A to Z of Priests – Prophetic Priests:


The original Joshua featured in Israel’s first exodus; after they escaped from Egypt, he led them into the Promised Land. The other Joshua, who is the subject of this article, participated in Israel’s second exodus, when they returned from Babylonian captivity. The magnitude of the second exodus was roughly a tenth of the first; only 50,000 people came back to Jerusalem in a ‘day of small things’, Zech. 4. 10. We can be encouraged that, like Joshua, even in diminished circumstances we still have opportunities to serve God and to be a ‘sweet saviour of Christ’ to others around us.

Joshua the son of Jozadak appears in the historical narrative of Ezra, as well as in the prophetic records of Haggai and Zechariah. We will focus on two key mentions of Joshua, Zech. 3. 1-5; 6. 9-15. In the first of these passages, Joshua is a picture of ourselves as sinners cleansed by God’s grace. In the second prophecy, Joshua is a picture of the Lord Jesus as the Sovereign crowned for God’s glory.

1) A Cleansed Priest

During a series of nocturnal visions, the prophet Zechariah caught a glimpse of Joshua in God’s presence, presumably in heaven. Priests serve God, so they ought to be prepared for interaction with God. However, the high priest decidedly was not in a suitable condition, since he was ‘clothed with filthy garments’, Zech. 3. 3. This is incompatible with divine service. ‘Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord’, Isa. 52. 11. In Jewish society, the high priest should have been the best-dressed man, with his unique ‘holy garments … for glory and for beauty’, Exod. 28. 2. Instead, Joshua resembled the prodigal son in his pig-herding rags, Luke 15. 15.

Satan, as the ever-ready ‘accuser of our brethren’, Rev. 12. 10, found fault with Joshua, Zech. 3. 1. What right did this defiled sinner have to stand in God’s presence? However, the Lord claimed the helpless Joshua for Himself, as a ‘brand plucked out of the fire’, v. 2.

The Lord provided for the priest’s inadequacies, ‘I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee’, v. 4, so God removed his guilt. Further, ‘I will clothe thee with change of raiment’, v. 4, so God replaced his garments. The whole episode is a powerful exhibition of divine grace, which is able both to save sinners and to restore saints. God equips us to stand in His presence and serve Him, overcoming our flaws and empowering us.

Like Joshua, we should be thankful that our sins were removed by ‘the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world’, John 1. 29. Our filthy rags have been replaced by ‘the robe of righteousness’, Isa. 61. 10. Along with the aged Apostle John, we praise the One who ‘loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood, and hath made us . . . priests’, Rev. 1. 5, 6. In summary, God purifies us so that we can please Him.

2) A Crowned Priest

The two appearances of Joshua are in sharp contrast. This second event is an enacted prophecy rather than a night vision. Here the high priest is depicting the Saviour as king-priest, rather than denoting the sinner.

We recognize the cost of this symbolic act, Zech. 6. 11, for which silver and gold were necessary raw materials. We also see the craftsmanship – presumably Josiah was the jeweller of Jerusalem who produced the crowns for Joshua’s coronation, v. 10. At this point in time, there had been no king in Judah since Nebuchadnezzar’s conquest a century earlier. However, Zechariah and his divinely appointed colleagues were prepared to crown Joshua the high priest, who was engaged in the temple reconstruction project. Prophetically, Joshua foreshadowed another crowned priest who will build a temple and sit on a throne. Throughout the nation’s long history, Israel had never experienced one person combining the roles of high priest and monarch. Both Melchizedek at the start of the Old Testament and Joshua at its end prefigure the coming Messiah, the One who ‘shall bear the glory’, Zech. 6. 13. The Lord Jesus is the royal priest who fulfils all God’s purposes.

Joshua enjoyed the privilege of wearing the decorative crowns for only a few minutes. They were a temporary, symbolic adornment, swiftly committed to the temple treasure trove for safekeeping. However, as we read of this incident, we recall One who wears ‘many diadems’, Rev. 19. 12 ESV, the King of kings who is a priest for ever.

We keenly anticipate the arrival of a sacred sovereign, the priest and king whom Joshua faintly foreshadows. In summary, God provides us with pictures of Christ so we can appreciate Him.