan now occupies toward the Church of God and the ministers of the gospel. He stands before the angel of the Lord to resist them in their official work, the ministry of the Word, to resist the Lord's working in behalf of His people. Satanic agencies are moved by a power from beneath to stir up wicked men to unite with the enemy in causing distress to the people who are keeping the commandments of God. The whole world is stirred against them because they will not worship the institution of the Papacy. Satan is as full of bitter hatred and malignity against them as he was against Christ, when he stirred the world to choose a robber and murderer instead of the Son of God. When the question was asked, "Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ?" the answer came back, "Release unto us Barabbas." Matthew 27:17; Luke 23:18. The religious leaders and guides of the people--the men who ought to have led in right paths--persuaded the poor, ignorant multitude to reject the Son of God, and choose a robber and murderer in His place.
Let us remember that we are in the world in which the Son of God was crucified. Those who today allow the spirit of envy, hatred, and unbelief to control them will persecute the people of God even as the Jews persecuted Christ.
In the chapter preceding the one containing the words, "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," we read, "I lifted up mine eyes again, and looked, and behold a man with a measuring line in his hand. Then said I, Whither goest thou? And he said unto me, To measure Jerusalem, to see what is the breadth thereof, and what is the length thereof. And, behold, the angel that talked with me went forth, and another angel went out to meet him, and said unto him, Run, speak to this young man, saying, Jerusalem shall be inhabited as towns without walls for the multitude of men and cattle therein: for I, saith the Lord, will be unto her a wall of fire round about, and will be the glory in the midst of her. . . . Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee, saith the Lord." Zechariah 2:1-5, 10.
God had given commandment for Jerusalem to be rebuilt, and the measuring of the city was a symbol that He would give comfort and strength to His affected ones. Satan and his army were greatly discomfited and alarmed by this. Satan stood before the angel, representing to him the imperfections of God's people, and urging the disregard of His commandments. The work which he saw in prospect stirred him to resist Jesus in His work of mercy. He did not wish the people who had been suffering because of transgression to be favoured. He wished to see them remaining in depression and sorrow, weakness and suffering. He saw the work the Lord was about to do for His people through the Messiah. He claimed the Church as his own, declaring that its members had dishonoured God by yielding to temptation and disobeying God's commandments.
Both priest and people were in a position of repentance unto obedience, and in answer to their prayers and in pity for their affliction the Lord had come to their relief.
"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?" Zechariah 3:2. Unworthy though they might be to do His great work, Christ declared that His people were accepted through the righteousness of One who had resisted every art and device of the enemy.
"Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments, and stood before the angel." Verse 3. Satan had represented the chosen people of God as full of defilement and sin. He could well speak of the sins of which the people had been guilty; for had he not led the confederacy of evil in tempting the people to commit these very sins? But Israel had repented. The people had accepted Christ.
Christ looked pityingly and compassionately upon the punished, repenting people; "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." Verse 4.
The Lord does not deny the charge of Joshua's unworthiness, but He demonstrates that He has bought him with a price. He clothes him with His garments of righteousness, not putting these garments over the filthy garments of disobedience and transgression, but saying first, "Take away the filthy garments from him." Then He said to Joshua, "Behold, I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I will clothe thee with change of raiment." "Let them set a fair mitre upon his head. So they set a fair mitre upon his head," (Verse 5) and on this mitre was written, "Holiness to the Lord." See Exodus 28:36-37.
This change is made on condition of obedience. "Thus saith the Lord of hosts; If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if thou wilt keep my charge, then thou shalt also judge my house, and shalt also keep my courts, and I will give thee places to walk among these that stand by." Zechariah 3:7.
When God's professed people repent of their sin in departing from plain Bible truth, they will bring forth fruit meet for repentance. Jesus will hear their prayers. They will work the works of righteousness. If those who have departed from the Lord will take warning, if they will change their course of action, they will be received into favour, and their transgressions will be pardoned. If they make thorough work, according to the measurement of God, avoiding a repetition of their sins, God will bestow rich blessings upon them. God tests and tries His people. He waits for them to show true repentance, that He may say, "It is enough," and that He may grant them pardon.
Nothing else in this world is so dear to the Lord as His Church. Nothing else is guarded by Him with such jealous care. He paid a costly ransom for His heritage, and He is not willing that anything should separate them from Him, so that He cannot protect them and give them prosperity. He permits them to be sorely tried in the fiery furnace, that the dross may be separated from them. But as they are being purified, He watches them every moment, that they may not be consumed.
"Thus saith the Lord of hosts; After the glory hath he sent me unto the nations which spoiled you: for he that toucheth you toucheth the apple of his eye. . . . Sing and rejoice, O daughter of Zion: for, lo, I come, and I will dwell in the midst of thee. . . . And many nations shall be joined to the Lord in that day, and shall be my people: and I will dwell in the midst of thee, and thou shalt know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto thee. And the Lord shall inherit Judah his portion in the holy land, and shall choose Jerusalem again." Zechariah 2:8, 10-12.
Review and Herald, August 20, 1901.