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Fourth Vision: Joshua and Satan


Then he showed me the high priest Joshua standing before the angel of the L ord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. 2And the L ord said to Satan, “The L ord rebuke you, O Satan! The L ord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this man a brand plucked from the fire?” 3Now Joshua was dressed with filthy clothes as he stood before the angel. 4The angel said to those who were standing before him, “Take off his filthy clothes.” And to him he said, “See, I have taken your guilt away from you, and I will clothe you with festal apparel.” 5And I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with the apparel; and the angel of the L ord was standing by.

6 Then the angel of the L ord assured Joshua, saying 7“Thus says the L ord of hosts: If you will walk in my ways and keep my requirements, then you shall rule my house and have charge of my courts, and I will give you the right of access among those who are standing here. 8Now listen, Joshua, high priest, you and your colleagues who sit before you! For they are an omen of things to come: I am going to bring my servant the Branch. 9For on the stone that I have set before Joshua, on a single stone with seven facets, I will engrave its inscription, says the L ord of hosts, and I will remove the guilt of this land in a single day. 10On that day, says the L ord of hosts, you shall invite each other to come under your vine and fig tree.”

We now see that he who is often said to be Jehovah is called an angel: the name therefore of Angel as well as of Jehovah, I doubt not, ought to be applied to the person of Christ, who is truly and really God, and at the same time a Mediator between the Father and the faithful: and hence he authoritatively commanded the angels who were present; for Christ was there, but with his hosts. While therefore the angels were standing by, ready to obey, he is said to have bidden them to strip the high priest of his mean garments.

Afterwards the angel addresses Joshua himself, See, I slave made to pass from thee thine iniquity, and now I will clothe thee with new or other garments 3838     [מחלצות], from [חלף], to set loose, or to put off. Both Parkhurst and Blayney think that they were the garments which the high priest wore on particular and solemn occasions, and which he put off when he had performed his office. “Holy garments” would perhaps be the best rendering. Newcome has “goodly apparel;” and Henderson, “costly habiliments;” garments of the high priest. And that they were the holy garments, such as the high priest wore on especial occasions, appears probable from what follows respectng the mitre, which formed a part of the high priest’s dress. — Ed. When the angel said that he had taken away iniquity, he justly reminded them of the filthiness contracted by the priest as well as by the people; for they had denuded themselves of all glory by their iniquities. We hence see that the mouths of the Jews were here closed, that they might not clamor against God, because he suffered them still to continue in their sordid condition, for they deserved to continue in such a state; and the Lord for this reason called their filth, iniquity. He further teaches us, that though the Jews fully deserved by their sins to rot in their struggle and filthiness, yet the Lord would not finally allow their unworthiness to prevent him from affording relief.

The import of the prophecy then is this, — That however much the mean outward condition of the high priest might offend the Jews, they were still to entertain hope; for the remedy was in God’s power, who would at length change the dishonor and reproach of the high priest into very great glory, even when the time of gratuitous remission or of good pleasure arrived.

The Prophet had said that Joshua was clothed in splendid and beautiful garments, who had on before such as were sordid, and that this was done by the command of the angel: he now adds, that he wished that a still greater glory should be bestowed on him, for he saw that something was wanting. He therefore desired that the high priest should be adorned with a crown, so that his dress might in every way correspond with the dignity of his office. But what is here stated, that the Prophet spoke, 3939     Calvin has followed the punctuists as to the verb “said,” in the beginning of the verse, and regarded it as in the first and not in the third person. It is omitted in the Septuagint, (except in the comp. ed., where it is in the third person,) but the sentence is continued as the words of the angel. Jerome has et dixit, and he said, that is, the angel. It appears that the Targum, the Syriac, and the Vulgate retain the third person; and Dathius, Newcome, and Henderson so render the verb, “And he said,” that is, the angel; and this seems more consistent with the general tenor of the passage; for it is more reasonable to suppose that the words which follow are those of the angel than the words of the Prophet, and that the command to put on the mitre issued from the same as the command to clothe the high priest with holy garments. — Ed. is not to be taken as spoken authoritatively, but rather expressed as a wish, as though he had said, that it was indeed a pleasant and delightful spectacle to see the high priest decently and honorably clothed; but that it was also desirable, that a crown or a diadem should be added, as a symbol of the priesthood, and not of royalty. There is indeed no disadvantage in considering royalty also as signified; for the kingly office, we know, is united with the priestly in the person of Christ: but I take the crown here to be the priest’s mitre; for we know that this was the chief ornament whenever the priest came to the altar of incense. But as to the main point, we must bear in mind the design of the Prophet, — that the high priest was adorned with splendid vestments, and yet his dignity appeared only in part; therefore the Prophet desires that a pure crown or mitre should be added: and he says that this took place even in the presence of the angel, thereby intimating that his wish was by God approved.

Now we ought first to contemplate the zeal and godly concern of the Prophet, which he had for the glory and honor of the priesthood; for though he regarded with joy the splendid dress of the high priest, he could not restrain himself from wishing that the highest ornament should be added. And this example is exhibited to us for imitation, so that we ought to desire the increase of those favors of God, by which the priesthood of Christ is signalised, until it arrives at the most perfect state. But we see that many are against such a wish; for at this day there are those who profess some zeal for true religion, but are satisfied with a mere shadow; or at least, it would abundantly satisfy them to see the Church half purified: and the world is full of men who indeed confess that the Church is defiled by many pollutions, but wish only for some small measure of reformation. But the Prophet seems to invite us to do a very different thing: he saw that the high priest was already adorned with new garments; but when he considered that the honor of the priesthood was not fully restored, he wished the mitre to be also added. And by saying that the angels seconded his wish, he encourages us fully to believe, that if we desire from the heart that his glory should be given to Christ, God will hear our prayers: for the Prophet, when he sighed, did not in vain ask the angel to put a mitre on the high priest.

The expression, that the angel of God stood, is not without meaning. He was not an idle spectator; and it is intimated that God had not only once a care for the priesthood, but that the angel was always watching to defend Joshua; for it would not be enough to be once adorned by God, who presides over the Church, except his guardianship were perpetual. We now then understand the import of the words. It follows —

Here the Prophet shows for what purpose he gave Joshua his appropriate dress and splendor; and he teaches us, that it was not done simply as a favor to man, but because God purposed to protect the honor of his own worship. This is the reason why the angel exhorts Joshua; for it behaves us ever to consider for what end God deals so liberally with us and favors us with extraordinary gifts. All things ought to be referred to his glory and worship, otherwise every good thing he bestows on us is profaned. And this is especially to be regarded when we speak of his Church and its government; for we know how ready men are to turn what God gives to his Church to serve the purpose of their own tyranny.

It is God’s will that he should be attended to when he speaks by his servants and those whom he has appointed as teachers. But we see from the beginning of the world how ambitious and proud men under this pretense exercised great tyranny, and thus expelled God from his own government: nay, the vassals of Satan often arrogate to themselves a full and unlimited power over all the faithful, because God would have the priesthood honored, and approves of a right discipline in his Church. As then Satan has in all ages abused the high eulogies by which God commends his Church, this exhortations, now briefly given by the Prophet, ought always to be added; for it is not God’s will to extol men, that he himself might be as a private individual and give up his own place and degree, but that the whole excellency bestowed on the Church is intended for this purpose — that God may be purely worshipped, and that all, not only the people, but also the priest, may submit to his authority. Whatever glory then belongs to the Church, God would have it all to be subservient to his purpose, so that he alone may be the supreme and that rightly. We now then perceive the Prophet’s design.

And to give some weight to what is taught, he says, that the angel bore witness; for the word used is forensic or legal: one is said to bear witness to another, when he uses, so to speak, a solemn protestations. In short, bearing witness differs from a common declaration, as an oath, or an appeal to lawful authority, is interposed, so that the words are sacred. It was then the design of the holy spirit by this expression to render us more attentive, so that we may know that not a common thing is said, but that God interposes an oath, or some such thing, in order to secure more reverence to his order or command.

Protest then did the angel of Jehovah to Joshua, saying, Thus saith Jehovah, If thou wilt walk in my ways, and if my charge thou wilt observe, etc. The angel now briefly teaches us, that the priests do not excel, that they may exult at pleasure; but he interposes a condition, that they are to exercise faithfully their office, and to obey the call of God. We then see that those two things are united — the dignity of the priesthood, and the faithfulness which God’s ministers, who have been called to that office, are to exhibit. Hence they who seek to domineer without control, do thereby sufficiently show that they are not the lawful priests of God; for Joshua typified Christ, and yet we see how God bound him by a certain condition, lest relying on his honor and title he should take to himself more than what was lawful or right.

If Joshua, who was a type of Christ, together with his successors, was not to regard himself dignified, but in order to obey God, we hence see how foolish and even abominable is the arrogance of the Pope, who, being content with a naked title, seeks to reduce the whole world to himself, as if God had given up his own right.

But let us at the same time see what he means by ways and by charge. These two words ought, no doubt, to be confined to the office of the priest. God commands us all in common to follow where he leads us; and whatever he prescribes as to the way of leading a godly and righteous life may be called a charge; for the Lord suffers us not to wander and go astray, but anticipates errors and shows what we are to follow. There is then a general charge with regard to all the faithful; but the priestly charge, as I have already stated, is to be confined to that office. We yet know that men are not raised on high by God, that he may resign his own authority. He indeed commits to men their own offices, and they are rightly called the vicars of God, who purely and faithfully teach from his mouth: but the authority of God is not diminished when he makes use of the labors of men and employs them as his ministers. We hence see that the priestly charge is this — to rule the Church according to the pure Word of God.

He therefore adds, Thou also shalt govern my house. This condition then is ever to be observed, when the governors of the Church demand a hearing, even that they keep the charge of God. It is indeed true, that all the ministers of the Word are adorned with honorable titles; but, as I have said, their dignity is degraded if it obscures the glory of God. As then God would have men to be heard, so that nothing may be taken from him, this condition ought ever to be observed, “Thou shalt govern my house, if thou wilt walk in my ways.”

It may however be asked, can priests be rightly deprived instantly of their office when they depart from their duty? To this I answer, that the Church ought, as far as possible, to be reformed; but yet legitimate means ought to be used, so that the Church may reject all the ungodly, who respond not to their duty, nor exhibit due sincerity, nor discharge their office in obedience to God. All then who depart or turn aside from the right course ought rightly to be rejected, but by legitimate authority. But when the majority desire to have pastors, such as cannot but be deemed really wolves, they must be borne with, though unworthy of the honor, and yet so borne with that they be not allowed to oppress the Church with their tyranny, or to take to themselves what belongs to God alone, or to adulterate the worship of God or pure doctrine.

However this may be, none are lawful priests before God, except those who faithfully exercise their office and respond to the calling of God, as we shall hereafter see in the second chapter of Malachi Malachi 2:1. But I am not disposed to enlarge; it is enough to adduce what an explanation of the passage may require. In short, pastors divinely appointed are so to rule over the Church as not to exercise their own power, but to govern the Church according to what God has prescribed, and in such a manner that God himself may always rule through the instrumentality of men.

What he adds, Thou shalt keep my courts, appears not to be an honor to the priest, for it was an humble service to wait in the courts of the temple. But taking a part for the whole, the Prophet includes the charge of the whole temple: and it was no common honor to have the charge of that sacred habitation of God. It is not then improperly added that Joshua would be the keeper of the temple, if he walked in the ways of the Lord. Nevertheless we see at this day how the masked rulers of the Church, under the Papacy, not only disregard the keeping of the temple, but wholly repudiate it, as it seems to be unworthy of their high dignity. I call the charge of the temple, not that which is the duty of overseers, but whatever belongs to the worship of God: but to feed the flock, to discharge the office of pastors, and to administer the sacraments, is to these a sordid employment. Hence the Pope, with all his adherents, can easily bear to be relieved from the charge of the temple; but yet he seeks to rule in a profane and tyrannical manner, and according to his own pleasure. But we here see that the charge of the temple is especially intrusted to the priest, as it was a special honor. We also see on what condition God allowed the priests to continue in their dignity, even on that of walking in his ways.

He afterwards adds, I will give thee passages (intercourses) among those who stand by, 4040     This is a difficult sentence. Kimchi, Marckius, Dathius, Newcome, Scott, and others, take the meaning given in our version, and regard [מהלכים] as a noun, signifying places to walk in, walkings. It is nowhere else found except in the singular number, [מהלך], a walk, or a journey: Jonah 3:4; Ezekiel 42:4: but as a participle, signifying walking, we meet with it in Ecclesiastes 4:15, and in the singular number in Psalms 104:3; Proverbs 6:11 Vatables, Pagninus, and Castalio render it “incessus, vias, aditus,” words of similar import with “transitus“ of Calvin and of Mede. The meaning is thus given by Drusius, “I will give thee the privilege of walking among these;” that is, the angels who stood there. Jerome’s version is, “Et dabo tibi ambulantes de his qui nunc hic assistant — And I will give thee walkers of those who now stand here.” The same is given by Grotius, who explains “walkers” in the sense of protectors, and refers to Psalm 91:11, and Matthew 4:6. To the same purpose, as to the meaning, is the version of Henderson; only he renders [מהלכים], guides, conceiving it to be a hiphil of participle, “causing to walk,” a designation of leaders, guides, or contractors. According to this view, the promise made is, that angels would be the guardians and protectors of Joshua and his associates, and not according to the former view, that Joshua would have a place among angels in heaven, in which sense the Targum, as well as the Jewish Rabbins, understand the passage.
   Blayney renders “walkers,” ministers, being persons ready to go and come when bidden: and by those who stood by, he understands the inferior priests, who are here promised to Joshua as his assistants, and are mentioned in the next verse as his “companions.” There is nothing in the verb [עמד], or [ישב], to prevent this meaning, as they do not necessarily denote a position but a presence.

   May not “walkers,” or those who walk or perambulated, be the same as those mentioned in the first vision, chapter 1:10,11? If so, we may render the sentence thus —

   And I will appoint for thee those who walk to and fro
From among those who stand here.

   Angels have different offices; and the most probable meaning of the passage is, that it contains the promise of angels as guardians. — Ed.
that is, I will cause all the godly to admit and freely to receive thee. The angels who stood there, no doubt, represented the body of the Church; for they are mingled with the faithful whenever they meet together in the name of Christ, as Paul teaches us in 1 Corinthians 11:10. Angels alone then stood by; but it is the same as though God had said, “Thee will all the faithful acknowledge, so that a free passage will be open to thee among them, provided thou walkest in my ways.” And he puts passages in the plural number, for he speaks of continued homage and regard.

The meaning is, that the priest is ever worthy of regard and honor when he faithfully performs his office and obeys the call of God. We may, on the other hand, conclude that all masked pastors ought justly to be excluded, when they not only are apostates and perfidious against God, but seek also to destroy the Church; yea, when they are also voracious wolves and spiritual tyrants and slaughterers. All those who are such, the angel clearly intimates, are not only unworthy of being received, but ought also to be excluded and exterminated from the Church. We now then perceive what I have stated, that whatever excellency belongs to the pastors of the Church ought not to be separated from the honor due to God; for God does not resign his authority to mortals, nor diminish anything from his own right; but he only constitutes men as his ministers, that he may by them govern his Church alone, and be alone supreme. It hence follows, that they are unworthy of honor who perform not faithfully their office; and when they rob God of what belongs to him, they ought to be deprived of their very name; for it is nothing else but the mask of Satan, by which he seeks to deceive the simple. He afterwards adds —

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