Ashamed or Forgiven?

Steve Viars April 11, 2010 Zechariah 3:1-10

 

- Every day practically every one of us does certain things that are similar… 

- we might be different in a zillion ways, but there are still certain commonalities… 

- for example, if I asked you – did you eat anything yesterday, I think most people would 

say ―yes‖…I highly doubt that anyone would say – you know, I just forgot, I never got 

around to it… 

- the same is true of brushing your teeth [let’s at least hope so]…everyone here brushes 

their teeth [and for the sake of the dentists in our congregation—we also floss, 

everyday, religiously…that’s probably pushing it]… 

- but you agree with the point – regardless of how many differences are represented 

here…there are certain things we all do… 

 

- another item on that list is looking in the mirror…and I’m not talking about doing that in 

some inappropriate way…or lovingly gazing at ourselves all afternoon… 

- but occasionally, we all look in a mirror…you might not have one this big [podium mirror 

on the platform] --- but you have one, and you check it from time to time… 

- now let me ask you this question – what do you see?...who are you?... 

 

- and really when I ask you that, I’m not really asking, what do you physically see when you 

look in the mirror, I’m really asking, what do you see when you think of yourself?, or 

your identity, and how you fit into the world of people around you?... 

- now I realize that you may push back and say, well, I don’t really think about myself…I 

think of God and others…frankly, that may or may not be true, and it may or may not be 

good…we’ll say more about that in a minute… 

-  but even if I had to encourage you to take that step…what do you see…who are you?... 

 

- now here’s complicating factor #1… 

- this isn’t just a matter of fact…it’s a matter of how you interpret the facts… 

- in other words, your answers to the questions I just raised may be significantly skewed… 

- that’s because we all have an interpretive lens through which we view ourselves… 

- [that’s where the sunglasses come in…]… 

 

- it’s not just the facts (what’s actually in the mirror), but the way you interpret the facts… 

- here’s the glasses some people wear…I’m the king of the world, I’m the most 

important person in the story, this movie is about me… 

- and so they wake up, and they slip those glasses on…and off they go… 

- and if their spouse and kids do everything they want…things are fine…because the 

king has been served… 

- but if not, there’s going to be anger…and or there’s going to be threats…or there’s 

going to be stomping around… 

- why?...in part, because the one who believes he’s the king has not been served… 

- the start has not been given center stage… 

- he’s wearing the wrong color glasses… 

- he has a faulty answer to the question ―who are you‖ and as a result his response 

to daily events is skewed as well… 

 

- or there’s the person who wakes up and puts on the lens of ―I’m a failure‖, ―I’m damaged 

goods‖, ―I’m dirty‖, I’m soiled…‖ 

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- and there’s an opportunity to join in a conversation and the person doesn’t say anything – 

―who cares what the failure thinks?‖… 

- or a temptation comes along – ―what’s the use of trying to do right---you sinned before, 

you might as well sin again…‖… 

 

- we could tease this out dozens and dozens of ways…but I’d like you to think about how you 

would answer these questions…what do you see?...who are you?... 

- well, I’m a passive victim… 

- I’m better than most people… 

- I’m depressed… 

- I’m hopeless… 

- the possibilities are practically endless… 

 

- now, here’s the point we want to make over the next seven weeks…the Word of God needs 

to be your interpretive grid… 

- this isn’t some kind of psycho-babble…on practically every page of Scripture, God tells us 

something about the way He thinks of us, or the way He wants us to think about 

ourselves… 

- and the question is – are we going to let His grid become our grid?... 

- so, Who are You, Coming to Grips with Our Identity in Christ… 

- and this morning we want to focus on this area – Ashamed or Forgiven? 

- with that question in mind, please open your Bible to Zechariah chapter 3…page 671 of 

the front section of the Bible under the chair in front of you… 

 

- now I realize that some of you are brand new to studying the Bible – in fact some may have 

come because a friend invited you and you might be thinking – oh, great – we’re going to 

study book named Zechariah—why does this sound like something I could not possibly 

understand?... 

- well, we do believe in studying the Word of God around here…in fact, just think about that 

phrase ―Word of God‖…if we really believe that’s the nature of the book we hold in our 

hands, who else’s word would we rather study?... 

- it’s also true that understanding the Scripture takes some work…I’m not going to lie about 

that… 

- but I always prepare these messages from the perspective of – could the main points be 

understood by a person who has never opened the Bible or set foot inside a church 

before… 

- if that’s you this morning – take heart – you can get this… 

 

- here’s the basic background of what we’re about to read… 

- this is very near the end of Old Testament history… 

- by now, the kingdom of Israel has divided in the northern tribes and the southern 

tribes…that took place in 931 BC…which was a very sad date in the history of God’s 

people… 

- then the northern kingdoms were conquered by Assyria in 722 BC… 

- that was followed by the southern kingdoms falling to Babylon in 586 BC…which began a 

period of captivity that lasted how many years?...70 years, just as the prophets had 

said… 

- Zechariah was a prophet who was ministering toward the end of that period of captivity… 

- so now a group of Jewish men and women are being allowed to go back to Jerusalem…and 

one of their first desires is to rebuild the temple and reestablish the worship of their God… 

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- in this book, God allows Zechariah to see a series of visions…that is one of the ways God 

communicated truth to His people in those days… 

- and now, chapter 3 contains the forth vision of Zechariah… 

- and interestingly enough, it is God’s answer to the question, who are you?... 

- because many Jewish men and women would have wondered whether their sin had been 

so bad that they could never be forgiven and restored… 

- maybe God had completely given up on them… 

- maybe there was no way they could rebuild the temple or restore their system of 

worship… 

- their answer to the question, who are you, was – ashamed, because of our past failures 

and sins… 

- perhaps God wanted them to change their answer… 

- read Zechariah 3:1-10… 

 

- we asking today, are you Ashamed or Forgiven?... 

- with the time we have remaining, let’s think about 3 perspectives on your guilt and shame.

- who you were, who you are, and who you’ll be… 

 

I. Who You Were Ashamed. 

- this vision God gives his servant could not have been more powerful… 

A. Joshua‟s clothing. 

- the Joshua who is the focal point of this story is not the Joshua we typically think 

about, the man who led the children of Israel into the promised land after Moses 

died…that is who the book of Joshua is about… 

- this Joshua was a priest…and the vision explains the shocking fact that Joshua is 

standing there is garments that are severely soiled… 

- Zechariah 3:3 Now Joshua was clothed with filthy garments… 

- we read that statement and think, well maybe he spilled something on them or needs 

to take them to the Laundromat… 

- many Bible students believe that this word ―filthy‖ is related to a Hebrew root word 

which refers to excrement, or perhaps vomit… 

- and you might say – that’s foul…that’s the whole point… 

- John MacArthur “Employing the most loathsome, vile term for filth, the phrase 

pictures the habitual condition of defilement of the priesthood and the people” 

(MacArthur Study Bible). 

- I don’t see a lot of movies for a variety of reasons including my schedule, but I saw the 

move Slum Dog Millionaire on an airplane coming back from a trip to a mission field 

some time back…and if you saw that movie, you remember a scene early on where 

the main character’s older brother locked him in an outhouse at the very moment 

some celebrity was landing in his helicopter  

- and everyone wanted to see this celebrity so badly that the little boy realized there 

was only one way out of the outhouse… 

- so the scene shows him holding his nose and down he goes… 

- and the next frame shows him running toward the crowd completely covered with filth 

and everybody just runs away because of the smell… 

- and the only reason I would raise such a disgusting picture today is because that is 

what the author of Scripture does…the condition of their sin could not be any more 

repulsive… 

- please notice this also about verse 3 – Joshua is standing before the angel…think about 

the contrast… 

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- many Bible students also believe this angel was the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus Christ, the 

second Person of the trinity… 

- we can’t be dogmatic about that, but there are good reasons in this text to take that 

position… 

- regardless, the difference between this holy angel of the Lord and this priest who was 

utterly defiled could not be any more stark… 

- but that’s not all there to the picture, is there… 

 

B. Joshua‟s accuser. 

- the text also says there was…3:1 Satan standing at his right hand to accuse 

him. 

- I don’t pretend to fully understand this, but the Scripture is clear that one of the 

favorite activities of our adversary is to shame the people of God…to point out of sin 

and our failures and our guilt…he loves to accuse us…he did that to Job… 

- Job 1:9-11 - Then Satan answered the LORD, “Does Job fear God for nothing? 

“Have You not made a hedge about him and his house and all that he has, on 

every side? You have blessed the work of his hands, and his possessions 

have increased in the land. “But put forth Your hand now and touch all that he 

has; he will surely curse You to Your face.” 

- in other words, Job’s faith is not real…and by implication – God, you’re not 

powerful enough to give anyone genuine faith…our adversary loves 

conversations like that where he can heap shame and guilt on others… 

- that’s why, by the way…it will be a happy day when this event occurs... Revelation 

12:10 - Then I heard a loud voice in heaven, saying, “Now the salvation, 

and the power, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of His Christ 

have come, for the accuser of our brethren has been thrown down, he who 

accuses them before our God day and night. 

- now again, I can’t fully explain exactly how this dynamic plays out – but the main 

points are clear – this priest is wearing filthy garments and the adversary is having a 

great time pointing out all the failures of the people of God…and how they deserved 

the judgment they received at the hand of the Babylonians…and how there would 

never be a future for people like them… 

 

- well, do we share Joshua’s heritage?...are there any… 

C. Our similarities. 

- every last one of us deeply understands what it means to be ashamed…sometimes… 

1. Ashamed for legitimate reasons. 

- there are times when we are ashamed because we have behaved shamefully… 

- that’s why we often experience… 

a. Guilt 

- Psalm 38:4-6 - For my iniquities are gone over my head; As a heavy 

burden they weigh too much for me. My wounds grow foul and fester 

Because of my folly. I am bent over and greatly bowed down; I go 

mourning all day long. 

b. Separation 

- Isaiah 59:2 - But your iniquities have made a separation between you and 

your God, And your sins have hidden His face from you so that He does 

not hear. 

c. Rebellion 

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- Isaiah 1:5 - Where will you be stricken again, As you continue in your 

rebellion? The whole head is sick and the whole heart is faint. 

- we can’t say, we might have been filthy, but it was because someone else 

rubbed it on us… 

- Isaiah 53:6 - All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned 

to his own way… 

- and we could develop that in plenty of other ways…there are all sorts of 

legitimate reasons why we might look in the mirror and be ashamed…but 

then there’s also… 

 

2. Ashamed for illegitimate reasons. 

a. Beating ourselves up over past sins and failures even if we‟ve asked 

forgiveness from God and others. 

- some men and women are shame factories… 

- that’s what they see whenever they look in the mirror because they review their 

sins and failures over and over and over…or… 

b. Taking to heart the false accusations of others. 

- if our adversary loves to accuse the brethren…what do you think ―his children‖ 

love to do… 

- there are many men women who love to point out the failures of Christians, real 

or perceived…and want to do everything they can to shame the people of 

God… 

 

- now, here’s the point – that’s where many of the people of God were at that time in Israel’s 

history…feeling as if there was no future for them because of their past failures… 

- like they were standing there in spiritually soiled robes… 

- and the adversary was happy to keep up that charade as long as possible… 

 

- and I wonder how many men and women still wear that particular kind of glasses?... 

- their shame is the lens through which they answer the question…who are you?... 

 

- and that can manifest itself in all sorts of ways… 

1. Some men and women are perpetually sad…and discouraged…or depressed… 

- because they define their existence through the lens of their failures… 

2. Other men and women are a flurry of activity and busyness… 

- because they believe they can overcome their failures by good deeds… 

- many times that’s what leads to perfectionism, or a performance based relationship to 

God… 

3. Others shy away from building relationships because they don’t want anyone to discover 

their secret…or their skeleton… 

- friends, here’s the message that comes screaming out of this passage…Ashamed does not 

have to be your answer to the question, who are you?... 

- do you know what Zechariah’s name means?...‖the Lord remembers…‖ 

- and that is significant in this passage because God had made unconditional promises to 

Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David and other leaders of the nation of Israel… 

- and yes his people had to be judged because of their disobedience…but the Lord 

remembers… 

- the Lord remembers His promises…and that means that Israel’s sin was not the end of 

their story… 

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- for people like you and me….that’s why what we celebrated last weekend was so 

significant… 

- do you remember, just prior to going to the cross, Jesus celebrated the last supper with his 

disciples…and at a crucial moment He raised the cup signifying the blood He was about to 

shed for our sin, and He said -- Luke 22:20 - And in the same way He took the cup after 

they had eaten, saying, “This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in 

My blood…” 

- and here’s what that means…if you have never trusted Christ as Savior and Lord before, you 

can do that, even today, and experience for the first time spiritually, what happened to 

Joshua the priest physically…Being ashamed does not have to be the end of your story… 

- Christian friend, if you have asked God and the appropriate people to forgive you for sins 

you’ve committed since becoming a Christian – it is inappropriate to continue to review 

those sins over and over…that’s not the lens through which God wants you to view 

yourself…not just because of the damage it does to you, but to the damage it does to His 

name… 

- 1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our 

sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 

- Psalm 103:12 - As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our 

transgressions from us. 

- and Christian friend, if you’ve messed up and perhaps even had to face some of the 

consequences of your choices and are now wondering – is there any way to get back on 

track [that’s exactly where the children of Israel found themselves) – this text answers that 

question very clearly…the perspective through which God wants you to view yourself is the 

lens of forgiveness… 

 

II. Who You Are Forgiven 

- it’s very important to note that it’s not Zechariah who speaks to Satan, or Joshua…it’s… 

A. The Lord‟s rebuke 

- Zechariah 3:2 - The Lord said to Satan, “The LORD rebuke you, Satan!...” 

- that’s why, incidentally, you don’t hear us directly rebuking Satan around here in 

various contexts…we leave that to the Lord… 

- that’s issue actually comes up in the NT -- Jude 9 - But Michael the archangel, 

when he disputed with the devil and argued about the body of Moses, did not 

dare pronounce against him a railing judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke 

you!” 

- that’s what we see in this text – these accusations as if there was no future for God’s 

chosen people was an affront to God Himself and the covenants He had made with 

His people…there’s also… 

B. The Lord‟s rescue 

- Zechariah 3:2 - Indeed, the LORD who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is 

this not a brand plucked from the fire?” 

- there are two crucial ideas there… 

1. God chose you. 

- John 15:16 - You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you 

that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so 

that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. 

- when you view yourself through the lens of the forgiveness you enjoy through 

the finished work of Christ…you are confirming the power of God to fulfill His 

divine plan for His church… 

 

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2. You were like “a brand plucked from the fire.” 

- when we view ourselves through the lens of forgiveness, the net effect isn’t to 

congratulate ourselves…it is to marvel at the wonderful grace of God… 

- and that’s one of the things I love about this church…because of the emphasis 

on community based outreach ministry, and having a counseling ministry 

where biblical answers are available to people who are hurting…there are all 

sorts of people who would say…that’s me…I was ruining my life, I was like a 

branch in the fire big time… 

- then Jesus rescued me…and I love viewing myself not through the lens 

of my sins and my failures…I love thinking about myself as a scorched 

but forgiven brand plucked from the fire but the merciful hand of God… 

 

C. The Lord‟s cleansing. 

- Zechariah 3:4 - He spoke and said to those who were standing before him, 

saying, “Remove the filthy garments from him.” Again he said to him, “See, I 

have taken your iniquity away from you and will clothe you with festal robes.” 

- can you imagine the effect that would have had on the nation of Israel… 

- you’ve messed up…and you’ve been disciplined…but forgiveness is available… 

- [if time, could discuss Jesus’ use of this metaphor in the NT – the person who tried to 

come to the wedding without having the right garments…Matthew 22:12-13] 

 

D. The Lord‟s provision. 

- you might have wondered---what was up with that turban?... 

- Zechariah 3:5 - Then I said, “Let them put a clean turban on his head.” So they 

put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments, while the angel 

of the LORD was standing by. 

- why is that important?...you just have to go back to the OT to read about the priest’s 

turban…do you know what was written on it?... 

- Exodus 28:36 - You shall also make a plate of pure gold and shall engrave on it, 

like the engravings of a seal, „Holy to the LORD.‟ 

- 2 Corinthians 5:21 - He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so 

that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 

 

- see, ultimately the question is – what color glasses is God wearing when He looks at 

His children?...perhaps the best answer is – red and white – red because he sees 

His children forgiven by the blood of Christ, and white because He sees us clothed 

in the righteousness of His Son… 

- that should be one of the essential answers to the question Who Are You?... 

- and when you think about yourself that way – it doesn’t fill your heart with pride…it 

fills with thanksgiving because of the amazing grace of God… 

 

- now, it is very important to note the sequence…there’s also… 

E. The Lord‟s command. 

- Zechariah 3:7 - Thus says the LORD of hosts, „If you will walk in My ways and if 

you will perform My service, then you will also govern My house and also have 

charge of My courts, and I will grant you free access among these who are 

standing here. 

- forgiven people want to serve the Lord not to earn their forgiveness, but because of 

their forgiveness…[cf. woman taken in adultery – nor do I condemn you…go and sin 

no more…] 

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F. The Lord‟s Servant 

- everything we’ve discussed today is based on the finished work of Christ… 

- Zechariah 3:8-9 - for behold, I am going to bring in My servant the Branch. For 

behold, the stone that I have set before Joshua; on one stone are seven eyes. 

Behold, I will engrave an inscription on it,‟ declares the LORD of hosts, „and I 

will remove the iniquity of that land in one day. 

- the words servant, and branch, and stone are all dripping with Messianic imagery… 

 

G. This justifies the Lord‟s rebuke of our accusers (and our own misplaced self-

accusations). 

- justification is a fact based on the finished work of Christ… 

- Isaiah 50:8-9 - He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us 

stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. 

Behold, the Lord GOD helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they 

will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them. 

- Romans 8:33-34 - Who will bring a charge against God‟s elect? God is the one 

who justifies; who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, 

yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also 

intercedes for us. 

- Isaiah 61:10 - I will rejoice greatly in the LORD, My soul will exult in my God; For 

He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe 

of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a 

bride adorns herself with her jewels. 

 

 

 

III. Who You‟ll Be 

- the day will come when all of this will become a finished reality… 

- Revelation 19:7-8 - “Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the 

marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.” It was 

given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is 

the righteous acts of the saints. 

 

Steve Viars

B.S. - Bible, Baptist Bible College
M.Div. - Grace Theological Seminary
D.Min. - Westminster Theological Seminary

Pastor Steve Viars has served at Faith Church since 1987.  He and his wife Kris were married in 1982 and they have three children. Pastor Viars’ gifted teaching ministry, enthusiasm for the Word of God, and organizational skills are instrumental in equipping Faith Church.  He oversees the staff, deacons, and all Faith ministries and serves on the boards of Vision of Hope and the Faith Community Development Corporation.

Read Steve Viars’ Journey to Faith for the full account of how the Lord led Pastor Viars to Faith Church.

View Pastor Viars' Salvation Testimony Video