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The Works of Gilbert Beebe
Joshua the High Priest
From Signs of the Times—June 15, 1867.
“Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments,
and stood before the angel.” Zechariah 3:3
Contemporary with Nehemiah and Zerubbabel at the time of the building of the second temple in Jerusalem, Joshua presided as the High Priest of Israel, and as such was a type of the great High Priest of our profession who is brought to view in the gospel, and presides over the building of the spiritual and anti-typical temple, which of lively stones is built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God, by Jesus Christ. Christ as the builder of his church was prophesied of by this same prophet saying, “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is THE BRANCH, and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord: even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne; and the counsel of the peace shall be between them both,” (Joshua 6:12,13).
The priesthood of Aaron and his sons claimed no regal power, no right to reign or rule, but was confined to the service of the altar, and continually engaged in offering sacrifices for the sins of the people; but in the figure of the man whose name is The Branch is presented a regal or royal priesthood, not after the order of Aaron, but after the order of Melchisedec, and in it is presented the King and priest in one man, whose name is The Branch, and the Counsel of Peace, between them both, that is between the King and the priest. As all the approved kings of Israel counseled with the priests, and through them received counsel from the Lord; they in their communion and consultation pointed to him, who should sum up all that was set forth by prophets, priests and kings, in the person of him who is our Prophet, Priest and King; the King of Righteousness and Priest unto the Most High God, and all the counsel of peace involving and embracing the eternal salvation of his church and kingdom is embraced in the official characters which are embodied in, and sustained by, our Lord Jesus Christ. Men sometimes volunteer their counsels, professedly for peace; and which they seem to flatter themselves will be an improvement on God’s counsel; but the counsels of men invariably conflict with the counsel of the Lord which alone shall stand.
In offering a few remarks on the text which we have placed at the head of this article, we propose to notice Joshua in his typical relation to Christ, and of Christ in his vital relation to his church.
The person, priesthood and official service of Joshua differed in nothing essential from that of other priests of the same order; but in his name, and connection with the building of the temple, as also in his presentation in the subject under consideration, are found some expressive peculiarities in which he prefigures our Lord Jesus Christ.
His name Joshua, is in signification the same as Jesus, which signifies a Savior, and as such was given to our Lord to assure us that he should save his people from their sins. And Joshua’s connection with the building of the temple gives additional significance to him as a type of our great High Priest.
But the position occupied by him in our text and its surroundings, demands our special attention. The prophet says, “And he shewed me Joshua the high priest, standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to resist him.” Here, if we comprehend the figure, our Lord Jesus Christ is brought to view in his mediatorial work in his priestly habiliments, as bearing all the tribes of his redeemed Israel, and stands for them before the angel of the divine presence in his holy law. The angel, or spirit of the holy law of God, is the angel of the Lord. God’s presence is called his angel; and God appears in his law demanding satisfaction for the sins, which Christ, in his priesthood, came to expiate, and make atonement for. No priest or offering under the old dispensation could meet the demands of the law and justice of God, but our spiritual Joshua was able to stand before the angel; and although there resisted in his mediatorial work by Satan, sin, death, hell, and the grave, he occupies the place.
Joshua stood as one arraigned before the angel to bear the judgment and meet the awakened sword which God had commanded to smite the Shepherd. In his description of this dreadful conflict, Jude says, “Michael the arch angel, when contending with the devil, he disputed about the body of Moses... said, The Lord rebuke thee.”
From this declaration of Jude we learn what was the ground of contention. By the body of Moses, which God buried in the wilderness, and whose sepulchre could never afterwards be found, we understand is signified the power and dominion of the law, as administered by Moses over God’s people, Israel, whose demands were met and canceled by our Redeemer, and which in its dominion became dead to them, and they to it, by the body of Christ. In this conflict an effectual appeal was made to God to rebuke the disputing adversary. “The Lord rebuke thee, O Satan, even the Lord that hath chosen Jerusalem;” the very God of election, whose sovereign choice of Jerusalem is in the eternal and immutable election of grace rebuke thee. “Is not this a brand plucked out of the fire?”
Observe the figure. After a seventy year captivity of the children of Israel in Babylon, in which the city had been nearly demolished, the old temple destroyed, its consecrated furniture desecrated and carried away, and few of the citizens permitted to return, what more appropriate figure could represent this preserved remnant according to the election of grace than is here used, a brand plucked out of the fire? Nearly consumed, but a brand remains, which must inevitably have been consumed, but for the election of grace.
Now in the great redemption and deliverance of this chosen remnant, our High Priest appears before the angel of the Lord, clothed with filthy garments. His work is to purge and cleanse Jerusalem from all her uncleanness, and to do this, as her High Priest he must represent her as she truly is, by an assumption of all her sins and pollutions. And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquities of us all. Bearing all the sins of his people, he stands before the angel of the divine presence. The flaming eye of the law and justice of the pure and holy God is upon him, and yet he stands clothed in filthy garments, before whose searching gaze no unclean or unholy thing can be tolerated, or allowed to live.
No greater affront could be offered to the law than for the priests to appear before the Lord except in consecrated priestly garments perfectly pure and clean. But, wonder ye heavens, and be astonished O earth, the High Priest of our profession before the presence of the angel of the Lord in filthy garments; behold he comes from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah; and he will stain all his raiment. He is made sin for us who knew no sin, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. He is numbered with the transgressors, and bears the sins of many. He is holy, harmless, separate from sinners, and higher than the heavens He who is the righteousness of God is clothed in filthy garments and stands before the angel. How could this be? The Word which was with God, even the Word which was God, is made flesh. He has taken on him the seed of Abraham, is made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that are under the law; and in the assumption of the seed of Abraham, all the transgressions of that seed are laid on him, and bearing them in his own body on the tree, he stood before the angel with full ability to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself, and to finish transgressions and make an end of sin, and to bring in everlasting righteousness. Having as our High Priest, made an offering for sin, he has by one offering perfected forever them that are sanctified. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the spirit.”
Through the efficient Priesthood of our spiritual Joshua, a fountain is opened for the house of David, and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness. For he has himself borne our griefs, carried our sorrows, and endured the chastisement of our peace, and with his stripes we are healed. Truly such an High Priest became us. No other priest could, with our sins upon him, have stood before the angel. He only was able to bear the storm of wrath which was due to our transgressions; as none but Jesus was able to lay down his life, and then to take it up again. Not all the blood that flowed from Hebrew altars, nor all the sacrificial offerings made by Aaron and his sons, could have purged our hearts from an evil conscience, or qualified us to serve the true God acceptably. But he was delivered up for our offences, and raised again for our justification; and so we are freely justified, through the redemption that is in him.
The brand is rescued from the burning. The fire of righteous indignation and wrath is quenched by the one offering which Jesus Christ, through the eternal Spirit made of himself unto God; and by the which he has obtained eternal redemption for us. Can we contemplate the subject without feeling emotions of love and gratitude to him who hath loved us and given himself for us? He endured the cross, he despised the shame, he suffered without the camp, for us: and shall we, can we, feel reluctant to go unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach? He has redeemed us unto God with his precious blood, plucked us as brands out of the fire, called us by his grace, quickened us by his Spirit, and assured us that we shall reign with him in glory. Then what manner of persons ought we to be in all holy conversation and godliness? No service by him enjoined can be too hard; no sacrifice of ease, or wealth, of time or substance, can be too great. If indeed we love him, let us keep his commandments.